In 2009, the producers, the cast members, and the network had no idea that their new series Teen Mom would end up amassing a following of millions of loyal fans and sparking the creating of a mega-successful franchise that is still making headlines today.
The series was intended as a schedule filler, apparently until the network could come up with something "better." But when fans took a liking to the show immediately after it aired for the first time and developed an emotional investment in the moms and their journeys, MTV ordered the creation of more episodes, and the rest is history.
Reality shows like Teen Mom are thought to reveal every little detail about the stars and their lives, but there are still some facts about the show and its cast that didn’t air on MTV.
Former crew members have anonymously revealed specific details about things that went on behind the scenes and have cleared up a few rumors about the moms on the show. The moms themselves have also opened up about what really went down when the cameras were off, and what they get up to in between seasons.
Keep reading to find out these 20 little-known facts about the Teen Mom franchise.
20 A Crewman Claimed The Show Is Scripted
Although some loyal fans might believe that reality television is completely spontaneous and unplanned, the truth is there is quite a bit of scripting that goes on behind the scenes of many “reality” shows.
According to Insider, someone who claimed to be a former cameraman for Teen Mom took to Reddit in 2012 and revealed that the storylines that the moms follow aren’t always natural. “The storyline is heavily produced by the director,” he confessed. “It gets to the point where the director is feeding them lines.” When you consider the drama that goes on (and often seems a little forced), this isn’t totally surprising.
19 Kailyn's Son Had Medical Issues
MTV tried to catch all the footage of the moms going through their pregnancy journeys that they could, but we still didn’t get to see every detail, especially when it came to the labor. After the birth of Teen Mom Kailyn Lowry’s baby, Isaac, he was actually diagnosed with jaundice because he was one and a half months early and his liver had not fully developed yet.
A few months after she brought him home from the hospital, he experienced even more medical issues when he started experiencing seizures. Kailyn took him back to the hospital immediately once she realized something was wrong, but fortunately, he hasn’t experienced any more seizures.
18 Some Moms Went Back To School After The Show
Even though they were once in the same position, the Teen Moms have taken different paths in life and ended up in different places. After appearing on the show, several of the moms involved decided to return to school to try and turn their lives around.
Kailyn, for example, graduated from Delaware State University. It took her six years to complete her degree in mass communications, and she was raising her family at the same time, so it’s a pretty inspiring effort! “It’s been a long and emotional journey, especially without any support from my parents,” the reality star told E! News.
17 Now Maci Has A Degree In Media Technology
Kailyn isn’t the only Teen Mom to have achieved something in the academic world. Maci Bookout chose not to pursue work in the entertainment industry following her newfound fame from the show (as some of the other Teen Moms have), and instead attended Chattanooga State Community College where she graduated with a degree in Media Technology.
Like Kailyn, she was also raising her family while studying, which couldn't have been easy! Following graduation, Maci also took a business course to prepare herself for any future entrepreneurial ventures. And as it turns out, that was a good move on the young star's part…
16 And Her Own Clothing Line
Those business skills that Maci learned came in handy because today she owns her own clothing line. She purchased an already established line, Things That Matter, with her husband Taylor, and has been working hard to make it prosper.
Rather than just attaching her name to the line and letting someone else do all the work, Maci is involved in all parts of the process. She continues to run the company’s website and physically ships out orders herself. Thanks to Maci’s drive, as well as the business skills and knowledge she’s obtained through study, we can see this line doing very well in the future!
15 Others Were Approached To Do Their Own Movies
Because the show gave them such a huge platform, some of the moms ended up focusing on making money from their fame and status as reality stars. As many reality stars are, some of the moms were approached to star in their own movies, which tend to create a lot of publicity. And yes, we mean those kinds of movies.
Farrah Abraham said that the video she made was released without her consent, while Amber Portwood revealed that she was approached with an offer but turned it down. Vivid Entertainment proposed to give Amber half a million dollars if she would star in a tape, but she decided to pass.
14 The Police Have Been Called On The Cast Before
Former crew members have opened up about what really goes on behind the scenes of Teen Mom, and a lot of it is not what fans would expect. One member of the crew, who preferred to remain anonymous, revealed to The Ashley’s Reality Roundup that the police has actually been called on the cast in the past.
“We’ve called the police on cast members over the years, and let the cops handle the situation,” the crew member confessed. “We have also called CPS on cast members plenty of times when we see things in regard to the children that don’t seem right. Viewers don’t see everything. They would probably never know that’s happening behind the scenes.”
13 Amber Portwood Has Been Involved In A Number Of Offenses
One mom who we know has been in trouble with the police is Amber, who has been involved in a string of offenses. In December 2010, Amber was charged for bad behavior surrounding her boyfriend at the time, Gary Shirley. This led to more charges for the way she was treating Gary, as well as for neglect.
One ear later in 2011, Amber was arrested for violating her probation rules, and in May 2012, she was arrested for declining to follow a program that the court had set out with her to help her battle her issues. Amber ended up spending a few months behind bars, but while she was in there, she totally transformed her life and learned to deal with her anger issues.
12 And A Reality TV Expert Believes She Should Have Left The Show
It’s clear that Amber was struggling with a plethora of problems, including mental health issues that stemmed from childhood incidents. Reality TV expert Ashley Majeski, who runs The Ashley’s Reality Roundup, suggested that while Amber was going through a hard time, she should have stopped filming to focus on her own wellbeing.
“There was a time for Amber specifically when she should’ve stopped filming, in my opinion,” Ashley told Cosmopolitan (via TheThings). “She wasn’t mentally prepared, or mature enough, to deal with the money and fame in addition to her own issues. I don’t necessarily fault the network and producers, but I think that they did exploit her.”
11 Tyler And Catelynn Had A Filming Curfew
The Teen Moms shot to national fame when they first appeared on the show, but that didn’t change the fact that they were still teenagers at the time. Catelynn and Tyler Baltierra, who are now married, had strict curfews when they appeared on the show, in order to keep their lives as normal as possible. They were only allowed to film after school, so that filming didn’t get in the way of their studies, and had to finish early so they had time to complete their homework.
“They had school and had to do their homework, which I thought was fantastic,” admitted producer Kirsten Malone (via Insider). “It did not make our jobs easy, but we did it, and we're still super respectful of the kids and their schedules."
10 The Producers Don’t Always Agree With How The Kids Are Raised
Members of the crew did call the police on cast members from time to time, but if the cast weren’t doing anything illegal, then the producers had to let them carry on with it, whether they agreed with it or not. Sometimes they had problems with the way the cast treated their children, but there was nothing they could do about it.
“It’s not illegal to yell or scream at your kids, so even if we don’t agree with how [a cast member] is parenting, we can not call the cops or something like that,” an insider source revealed (via Insider). “We can’t step in if that’s how someone parents.”
9 Kailyn Wasn’t Happy With How She Was Portrayed
The show certainly gave the moms a platform, from which they’ve all taken different paths to try and achieve success. Even though they say that all publicity is good publicity, some of the moms weren’t happy with how they were portrayed. Kailyn was accused of doing things that portrayed her in a negative light while she was on the show, which prompted her to threaten to quit.
The show invited viewers to question whether Kailyn really was being faithful to her partner Javi Marroquin, even though she maintained that she was. A simple catch-up with a friend landed Kailyn in a tricky position, and she wasn’t happy with how she was portrayed.
8 And She Came From A Tough Background
A lot of the moms came from underprivileged backgrounds and had it tough when they were growing up. Kailyn has released an autobiography, which sheds light on the type of upbringing she had and highlights how hard she had it as a child.
Screen Rant explains that in the autobiography, she explains that her parents didn’t look after her the way parents should look after their children, and her mother, in particular, was having too much trouble with her own habits and addictions to provide a source of real support. Kailyn also wrote in her autobiography that she’s afraid of following in her mother’s footsteps.
7 But She Went On To Publish A Children’s Book
Kailyn may have come from an underprivileged background and battled a lot of issues throughout her life, but she still found a way to overcome it all and be successful. The reality star actually wrote a children’s book called Love Is Bubblegum, which went on to become a New York Times Bestseller.
The book contains a variety of definitions of love from different children and was inspired by Kailyn’s son Isaac asking her what love is. It’s nice to see the moms tapping into their creativity! Kailyn admitted that her son believes love is when he pets his dog Gizmo. Cuteness overload!
6 The Cast Members Make A Lot Of Money
There is no clear-cut source that outlines exactly how much money the Teen Moms make from appearing on the show, but we have reason to believe that it’s a decent amount. Some reports claim that the cast receives six-figure paychecks and that the number actually goes up every season. Adam Lind claimed in an IG comment in 2016 that mom Chelsea Houska was making $250,000 per season.
According to The Ashley’s Reality Roundup, the dads don’t make as much money as the moms do, but they are still paid a fair amount every season. The kids are also being paid too, according to Insider, but it’s not clear exactly how much they bring in.
5 But They Didn’t In The Beginning
The exact numbers are still a little fuzzy, but we do know that the cast makes more money now than they made in the beginning, before they’d raked in so many viewers. TheThings reports that when the girls started filming their 16 and Pregnant episodes, they were only given $5,000 each.
And when the producers decided to keep filming them for a longer series, Teen Mom, they didn’t receive a huge pay increase. The big checks came later when the girls were certified reality stars rather than just newbies. One look at their lives today confirms that although the money took a while, it definitely did come.
4 It Was Reported That Leah Lost Custody Of Her Kids
Leah Messer was one mom who struggled with her parenting responsibilities, and some sources claimed that she lost custody of her children. Their father, Corey Simms, intervened when it became clear to him that Leah wasn’t in any position to raise the kids properly, and took her to court. Their relationship was hugely strained after this, and Corey believed that his children would receive no benefit from spending time with Leah, despite her being their mother.
But according to Leah, she never really lost custody. “We are doing the week on and then a week off,” she told Us Weekly, “It’s always been 50/50. People were like, ‘Leah lost custody.’ … I almost did, but I never lost custody of my children.”
3 Maci Temporarily Quit The Show
With all the drama and tension, starring on Teen Mom can't be easy. It all became too much for Maci back in 2015 and deciding that she didn’t want her son Bentley to be around the drama and bad behavior on the show, she temporarily decided not to be filmed.
Her main issue with being part of the show was that certain topics were being discussed that she didn’t feel were appropriate for Bentley to be exposed to, such as the infamous video that Farrah Abraham made. But then she changed her tune and ended up appearing on the reboot anyway.
2 Jenelle’s Mom Had Custody Of Jace From The Beginning
When Jenelle Eason’s son, Jace, was just a baby, it was reported that she signed over his custody rights to her mom, Barb. Her 16 and Pregnant episode shows her returning to her partying ways, leaving Jace in the care of Barb. And in Teen Mom 2, she tries to balance out her lifestyle with looking after Jace, but still relies heavily on Barb to help her out.
Jenelle had several run-ins with the law in the following years and even spent some time away to get help with her issues. It was definitely lucky that Jenelle had her mom there to help out with Jace, since not all moms have that privilege!
1 The Producers Didn’t Expect It To Be This Successful
Neither the producers nor the cast foresaw how successful Teen Mom would become. In the beginning, it was simply intended as a schedule filler show and was not expected to achieve such a massive following. Tony DiSanto, the former MTV director of programming, originally pitched Teen Mom as something to keep viewers entertained until another season of 16 and Pregnant could be filmed, but fans took such a liking to it that MTV ordered more episodes immediately.
There’s certainly a lot of tension and drama on the show, which viewers can’t help but be drawn to, but the success may also be attributed to the fact that many viewers have become emotionally invested in the lives of the moms.
Sources: Screen Rant, TheThings, E! News, Us Weekly, The Ashley's Reality Roundup, Insider