10 Years of Teen Mom: A Look at the O.G. Journeys

Amber Portwood, Maci Bookhouse, Catelynn Lowell and Farrah Abraham became four of the most enduring reality-TV stars of the decade

By Natalie Finn Dec 08, 2019 11:00 AMTags
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Maybe it seems as if Teen Mom has been around longer than 10 years because, when you're watching somebody grow up, it's hard to imagine they weren't always there.

And, oh yeah, their kids have gone from babies to tweens, too.

Amber Portwood, Maci Bookhouse, Catelynn Lowell and Farrah Abraham—and maybe not even MTV, for that matter—couldn't have known what they were signing up for, other than an opportunity and a little cash, when they agreed to let cameras into their lives for 16 and Pregnant.

"This is the real secret life of the American teenager," Tony DiSanto, then President of Programming at MTV, said in announcing the six-episode docu-series, made in collaboration with the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.

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MTV, a pioneer among reality-TV programmers, had guessed right again.

More than 71 million people tuned in over the course of the show, was regularly tops in viewers ages 12 to 34 in its time slot across all cable networks, and turned into the second-most streamed MTV show online, after The Hills.

And so, a few months later, Teen Mom premiered on Dec. 8, 2009, featuring four of the six girls from 16 and Pregnant—who, within months, had become some of the most talked-about reality TV stars. And still are, for that matter.

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Amber Portwood

Frankly, they've all had tumultuous rides, but the now 29-year-old from Anderson, Ind., may have had the road studded with the most potholes.

She and then-boyfriend Gary Shirley welcomed their daughter Leah on Nov. 12, 2008. It was an immediate reality check for both of them and, despite the occasional sweet moment, they argued constantly, especially over money. Portwood, who would later admit she was abusing prescription drugs at the time, angrily took her frustrations out on Shirley, who moved out in 2010.  


In June 2011 Portwood pleaded guilty to domestic battery and was sentenced to two years of probation and anger-management counseling. But a search of her house turned up drugs, resulting in another guilty plea in January 2012 and a suspended sentence, plus rehab. 

After skipping a drug test and eventually dropping rehab, she went to jail that summer—and in hindsight it may have been the best thing for her.

"It was time for me to stop partying and realize that even though I'm 21, I'm not a normal 21-year-old—I'm a mother," she wrote in a letter from jail that was read during a Teen Mom reunion special that September. "Which means I have to grow up quicker and start acting like a mother."

While behind bars, she earned her high school diploma and completed a substance abuse program, then was released early, on Nov. 4, 2013, for good behavior.

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In 2017 she opened up about previously avoiding medication, as a recovering addict, that she actually needed to treat bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder. By then she had realized that she needed meds, but was "very proud to say" she was managing her conditions on a low dose.

In the meantime, boyfriend Matt Baier had proposed in 2015, but the Teen Mom audience, while hoping for Amber's forever-happiness, didn't trust him. Baier releasing a tell-all book didn't help matters, and after they decided not to make a sex tape (they had a legit offer), and a trip to Marriage Bootcamp: Reality Stars 10—Family Edition 2 didn't improve anything, they broke up for good in 2017.

However, she met Andrew Glennon later that year and they welcomed son James Andrew Glennon on May 8, 2018.


Portwood and Shirley went back and forth to court over custody for years, finally settling their differences.

"[Leah's] getting older and it's becoming to the point where she kind of decides when she wants to go back and forth and what she wants to do, which is a great thing," Portwood, who has shared custody, told Us Weekly last year. "It's easier that way, you know?"

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Maci Bookout

Now Maci McKinney, the 28-year-old from Chattanooga, Tenn., also tried to make it work early on with Ryan Edwards, the father of her son Bentley Cadence Edwards, born Oct. 27, 2008 (instances of people naming their kids Maci and Bentley ticked upwards thanks to Teen Mom). But after a brief engagement, they went their separate ways in 2010.


Maci dated childhood friend Kyle King and they even bought a house together, but that ended in 2012 after she caught him doing what, as far as she was concerned, amounted cheating—though he maintained he didn't cheat, that he was just chatting with other women online. 

But onward and upward. Maci soon met motocross racer Taylor McKinney. She didn't know who he was and, even though he quickly learned she was on TV, "He just treated me like I was Maci, some girl he'd met with his friends," she wrote in her 2016 memoir Bulletproof. "It was a breath of fresh air to be around someone new who didn't give a s--t about the TV show I was on."

Maci had been diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome, which may have made it more difficult for her to get pregnant, but she and Taylor welcomed daughter Jayde Carter McKinney on May 29, 2015, and son Maverick Reed McKinney on May 31, 2016. They got married in Florida that October.

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Dealing with Bentley's dad hasn't been easy, and Maci and Taylor secured a two-year restraining order against Edwards in 2018 after, they alleged, he left voicemails threatening to go to their house and take Bentley.

Maci also accused Edwards of showing up to their son's baseball game under the influence of heroin. (He was in rehab in 2017.) An attorney for Edwards explained that his client agreed to stay 100 feet away from Maci and Taylor and their two kids, which allowed him more freedom to be with Bentley.

"This gives Ryan a lot more protection against any false allegations, allows him to avoid getting arrested without a hearing first, and allows him to be around his son most importantly," the lawyer said.


Maci told E! News this past June, on the eve of Teen Mom's (by then Teen Mom O.G.) eighth season premiere, that Taylor had been very supportive throughout all these issues with Ryan and, "through therapy and counseling, him understanding that when I'm talking about it or being affected by it, it's okay for him to not do anything but just be there and that's helped a lot."

She reflected, "I could look at Taylor now and think back to when we first started dating or before we were married and he's still the same person but he's also different in many ways. When you think of everything we've been through, it's pretty incredible that we still love each other."

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Farrah Abraham

No one started off with a more fraught journey than the 28-year-old from Council Bluffs, Iowa, who gave birth to daughter Sophia on Feb. 23, 2009—two months after the baby's father, Derek Underwood, was killed in a car crash. 

They had broke up by then, but there was never any chance to reconcile.

"The last time I saw Derek was when I was five months pregnant," Farrah revealed on a 2016 episode of Teen Mom O.G. "My dad and Derek pulled knives on each other and called the cops on each other and it was really sad."


Derek's stepmother, Debra Underwood, insisted to Radar Online in 2016 that Farrah was a thoughtful, attentive mom who brought Sophia to visit her paternal grandparents and took the child to Derek's grave site every year, real-life behavior that didn't necessarily cohere with the image of a drama queen who made a sex tape with a porn star, overhauled her face and body with plastic surgery, and regularly feuded with fellow Teen Mom stars.

"When Farrah calls, we're here...I think if you treat Farrah with respect, she treats you with respect," Debra said.

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Farrah left her mother's home in 2011 and enrolled at the Fort Lauderdale Institute of Art to get an associate degree in culinary art and management. She attempted a musical career and got to work on a memoir.

In her 2012 book My Teenage Dream Ended, she lamented losing Derek and wrote of explosive fights with her mom, Debra Danielson (who was charged with domestic assault in January 2010 for allegedly choking and hitting her daughter during an untelevised argument about, according to the police report, "child care issues as well as other problems." She pleaded to a lesser charge and was given a 30-day suspended jail sentence).

After reconciling enough so that Farrah was her mom's maid of honor when she remarried in November 2017, Danielson caused another riff by accusing Farrah of instigating the 2010 fight in her own memoir, Vapor: A True Story of How I Fell Victim to Catfishing.

"I love her and always wish her the best," Farrah told Radar in response to the book. "...Mothers should be the one person in this crazy world who they can confide in and celebrate with rather than continually receive cruel behavior."

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Farrah left Teen Mom O.G. in 2017 and subsequently sued MTV, accusing the network of firing her because she was continuing to pursue adult entertainment opportunities; in a statement, MTV wished her the best and said that her claims were "without merit."

She dropped the claim last year after the two sides reached a settlement.

In the meantime, Farrah and Sophia are constant companions, whether they're on a red carpet or traveling to Paris together, and the 10-year-old is serving up poses right alongside her mom.


But while one look at the comments on her Instagram posts prove that Farrah and her approach to parenting remain controversial, she's not neglecting the reality of her and her daughter's situation.

"We do a lot of family therapy because of her not having her father and also being in the public eye," she revealed on Heather McDonald's Juicy Scoop podcast in October. Farrah said that Sophia was being home-schooled online, in part to avoid bullies. 

But "Sophia doesn't pay attention to cyber bullying," the proud mom said. "She is just totally overcoming it."

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Catelynn Lowell

Now she's Catelynn Baltierra, the only one of the O.G. four who stayed with her boyfriend from Sixteen and Pregnant.

She and Taylor Baltierra were also the only couple to put their child, a daughter, up for adoption—in spite of the objections from both of their families (which they shared, Tyler's dad, Butch, having married Catelynn's mom, April, after meeting once their kids were dating—and Tyler lived with his mom). Only kids themselves, it was an unfathomably hard choice, but they stuck with it and held on to each other for support. 


They had daughter NovaLee Reign in January 2015 and got married that August.

Since then, they've had their problems (they've been together since seventh grade, after all), but remain committed.

Catelynn has undergone treatment for depression several times, including early last year after she suffered a miscarriage in late 2017, and both of them struggled. Tyler sought to make a big lifestyle change, quitting smoking and eventually showing off his 40-pound weight loss in June 2018. 

"Happy anniversary to my husband!" Catelynn wrote that August. "We have had some really rough times and some amazing times. I wouldn't want to go through this life with anyone but you!!!! Happy 3 years and I can't wait for many more! I love you."

Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

The next month they revealed that they were expecting again, but by the end of 2018, they were on a trial separation, living in different houses for 30 days while they focused individually on their mental health.

When daughter Vaeda Luma was born on Feb. 21, they were back together, and they've said the time apart made them stronger. 

"I think the biggest misconception people had about the trial separation was that like, 'Oh my God, since you're gonna live separate and do this then you're automatically going to get a divorce, or you're automatically gonna wanna see other people,'" Catelynn told E! News in June. "And it wasn't even like that. I feel like when we said the word 'separation' people blew it out of proportion of what it really was. It wasn't as severe as how people were thinking it was."

Brittni Marie Photography/Four 13 Photography

Catelynn and Tyler, notably, have also continued to have inevitably emotional annual visits with their firstborn, Carly, who was adopted by Brandon and Teresa Davis. Carly also knows both of her sisters.

"At the end of the day, regardless of what's going on personally with me and [Catelynn] or Brandon and Theresa, seeing all those girls together, it's like, this is what it's all about," Tyler said on the latest season of Teen Mom OG. "Whatever we have to do to make sure this happens all the time, it is important for the kids."

These kids, they grow up so fast.