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“Your talent lies in your choices”

…was the oft repeated refrain of an acting teacher of mine.

The Cyrus/Thicke VMA twerking episode to me was a poor choice. And it played more like an attention grab of mediocre talent rather than a pair of talented stars being provocative.

Did it elevate a topic of the day? Did it expand a boundary?

The truth is that without their last names we wouldn’t even be seeing either of them onstage or on TV … ever.  That’s what bugs me about the two of them… that they are mediocre performers who established themselves on the backs of their parents’ talents and fame.

There’s not necessarily any shame in that. It’s natural for a son or daughter to pick up on a parent’s trade. My family have several shoe repairmen, or cobblers in our lineage. A baker’s children learn the baking industry. My own father was a sign painter and an artist. One of my brothers operates his former sign shop and another brother can draw and paint like a master. I can’t, and I had no interest in that line of work.

The thing I find odd is that in most industries or lines of work, that sort of multi-generational skill or talent is acknowledged and even bragged about freely, but not in the entertainment industry. Because it is such a hard industry to break into, the inherent nepotism is kept on the down-low. Most of the public don’t know who is related to whom, but my guess is that if you see a mediocre performer, chances are they are related to someone else in the industry.

But it’s not just the entertainment industry. See an ungrateful, self-entitled successful person and my guess is that they entered their line of work due to parental connections. Donald Trump or Mitt Romney anyone?

In most lines of work, hard work and persistence will lead to success. But in some cases, hard work and persistence only maintain success. More often than not, nepotism is the first step.

Would Miley Cyrus have ever gotten a first meeting with an agent or with Disney Executives without her father or her father’s name to set it up?

I don’t think so.

On the flip side, incredibly successful people who did get their start without familial connections tend to be more gracious, supportive of one another. Their choices are born from a desire to create art, rather than to “make history.” Therefore, I’d tend to ascribe more talent to them.

People who have achieved individual success tend to react like Lady Gaga did at the VMA awards after the British boy band ONE Direction were booed by the audience.

“I just genuinely wanted them to know that at least one person in the room thought that they deserved to be there because I know how I would have felt. They’re really nice guys, very down to earth, sweet and handsome.

I don’t think I’d ever be booed at the Brits. Even if everyone hated me, you would be more polite. It’s rude and nasty – keep your opinions to yourself.”

She also defended Cyrus’ and Thicke’s performance a week later to Andy Cohen on Watch What Happens Live. That’s classy.

Talented Stars Without Family Connections (that I know of) And Who are Reportedly Gracious

  • Tom Hanks
  • Johnny Depp
  • Billy Chrystal
  • All of The Beatles
  • All of One Direction
  • Tom Cruise
  • Matt Damon
  • Hugh Jackman
  • Jim Carey
  • Oprah Winfrey
  • Sarah Jessica Parker
  • Ellen DeGeneres
  • J.K. Rowling
  • Betty White
  • Lady Gaga
  • Keanu Reeves (Talent may be an issue but, he was in Matrix, so he qualifies in my book)
  • Will Smith
  • Adam Sandler
  • John Travolta
  • Rachel McAdams
  • Neil Patrick Harris
  • Jason Segel
  • Steve Carell

Talent-starved Stars With Family Connections (Or Money…and who I find insufferable)

  • Miley Cyrus
  • Robin Thicke
  • Donald Trump
  • Gwenneth Paltrow
  • All of the Kardashians
  • Julia Roberts
  • Anne Hathaway
  • Russell Crowe
  • Christian Bale
  • Angelina Jolie
  • Chevy Chase
  • Will Ferrell
  • Joaquin Phoenix
  • Kristen Stewart

Exceptions

  • George Clooney – Supposedly one of the nicest guys in the business, talented, but has family connections that probably got him his start.
  • Madonna – Made it on her own gumption and talented to the extreme. I just think it’s gone to her head
  • Jamie Lee Curtis – Supposedly one of the nicest women in Hollywood, but she was born with connections up the wazoo
  • Ron Howard – His parents were both in the industry, but his talent is abundant and reports are that he’s super agreeable and kind.
  • Daniel Radcliffe – Qualifies on the talent and kindness fronts, but it was his parents’ connection that got him his role as Harry Potter in the first place.
  • Shia LaBeouf – Reports are that he’s a real asshole, but he did enter the business of his own accord.
  • Jake & Maggie Gyllenhaal – Both talented and both seemingly kind and gracious to fans… but they got where they are with a little parental vitamin C (connections).
  • Drew Barrymore – Can’t think of a more family-connected star than Drew. But she’s reported to be incredibly down to earth and kind. Talented? Debatable, but she certainly has taken what she was given and run with it.

 

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