01/16/2003 AT 11:54 AM EST
Family fortune: $1.6 billion
There are parallel lives that Holly Branson could be living. She might have been a model -- she tried it in 1998, posing for British Cosmopolitan in just a pair of jeans to promote father Sir Richard Branson's Virgin clothing line. Or she could have been a royal hanger-on, partying with the princes and waiting to marry. In fact, rumor had it back in 1999 that she was a guest of Prince William's at his father's country estate. But Holly, heir with brother Sam, 17, to the privately held Virgin empire -- which includes an airline, trains and a cola division -- has chosen a different life. She's studying medicine at London's University College and plans to be a pediatrician. While her flamboyant dad has a passion for big buys -- like the Caribbean Necker Island -- Holly isn't a spendthrift, for which aunt Vanessa Branson credits Richard and wife Joan. "She's not been denied anything," says Vanessa. "Her parents know she wouldn't abuse money. Privilege itself is not a destructive force."
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