North West’s Lion King Performance Is Adding Major Fuel To The 'Nepo Baby' Debate

The 10-year-old's portrayal of young Simba has generated plenty of conversation online.
Kim Kardashian and her daughter North West
Kim Kardashian and her daughter North West
Stefanie Keenan via Getty Images

North West inadvertently waded into the “nepotism baby” discourse last weekend after her performance in a concert staging of Disney’s The Lion King.

The 10-year-old daughter of Kim Kardashian and Ye (the rapper formerly known as Kanye West) appeared as a gender-swapped young Simba in The Lion King 30th Anniversary ― A Live-to-Film Concert Event. Actors Billy Eichner, Jennifer Hudson and Jeremy Irons were among those also featured in the show, which was staged on Friday and Saturday at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles and was recorded for a future Disney+ special.

As part of her performance, North sang one of the film’s best-known songs, I Just Can’t Wait To Be King, surrounded by a troupe of dancers dressed as cheetahs, zebras and other vibrant animals.

Though she reportedly drew a standing ovation from the Hollywood Bowl audience, her interpretation of the song was received less enthusiastically online after video clips began surfacing on social media.

Not surprisingly, many were quick to brand her a “nepo baby”, suggesting her casting was simply the byproduct of having famous parents.

Watch an Entertainment Tonight report on North West’s Lion King performance below:

“Any performer or parent of a young performer who has spent years training in acting, dance and singing is allowed to be really really deeply offended by this casting choice....,” singer and screenwriter Nick Atkinson wrote on Instagram.

Actor and former talk show host Rosie O’Donnell felt similarly, calling the performance “tragic on every level.”

While North’s performance was divisive on social media, others reserved their harshest criticisms for her costume, which, according to People, was not created by designer Marina Toybina – who outfitted most of the show’s remaining cast – but by ERL, a brand based in the Venice neighborhood of Los Angeles.

“North West’s costume also looks incredibly out of place,” one person wrote on X, formerly Twitter. “Lion King costumes are so beautiful and intricate, and she’s stomping around in a yellow hoodie.”

Added another: “I’m all for nepo babies getting opportunities. But a hardworking theatre kid deserved that role. She even wore a hoodie and slippers.”

Kim Kardashian and daughter North West in 2023.
Kim Kardashian and daughter North West in 2023.
MEGA via Getty Images

It’s likely North West – who appeared on her father’s album “Vultures 1” earlier this year – faced tough odds given just how beloved The Lion King is as a cultural property. The original 1994 animated film was a critical and commercial smash, and it was adapted as a stage musical for Broadway three years later, winning six Tony Awards.

In 2019, The Lion King received the photorealistic remake treatment featuring the voices of Donald Glover and Beyoncé. Though that film received mixed reviews, it was nonetheless a hit at the box office. A cinematic prequel, Mufasa: The Lion King, was announced last month and will mark the feature film debut of Blue Ivy Carter, the 12-year-old daughter of Beyoncé and Jay-Z.

Though Kim has not responded publicly to the criticism levelled against her daughter, the young performer was applauded by actor Jason Weaver, who provided the singing voice for young Simba in the animated version of The Lion King in 1994.

“What an honour it is to share the same stage with this young superstar in the making!!” he wrote on Instagram.

“You’re a true professional, and I wish you nothing but the best as you continue your journey towards GREATNESS!!”


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