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What’s it like being young and beautiful, with a 24-karat pedigree and inherited wealth, in populist, economically perilous 2009? The 38 heirs and heiresses who posed for Bruce Weber are making privilege count—many, like Ivanka Trump and Antoine Arnault, in the family business; some, like Mercedes-Benz scion Alex Flick, in areas of their own choosing. Checking out the C.V.’s of Kick Kennedy, Georgina Bloomberg, and Lapo Elkann, among others, V.F. surveys the next generation of some of the world’s greatest fortunes.
h, to be young, rich, beautiful—and doing something. At a moment when the economy is teetering and populism is all the rage, today’s gilded youth have got their work cut out for them, and they know it. Whether it’s expanding the family business or striking out independently, launching a career in the arts or plunging into philanthropy, the 38 heirs and heiresses to fabled names and consequential fortunes in this portfolio seem determined to make a contribution to society at large while carving out identities of their own.
Some are very happy to follow in their ancestors’ footsteps. “We are Mondavis,” says Dante Mondavi, grandson of the famed Napa Valley vintner Robert Mondavi. “It’s our blood. We grew up on a vineyard just like my father grew up on a vineyard. I’ve never seen it as a burden.” Ivanka Trump concurs. “I have no interest in going out on my own. My dream is to continue to build on the foundation my father and his father built through the Trump Organization, and hopefully have my kids do the same.” Yet she spent a year working at another real-estate firm in order to prove herself to herself, without “the eyes of the world bearing down on me.” Antoine Arnault says he too knew from an early age that he would join LVMH, the luxury group controlled by his father. “I had a couple of years of rebellion—I was singing in a rock band. I think you have to at least try to do something else.”
Alex Flick, of the Mercedes-Benz dynasty, on the other hand, defied his father by dropping out of college and making The Magnolia Curtain, a documentary about one of the poorest towns in South Carolina. “For me, where I come from plays a big part in what I do,” he says. “I expect myself to achieve extraordinarily highly because I have been given this chance in life. It would be stupid of me to say, ‘I’ve got everything. I can sit back and relax.’ I would end up in a gutter, unhappy and incredibly unfulfilled.” Alex is taking the photographs for a book about art collectors that his cousin Princess Elisabeth von Thurn und Taxis is writing. Like him, she is committed to making a name for herself in the creative world. “I think it’s a huge privilege to be able to use the access that we have in an interesting way,” she says.