As its name implied, MTV’s Teen Mom followed teenagers as they struggled to raise their children from unexpected pregnancies. The show was a spinoff from the channel’s 16 and Pregnant and featured many of the same mothers; predictably it was controversial, as some critics believed that it normalized (or even glamorized) teen pregnancy.
Those fears were probably misplaced. A 2015 study from the National Bureau of Economic Research found that shows like 16 and Pregnant actually contributed to a decline in teen births throughout the United States. Kids who watched it seem to realize that parenting is pretty difficult stuff—a shocker, we know—and while aspects of 16 and Pregnant were dramatic, the show accurately showed the challenges that young parents face while working, attending school, and trying to raise their children.
With that being said, the show (and its spin-off series) certainly changed the lives of its young stars. As Teen Mom approaches its 10-year anniversary, we decided to catch up with some of its cast members. Did they eventually adjust to life in the public eye—or did the constant media exposure make it impossible to attain a sense of normalcy?
1. Farrah Abraham
Unquestionably the most famous Teen Mom cast member, Farrah Abraham successfully spun her stardom into a career. After leaving the show, she appeared on Celebrity Big Brother, Marriage Boot Camp: Reality Stars Family Edition, MTV’s Single AF, and the television special Being Farrah.
Tabloids still regularly cover Abraham’s exploits. In 2017, she made headlines when she admitted on Twitter that she once forgot her daughter, Sophia, in a store. Hey, it happens to the best of us—but most parents don’t try to turn that type of embarrassing moment into an advertisement.
“Ladies (and men) Ever returned to your car and realized you’ve left your child in the store!” she wrote on Instagram. “Omg, this happened once, but since starting @focus.factor Extra Strength there’s no way that will happen!”
Tasteless adverts aside, Abraham (now 27 years old) has had some big moments over the last decade. She wrote a memoir, My Teenage Dream Ended, an album, My Teenage Dream Ended (hey, what’s the point in coming up with multiple titles?), and appeared in several adult films.
She’s currently attempting to build her mainstream presence. In 2018, she announced that she’s working on a film about her life.
“I think Selena Gomez would play me great and I am excited to start casting once the package is ready to go,” she told Hollywood Life.
“I’m tired of my name being associated with Teen Mom,” she continued. “…My brand is bigger than Teen Mom, and I have moved on.”
On Aug. 13, 2018, Abraham was charged with battery and resisting arrest for an incident at The Beverly Hills Hotel. She pled not guilty, telling Us Weekly that the charges were baseless.
“I’m just moving on with my life, working on my TV stuff … Go, women! I’m not guilty,” she said. “I don’t need a criminal record. I’m not like the other Teen Moms! I don’t think it’s funny when other people are bullied or harassed. I am a victim and that is why I am here. I just don’t want to be victimized and charged for something false on my record.”
2. Mackenzie McKee
In 2011, Mackenzie McKee appeared on 16 and Pregnant with her boyfriend, Josh McKee; the couple married before appearing on Teen Mom 3. The experience wasn’t great for their marriage, and right after it ended, Mackenzie told In Touch Weekly that their relationship hit an all-time low.
“Right when we finished, my life went into a very dark place,” she said. “It was like the worst it had ever been. I got married, and that was beautiful, but then it went back to being bad. My relationship with Josh got worse, and I just kept thinking to myself, ‘I’m so glad this isn’t on TV right now, because this is the hardest time in my life.’”
Fortunately, they were able to pull through. Mackenzie—who now describes herself as a “mom [times three], YouTuber, fitness inspiration” on Instagram—says that her marriage is now in a healthy place.
“We are still married with three kids,” she explains. “Me and Josh had a very rocky marriage when it was just the two kids. We were like hot mess express all the way, couldn’t get ourselves together. We could not even stand each other most of the time. It was harder having a rocky marriage with the two kids than it is [now] with the three with a good marriage.”
In recent years, MTV has produced Teen Mom OG, which looks at the current lives of the series’ most famous stars. As of 2018, Mackenzie and Josh are reportedly filming new scenes for the reality program. They’re reportedly replacing Abraham, who left the show in February, filing a $5 million lawsuit against the show’s producers in the process.
3. Whitney Purvis
On the first 16 and Pregnant, Whitney Purvis made an impression partly due to her unusual living situation: She was staying at her grandmother’s house along with her mother, who was also pregnant. That means that Whitney’s son is the same age as her little brother. Awkward.
“Some people they just think it’s so cool that I was on TV,” she told ABC News while the show was airing. “They treat me like I’m a celebrity or something.”
Purvis also claimed that 16 and Pregnant’s production crew would manipulate the cast to force dramatic situations.
“[The producers] would take you in separate rooms and then they would film me with my friends and my boyfriend with his friends and just get you to talk about the things you don’t like about each other,” she said. “They want you to argue … they want you to talk about each other, they want you to get where you want to break up with each other to go stay at separate places. … I just didn’t like that at all.”
Since her time on the show, Purvis has struggled. In 2012, Purvis was arrested for allegedly stealing a pregnancy test from Walmart, and in 2015, she faced charges for allegedly breaking into her baby daddy Weston Gosa’s home and assaulting him. Police reports claim that she threw a metal wheel through his window.
“New beginnings are often disguised as painful endings,” she posted on social media several days after the incident (the post has since been deleted).
She’s currently keeping a low profile, as her popular Instagram profile is now private; prior to going off the grid, she said that she was pursuing a career as a chef.
4. Catelynn Lowell
On 16 and Pregnant, Catelynn Lowell and her then-boyfriend Tyler Baltierra made the difficult decision to give their daughter, Carly, up for adoption. They worked with Carly’s adoptive parents to keep the adoption “open,” which means that Catelynn and Tyler have some contact with Carly.
“Some days [open] adoption is really hard,” Catelynn wrote in 2018 Instagram post. “I know she will understand one day … I don’t regret it at all.”
Given that Catelynn and Tyler—who are now married—were only teenagers, their decision was both understandable and commendable.
They’ve managed to maintain their relationship, although that wasn’t always easy; in July 2018, one source close to the couple told Radar Online that they took a short break, but that they’re “slowly getting to a better place.” Rumors swirled that the Baltierras were getting divorced, prompting Catelynn to address fans directly on Instagram.
“Tyler and I are not getting divorced,” she wrote in a post (since deleted). “Couples go through ups and downs that’s normal life. We are a solid couple that will work through anything life throws at us!”
“Life is really simple if you think about it,” Tyler wrote on Instagram shortly after the rumors surfaced. “If you love something…fight for it. Sacrifice for it. Love it so much that it makes you want to love yourself in a way you never knew you were even capable of loving.”
“It’s been 13 years together & that’s not because of luck or us not arguing or not getting upset with one another…that’s because everyday, we choose to love each other unconditionally, with all the flaws & all the baggage our past lives has given us.”
Over the last decade, they’ve also co-written a book, Conquering Chaos, and worked on another Teen Mom spin-off, Reunited, which followed the Baltierras as they reunited people in estranged families. The show had excellent ratings, but only aired once.
“MTV refused [Reunited] because ‘it was too heavy’ even though it rated #2 on cable TV that night,” Tyler wrote on social media. “Would you like to see more episodes?”
While MTV might have put the kibosh on that show, the network isn’t done with the Baltierra family, as they’ll also star on the upcoming season of Teen Mom OG. In a recent appearance on Dr. Oz, Tyler threw out some shots at Abraham when an audience member asked if MTV was in the right for firing the reality star.
“I think it’s great. I think it’s awesome,” he said. “The way she decided to live, her lifestyle, it just doesn’t really mesh with the rest of the cast and what we’re trying to educate [audiences] about, it just doesn’t work. It doesn’t work very well together. She’s not a really nice person to be around.”
5. Maci Bookout
Maci Bookout starred on both 16 and Pregnant and the first season of Teen Mom, and we’ll just get this out of the way—she’ll be returning to television on Teen Mom OG. That show’s certainly living up to its name.
Bookout had her first son Bentley Edwards with then-boyfriend Ryan Edwards, but while the couple was engaged briefly in 2009, they broke up a year later. In 2012, Bookout began dating Taylor McKinney, a former motocross racer. They married in 2016. McKinney’s currently helping Bookout raise Bentley, and according to a post on Instagram, he coaches the boy’s baseball team.
In 2016, Bookout wrote her first book, Bulletproof, which she quickly followed with I Wasn’t Born Bulletproof: Lessons I’ve Learned So You Don’t Have To. In Sept. 2018, Radar Online reported that Sacramento County hit Bookout with a tax lien of more than $12,000; that followed a $78,000 state tax lien in 2013 and a $5,249 lien in 2015, both of which have been released.
While she might have tax problems now, that will hopefully change soon—Bookout and her Teen Mom OG co-stars will reportedly receive $25,000 per episode. In the meantime, fans can follow her active Instagram page for updates.
In addition to Bentley, Maci has two children with her husband: 3-year-old daughter Jayde Carter McKinney and 2-year-old son Maverick Reed McKinney. While the mother is currently a Teen Mom OG cast member, she says that might change soon as her children grow.
“It is definitely something that we decide, as far as Taylor and I are concerned, season by season,” she told Fame10. “From our standpoint, and definitely mine, I feel like, just because the girls are getting older it doesn’t necessarily mean the struggles of being a teen mom at one point go away. As long as we can keep relating to [viewers] and give them something to learn from, then I definitely want to do that. There will come a time when the kids are just too old and not really into being on TV because they want to have a normal life.”
Oh, and since everyone seems to have a strong opinion about Farrah Abraham, we’ll go ahead and give you Maci’s perspective. Recently, MTV announced Bristol Palin, daughter of former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, as a new Teen Mom OG cast member, and Maci commented on the hiring on Kailyn Lowry’s Coffee Convos podcast.
“I really feel like I’m not gonna be mad about anybody joining because anybody’s better than Farrah,” Maci said.
“If they bring in new cast members, we don’t want it to be called Teen Mom OG because that’s not true if there’s new cast members,” she continued. “We don’t really care who joins because in our minds, we’re like, if somebody is presented with the opportunity, or one of us was never on the show and they asked us, no one’s going to turn the opportunity down. You can’t be mad at somebody for accepting an opportunity.”
6. Amber Portwood
Like many Teen Mom stars, Amber Portwood had several well-publicized legal issues after her time on the show. She publicly battled addiction, but says she dedicated herself to sobriety when she learned that she was pregnant with her daughter Leah.
“In my mind, I think I was just trying to self-medicate at the time, probably very depressed, so it just kind of spiraled out of control,” she told Dopey Podcast.
After her pregnancy, she began taking medication for pain, which led to a relapse. That culminated in a Dec. 2011 arrest and a five-year suspended sentence. She violated her probation by quitting her court-ordered rehabilitation program and served the sentence in full.
“In my situation, I felt in the program there were a lot of eyes on me,” Portwood said at the time. “And it was very uncomfortable. I was not using my anti-psych medication, even,” she shared. “I was very depressed, all alone, all bitter at everyone. I felt like that wasn’t the life I wanted to live, I felt like I’d rather do my time and get it over with.”
That proved to be a low point for Portwood, but during her sentence, she earned her GED and fully embraced sobriety after an appearance on Marriage Boot Camp.
“No matter what struggles I went through a year ago on MBC..I’m now happy, healthy and sober,” she wrote on Twitter in March 2018. “The struggles & anger I went through are real & I’m happy to have ended such a horrific time in my life! Ready to live life clear headed and full of love. The future is finally bright.”
She recently celebrated her one-year anniversary with cinematographer Andre Glennon. In Nov. 2017, Portwood told Us Weekly that she was expecting her second child. Once again, the pregnancy was a surprise—but this time, Portwood said that she was in a much better place.
“I just kind of sat down and thought about it and realized that it was a big step in my life and it was a good thing actually, and I was really happy within 30 minutes,” she said. “After the initial shock, it was nothing but happy thoughts and just enjoying my time with my boyfriend. We’re both very happy.”
She gave birth to a son, James Glennon, on May 8, 2018. Portwood appeared on Teen Mom OG, but fans have speculated that she’s not returning to the show; a recent Instagram pic included the caption, “Looking forward to the future and leaving the stress behind me. Hard work ahead but it will all pay off in the end. Sending all my love.”