This Hollywood Tradition Gives So Many Celebrity Kids Their Big Break
Long before Dakota Johnson starred opposite Justin Timberlake in The Social Network, the actress had a different kind of breakout role: as Miss Golden Globe at the 2006 awards show. Her mom, Melanie Griffith, was Miss Golden Globe in 1984, but this is no coincidence. One of the perks of having a dynastic Hollywood family, the title of Miss or Mr. Golden Globe always goes to the child of another A-lister. Freddie Prinze, Jr. suited up in 1996 (the year before his big break in I Know What You Did Last Summer). Laura Dern booked the gig for the 1982 ceremony, when she was just Bruce Dern and Diane Ladd’s daughter. Consider this “coming out” — which in 2017 was gender-neutralized to the title of Golden Globe Ambassador — a mix between debutante ball and red-carpet reveal.
The role entails ushering presenters and winners on- and off-stage, and helping hand out trophies. According to Meher Tatna, president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the tradition of Miss Golden Globe was started in 1963 at the 20th annual Golden Globes, and actresses Eva Six and Donna Douglas shared the title. It wasn’t until 1971 that the gig became permanent, and the HFPA, which hosts the awards show, began tapping the children of Hollywood royalty, many of whom would go on to be movie or TV heavyweights themselves.
Rumer Willis, who now has a healthy TV and film career of her own, was more widely known as Demi Moore and Bruce Willis’s daughter when she filled the role in 2008. Two Eastwood daughters — Kathryn and Francesca — served as Miss Golden Globe in 2005 and 2013, respectively. The latter also shared the stage with a Mr. Golden Globe, Michael J. Fox and Tracy Pollan’s son Sam Michael. In 1992, Eddie Fisher and Connie Stevens’s daughter Joely Fisher walked the stage. “I think the HFPA looked into their crystal ball and thought I had a good shot,” she later told the New York Times; six years later, she was nominated for Best Supporting Actress in a Series for her work on Ellen.
Tatna told InStyle that the position has “really become a role that’s filled by someone who has aspirations of being in the entertainment industry, whether in front or behind the camera.” Each year’s representative is determined by members of the HFPA, but some have actively sought the role. Greer Grammer interviewed for the position in 2011 before serving in 2015. Others only found out when they had been chosen. Jamie Foxx’s daughter Corinne, who served in 2016, told the New York Times that a phone call “came out of the blue.” Isan Elba learned she would be 2019’s Golden Globes Ambassador via a text message from her dad, Idris.
While for many Miss and Mr. Globes, the appointment served as a first step into the spotlight, some title-holders had fledgling acting or modeling careers prior to walking onstage. Sistine Stallone was already signed to IMG, though her two sisters were students when they all shared the honor. Rumer Willis, Dakota Johnson, and Sosie Bacon (pictured above with her mom, Kyra Sedgwick) had all appeared in one or more of their parents’ movies, and Melanie Griffith had been in several magazine spreads with her mother, Tippi Hedren, before each of their Globes turns. For a modern twist, Francesca Eastwood was a reality-show veteran before she got her shot, courtesy of her mom’s E! show, Mrs. Eastwood & Company.
The role isn’t without its controversy, of course. The Miss Golden Globe alumni list is overwhelmingly straight, thin, and white (only four have been men; none have been trans). When Corinne Foxx was crowned in 2016, the HFPA website explained that “Corinne wasn't our first African American Miss Golden Globe. In fact, she is our fifth to hold the title in the more than 50 years of this tradition.” (The first was Rosanne Katon, another Hollywood daughter, who served in 1981 before starring in St. Elsewhere.) But five in 50 aren’t great odds. Since some years have more than one honoree, there have been 60 total, which means less than 10% have been people of color. Recent appointments have helped shift the percentages, including Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Rebecca Garcia’s daughter Simone Garcia Johnson (in 2017), and Idris and Kim Elba’s daughter Isan, who will serve this year. Indeed, the work of representation and inclusion in Hollywood is ongoing.
For its part, the HFPA seems committed to evolving along with a society that wants more for its daughters than simply standing stage right in sparkly gowns. In 2017, the organization reimagined the tradition as the Golden Globe Ambassadorship, starting with Simone Garcia Johnson. She partnered with GlobalGirl Media, an organization that encourages girls to explore journalism. She told Teen Vogue that she saw it as an opportunity “to use my voice, and I want to be a role model to young people everywhere.” Her generation, she added, is “very passionate about our ideas, and we're very passionate about the things that we feel need to be changed.”
The HFPA put a lot of weight into the name change, too. “The Golden Globe Ambassador title is gender-neutral and embodies the HFPA’s philanthropic efforts year-round,” Tatna told InStyle. “We give to so many deserving organizations, and expanding this role allows for another touchpoint of philanthropy throughout the year.” For her tenure as 2019’s Ambassador, Isan Elba decided to highlight the need to talk about mental health, especially among black people and teenagers.
The on-air aspect of the gig isn't without is work, either; ushering huge crowds of giddy winners can feel a bit hectic, and it’ll be no different for Elba when the Jan. 6, 2019 show rolls around. Still, being picked comes with the best seat in the house, and getting to witness behind-the-scenes moments that don’t make the telecast — like which presenters are more nervous than others.
“Channing Tatum was freaking out; he was really scared. He kept going over his stuff,” Greer told Teen Vogue about her big night. She, however, just wanted to kick off her heels when it was over. And as for Tatna's favorite memory over the years, she answered diplomatically: “All of these women and men have been incredible additions to the show.” During a live event with a million ways to go off the rails, it's probably nice to know you've got a talent pool that won't freeze up around big stars. After all, for the Golden Globe Ambassadors, this is just another night out with mom and dad.