They say the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree and these celebrity dynasties certainly prove that old adage true. With the Jackson family setting the precedent, these families know how to keep things in-house by continuing their legacy of entertainment into the next generation.
Whether it’s music, TV, movies or all of the above, the families we profile here have made creativity the family business. It must be nice to have someone around to pass on the money to – or just to pass the mic to. And what’s great about these crews is that they don’t have to worry about their children leeching off of them, because their kids are making their own money. Here’s a look at black entertainment’s hottest family dynasties.
Keenan Ivory Wayans, Damon Wayans, Kim Wayans, Shawn Wayans, Marlon Wayans
Offspring: Damien Wayans, Damon Wayans, Jr., Michael Wayans, Craig Wayans
Growing up in a family of 10 kids, you find out very quickly that everyone has to eat and everyone has to be entertained. That must be the reason why the Wayans family has taken over Hollywood. Once Keenan, brother Damon and sister Kim launched their careers with the groundbreaking series “In Living Color,” the rest of the family caught on and most of them got into show business as well. (Remarkably, there are three siblings with no show business credits, but even a few of those have helped out by producing children. Three of the siblings, including Kim, don’t have children at all.) The elder Wayans have written and starred in hits like “White Chicks,” “I’m Gonna Get You Sucka,” “Don’t Be A Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Gin and Juice in the Hood” and on TV shows like “ My Wife and Kids.”
The younger crew – sons of Damon and sisters Elvira and Deirdre, have directed films like “Dance Flick” and starred on shows like “My Wife and Kids” and “Happy Endings.” For an entire list of the family, siblings and offspring, click here. We’ve got to give the Wayans their props – making money in entertainment is their family business and it looks like it will be that way for generations to come.
Offspring: Tracee Ellis Ross, Evan Ross
Diana Ross was a world-famous multitalented superstar before Beyonce was even thought of. From the Supremes to the movies, Ms. Ross made her mark, leading up to her 1972 Oscar nomination for the Billie Holiday biopic “Lady Sings the Blues.” She has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame – one for the Supremes and one as a solo artist. Ross hasn’t recorded much new material in recent years though she’s toured around the world since 2010 on her “More Today Than Yesterday – The Greatest Hits Tour.”
Talent must run in the family. Ross’ daughter Tracee Ellis Ross, gained fame via “Girlfriends” and will be returning for a second season of “Reed Between the Lines” on BET. Ross’ son, Evan Ross, is also an actor who’s best known for the movie “ATL” as well as appearing on the CW series “90210.” He’s said to have more than 20 projects in production, and has recorded an album. Daughter Rhonda Ross Kendrick appeared on two seasons of the soap “Another World” but is now a real estate broker in New York City. We guess that comes in handy if anyone in your famous family wants to relocate.
Russell Simmons, Rev. Joseph “Run” Simmons
Offspring: Angela, Vanessa and Diggy Simmons
The Simmons family rode into show business on the wave of hip-hop that took over the music business in the 80’s. Russell managed his brother Joseph “Run” Simmons, helping him become one of the most famous hip-hop artists of the era with Run DMC, if not of all time. Now a second generation of Simmons’ is heading into the entertainment sphere. Vanessa, Angela and Diggy Simmons have all been part of their family’s reality TV show “Run’s House,” one of the first black reality TV family shows.
Angela and Vanessa got their own short-lived spinoff and Vanessa stays on the blogosphere. But it looks like Diggy will be the family’s big star, following directly in his father’s footsteps as a rapper. The 17-year-old is already signed to Atlantic Records and released a CD “Unexpected Arrival.” It’s just been out two months and hasn’t lived up to expectations, but Diggy’s still young. Give him some time and we think he’ll blow up the music scene.
Will Smith, Jada Pinkett Smith
Offspring: Willow Smith, Jaden Smith
Will Smith has already become the world’s biggest global star, which should continue with the release of “Men In Black 3” this May. Wife Jada Pinkett Smith has made her mark on the acting world with her now cancelled TV show “HawthoRNe” and her starring roles in movies like “Jason’s Lyric,” “Menace to Society” and “Lowdown Dirty Shame.”
The Smiths are looking to the next generation to continue their legacy and so far, so good. Son Jaden Smith has starred in not one, but two $100 million dollar grossing movies: “The Pursuit of Happyness” and “The Karate Kid” remake. Not bad for a 13-year-old. His sister, 11-year-old Willow, had a hit with ”Whip My Hair” and signed a record deal with Roc Nation. She’s already viewed as a budding fashionista and makes almost weekly appearances on the blogs. Seems like the Smith dynasty is just beginning.
Eldra Debarge, Chico Debarge, Bobby DeBarge
Offspring: El Debarge, Jr., Kristinia Debarge
The DeBarge family may have had their issues, but there’s no question they also have talent. Almost every family member has been involved in the music business from oldest brother Bobby DeBarge who was in the R&B group Switch (“I Call Your Name” “They’ll Never Be”) to the five siblings who were in DeBarge to El DeBarge and Chico DeBarge, who had solo careers. El and Chico have had their share of difficulties, though, both spending time in jail and struggling with addiction. El, after making a triumphant comeback with his “Second Chances” CD, returned to rehab last year, and was just arrested for possession and sale of narcotics. The charges were subsequently dropped.
Fortunately, the talented Debarges have not stopped at one generation. Their children are recording as well. El DeBarge, Jr. has toured with DJ Quik and released an independent CD, “The Lion’s Den,” available via http://www.reverbnation.com. His cousin, Kristinia, 22, daughter of James, is signed to Sodapop Records, a division of Island Records. Her single “Goodbye” from her debut CD “Exposed” was a top 15 Billboard hit. She’s working on her sophomore CD with Babyface, and is making her acting debut in a comedy called “The Lot,” out later this year.