Lily Collins: My dad’s name was never a ‘free pass’ in my acting career

Lily Collins covers the December-January issue of Vogue France to promote Emily in Paris’s third season (out December 21). I love Emily in Paris, I don’t even care. I know I’m not the target demographic or anything and the show can be very dumb (especially Season 1). But I also enjoy it – it’s light and silly. Lily is very good at playing Emily, the fish-out-of-water marketing pro from America, sent to work with a bunch of Parisians. She lives, she loves, she wears terrible clothes. No Frenchwoman would wear Emily’s clothes. Very few American women would either. Anyway, Lily is a nepo baby – her father is Phil Collins, and she’s obviously had a leg up in the industry. But to hear her tell it, her dad’s fame, success and money has nothing to do with how she made it in Hollywood. Some highlights from Vogue France:

She shunned the idea of getting any special treatment for being Phil Collins’ daughter: “It was out of the question that people would think that I use a free pass thanks to my name. I’m proud of my dad, but I wanted to be me, not just his daughter. For that, I was ready to wait to break through.

While she loves to sing, her real love is acting: “By dint of failed castings, I learned to focus more on my work, and I managed to make acting my job. But I’m not resting on my laurels: this environment is very competitive and places are expensive! I love to sing. But as I wanted to make my own way, far from the paternal genius, I preferred to be an actress. I played in a few musicals because it’s the only setting in which I allow myself to sing. Frankly, I would be too afraid of comparisons!’

She didn’t know Emily In Paris would become a hit: “Even if while reading the script, I felt that something could happen… Moreover, we were several young women hoping to get this role. I’m incredibly lucky…”

She thinks the pandemic helped with EIP’s popularity: “Being confined to your home, but seeing the scenery, laughing, crying a little: this is what Emily in Paris has allowed, arriving at a time when the public, but also us, the teams, needed it the most.

[From People & The Daily Mail]

Something I appreciate about EIP is that Lily actually listened to the good-faith criticism of the show’s first season (the one-dimensional characters, the absurd plots, the racial stereotypes) and actually used her power as a producer to make positive changes which made the show a lot better in the second season. The secondary characters became much more fleshed-out, Emily fails in big ways, there are consequences, etc. As for Lily and her belief that she got where she is all on her own… yeah, her dad’s name got her in a lot of doors. She also grew up wealthy and she’s never had to worry about making the rent if she didn’t book a job. Why can’t any of these nepo babies just admit that?

Cover & IG courtesy of Vogue France.

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54 Responses to “Lily Collins: My dad’s name was never a ‘free pass’ in my acting career”

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  1. MY3CENTS says:

    Ok, so let’s not call it a free pass but door opener. Better?

    • Nicki says:

      Exactly. Because just getting in the door is the hardest part when you’re first starting out. But I think nepo kids truly have no clue.

    • Colby says:


      And I think that’s fair. I think what nepo babies refuse to understand is that nobody is saying that successful NBs don’t work hard once they’re in the door. What everyone is saying is getting through the door is the hardest part, and they waltz through it while it’s being held open.

    • Case says:

      Exactly this. The hardest part of ANY industry is getting your foot in the door. Nepo babies are allowed to walk right through that door.

      That doesn’t mean nepo babies are untalented or unworthy of their success — many of them are great in their own right and deserve these opportunities. But to deny that coming from a famous family helps in the beginning is silly.

      • J says:

        All very true. I agree they should acknowledge the leg up but I also think it is kind of undercutting or even sour grapes of people to always remind them of their advantages. I don’t understand what that is supposed to accomplish. It feels like people just want to take them down a peg.

      • Saucy&Sassy says:

        J, I don’t think it’s sour grapes. I think it’s because they don’t understand that getting that foot in the door is getting help from their famous parent. Instead, they glide right by that and go into how hard they work. I’m sure they do work hard and I don’t take exception to that. It’s disingenuous to not recognize that who they are did help at the beginning.

      • sunny says:

        Truly that. And the financial advantage is enormous. There was an article recently that mentioned fewer and fewer people from lower class backgrounds are becoming artists in Britain and a huge barrier is cost. Having introductions, knowing how the industry works, having the money to stay in the industry while auditioning and not booking work is HUGE.

        No doubt so many of these nepo babies are talented but when you compare there success rates to say, the average population, the aforementioned advantages play a big role.

    • 123naptime says:

      Getting you’re foot in the door because of your famous dad is obviously a huge leg up, but jeeze oh pete so is being super duper rich!!
      ask just about any server in LA if it would help their creative career to not have to work a service job to pay rent and I’m sure they’ll break it down for you. not to mention the benefit of being able to afford luxury beauty stuff so that your skin glows brighter than the (literally) poor servers who keep cant get a callback.

      My friend and I have always joked that it should be a rule that rich kids can’t be famous, like lol sorry Mr. Oil Magnate, but the price you pay for your obscene wealth-hoarding is that your dipshit kid will just have to enjoy their insanely easy lives out of the limelight, rules are rules.

  2. Kiera says:

    Nepo babies have trouble admitting that because it ruins the story they told themselves about their talent and their life.

    It’s similar to how a lot of people in the boomer generation have trouble accepting that being born white have them privilege in their life. They have to face the fact that society was built to help them succeed. That their success is not solely due to their intelligence and hard work.

    America is built on the idea of bootstrapping and making it on your own merit. It’s what we feel makes us exceptional so everyone wants to say they did it. The reality is our country was not built in that and most people who are successful had people backing them, be it parents, friends, or white privileged.

    What we are seeing is a resistance to the idea that their life story and success isn’t what they thought it was. Trying to get people to reform their identity is hard.

    Now the Hollywood nepos should be able to spout of some good sound bites that make them sound more aware than they are. But they are so entrenched in their story they can’t see the tree through the woods.

    • Susan says:

      Holy cats, @Kiera that is an AMAZING analysis of boomers and America and nepobabies. Incredibly well thought out and said!!

      • Peanut Butter says:

        Much respect for any nepo baby who acknowledges and appreciates the great benefits of being born on third base, with a hard eyeroll for Lily and the rest of them who live in their cocoons of self-delusion

    • Juju says:

      Kiera – 100% agree. I also think that there’s aspects of the life of someone who’s trying to be a working actor that the nepo babies don’t understand. I see several comments in this thread about her name, not necessarily being recognizable. And that’s just one facet of the privilege that nepo babies have. But there are so many others. Getting agents & managers is much easier when you have family that can make introductions and use their connections to help you get representation. Being independently wealthy, with access to the best skin care, hair stylists, photographers for headshots, clothing stylist, etc. It just boggles my mind how limited of view they have in defining how they may have access to privileges that others who are competing for the same roles do not have.

    • DK says:

      As @Susan pointed out, great analysis, @Kiera!

      And that’s what I just don’t get: these Gen Z Nepo Babies are part of a generation that is much better at recognizing their own white privilege and economic advantages (as applicable) on the whole, so why does it feel like there is a whole cottage industry among nepo babies to keep making this same mistake? Do they not see the parallels?

      And even if they miss the connection to the privileges of race, class, cisgender identity, etc., surely they see this sad storyline they keep promoting about how they did it all without help does not go over well with anyone.

      For instance, surely by now, Lily Collins has seen the backlash against all the other NB for making the same statement…so why keep making the same incredulous point that you know will make you sound like an entitled brat?

      Or is this just the new Hollywood version of white girl tears? Because I also only recall seeing this insistence from white nepo babies (though if I’m wrong/missing anyone’s examples, please correct me!)

      • Vexxy says:

        Honestly, people like this are a huge part of why I quit acting in my late teens in order to focus on an academic career. It wasn’t that I was losing out on parts, it’s the pervasive attitudes that actors have that they’re better, harder working, more deserving. It’s bad enough with regular people but a thousand times more nauseating coming from people who never had to audition to be accepted into the top agency, or have the luxury of declining roles because their bills are paid, or who get booked because of their association with a famous parent. I hated being around people like that, and no part of fame was appealing to me.

        The truth is that actors aren’t special. They’re just people who entertain for a living. Some do it better than others. They’re overpaid. They don’t deserve the adoration they get just for being onscreen. The real heroes in the industry are the army of people propping those actors up.

    • cool eye says:

      This is the best description of, “privilege deniers,” that I have read. Well done.

  3. FHMom says:

    It’s an insult to any of these nepo babies that their success is related to their famous last name. It’s inconceivable to them. I’m sure she has encountered the normal rejection that any actor has encountered. She is just blind to the fact that the door was held open for her while other actors have to pick the lock to get in.

  4. luna says:

    Last three sentences really say it all. I think hey all hear “you don’t work hard” when we say they’re nepo babies/from privileged backgrounds, which isn’t true. Some of them undoubtedly work their a**es off and some produce amazing work that deserves to be seen. All we’re saying is that they didn’t have the same problems people from other backgrounds had and that maybe their work could have been amazing as well, had they ever had the chance to show it.

  5. Frippery says:

    Having a parent in the industry or connections doesn’t mean you will only succeed based on that because you are talentless. Like Luna said above, there are a lot of people born to famous families that are very talented and work very hard (the Hustons, Ron Howard, Drew Barrymore, Domhnall Gleeson, Elle Fanning. .. Jack Quaid is a more recent example).

    But if you truly truly don’t want your family name to open any doors, don’t use it? If you are going to make a big deal out of wanting to not be associated with a famous parent, use a stage name. Nicolas Cage is the only example I can think of that did this. I’m not saying you *must* do this, but if you really want no help or breaks and to stand on your own, you have the option to be Dakota Smith or Lily Marina or Max Robins or something.

    • Thinking says:

      In her case, I wonder if people would realize she’s related to Phil Collins. He’s in music, she’s in acting. And they look nothing alike. Would people really realize they were related, unless it was explicitly stated? I guess it was at times, but someone had to literally write it out in a magazine article for me to realize the connection

      I don’t think of Collins as a last name that’s rare, like the name Depp. If I hear the name Depp, I know who that immediately references. When she first started out, I wouldn’t have made the mental leap to Phil Collins with her last name.

      She’s very slim and she’s not ugly, so to some extent I think those factors would help her out as much as being Phil Collins’s daughter. If she had been less attractive, I feel her name wouldn’t have helped out as much.

      • Digital Unicorn says:

        The issue with Lily is that no one really knows she is Phil Collins daughter until she tells them – he was not in her life growing up and still is not part of her life.

        She’s a mediocre actress who absolutely trades on her dad’s fame for her own.

        Collins is actually a common surname TBH.

      • Aliyah says:

        You’re right. She looks exactly like her mother and pretty much nothing like her dad.

      • Annalise says:

        Just because us plebs wouldn’t automatically realize that she’s Phil Collins daughter, doesn’t mean it wasn’t her very, very famous father making a few key phone calls for her, in the beginning. After all, just because he’s a singer doesn’t mean he didn’t know or associate with people in the movie business. And once you reach a certain level of celebrity, which her dad has, you can get ANYONE you want on the phone. And I’m sure her dad did, for her, at first.
        Maybe she thinks that just because she HAS been turned down for roles, that she’s had it just as hard?

  6. Chantal says:

    It’s astonishing that in this day and age, these nepo babies insist on remaining this clueless. Its insulting to pretend her last name isn’t significant and helps/helped her. Some nepo babies won’t even use the last name of their famous parent. Others that do, can accept and acknowledge their privilege. I still like her but good grief girl!

    Btw, are French people still angry about EIP – they raged about season 1? With all of its controversy, I didn’t think EIP would get a second season, much less a third. I watched it and despite 1 very troubling storyline, mostly liked season 1 so maybe I will check out the other 2.

  7. Chica says:

    I thought by the time Lily began acting her parents were long divorced and she had no relationship with Phil.

  8. Denise says:

    Oh cry me a river

  9. Kokiri says:

    Whatever the reason she’s in a hit show, it’s not because of talent.
    Oh sure, she can “act”, but girls like her a everywhere trying to make it.
    She’s nothing special acting wise, yet she was picked by Netflix.
    And she still doesn’t think to question why that is, even with all the recent (&not so recent) conversation about nepotism.

    Know who I really enjoy? The Fanning sisters. Boy can they ever act, the just disappear into a role.
    Dakota Johnson too, as a nepo person, she’s holding her own & I really enjoy her acting. However she started, she’s proving it wasn’t a fluke.
    Lily? Whatever.

  10. Boxy Lady says:

    It’s interesting to read about the defensiveness of these younger nepo babies. There are older generations of nepo babies who are now household names (like Liza Minnelli, Jane and Peter Fonda, Rob Reiner, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Douglas, Charlie Sheen and Emilio Estevez, Carrie Fisher, et al.) and it seems that they weren’t as defensive. Maybe I’m wrong though. Maybe they were defensive at the beginning of their careers and now no one remembers.

    • Wif says:

      Maybe because it was a different world then? The internet has everyone jumping all over everyone else so as a celebrity you must feel like you get criticism at every turn, and I think everyone gets defensive when confronted with cruel criticism (as opposed to helpful feedback.) I’m sure if people said in a 1970 newspaper, “recent movie proves Jane Fonda only cast because of her powerful family name” she would have been hurt, but once that movie was out of the news cycle, it would be forgotten. But now anything anyone says is here forever and there’s so much of it. It’s got to be hard.

    • Colby says:

      I also wonder if back then nepotism was just less of a hot button issue, so it wasn’t a big deal to admit?

      • Lens says:

        To be totally honest, if I’m a fan of someone, the person that is their kid makes the kid more interesting to me. Back in the paparazzi heyday there was something called celebrity baby blog where it just would have pictures of children of celebrities. If I there was an actress or actor I liked I was interested in seeing their kid, more than just a random person’s kid. On here I remember the Jolie-Pitt kids were like celebrities for some of us. After all Shiloh’s dance studio got a lot more hits on YouTube when she was found to be on it. So they also are awarded our higher natural curiosity about them as well as the right connections and contacts given to them.

  11. SarahCS says:

    I’m going to focus on the positives here (I have covid and all my anger went into the horrors of the Jeremy Clarkson monstrosity that I cannot believe is legal). While we still have nepo babies making the same clueless statements, people are now much more aware of how hollow it is and what the many, many, advantages these individual hold look like. There’s the name that gets you attention plus security of income, the support systems you can afford, connections you just happen to have through your family, the list goes on. I agree with the comments above about the way in which these individuals can’t accept the criticism (particularly @Keira with your boomer reference), at least the rest of us are seeing them differently.

  12. thinking says:

    I think she’s benefited from the connection to him through her last name, but I’m not really irritated by what she says here. I think she’s simply saying she wanted to be her own person, which I think we all want to be.

    That said, Collins might be a fairly common last name. And she doesn’t really look like her dad. In instances like this, I wonder if people would have made an immediate connection when she was first starting out.

    I always thought Billy Joel’s daughter was naturally talented and gifted on the piano, but she’s never made it as big as he did. So that’s an interesting case where nepotism doesn’t seem to have helped out as much as you would think. Or maybe she never wanted that kind of pop success. I’m not sure which.

    If you’re exposed to the entertainment world and entertainers, I think it’s highly unlikely you’ll choose another path if that’s what you’re getting the most exposure to do, especially in a creative space.

    She doesn’t sound as annoying as Lily Rose-Depp. So maybe I’m soft on Lily Collins. She at least admits she’s lucky, although maybe she doesn’t mean nepotism-lucky.

    • Julia K says:

      Alexa Ray Joel is very well known in the NYC area and performs there often in high profile venues. She also is a songwriter and musician. She is not “hit record” famous but definitively has her own following doing live performing.

  13. amilu says:

    I thought the second season of EiP was PAINFUL to get through, but I liked the first season for just being dumb fluff. To my memory, I thought the most egregious ethnic stereotyping came in season 2 with the Ukrainian thief. 🤷‍♀️

  14. Sasha says:

    I think it’s hard for these nepobabies to recognise that it’s perfectly possible for two things to be true – that one can be both hugely privileged and undeniably given a leg up in the industry, and at the same time be a genuinely talented and hardworking performer. I think nepobabies find it so hard to admit their privilege because they feel that it directly negates their hard work. It doesn’t. There are clearly some nepos that are way more talented than others (as much as I think Brooklyn Beckham seems like a nice person, the boy is undeniably average!) – Lily is a charming performer and she definitely doesn’t suck as an actress! But come the F on. OF COURSE your success is wrapped up in your starting position as a recognised name AND immense wealth which allows you to take any risk that you wish. I thought Lily might be one of the better ones at recognising this but I guess not!

  15. Surly Gale says:

    Lily Collins was absolutely brilliant with her portrayal of a young adult with anorexia in the controversial Netflix drama To the Bone (2017). I know nothing of this EIP show y’all are talking about, but she was captivating in To the Bone. In that film, as far as I’m concerned, she earned the right to call herself an actress.

  16. lucy2 says:

    She waited for her breakthrough? I looked up her filmography, she worked as a kid, and her big breakthrough was a starring role opposite Julia Roberts, at like 21 or 22. And most of the media about that was her being Phil Collins’ daughter.

    I am of the belief that I wish these 2nd or 3rd gen celebrities would acknowledge that it gives them a huge leg up with recognition and contacts and money. Yes they have to work hard and have talent to have staying power, but they all have such opportunity that most do not.

  17. Wilma says:

    It would be great if they could start with acknowledging that being able to pursue an acting career because you have money to fall back on, is an incredible help and one of the things that, when one is lacking in money, holds other people back.

  18. K8erade says:

    In fairness for Lily, I think she’s the least nepo-baby out of all the nepo-babies. She seems level headed which is pretty good. I will say this having worked in Los Angeles for many years that most nepo babies just are not aware of how influential their parents’ wealth and power can be, or just how PR insulated their world is. They grew up a certain privileged way that’s just their normal. I think that makes branching out harder for a lot of these kids like the Brooklyn Beckhams and Apple Martins whose privileged parents really insulate them. I think for someone like Lily, she genuinely believes what she says and has a bit of denial of how much being Phil Collins’ daughter opened doors for her. In her case, at least she’s trying to carve her own path. I think she needs to believe it’s all her, given it’s know she and her dad were never really close.

  19. ML says:

    Due to the shock of the Jeremy Clarkson article and the suspect apology in the Ngozi Fulani article, the excellent documentary, “The School that Tried to End Racism,” flashed into my brain while reading Lily Collins’ comments. In that documentary, they have kids start to “run a race.” Depending on the answers to various questions, the kids need to take a step forward (white, born in Britain, educated parents,…) or backward (black, different background, income,…) from the starting line. Then they run the race after answering all the questions determine where each individual child’s starting line is. Visually it makes the inherent unfairness brought into sharp focus. Before the children start on the program, they really are unaware—I believe that people are sometimes totally and clueless and they have enormous difficulty putting themselves into someone else’s shoes. I’m afraid that Lily Collins doesn’t understand the benefits her parentage and upbringing have given her.
    The documentary is really good, if you haven’t seen it:

  20. Lily’s Mirror says:

    Born on third base. Thinks she hit a home run all by herself. I just lost some respect for Lily because she cannot admit the blinking obvious. Dad is the large pink tutu clad elephant in the corner of the room.

    It would have been better for her to say daddy’s name and money opened doors for me but I am still here fifteen years later because of my own talent and industry. That would acknowledge reality and the fact that she is smart and talented much better. Because she would have been a flash in the pan if it only was about her dad.

  21. Candy says:

    Omg eye roll. Just the fact that nepo kids can live and audition in LA while having their expenses covered is a huge advantage, let alone the rest.

  22. AnneL says:

    As others have pointed out, while being the child of a famous entertainer opens doors in the acting business, just being rich gives you a huge advantage.

    If a 20-something’s parents are willing to foot the bill, that kid can live in LA or New York and focus on their acting ambitions full time. They can go on auditions, to classes, to the gym. They can buy clothes and makeup and pay for a good haircut. They don’t have to work a regular job to pay the bills while hustling for acting work at the same time. They have a huge leg up over their less financially fortunate competitors.

    My daughter’s partner is a dancer and performer who also has to work in a restaurant to pay the bills. It doesn’t pay for much beyond rent, which is a problem. They’ve decided to get a degree to teach dance so they can make a living. Because they were in a Broadway show by the age of 11, their parents kind of dropped the ball, assuming their child would be able to make a living as a stage performer, and didn’t really push them to go to college. The parents are not in a position to help financially, either.

    By contrast, one of their close friends, who went to a performing arts high school with them, has wealthy parents who are willing to subsidize him while he builds a career as a makeup and costume designer. He can work full time toward his goals, doesn’t have to get a fall-back degree or work a regular job.

    It’s a tough, tough world and few people end up making it in this business. I don’t fault Nepo babies for walking through the doors that are open to them. You do what you have to do. But they should absolutely acknowledge their privilege. The rich kids should too.

    • June says:

      This may seem random, but I really want to thank you for your casual/accepting use of “they/them”. It means more than you know.

      My own child (she/they) is absolutely one of my heroes, so every time I see someone use pronouns in a thoughtful/compassionate way, my heart grows. 💞

  23. mauve says:

    OH. I didn’t know she was nepo (and who wha?) – But now I get it. Well, I agree, Emily in Paris is fine. Even good. Lily Collins has more to learn, she just doesnt get it yet but she will. At some point, she’ll meet a sufficient amount of differing people that she’ll be like “OMFG” and realize how ahead she was by birth. That’s okay, LC! Keep learning, keep going.

  24. NotSoSocialB says:

    I cannot roll my eyes far enough to express my feelings about this.

  25. Sass says:

    Here as another unabashed EIP fan. It’s totally unrealistic and that’s what made it, as Lily says, so popular during the beginning of the pandemic. People wanted to escape and it was basically travel p-rn. Her clothes are ATROCIOUS but it’s become almost a gag at this point. I was talking to my teenage daughter about it yesterday. I consume so much “serious” media – what I love about EIP is that it is anything but. Sometimes we need something fluffy and escapist. It’s a delicious piece of candy. As for Lily’s comments about her career – maybe she didn’t want to be treated differently, and doesn’t want to admit she was because for her it might make her question her own talent (and I’ve seen her work outside of EIP; she has range). I mean, she’s wrong, but she’s associated being a nepo baby with shame because it’s true, people are highly critical of nepo babies. Nobody wants to admit they’re mainly famous because of their rich, famous relatives…but even George Clooney is a nepo baby. Christian Bale, too. Maya Hawke. Drew Barrymore. Liza Minnelli. Samara Weaving. The list goes on.

  26. Sandra says:

    She’s beautiful and talented. You all are bitter. Good night.

  27. AmB says:

    Barring anything else, the thing about nepo babies is they’re babies – they haven’t had enough experience to develop empathy or to have any kind of perspective on their own lives.

    Not only do they not understand they were born on third base, they have no idea there’s a world outside the stadium.

  28. Apple Cart says:

    The one thing none of them will admit to, and the main reason they cast cast is purely for the media attention it brings to the project having a famous parent. It’s just the marketing angle. As far as I have read the only one who was at least honest and pragmatic about it is Jamie Curtis. She knew when it came down to a role between her and another actress. She was cast since she had famous parents and would bring more attention to the movie.

    But go one kids with your ‘bootstrapping’ fantasies. It’s purely just your ‘talent’ that got you to the 1% of working actors.