“I’m not gay, sorry. I’m not. I’m attracted to big, strong muscular men,” Christian Walker says into his phone’s front-facing camera. “The gay word means you go to pride marches, you go to the gay club every weekend, you’re a leftist. Love me, hate me, I’m not those things.” Christian, also known as @officialchristianwalk1r, is filming himself from inside his parked Range Rover. He’s wearing a purple and gray sweatshirt emblazoned with the phrase “Spirit of Texas,” the name of the world-champion competitive cheerleading team he was on as a teen. He has a fresh fade, and his skin is as poreless as a dolphin’s back. Here on TikTok, he has more than five hundred thousand followers, about the same amount that follow him on Instagram, where he has marked himself as a “public figure” and self-describes as “Infamous. LA 🌴.” Below his email address is the name of a bible verse: Jeremiah 29:11. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
The videos Christian has made over the past three years are all quite similar to this one: recorded via selfie camera from his parked car, or from the Starbucks drive-through, or in front of his leather nailhead headboard. If you are an active user of TikTok, you may already be familiar with the twenty-three-year-old’s video screeds. But the algorithm wasn’t always prioritizing his content.
Christian first gained notoriety online during the height of the George Floyd protests and lead-up to the 2020 presidential election. In a video that went viral on Twitter in May of 2020, he criticized Joe Biden for a comment the future president made to the Black radio host Charlamagne tha God: namely, that Black people “ain’t Black” if they decide to vote for Trump (a comment Biden later apologized for). At the heart of the aspiring influencer’s objection was the frustration that people assume someone like him—a young Black gay man—must naturally endorse a progressive political ideology. While Biden’s comment was certainly poorly phrased, he was gesturing toward a common question: namely, why any person of color would be interested in supporting an avowedly racist, white supremacist presidential candidate—among, of course, his other innumerable vices. But for Christian, it was the perfect bait. As with the video that first took him viral, his content aims to defy your expectations. Do not get him twisted: he loves god, he’s invested in the nuclear family, and he’s dictating his own narrative.
He has also taken it upon himself to respond to unflattering rumors and exploit them for more likes, followers, and media coverage. The most notable instance of this came in October of 2022, when The Daily Beast reported that Christian’s father, the former NFL player and then Republican Georgia Senate nominee Herschel Walker, had paid for a girlfriend’s abortion back in 2009. Beyond contradicting Herschel’s own avowed anti-abortion position and tanking his popularity among supporters, the news split up his family. Christian felt betrayed by his father, and he let his followers know: “You know my favorite issue to talk about is father absence,” he shouts into the camera in a video posted to Twitter just after The Daily Beast’s scoop. “Surprise! Cuz it affected me.” As of late, he is particularly invested in talking about celebrity relationships, especially when they concern familiar topics like infidelity, abandonment, and any situation in which men—especially “broke men”—take advantage of women.
Christian is just one of a small but vocal group of zoomers and millennial-cuspers I have come to refer to casually as nepo babies of the right, borrowing the shorthand TikTokers and culture writers have used to refer to the recently acclaimed children of artists and actors, such as Maya Hawke and Lily-Rose Depp. I admit my coinage is not as specific as it could be: I am not talking about Donald Jr., Ivanka, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., or George W. Bush before them, all of whom used their parents’ distinguished and/or dishonorable names to launch legacy political careers of their own. No, the internet-native nepo babies don’t want to hold roles in our government—at least not yet. What the new generation of right royalty seems to be seeking is something more base and instinctual: likes, comments, retweets, upvotes, forwards, heart eyes, followers. If their careers don’t exactly resemble those of their predecessors, it makes sense, for their parents’ platforms haven’t been conventional either.
The mommies and daddies of the right-wing nepo babies have made their mark primarily through punditry, media stunts, and failed candidacies. Now, like their parents, the babies are seeking legitimacy outside of established meritocratic institutions, garnering airtime for their flagrant commentary rather than their resumés. And for most of these influencers, the feedback loop of infamy their controversial messages provoke seems to be more important than the content of the messages themselves.
I first met Danielle D’Souza Gill as a child, at the elementary school we both attended in a San Diego suburb. I don’t remember a lot from our playdates, just a palatial house with a large, mahogany office and her chipper, now-estranged mother, Dixie. Recently, my dad commented that he always wondered, when picking me up from her parents’ house, why it was so big. After all, her father “wrote books.”
Dinesh D’Souza has written books—twenty or so. But he also served in the Reagan administration, has been a frequent guest on Fox News shows, and has produced numerous political propaganda films, including 2016: Obama’s America, “one of the highest-grossing political documentaries of all time, behind only Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11,” according to the New York Times. Dinesh’s ideology is more than reactionary: in his numerous books and films, he defends the thesis that liberalism, together with Black Americans, are the primary cause of America’s economic and political strife. In The Enemy At Home: The Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11, published in 2007, he argues that American progressives were solely responsible for 9/11 by virtue of outraging the Islamic world. This is a figure who Trump pardoned in 2018 after he was convicted for making illegal campaign donations.
Danielle, now twenty-eight and a new mother, is following in the footsteps of her father. Like him, she went to Dartmouth, where she became a vocal outlier in campus politics and started writing largely fictional books that would be sold as nonfiction by graduation. She is the author of YGod: An Intelligent Discussion on the Relevance of Faith and The Choice: The Abortion Divide in America, was one of the youngest women on the Advisory Board of Women for Trump, and is the host of a weekly show called Counterculture, streamed by the online arm of the Chinese newspaper The Epoch Times. Backed by the right-wing religious movement Falun Gong, the paper self-describes as “independent and unbiased.” On Counterculture, you will find Danielle cosplaying as a broadcast news anchor and speaking on topics such as AI (“the first religion created by a non-human”), which she claims “was all made possible by leftists who wanted to erase Christianity.” Former guests include figures like Kenosha shooter Kyle Rittenhouse and her dad. When I signed up for a free account to watch the show for this story, I was greeted with a thank-you email containing an ad for a documentary called THE REAL STORY OF JANUARY 6.
Danielle has reached a peak, having graced both Fox News and Dr. Phil, but her initial fame was propagated, or at least accelerated, by her online presence more than her book sales. Before she had The Epoch Times and the conservative media organization PragerU as outlets for her right-wing and often conspiratorial messages, social media was her primary forum. Some time after graduating from college in 2017, she started posting political content on her Instagram page: graphics breaking down the cost of a Gabriela Hearst suit worn by AOC, screenshots from The Daily Caller, professional portraits of herself in a WOMEN FOR KAVANAUGH T-shirt. She frequently poses beside her husband, Brandon Gill, an “ex-Wall Street, businessman, financier, rancher” who launched the conservative media website DC Enquirer. In a picture from November 2022, posted several weeks after the midterm elections, Danielle poses at the beach—white sand, looks like Florida—in a full face of makeup, white workout pants with mesh cut-outs, and a red hat that reads “Not Woke” in white script. Zooming in closer, it appears she has digitally altered her face with a plastic surgery app, leaving her smile lines nonexistent and her teeth as white as her leggings. “Thankful for all of you who are NOT WOKE!” reads the caption.
You can purchase the red “Not Woke” hat, along with other merchandise that borrows from millennial cultural iconography on her website, americanabydanielle.com. There is a gray beanie that says ANTI BIDEN SOCIAL CLUB in the same font used by the streetwear brand Anti Social Social Club ($27.99), T-shirts that say “Maga Republican” in the pink and white Barbie logo likeness ($27.99), and baseball caps in various colors printed with the phrase “My Pronouns are Anti/Abortion” ($29.99).
This November, Mikhaila Peterson will launch the “online university” Peterson Academy with her father, Canadian clinical psychologist-turned-self-help-guru-turned-conservative conspiracy theorist Jordan Peterson. Along with skepticism of the accredited university, Mikhaila—who self-identifies as “libertarian, to the right a little bit”—shares her father’s deep belief in god, alternative medicine, and the power of an all-meat diet to cure everything from psoriasis to thinning hair to clinical depression. Jordan Peterson and his wife, a cancer survivor, claim to have been saved by Mikhaila’s proprietary “lion diet,” which consists solely of salt, water, and meat from ruminant animals (beef or lamb). Mikhaila, the maven of her brand, eats this diet too, she tells us, sprinkling her air-fried morning meats with a little bit of tallow (“god’s greatest gift!”). Like her parents, she claims the lion diet cured her of all her mental and physical ailments, allowing her to go without the adderall, antidepressants, and rheumatoid arthritis medication she took before she found her “cure.”
On her podcast as well as on her TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube accounts—the last of which recently surpassed a million followers—Mikhaila invites her guests to discuss “lesser known” health practices, which often veer into libertarian-inflected pseudoscience. In a video from December, she spoke to Chris Beck, the former Navy SEAL who came out as transgender in 2013, detransitioned many years later, and eventually became a vocal trans health care skeptic, inflaming the right-wing trans panic. “Say you have a kid who is experiencing gender dysphoria. What should a parent do?” Mikhaila asks Beck. “You’re gonna let your kid be a kid, but you’re not gonna force the kid one way or the other,” Beck instructs. “Surgery is definitely not the answer because this is a lot more internal than its external.” In another episode, she interviewed Dr. Mike Mew, who purports that people can change the shape of their face and “become more attractive” by resting their tongues on the tops of their mouths, chewing gum, and taping their lips closed at night.
Of all three of these figures, Mikhaila’s meteoric rise has resembled her father’s most, and their careers are now so intertwined that they are essentially business partners (“Mostly we talk about work, but that’s the way I like it.”) While Mikhaila, now thirty-one, has not earned a PhD or written any books—she was in cosmetology school before starting a degree in biomedical science that she failed to complete—her interests today are almost identical to her father’s, whose face pops up frequently on her social media feeds. As Mikhaila explains in a TED Talk-like video in which she walks across a stage in a bodycon dress, her “life changed” in 2016 when her father posted a video to YouTube entitled “professor against political correctness” in which he vilifies universities and their human resource departments, which he sees as increasingly radical, over-censored, Marxist institutions: “No better than fascism.”
Perhaps it’s unsurprising, then, that Mikhaila is willing to admit her father has given her a leg up. In a recent video, she addressed the issue straight on: “What do you think you’d be doing for a career if your dad wasn’t Jordan Peterson?” she says into a microphone, reading a question a user named @7vencircles had submitted to her podcast. “I think I’d be in a similar place, but I wouldn’t be launching Peterson Academy, and I wouldn’t have as much of an audience for sure,” she explains seriously, a lock of bleached hair draped over each shoulder. Not all nepo babies are as forthcoming: “um people need to understand that I’m CHRISTIAN WALKER not Herschel walkers son,” Christian tweeted back in 2015.
Despite having views that are in the minority for their age group, the right-wing nepo babies seem, on the whole, remarkably disinterested in the kind of rebellion or independent identity formation that most teens and young adults are wont to go through with regard to their parents. Christian Walker insists that he is not Herschel Walker’s son, and yet even while wearing a fuchsia sweatshirt his father might detest, he stands affirmatively behind traditional family values, gender roles, and religious virtue, identifying as a “conservative populist.”
In at least this one respect, the new nepo babies seem to resemble the right wing’s more traditional beneficiaries of nepotism. In May of 2000, The Atlantic published an investigation into George W. Bush’s connection to Skull and Bones, Yale’s prestigious secret society and home to generations of Bush family members. Famously, George junior spoke little of his time there along with Yale at large, an elitist institution the real Texan wanted to distance himself from. The irony, of course, is that “if George W. truly wanted to detach himself from his father and from the traditions of a long line of ancestors, he chose a curious path—in effect, retracing his father’s footsteps,” as the Atlantic journalist writes.
There are of course nepo babies who haven’t adopted their parents’ views quite as unequivocally. Claudia Conway, the eighteen-year-old daughter of Fox News contributor and former senior counselor in the Trump administration, Kellyanne Conway, has 1.6 million followers on TikTok. She started racking up an audience in 2021 when she was just sixteen years old. On January 6, during the White House insurrection, the teen addressed her mother in a video as if no one else was watching: “Hey mom, it’s Claudia. I don’t know where you are, you might be downstairs, upstairs whatever . . . I’m just curious—how do you feel? about your army becoming rioters.” In a recent post on her Instagram (one hundred sixty-one thousand followers, verified, marked as “Farm”), she is flipping off the camera with one hand and holding a homemade FUCK SCOTUS sign in the other.
Is it better that Claudia—whose father George Conway III, a lawyer, never-Trumper, and founding member of the Lincoln Project, has supported her choice to speak out against the former president—has used her fame to denounce her mother’s venal and destructive career choices? Certainly, but her interventions have not always been entirely altruistic. While her primary role as an internet celebrity is not as a peddler of products, this avowed former theater kid has leveraged the fame she’s garnered on TikTok into more conventional opportunities for stardom, including appearances on American Idol and signing with Playboy, which recently knighted her a bunny.
These institutions have assuredly capitalized on Claudia’s fame for their own benefit, but the teen—who has said she plans to attend college after taking a gap year—has expressed excitement about the opportunities: “i am aiming to reclaim my womanhood and femininity in a way that is truly mine . . . i have full control of my body and my voice,” she tweeted with regard to her Playboy gig. If we are to believe accounts by Gay Talese or Holly Madison, working as one of Hugh Hefner’s models hasn’t exactly been the pinnacle of women’s liberation. But it has certainly given them a spotlight. And that is, after all, all the nepo babies ever really wanted.