Celebutante is a portmanteau of the words celebrity and débutante that is a celebrity who rises to fame not because of their talent or work but because of their inherited wealth and controversial lifestyle. It is generally used to refer to a young woman from a wealthy family who has received a disproportionate amount of media attention, due principally to her lifestyle, as opposed to individual achievement. Young women born or wed into great wealth, then cast into the public eye, are endowed with collective hope and expectation. Vessels of vicarious living, we suffer with them as they fall prey to gold diggers, mental illness and the responsibilities that come with privilege. Not all famous heiresses are doomed. There are those who use their resources and influence in positive ways. Let’s take a look at some of the most notable celebutantes from the past and the present.
10. Jade Jagger
Jade Sheena Jezebel Jagger (born 21 October 1971) is an English jewelry designer, socialite and former model. In 1996, Jade set up Jade Inc. with Tamsin De Roemer designing jewellery, and in 2001 she began working as the Creative Director for Garrard, the English company dealing in high-end jewelry. She worked there until 2006 and now promotes a lifestyle concept called “Jezebel” (her middle name), which fuses music, clothing, and lifestyle through original recordings, remixes, unplugged sessions, and fashion. She also owns a building with luxury condo units in Manhattan and has worked as a lingerie model. In 2008, Jade’s career was revived, courtesy of Belvedere. Best known in accessory circles for her gig as creative director at Garrard, Jade had created the “Jagger Dagger,” a sword boasting an 18-carat white gold hilt studded with 12 carats of brilliant-cut diamonds, 42 pale sapphires, and inlaid with a central blue lapis lazuli square. She is currently the face of the up-and-coming brand Eleven Paris in its Fall 2010 ads.
9. Khloé Kardashian
Khloé Kardashian Odom (née Khloé Alexandra Kardashian; born June 27, 1984) is an American television personality, radio host, entrepreneur, model, and celebutante. She is best known for her appearances on Keeping Up with the Kardashians, Kourtney and Khloé Take Miami, and Khloé & Lamar, as well as being married to Los Angeles Lakers basketball player Lamar Odom. Kardashian is the younger sister of Kim and Kourtney Kardashian, with whom she owns a clothing boutique, D-A-S-H, and appears on various reality television series. In June 2009, Khloé and her sisters teamed up with the Natural Products Association to create a teeth whitening pen called Idol White. On July 18, 2008, Kardashian turned herself in and reported to jail to serve time for violation of probation. She faced a sentence of up to 30 days and enrollment in an alcohol treatment program within three weeks of her release from jail. She was released from jail fewer than three hours later due to “overcrowding”.
8. Doris Duke
Doris Duke (November 22, 1912 – October 28, 1993) was an American heiress, horticulturalist, art collector, and philanthropist. Duke was the only child of tobacco and electric energy tycoon James Buchanan Duke and his second wife, Nanaline Holt Inman, widow of Dr. William Patterson Inman. At his death in 1925, the elder Duke’s will bequeathed the majority of his estate to his wife and daughter, along with $17,000,000, in two separate clauses of the will, to The Duke Endowment he had created in 1924. The total value of the estate was not disclosed, but was estimated variously at $60,000,000 and $100,000,000. She was presented to society as a debutante in 1930, aged 18, at a ball at Rough Point, the family residence in Newport, Rhode Island. She received large bequests from her father’s will when she turned 21, 25, and 30; she was sometimes referred to as the “world’s richest girl”.
7. Gloria Vanderbilt
Gloria Laura Morgan Vanderbilt (born February 20, 1924) is an American artist, author, actress, heiress, and socialite most noted as an early developer of designer blue jeans. She is a member of the prominent Vanderbilt family of New York and mother of CNN’s Anderson Cooper. Despite being a married woman, she maintained a romantic relationship with photographer and filmmaker Gordon Parks for many years until his death in 2006. She became heiress to a half share in a five million dollar trust fund upon her father’s death from cirrhosis when she was 15 months old. The rights to control this trust fund while Vanderbilt was a minor belonged to her mother, who traveled to and from Paris for years, taking her daughter with her. They were accompanied by a beloved nanny young Gloria named “Dodo”, who would play a tumultuous part in the child’s life, and her mother’s identical twin sister Thelma, who was the mistress of The Prince of Wales during this time. As a result of frequent spending, her mother’s use of finances was scrutinized by the child Vanderbilt’s paternal aunt Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney. Whitney, a sculptor and philanthropist, wanted custody of the young heiress and soon a famous custody trial became the lead story of 1934. The trial was so scandalous that at times, the judge would make everyone leave the room so as to listen to what young Vanderbilt had to say without anyone influencing her. Some people heard weeping and wailing inside the court room. Testimony was heard depicting the mother as an unfit parent; Vanderbilt’s mother lost the battle and Vanderbilt became the ward of her Aunt Gertrude.
6. Barbara Hutton
Barbara Woolworth Hutton (November 14, 1912 – May 11, 1979) was an American socialite dubbed by the media as the “Poor Little Rich Girl” because of her troubled life. She donated Winfield House to the United States government, to be used as the residence of the United States Ambassador to the United Kingdom, in a symbolic $1 transaction following World War II. Edna Hutton committed suicide when Barbara was five years old. Young Barbara discovered her mother’s body. After her mother’s death, she lived with various relatives. She became an introverted child who had limited interaction with other children of her own age. Her closest friend and only confidante was her cousin Jimmy Donahue, the son of her mother’s sister. In accordance with New York’s high society traditions, Barbara Hutton was given a lavish débutanteball in 1930 on her 18th birthday.The ball cost $60,000, a veritable fortune in the days of the depression. Public criticism was so severe that she was sent on a tour of Europe to escape the onslaught of the press. In 1924, Barbara Hutton’s grandmother died and she would receive one-third of that estate, or about $28 million and it was held in a trust fund administered by her father. By the time of her 21st birthday in 1933, her father had increased the amount to about $42 million through sound investments. This amount was equivalent to roughly $2 billion in today’s money and made her one of the wealthiest women in the world. Though Barbara Hutton was portrayed in the press as the “lucky” young woman who had it all, the public had no idea of the psychological problems she lived with that led to a life of victimization and abuse. Barbara Hutton married seven times. Her husbands used her great wealth to their advantage, especially the extremely abusive Curt Haugwitz-Reventlow, with whom she had her only child, a son named Lance. Reventlow dominated her through verbal and physical abuse, which escalated to a savage beating that left her hospitalized and him in jail.