Billie Eilish’s brother Finneas was forced into checking his privilege

40th Brit Awards at The O2 Arena, London, UK

Having become more acquainted with Billie Eilish via all of her magazine interviews over the past year, I also feel like I sort of know her family. Her parents seem like typical helicopter parents, the kind of homeschooled their kids to instill a sense of creativity and a “you don’t need to know math” vibe. Billie clings to her parents and her parents do A LOT for her emotionally and psychologically. Billie’s older brother Finneas is Billie’s producer and co-writer, and she recorded her album in his bedroom studio, mostly sitting on his bed. The O’Connell family was not wealthy, but the parents really tried to make their kids into creative types and it worked. At a young age, Billie recorded “Ocean Eyes” in Finneas’ room and a music executive heard it and suddenly, it all happened. Billie became a teenage star and a millionaire and Finneas bought his own house, etc.

I don’t doubt that there was a blend of hard work, self-belief, luck and chance to Billie and Finneas’ story. But according to Finneas – in a now-deleted tweet – other people looking to replicate their success should merely sit back and wait for people to come to them. He tweeted:

A piece of advice to young creatives. “Shooting your shot” is promoted widely and I think honestly, it’s a little overrated. Work super hard alone or with your closest friends. Make shit so good it speaks for itself. Don’t pester people to work with you, let them come to you.

[Via Buzzfeed]

Yeah… no. Just because it worked in one case – with luck, chance and hard work all playing a role – doesn’t mean that’s the rule. Most successful people know this too – that it takes a hell of a lot of hustle to get anywhere. So, obviously, people accused Finneas of nepotism (his parents worked in entertainment) and one person wrote: “literally some people have to work to even shoot their shot. we have to have the mentality of being the appropriate amount of annoying to get to where we want. stay humble, man. we didn’t all bloom from privilege.” Finneas responded to all of the “privileged” criticism by writing this:

“During my life time, our parents were never able to fully financially support us off of their work as actors. Our dad worked 12 hour days 7 days a week as a construction worker for Mattel and our mom was a teacher. Our parents gave us love but knew no one in the record industry. I paid off their mortgage last year and billie pays them each salaries to tour with us full time though they have told us many times they would work for us for free. Anyone who saw us tour in 2019 knows our dad insists on sweeping the stage each night before we perform.”

[Via Billboard]

Yeah, but… again, why shouldn’t people shoot their shot? Why shouldn’t people hustle and pester and annoy people to get ahead and work a connection and look for their chance, their sliver of luck, their acknowledgement that their work is meaningful? Which I guess Finneas realized, because he deleted all of that and posted this:

Sometimes educating white dudes on their privilege is a messy journey and there will be fits and starts and that’s okay. I don’t know if Finneas really learned anything from this moment, or if he merely learned to keep those kinds of “wow, creatives who hustle their work are super-annoying” thoughts to himself.

Finneas O'Connell and Billie Eilish arrive at the 2020 Vanity Fair Oscar Party held at the Wallis An...

Photos courtesy of WENN.

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31 Responses to “Billie Eilish’s brother Finneas was forced into checking his privilege”

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  1. Erinn says:

    I think the privilege check was warranted. But I also have mixed feelings on the whole ‘shoot your shot’. For the people who do it respectfully – absolutely. Go for it. But there’s a time and place.

    You have people showing up to funerals for family members of youtubers (and probably regular celebs) just to have a chance to get closer to those people. There are people who will try to shoot that shot on a serious post. There are people trying to shoot their shot while basically stalking and harassing famous people. I don’t have time for that shit. Those people are trash, period.

  2. savu says:

    He was liking a bunch of the replies to his tweet. Even if he apologized just to make it stop, he definitely was reading what others said. Maybe I’m naive to give him the benefit of the doubt, but I think that’s fair given his last message. I read his second tweet as his parents didn’t hook them up through nepotism, but what he needed to realize was that by being white, middle-class, and already in LA, no matter what his parents did, he had a lot of privilege. And I think it’s on all of us to recognize our privilege, even if we didn’t realize we had it. That’s what privilege is – the things that are so easy to take for granted when you have them.
    P.s. we are vacationing in Jamaica and the VIP club is called “Privilege Club”. We laugh and cringe every time we see it.

    • maisie says:

      Eilish and O’Connell’s sole privilege is that they are white, which yeah, is a big deal. But they grew up in Highland Park, which is now a burgeoning hipster enclave but up until about 10 or 12 years ago was a lower class Latinx/Filipino neighborhood with gang activity and really terrible schools (the schools are still terrible). Also, they grew up sharing a room in a small 2 bedroom house. Not exactly a marker of privilege. Another thing: growing up in LA does NOT automatically give you better access to success here. Natives have about the same odds of succeeding in the entertainment industry as anyone else; that is, almost nil. It IS a company town, and several of my friends have gotten jobs as production people or journeyman actors, but they’ve had to work their asses off to get even drone jobs in the industry. LA is a huge city, and it just swallows up almost all the people who come here with dreams of becoming rich & famous. Eilish & McConnell *have* had incredible luck – so many really talented people here are never noticed or make any money at all.

      Also – these two are still kids; Eilish is 18 and McConnell is what? 21 or 22? Of course they’re not mature. But I think McConnell may be growing up fast.

  3. Polyanna says:

    I think he came off as very immature for his age, as far as having awareness of how the world actually works. Good that he had some pushback, good that he responded by learning. What else can be done here?

    I will say, it’s clear to me as I get older (I’m 36 now), that having loving and supportive parents is like a hidden privilege in and of itself. What a beautiful thing. I’m honestly so happy for this family. Coming from a dysfunctional family in which one parent was abusive, and being pushed out of the nest too soon and just going through a lot of unsupportive and harmful shit with my own family, I just think it’s easy to take for granted when you have a loving, supportive, functional family that makes it possible for you to flourish as they have. It makes me hopeful for my own family with my own two kids, who are both already proving to be quite creative. Family support can open doors, too!

    • manda says:

      I really started to realize that in my thirties, too. Like, how lucky was I to be born where I was to people who wanted me and loved me and were nice and supportive? It’s just the luck of fate of where one starts out in life, and it’s crazy to me that more people don’t realize that

    • Jane says:

      What an amazingly beautiful statement. You’re so right; having loving parents is privilege! Never thought of that before.

    • lucy2 says:

      That is absolutely true. I’ve been very lucky in that regard, and sometimes you don’t realize that until you see someone without that privilege.

  4. Esmom says:

    He may be keeping his true thoughts to himself but I think his response is pretty good. It’s a lot more contrition than we see from a lot of people these days. The bar, as we all know, is extremely low. Maybe, bit by bit, we can start raising it again for humanity.

    • Mabs A'Mabbin says:

      I agree. At least he swallowed some advice from someone. What’s funny to me, and scary weird, is just this morning, my son was telling me he wanted something (long-term career thing) and was going to ask Dad. I said but you’ve never shown an interest in that. You say it all the time, but you never do anything. And then ensues the life-isn’t-going-to-come-to-you convo lol. “This world doesn’t owe you a damn thing. And simply because you say whatever it is you say, don’t have expectations. You have to prove yourself, and not just once. Over and over and over, you have to take actionable steps because doors don’t open themselves, and nobody is going to run up and open it for you.” It’s like having my father inside my head lol.

      • Esmom says:

        Yeah, I have conversations all the time with my college age kids — or, more accurately, I talk and they grunt in acknowledgement — about how they need to be assertive and, once they figure out what they want to do, focused. And reliable and hardworking and respectful and kind.

        This isn’t exactly the same as what I think Finneas is complaining about, which is people wanting to be famous. But I feel like most celebs who have achieved great fame and wealth were known to hustle pretty hard to get where they are. Most didn’t just wait for doors to open for them.

      • Mabs A'Mabbin says:

        I agree. Being ‘discovered,’ I imagine, is like winning the lottery. Better chances of being struck by lightning seven times lol.

  5. Stef says:

    I heard this before but what I dont get is why Billie was conceived via IVF. Isn’t that kind of expensive? In my country that’s expensive for a lower income family.

    • chicken tetrazzini! says:

      very expensive in the US, and many families, wipe out their savings in order to try it so don’t assume they’re ‘well off’ in a classic sense

  6. Eribra says:

    I started working in a school 6 years ago. I remind myself daily how privileged my son is to be raised in a 2 parent home where we are able to provide all the necessities and a few luxuries. I grew up dirt poor, always hungry, frequently without utilities. I wonder how far I could have gotten if things had been different but I have to acknowledgehow far I got even with those strikes against me simply because I’m white.

  7. Div says:

    It was a dumb comment, but the blowback was over the top. Right wingers and bigots use the terms cancel culture and outrage culture, but there’s a tiny, teeny drop of truth on occasion when you see how people don’t just gently check someone but go beyond that….

    But yeah, he and Billie do have a fair amount of privilege and this isn’t the first time either of them have been critical of those who “shoot their shot” or want to be famous. It reads less like Joaquin Phoenix …or not even the “I hate fame” thing some celebs used to do (like KStew as a teenager)….but a contempt for people who “try too hard” without realizing that some people have to “try hard” because of their lack of privilege OR because it’s just their personality. I’m not sure that is going to go over with their colleagues that well, especially in the music industry, where there are a lot of people who are theater kid types.

    I’ve only seen a handful of interviews, and even I have noticed it’s a theme with them. And I’m honestly surprised it hasn’t come up before because she kind of made some weird, obnoxious comment about Adele a year or so ago that was in that vein of “trying hard”…maybe crazy stan twitter/tabs missed it because she was a kid and this was before the album even came out…or maybe her publicist managed to bury that interview.

  8. Valiantly Varnished says:

    White dudes being oblivious to their privilege is about as common as a sunrise. Nothing in the least bit surprising about it

  9. Lady Baden-Baden says:

    The brother looks like Taylor Swift in The Man video

  10. horseandhound says:

    I think both strategies are fair play. as long as somebody isn’t harassing people, it’s all good. however, I don’t like the fact that people nowadays apologize for every single thing they say that somebody doesn’t like or doesn’t agree with. even if he was wrong, and I don’t think he is (as I said, different approaches work for different people), let the guy be wrong. he can have his opinion, we can have our opinion.
    also, I think he’s really talented, I really like the way he talks about music. he is a bit arrogant, at the moment he thinks he’s the biggest hot shot of all of the producers, but that’s completely fine. nobody is perfection. people without flaws shouldn’t even be the goal. he’ll grow up, mature, he’ll change. all is well.

    • lolafalana says:

      Agreed. Also – let’s not talk about it as though every person who wants to is equally likely to succeed in artistic pursuits if they just try hard enough. That very idea smacks of entitlement all on its own. Some people suck and can’t see it. Luck, chance and hard work are not all it takes. The fact is, there is some truth to what he was saying initially – which is that if you are spectacularly talented, you will get there if you persist. If they had been producing music that wasn’t as amazing as it is – and sorry but it is truly good music (especially for people their age) their location in LA, their parents, none of those things would have helped them succeed the way they have. The talent has to be there, or all of the other ingredients & factors add up to zero.

      • WriterMarie says:

        I definitely agree with everything you said. I have a friend who is 38 and an actor in AZ. He’s convinced his parents to move to California so that he could finally pursue his acting dream. The problem is, he is not that great of an actor. Maybe he’s playing the wrong parts, but everything I’ve seen is so bad and I don’t have the heart to tell him that he’s not very good.

        It sucks but sometimes if you don’t have the talent, it will be apparent when he starts auditioning for roles in LA.

        So yes, I know that you have to actually have talent to get anywhere artistically speaking. Billie and her Brother are luckier than most in that department. Even if they were products of nepotism and had connections in the music industry, you still need talent. Most cases any way.

  11. Kate says:

    I can’t bring myself to care about the life and career advice of a 22-year old. stay humble, my dude.

  12. Eenie Googles says:

    He seems to have learned. Good for him. No snark.

  13. detritus says:

    A rich and famous young man was told he was wrong, by people with less power than him, and he ate his words and posted a pretty excellent apology.
    This is what we want from celebrities and leaders and everyone. The ability to admit you’re wrong and grow. Zero snark for this, good on him

  14. lucy2 says:

    Privileged, sure, but not the end of the world, and he seems to have learned from it.

  15. ans says:

    I will roll my eyes but i will also acknowledge that this is a kid who is willing to admit he’s wrong. That was a good response.

  16. Sass says:

    Lol what can I say? They were raised in a bubble even if it wasn’t a rich one.

    • Kosmos says:

      Life isn’t over yet…this is just a beginning career for both of them. Who knows what the future holds? Will they still be in demand 5 years from now, or even 2 years from now? This can all turn around, as people in the industry all know. They earned their voice, so let them speak–everyone else seems to. I’m sure it’s awkward for them to suddenly be in the public eye, so they’re doing the best they can. They’re still young and finding their way through this. We shouldn’t make it more difficult for them, but wish them well because, for now, they’re talented in their own right and have earned this.

  17. Pzc says:

    I’ve heard too much awesome music that doesn’t get any attention to believe that you can just make something good and people will listen/support. So much luck is involved, it’s ridiculous to think otherwise. Maybe he just doesn’t know any other musicians (other than famous people).

  18. Adrien says:

    He seemed like a good person.

  19. Fi says:

    I agree with him.