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Following in famous family footsteps

They are born with a silver spoon in their mouths, but inherited fame is also a thorn in the sides of celebrity progeny, particularly when they decide to carve out the same career as their parent. It's all too easy to blame nepotism when a celebrity scion enters the limelight. Granted, this privileged set have doors swung open for them more readily but the same doors will be slammed shut if they fail to deliver the same standards as their famous parent.

Inherited fame is both a blessing and a curse. While they benefit from early exposure and back-door access, their every move is followed by the media and public who make constant comparisons to their mother or father.

Lottie (short for Charlotte) Ryan, aspiring television presenter and daughter of the late Gerry, summed it up perfectly when she talked about the hidden pressures of living in a famous parent's shadow.

"I have come across so many people that don't want anything to do with me because I'm the daughter of Gerry Ryan and they are under the impression that I feel I can just waltz in and do as I please," said the 24-year-old.

"I did the hard work that everyone is supposed to do. I'm not going to lie and say doors aren't opened for you, of course they are, and that's amazing, but if I don't have something to back it up with, the criticism will be twice as hard on me, so I nearly have to double prove myself."

Nobody could say that Lottie has had an easy ride. Perhaps because she feels she has to double prove herself, she has worked twice as hard as her peers to further herself.

She spent three years in Colaiste Dhulaigh and two years in Griffith College, studying media production and television. Late last year she took off to New York where she worked as a PA on CBS legal drama, A Good Wife. Though the role was unpaid, she was required to work for up to 16 hours a day.

She saved money before she left and, despite what one might expect, paid her own rent in the Big Apple.

"I don't think I would have been very happy coming over and just sponging from home, it's not right," she said at the time.

Before she left for New York, she had filmed two pilots: The Origins of Dance (she originally aspired to train as a dancer but an injury left her sidelined) and Life as a VIC (Very Important Child). The latter is a fly-on-the-wall look at the lives of Ireland's privileged children, such as Zac Jordan and Rosanna Davison. Ryan presents rather than appears.

Even with all these projects in the pipeline, she has kept her feet firmly on the ground. She still works part-time as an 'O2 Angel' providing hospitality to VIP guests at the Dublin concert venue.

She isn't trading on her surname; she's making a name for herself. Compare her pursuit with another aspiring television presenter with famous lineage: Chloe Madeley, daughter of chatshow legends, Richard and Judy.

She also remarked that she has to work twice as hard "to prove I'm able to do the job for a reason beyond my family name".

However, in her bid to become a TV presenter, she's capitalised on her lineage rather than honed her presenting skills. Her attempts to enter the limelight have come from an appearance in lads' mag FHM, and a stint on reality TV show Celebrity Quitters.

Alas, there will always be the Calum Bests of this world, those who think they don't have to do a tap thanks to their surnames. As a rule, their success is limited.

The celebrity scions who have successfully trodden the same career paths as their parents are generally those who have gone to every effort to do so without their parents' help.

Angelina Jolie is the daughter of screen star Jon Voight, best-known for his turns in Midnight Cowboy and Deliverance.

However, when she moved into acting professionally she adopted the stage surname of Jolie, which is in fact her middle name. "I love my father, but I'm not him," she said early in her career. Though she did star in a film, Lookin' to Get Out, alongside her father when she was seven, it wasn't until her teens -- when she was estranged from him -- that she decided to pursue acting as a career. In fact, she attributes her interest in film to her late mother, Marcheline Bertrand.

Nicolas Cage also changed his name when he became an actor, lest he be accused of nepotism. Cage is in fact a member of the famous Coppola dynasty. His uncle is director Francis, and his cousins include directors Roman and Sofia and actors Jason Schwarztman and Robert Carmine.

For celebrity stock, changing a name is a way for them to carve out their own identity while relieving themselves of the pressure of living up to a famous surname.

And that pressure can become all too much: Cameron Douglas, son of Michael and grandson of Kirk, was recently sentenced to five years in prison after pleading guilty to drugs charges. His descent into drug addiction played out like a Greek tragedy.

Cameron was an aspiring actor; however, he never reached the heights of his father and grandfather before him.

Before he was sentenced, his family wrote letters to the judge begging for leniency. Their words told of a young man haunted by his family legacy.

"I have some idea of the pressure of finding your own identity with a famous father. I'm not sure I can comprehend it with two generations to deal with," Michael Douglas wrote.

His ex-wife Diandra Douglas, Cameron's mother, wrote of how difficult it was for her son to live in his father's shadow. "Being Michael's son and Kirk Douglas's grandson was an incredible cross for him to bear. My son felt defeated before he could even get out of the gate," she wrote.

No doubt, Cameron's career benefited from nepotism. With only a handful of screen credits to his name in obscure films, he was cast alongside his father and grandparents in It Runs in the Family.

But the pressure to perform even reared its head on set. Speaking about shooting an emotional scene with his father, Cameron recalled, "He was grabbing my shoulder really hard. I thought he was being supportive. Actually, he was trying to move me out of his shot."

Michael Douglas is right: few of us could comprehend the pressure of living up to a famous surname.

They are considered relative failures when they don't reach the heights of an iconic parent; they feel guilty if their career eclipses that of their parent.

A famous surname is both a blessing and a curse.


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