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Opinion: Is Nepotism Ruining The Fashion Industry?




Nepotism is slaying the catwalks…and not in a good way.

Dating back to the Middle Ages and the medieval Catholic Church, nepotism derives from the Italian word “nepotismo’, from “nipote” which translates to nephew. Senior members of the Church, those who had taken sacred vows of chastity, would pass on titles and legacies to their nephews.

These nephews, who were somewhat illegitimate sons of senior Church members, held privileges which ensured that those outside the strong familial structure were not able to succeed or elevate themselves as successfully as those with high economic and/or sociological status.

Essentially, nepotism is a form of favouritism and a familial transaction.


With this in mind, I believe fashion is widely nepotistic.

Gone are the days of models being scouted out-and-about doing normal everyday things. Think a 14-year-old Kate Moss spotted at JFK, Gisele Bündchen being discovered shopping in São Paolo, or Naomi Campbell scouted in London’s Covent Garden – amongst many other old-school models with similar tales of surreal scouting experiences.

Now, it is not uncommon for sons/daughters of their well-known parents to “jump the queue” when making a name for themselves within an industry – whether that be film, music, or fashion.

Those privileged and those with famous surnames, more often than not, get help with entering the fashion industry and land big contracts/campaigns/are signed to big modelling agencies easily without having put in the work as much as some upcoming models.


It is inherently simpler for children of wealthy families to secure their positions – and maintain them.

The industry is expensive, difficult to break into, and awash with poorly paid internships and low-paid work for upcoming wannabe models. An aspiring models journey is often a lonely one as they leave their families/home countries in hopes of achieving their ambitions.

Trans-gender model Teddy Quinlivan made a statement recognising their own privilege of having a family that “doesn’t rely on my pay-check to survive,” and their statement represents models who have had the common experience of leaving their families behind.

Their Instagram story was in response to Kendall Jenner‘s controversial comments in a 2018 interview with LOVE Magazine. Jenner’s out-of-touch statement: “Since the beginning, we’ve been super selective about what shows I would do. I was never one of those girls who would do like 30 shows a season or whatever the f–k those girls do. More power to ’em,” caused significant uproar amongst fellow models.



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I agree that Jenner‘s comments of her hyper-selectivity on which shows she would participate in is extremely disrespectful to models that walk in any show they possibly can as they don’t have the luxury of turning down shows.

Kendall has since retracted her statement. Her comments could have easily been taken out of context but, nonetheless, I still believe that privilege has overtaken talent.


Of course, fashion has undoubtedly come a long way in terms of diversity and inclusivity, and I do not mean to say that nepo-models/celebrities are lacking in talent, ability, work ethic, or determination. But, there should be more recognition for other models that don’t get the spotlight they so rightly deserve.

In an interview, model Richard Biedul executes the perfect, yet simple, response to the question as to why celebrities are chosen for large campaigns over lesser-known models:

“Celebrity sells.”

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