Imagine growing up in the spotlight with your sibling—people would compare your respective successes, analyze your differences, and comment on every fight you had with your parents and each other. How do celebrity siblings survive the drama? Actors Kate and Oliver Hudson, the children of Goldie Hawn and Bill Hudson, have been through everything together—including the time their biological father publicly disowned them. On a recent episode of How To!, the Hudsons opened up about the competition and family struggles they’ve faced over the years and how they’ve managed to come out the other side closer than ever. This transcript has been condensed and edited for clarity.
Charles Duhigg: Were you guys friends when you were kids?
Oliver Hudson: No. From my perspective—
Kate Hudson: Yeah, you have two perspectives here.
Oliver: She ruined my life.
Kate: That we agree on.
Oliver: I mean, I had a nice 2½ years of just Mommy and Daddy. And then this thing came into our house. You definitely stole my thunder.
Kate: You know, it’s sort of like I came, stole his thunder, and Dad left. So it was all my fault. [laughs]
But when you’re so close in age—we had tough moments, but we were also in it together. I remember one time we had a babysitter who put us to bed at 4:30 p.m., and I’ll never forget [thinking] like, “She’s basically locked us in our bedrooms.” I remember going out and being like, “Ollie, what’s going on?” I mean, we were always united. [And then as adults], that moment happened literally the day before Oliver went to college. Our rooms were across the hall from each other and I remember going in his room. He was sitting in his bed and it was like, “Oh, my God, this is happening.” We cried. Ollie left.
Oliver: Yeah, that was the beginning for sure. And then as the years went on, our relationship just got stronger. I think Kate would agree that currently we’re the closest that we’ve ever been. There’s just an openness. There’s an adulthood that we both entered into our 40s and it just feels like we’re more of a team than ever before.
Have there been times when Kate’s career has taken off and, Oliver, you might be struggling? And did you feel some resentment, which is totally normal even though it’s unfair?
Oliver: Oh, God, you bring up a great point. First of all, her career is always in ascent. Mine is either descending or flatlining. So I’ve been used to this. That’s something that I’ve had to deal with. It’s the jealousy. It’s the “Why not me?” But I understand that it’s not a personal thing. I don’t dislike Kate or blame her for that. That’s my own stuff that I have to deal with.
Is there something that Kate said to help you realize that?
Oliver: No. Kate made sure to let me know that she was more successful than me.
Kate: I didn’t need to let anybody know. I just know I was doing my thing.
Oliver: I knew that it had nothing to do with her. So I didn’t need to clear the air with her or to have words of affirmation from her to make me feel better. It didn’t matter what anyone would say to me. I had to deal with this on my own and feel successful in my own life, personally.
A large part of being siblings is your relationship with your parents. How have you both navigated family drama together?
Oliver: Well, at one point with my dad I made a dark, humorous joke on Instagram that blew up. It was Father’s Day. And I posted a picture of myself and Kate and my dad and said, “Happy Abandonment Day.” It’s a very, very dark joke.
Then he said he’d disown [us], and the press picked it up and it was all crazy. I didn’t realize that this was going to happen. I was sort of just making some, you know, dark joke. But ultimately I wouldn’t change it because it created a relationship for us. I reached out to him and wrote him a letter. It was a very stern letter, but at the same time compassionate, just sort of saying: “Hey, who are you to get upset? Like, I made a joke. I’m sorry I hurt your feelings, but let’s look at the big picture here.” That led to us getting on the phone for three hours, having a great conversation. Then we had breakfast for three hours and we got it all out. I understood him. He understood me. Communication, communication. Now we text a lot and have a relationship after however many years because of my insane humor. It’s never been better, honestly.
What was different about that moment? Because it sounds like for a number of years before that you weren’t sitting down and having that conversation. What changed with you or with him?
Oliver: It’s just timing. Life is so weird. Like, I met my wife and we were friends for a year and a half because of timing. I had a girlfriend, she had a boyfriend, and now we’re married with three kids. It’s incredible. With my father, we tried to communicate in my 20s, but it didn’t really work out for whatever reasons. Then, boom, I made some post and it all blew up. Then from the ashes rises this relationship.
Has there been anything you and Kate have had to work through?
Kate: You know, I think as you get older, you have different ideas of how you choose to live your life. Let’s use our kids as an example. The way Oliver raises his kids and the way I raise my kids is kind of a perfect example of where we would have a difference of opinion. We don’t really fight—I mean, we can joke around about it—but the reality is we can disagree. Oliver has a way more laid-back approach. I am far more structured. So like if my kids go over there, I know that my 9-year-old might see an R movie. I ask Oliver, “Please just tell the kids they can’t watch.” I’m like the bad aunt, you know—they can’t watch the movies they want to because of me. But that inevitably just comes down to two different people who approach things differently.
The sibling relationship can bring so much support and love and there’s nobody who knows you better than your sibling. It’s the place where you can be the most open and the most transparent and, if you allow it, the most vulnerable. So when I hear about sibling relationships that are distraught, it makes me feel terrible because the one person who knows what you’ve been through is that person.
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To hear Kate and Oliver help a listener reconcile with his sister, check out the full episode by clicking the player below or subscribing to How To! With Charles Duhigg wherever you get your podcasts.