Generation Z is the 20-and-under crowd of actresses, musicians, artists, and entertainers on the verge of ruling Hollywood. Meet the freshest faces in the industry and get ready to root for them as they rise to the top.
Lily, Harley, Odessa. Don't recognize those names? Maybe you'll recognize these: Sheen, Smith, Adlon. But you won't find these three teenage girls dropping their recognizable namesakes so fast. As children of celebrities, they’ve done their part to carve their own path in Hollywood as they embark on careers of their own, separate from their famous moms and dads.
But as independent as they are, it’s hard not to wonder: what’s life like if you’re just born “in”? Is life really easy? Do things just fall in your lap? Do you only hang out with other celebrities’ kids? Are you automatically offered movie roles? Do you really go to school? Are you jaded? Spoiled? Lazy? Materialistic? It's a niche world to live in, and that's what makes these girls' stories so interesting.
You’d be surprised to know that it is in fact possible to be both the child of a celebrity and be humble, grounded, insecure, goofy, and obsessed with Instagram. Within only a few minutes of speaking with each of these teens, it became clear that their lives have not been shaped by their parents, only casually influenced. They still break iPhones (Lily, hope you got the screen fixed), they still sell their old clothes at thrift stores (Harley, they better have told you how cute your stuff is), and they still stress about school (Odessa, one more year — you got this).
You may not know the names of these Generation Z up-and-comers yet, but they’re about to make it big — all on their own.
Lily Sheen, 18, Daughter of Michael Sheen (actor) & Kate Beckinsale (actor)
Rising college freshman at New York University
Hopes to become an author/actor
Do you feel like you grew up in a bubble or did you feel like you were exposed to a lot of average things?
"I think that there is always gonna be this bubble around celebrity kids and celebrities in general. I do think my parents were really good about not spoiling me and not keeping me really sheltered. I never felt like I was living in a separate reality, but at the same time, it set me up, probably, for confusion as I get older. I hope it's been fine."
[Growing up] did you hang out with other people whose parents were famous?
"I used to when I was younger. It was easier because when my mom worked, [because] I would go with her and if she was working with someone who had a child, I would hang out with them. But I haven't really kept up those relationships as I've gotten older. There was no one in my grade who had a celebrity parent. I don't feel like I know as many as someone else. Like Brooklyn Beckham probably knows way more people who have grown up in the same vicinity as him. I'm definitely drawn to people who are like me, but, at the same time, I like being friends with people who don't have the same experiences as me."
What are your goals? You got into college recently.
"I completely value the education, but I have bigger goals in mind. I'd like to add – I feel embarrassed saying it because of where I'm coming from – but I hope I'll be an actress as an adult."
What's your day to day life like right now?
"Most of my other summers have been really oriented around prepping for college and doing programs and things like that. I was really stressed out for four years, so it's been nice to take this summer to decompress. My day-to-day is probably waking up, lying around for a while, and either going out with a friend or having them come over. It's not super exciting, but I really like it."
When did you first start using social media and do you think that it's going to play into your career?
"I think it's interesting because my mom recently got an Instagram and she was really late to getting Instagram as an actress. When she got an Instagram, I gained maybe 30K followers. It felt weird and unearned because it was only because she would occasionally post a picture of me. I've always felt like people with a large social media following should have a reason behind it — some kind of creative or professional reason.
I've had Instagram since I was probably thirteen. There's always been a huge importance placed on Instagram, especially at my school. It didn't feel like — when I did gain followers — it was this giant, out-of-nowhere thing. It did just feel very shocking and confusing [after my mom joined]. I do think that it'll play into, unfortunately, my career just that you have to be posting things to promote yourself and you have to have some sort of image online. It used to just be that, at my school, everyone changes their Facebook name to different things so that your college can't find you. I knew that that wouldn't be possible for me on Instagram because I couldn't go private. There is a level that I have to be more self-aware. If I do want to brand myself or if I want to portray myself in a certain light, I have to be really careful and make sure that it's completely holistic so that my followers don't catch me in a lie. There's a lot more to think about now. And celebrities now are celebrities just because of social media, which is it's own thing entirely. That's complicated."
When you first started your Instagram at thirteen, were you ever worried about [creepy] people?
"My parents have always been super intense about security so, in the beginning I was on private and my username was 'The Little English Rose' or something, which is super embarrassing now. As I got older there was this huge importance placed on Instagram with my friends and people at school, so I felt like I had to go public and I had to make it more me. I don't think I was afraid of people finding me, I just didn't expect that anyone would care to track me down or anything. I hate getting comments that are aggressive or mean. In the same way that I feel like I don't deserve the followers, I don't deserve the criticism considering I haven't actually done anything yet. That was the thing, growing up, that I was most scared of. I didn't want to get unwarranted hate."
What is your relationship with fame? Do you feel like that's inevitable for you?
"Fame has never really been something that I've held as a goal for myself. It's been a product of what I wanna do. I know that the field I want to go into is something that comes with fame, but the reasoning behind me going for acting isn't in order to become famous or cultivate fame. Growing up, I didn't want to be an actor. I wanted to be a writer for the longest time. I'm not anti-fame, but it's definitely not a priority of mine. I hope that i'm just successful and happy in whichever way that comes."
How do you react when people think that you may be jaded because you come from certain privileges?
"It's always people's first impression. I try my hardest. I'm not always talking about my parents and my upbringing and where I live. I know if I met someone who had a celebrity upbringing, my first thought would probably be that they were going to be a little bit jaded even though I'm in the same position. It's difficult to get rid of that image. I just, personally, have to keep my family out of the conversation for as long as possible in the hopes that they already like me by the time they find out."
Do you think that there's a negative stereotype [around celebrity children]?
"I kind of do. It's difficult because I don't want to make any sweeping judgements without knowing anyone, but I do think that the fact that there have been so many celebrity kids getting famous recently has brought out a lot of people yelling nepotism. I'm scared that if I start acting that I'll get accused of nepotism which is my nightmare. I do think that the new wave of social media fame, the Hadids and the Jenners and people like that, have definitely put this image of these spoiled Beverly Hills kids growing up and getting jobs based on their family names, which isn't even correct in either the Jenners or the Hadids part. Everyone is completely deserving."
What apps do you really like to use? I assume Instagram is your main one.
"I, personally, don't think Facebook really matters, but I do know a lot of people who still check their feed all the time. My favorite app aside from Instagram... I use Snapchat very rarely. I think Postmates is my favorite app for sure. I'm not even trying to sound relatable, I just love Postmates."
Are you okay with that stereotype that your generations uses social media like that? “Do it for the 'gram”?
"I don't love it. I know that there are people like that, but I don't like that it's this big, sweeping image of everyone. I don't think that applies to every single person I know. I do feel like, especially with the term 'millennial,' there's something innately disrespectful. Implying that every millennial is disrespectful. Social media is really important. I love it and I use it to connect with people. I don't keep a diary or anything so it's nice to be able to have photographic proof that I've done certain things and memories that I have online. I'm fine with us being the social media generation — I just wish that the image of social media changed a little bit."
Harley Quinn Smith, 18, daughter of Kevin Smith (comedian, writer, and actor) & Jennifer Schwalbach Smith (journalist)
Actress and advocate for animals
Hopes to be the next female comic book hero
What was it like growing up?
"I definitely did not have a normal life. I was too little to understand when it was actually happening, but I recently found out that multiple times in my life we have received death threats because of movies my dad had made. While I was growing up my parents were upsetting a lot of people and the Westboro Baptist Church threatened us multiple times. I wouldn’t trade it for anything, but looking back on it I don't I don't even know how it passed for a child because it was so bizarre."
Can you remember the craziest thing?
"There are so many. The star tours that go through Hollywood would come to my house. It’s such an invasion of privacy and they suck, but my parents used to get so frustrated because my room is the closest to the street so they could walk up to my room. It was just so unsettling. My family got so annoyed that once my dad threw eggs at them. Another time my mom sprayed them with a hose.
[Once] I opened my window and there was a guy outside and I was like “Hi can I help you?” And I now know that it was Russell Brand trying to get into my house. He was doing a podcast with my dad, but I was like Who is this random yelling man outside my window. I called my parents and said “There is a man trying to have a conversation with me outside my window” and my dad was like “Oh, that's so Russell Brand, so it’s cool.” So really, really weird stuff like has often occurred in my life, but it's been great."
Growing up, were a lot of your friends also children of celebrities?
"I don't know. I feel like growing up in Hollywood there are so many different families with different backgrounds."
Wikipedia lists you as best friends with Lily Rose Depp. I just thought it was funny [that the site called that out], but you guys are really best, best friends?
"Yeah, I mean we've known each other since we were about four and we're always going to be best friends because know each other on a different level. She's awesome. She's always going to be one of my best friends, for sure."
Do you think that there's that negative stereotype associated with children of celebrities?
"If your parent is in the same field that you want to go into, there's always going to be so much hate directed towards you because you have an easy “in” with the industry. When I first went into acting, and even now, people will constantly tell me that I don't deserve it. Even if they haven't seen me act, they just have this they have this preconceived notion that since I am a child of someone in the entertainment industry that I don't deserve to have a shot at making it as an actor. I love acting and it's all I want to do with my life. There’s nothing else that I find so much joy in, but it's also difficult at times because I see so much hate for it just because of my dad being in the industry."
When did you first realize that you wanted to act?
"I first realized that I wanted to act after getting a small part in my dad's movie Tusk. It was just meant to be kind of like a family memento, but it actually became the start of everything for me."
What is your day is your day-to-day life like right now?
"Right now it usually consists of one or two auditions, maybe throw in an exercise class somewhere and lately I've been trying to sell my clothes at thrift stores. I've been literally lugging around three huge boxes of clothes going into all different stores just trying to sell my stuff. So, that is what my days are consisting of… super exciting."
How does social media play into your career?
"I totally utilize Instagram to reach out to a greater mass of people. As much as I love acting, my heart is split in half between acting and advocating for animals. The reason I still have Instagram is primarily to talk to people about veganism and being more compassionate towards animals. Some people get really annoyed because they follow me thinking it's just going to pictures of me in skimpy clothes or whatever. But it doesn’t even make me feel bad because they just want a mindless opinion, not my actual opinions on different subjects. I think it's kind of funny."
How much time in your day do you spend on social media?
"Probably too much. I only go on Instagram. I don’t have a Twitter or Snapchat or Facebook, but I definitely go on it too much."
Do you remember when you first started using social media or what your very first post was?
"I've gone through many different emo usernames. My Instagram usernames were like Pierce The Veil lyrics. I ran a fan account for My Chemical Romance at one point. I was 13, maybe 12. No one should trust a 12 year old with social media, but that's what I was doing."
What is your dream job? Do you want to do comedy?
"A dream of mine has always been to be involved with either Marvel and DC. It would be pretty cool just because of the namesake but I feel like there's something so special about a comic book movie or TV show. It’s familiar in the sense that you've heard the stories before, but there's always just something so unique about them. Also to be in a Disney movie would be a dream because I am Disney fanatic. I go to Disneyland more often than anyone else I ever met my life."
How often do you go to Disneyland?
"I've been traveling so much lately but I try to do it multiple times a month."
Oh my gosh. That is more than I go to the gym.
"I definitely go to Disneyland more than I go to the gym. I feel like I've dedicated so much of my time to Disney, that the only way they can repay me is to give me a role in one of their movies."
Do you feel any pressure to go into comedy because of your dad?
"No, there's no pressure at all. I've always wanted to be in comedy. There's something really special about comedy. Comedy always tackles important subject matter like current societal issues, which is why it's always controversial and that makes it all the more exciting to be a part of. There are people that are always going to be upset by comedies and comedians because you're always talking about a delicate subject matter."
Odessa Adlon, 17, daughter of Pamela Adlon (comedian, screenwriter, and actress) and Felix Adlon (screenwriter and producer)
Rising senior in high school
Hopes to find iconic film roles that show off her personality
Growing up, did you feel like your family life was different?
"Luckily for me, I was able to be very normal and have a very normal life. Not even normal because what the fuck does normal mean? I was able to experience everything that a child that has nothing to do with the industry would experience. No one would turn their heads when they saw us which was awesome. I wouldn't like that growing up."
I feel like it's also different because you grew up in LA, right? That in itself is already different.
"That's true. I went to this summer camp in Boston and all the girls would say 'Oh my God, you're from LA? No way, that's crazy.' And when they find out that my mom did voices and was an actor they'd all say 'No way! That's insane. I know someone from LA.' I never understood why it's such a big deal. Living in LA is a really big deal to people even in Boston."
When did you realize that you wanted to get into acting?
"I would beg my mom so much when I was younger. For my birthday, I'd ask 'Mom, can I please have headshots so I can start acting?' She'd always say 'Yeah, I'll get you headshots' and then I would never get my headshots. But that wasn't a career path that I feel like she wanted for my sisters and I, but acting was unavoidable. My mom was in the industry growing up and we would come to set with her. My dad’s a filmmaker, my grandpa on my dad's side [Percy Adlon] is a filmmaker, too. My grandpa on my mom's [Donald Segall] side wrote a bunch of comic books. It's in our blood that we would enjoy it."
What did your mom want you to do instead?
"I don't know. I don't think she would try to push us towards anything. She always just wanted to do whatever we wanted to do, especially if it was something that had to do with art and creating. She was just opposed to my sisters and I acting and getting out there because she was involved in the industry when she was younger, and she felt like it stripped her from having a childhood and a young life lived as a normal teenager, which is understandable."
Have things changed as you've gotten older and actually started acting and meeting more people in the industry at your age?
"I do know people that are in my industry my age now, but it's not like people go out of their way to be like 'Oh my God, are you Odessa?' Fuck that. I've never had anyone come up to me about anything but recently two people came up to me about [my role as Liv on] Nashville and they were said 'Oh my God, are you Liv?' and I was like 'Yes! I am!' We were jumping with each other. It was an exciting moment for both of us. If anyone said to me, 'Oh, you're Pamela Adlon's daughter,' I'd be like 'Who the fuck is Pamela Adlon? I don't know her. Definitely not related to her.’"
Speaking of her, she is nominated for an Emmy –
— for Better Things. Does she use a lot of the storylines from you and your sisters [Gideon and Rocky]?
"100%, but she says otherwise. We have a really fucking crazy household. One thing that's very, very stemmed from reality is "my" character Frankie in the show. She is such a tomboy that a lot of people think that she's a dude. I was very tomboy. All my friends were always dudes. I would get in trouble for trying to pee in the boys bathroom. I was always super weird. That's more accepted now. If you're weird or different people like that."
I'm sure your house is a very exciting place to be.
"Growing up it was very stressful. All we did was argue, as you can see in the show."
Do you feel any pressure because your mom has primarily done comedy? Is that something that you're passionate about, too?
"Comedy is unavoidable. I always joke about everything. That's just how my personality is. I'm always very blunt. Some people can think it's really funny. I can laugh at anything, but some people can be really offended by what I say."
That just comes with the territory of being funny. You can't make everyone laugh.
"I never try to be someone else. I know who I am, but at the same time I don't know who I am because I feel like no one knows who they are. I guess I was raised not being afraid of just saying whatever I'm thinking. I don't really have a filter."
This goes into the next thing I wanna talk about: I think that it's important for people your age to use social media as a way to express yourself.
"I think a lot of people expect people to be a certain way and I'm definitely not going to give people what they want with expecting me to act a certain way. If you're going to be checking me out [on Instagram], just know I don't give a fuck and I'm gonna do whatever I want and if you hate on me for it, I really don't care. I'm just being myself."
You're young and you don't ask for a lot of the attention you get. How do you deal with it?
"I just don't want people to think I'm...regular? I don't know. Even my music taste is different than a lot of people's. I listen to a lot of classic rock and I also listen to a lot of music from the forties. I take media and especially Instagram as a joke. Not as joke, but I don't limit myself to what I do. I'm not hiding anything. I just post whatever I feel like I want to. I guess do it for the experience. I'm not gonna post every fucking picture of just myself on Instagram. I'm gonna post pictures of friends, pictures of what I'm doing. For example, recently, I went to my friend's house and he happened to have a tattoo gun that he just bought. He didn't trust me to give him one. So, I said 'Okay, fine, just give me one.' He gave me a tiny one and in exchange, I gave him a big one. Since then, I started tattooing people unintentionally. Regarding hate over media, my friends get even worse hate than I do. It's just something you have to deal with in social media now in 2017."
Do you think that the way you use your Instagram account influences the part of you that you want to show people?
"People can hate on you. People can always hate on you, but a lot of people wrote to me [on DMs] and told me about how they really appreciate that I don't care and I just do whatever. I feel like without social media you can't find people that inspire you to get out of your shell.'
What's your day-to-day life like now? I know you're in school.
"I'd say right now I'm pretty busy on a day-to-day basis. I have to find time to maintain a work life, school life, and a social life. When I do have time to get stuff done for myself, I like to work on my music, my art, photography, and designing. Other than that almost everyday there's an audition to go to and school to top it off. Social life wise, since it's my senior year I get to have a little more time with homies. My friends and I like to do what we want. That's just it... I guess we like to be spontaneous because we know we're gonna die sooner or later and probably can't do half the shit we do now when we're old."
What is your relationship with fame right now? Are you excited or nervous about pursuing a career in the entertainment industry?
"Well, I don't have any upcoming projects right now. I really want to, obviously. I just want to work. I just want to fucking get jobs. I wanna do dope movies. I wanna do dope TV shows. I never wanna be a forgettable character. I wanna play roles that people get inspired by and I wanna play roles that people fucking hate the person because it's such an awful awesome."
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