Next Gen Actresses Are Having a Major Moment in Hollywood: Why Dakota Johnson, Lily Collins and More Are at the Top of Their Careers

It’s good to be Hollywood royalty right now.

Not that there’s never a bad time to be born into a famous family. From the moment they open their eyes, celebrity offspring are blessed. Not blessed by way of an Instagram feed, meaning they got to Barney’s just as the staff was putting their favorite item on the sale rack, or they scored the last spot in the most popular SoulCycle class. This is what the hashtag really means: Divinely favored, fortunate, worthy of adoration.

In other words: Just like their parents.
When the children of actors and actresses aren’t basking in luxury vacations, elite schools and what we can only imagine are the most kickass Christmas mornings in existence, growing up Hollywood can come with its own set of downsides, chief among them the pressure to enter the business and, obviously, reap success. What good is a lucrative and award-winning career if it can’t be passed down to the next generation?

Some ignore these temptations, but others cling to them, turning the promise of an acting career from an option to a life’s purpose. Haters will say it’s handed to them, but we would argue it’s harder to make a name for yourself when your name is already known. Do we need Kendall Jenner to step in and describe her early years in the modeling industry again?

Preconceptions and prejudices aside, there’s a very distinct group of famous offspring that is living it up in Hollywood right now. They’ve fully become It Girls in their own right, and they’re taking the industry by storm. Taken individually, they don’t have a ton in common—they have very different vibes or typecasting or whatever you want to call it, and certainly very different first generations. But put together as a group, and they’re an unstoppable force. It is very, very good to be this very, very specific group of actresses right now.
Let’s begin with the woman who is on the minds of everyone with an HBO subscription (or a friend with an ineffective firewall): Zoë Kravitz. Her character in Big Little Lies may make viewers want to throw a yoga block at her Om-ing self, but that should be considered a compliment for the actress behind the infuriatingly zen Bonnie Carlson. The daughter of Lenny Kravitz and Lisa Bonet has found herself not only at the front and center of a prestige television show, but billed alongside some of the most enduring and respected people in the business.

To think that in 2015 the biggest thing she had going was the doomed Divergent series, and now she is keeping up with the likes of Reese Witherspoon and Laura Dern (not to mention the Oscar-nominated director Jean-Marc Valée) is pretty incredible. Her modeling chops shouldn’t be discounted—Kravitz has a contract with Calvin Klein and is a regular in the front rows of many a top-notch designer—but the true potential lies onscreen.

The actress is going to be seen this summer in the raucous all-female comedy Rough Night, with fellow no-longer-so-budding stars Kate McKinnon and Ilana Glazer, and she nabbed a sought-after casting in the Fantastic Beasts franchise (as Leta Lestrange, the ancestor of the evil Bellatrix). If there’s a surefire path to the big bucks, it’s through J.K. Rowling.
Next on our minds is Dakota Johnson. She’s not new; but that’s not the point. None of this group (don’t you dare call them a squad) is fresh-faced in that rarest form of the phrase. But she’s not seasoned, either. Her IMDb page is a respectable length, with a few small parts early in her career (early being a few years ago) and the requisite mention of her parents, Melanie Griffithand Don Johnson.

She is, however, on the brink of being fully, completely recognizable. If the first installment of Fifty Shades of Grey put her into the spotlight, the sequel proved she belonged there. Watching her maneuver her way through some admittedly embarrassing dialogue and some definitely blush-worthy sex scenes showed America that she’s got this. She can carry a movie, she can charm at the press tour, she can really bring it at the premieres. Oh, and she can cover a Vogue with some darn fine finesse.

Fronting the fashion magazine is basically the instant mark of an It Girl. Frankly, Vogue did her a little dirty with a pretty ill-advised shag cut at the cover shoot, but if she can survive Steven Tylerbangs she can survive anything—especially the throng of paparazzi following her every footstep, which is happening more and more frequency these days. A year ago it was hard to find out what Dakota Johnson was up to, and now all we have to do is give the Daily Mail a quick scroll to see that she’s stopping for coffee or picking up her dog from daycare.
She should probably get used to it, what with a few more years of her Fifty Shades contract left, but something tells us she already is.
Next to the article about Dakota Johnson’s trip to the dry cleaners is the daily image of Lily Collins leaving the gym. If you blinked at all between January and March of 2017, you probably missed her instant comeuppance, but now is the time to get fully briefed. She of the Phil Collins’ Collins. She was once rumored to be dating Zac Efron, but it was probably just an ill-fated trip to the movies with some guy she kind of knew. Her technical big screen debut was as Sandra Bullock’s biological daughter in The Blind Side, but this year’s Golden Globes was her real coming out party.

Collins starred in a period piece called Rules Don’t Apply that followed an aspiring actress in the twenties, or something, but don’t worry too much about that. It was written and directed by Warren Beaty, and it also happened to nab her a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress. That’s the important part. That’s the part that got her to the award show, and the part that made Meryl Streep learn her name.

Is there a better marker that one has reached the upper echelon of Hollywood than having Meryl Streep know one’s name? No. No there is not.
Most people might not think they know Riley Keough, but trust us: You know Riley Keough. First of all, there’s a reason that face looks so familiar—she is the daughter of Lisa Marie Presley. Which, yes, means that Elvis Presley is her grandfather. We’ll let that sink in for a little bit.

Also, her face is familiar because she’s kind of everywhere right now. The actress got her big break starring in Mad Max: Fury Road (alongside fellow Next Gen Zoë Kravitz), and had a big showing at Cannes for her gig starring opposite Shia LaBeoufin American Honey. Up next, she has a whopping seven films on the docket, including an Andrew Garfield-fronted flick, an Uma Thurman-fronted flick, and an Alexander Skarsgård-fronted flick.

The actress is also a staple at the Young Hollywood party circuit, which means one thing: Paparazzi, paparazzi, paparazzi.
We should also give credit where credit is due to two not-so-newcomer Next Gens, who just so happen to be totally on fire right now. The names Elle Fanning and Emma Roberts are practically Hollywood vernacular by now, in part because of their famous kin (that would be sister Dakota and aunt Julia, respectively). But these actresses have been budding for a long time now.
Fanning is kicking off a banner year with a major role in the all-female Ocean’s Eight remake. She’s been filming in New York alongside all the major heavy hitters, soaking up the power of association and no doubt taking major notes. The actress has plenty of experience under her belt, but there’s nothing like a headline-grabbing role in an even more headline-grabbing movie to shoot you to the next level—plus, the access to Ocean’s wardrobe department alone is worth it.

Roberts is now fully ensconced in the world of Ryan Murphy; between Scream Queens and American Horror Story, she’s pretty much guaranteed a job for the next hundred years. She’s building an impressive film resumé—audiences will see her this year in Billionaire Boys Club with Kevin Spacey, Ansel Elgort and the like—as well as cashing in on all kinds of lucrative modeling gigs, from a partnership with Coach to acting as the face of Aerie.

As if we needed any more reason to envy Hollywood’s next generation.

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