Inside Farrah Abraham's Controversial, Uniquely Tough Teen Mom Journey

She's the only one of the original 16 and Pregnant stars who was robbed of any chance of trying to make it work with the father of her baby

By Natalie Finn Feb 28, 2018 8:57 PMTags

No one from the original cast of 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom has gotten as much grief as Farrah Abraham.

She's made some questionable career moves, feuded with her co-stars and got a lot of plastic surgery—all irresistible fodder for headlines and online judgment. There's a general consensus that her on-camera attitude has left a lot to be desired over the years.

But really, did any one of these young women start out with a rawer deal than Farrah?

The teen from Council Bluffs, Iowa, was your average high school senior with "big, big dreams," juggling school, cheerleading practice and a part-time job when she found out she was pregnant. She had broken up with the father, whom 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom didn't even name at first (he was just referred to as "my ex," "the baby's daddy," "he" and "him"), deeming him too jealous and immature to deal with.

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Farrah's origin story, more than some of the other 16 and Pregnant stars, involved more gossipy sniping behind her back from her fellow students, even other members of the cheer team and her best friend Zabrina, while BFF Tyler continued to support her. She ended up quitting the team.


Her baby's father was eventually identified as Derek Underwood, who was killed in a car wreck on Dec. 28, 2008, before their daughter, Sophia, was born—and before 16 and Pregnant premiered in 2009. Derek, 18, was behind the wheel when he lost control of the car, which flipped over and hit a utility pole. Another friend in the car, Zachary Mendoza, was also killed, while the other passenger, Dustin Congdon, survived. A postmortem determined Underwood's blood-alcohol level was below the legal limit. Mendoza's mother was eventually charged with supplying alcohol to minors, a misdemeanor, after she was caught on a security camera purchasing a bottle of vodka that was found in the boys' possession after the crash; she was fined and given probation, KMTV's Action 3 News reported at the time.

"Definitely lived on the edge, but he was responsible, he went to work, came home," Derek's sister Alissa Underwood told Omaha's KETV. He had been working as a waiter.

Though local news covered Derek's death, Farrah's back story wasn't fully addressed on Teen Mom until season two, and the whole saga has continued to unfold in bits and pieces over the past decade.

"The last time I saw Derek was when I was five months pregnant," Farrah said, tearing up, 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."



Sophia was born on Feb. 23, 2009. Her mom just threw her a Suite Life With Zack and Cody-themed 9th birthday party last week. "It fills my heart with joy as your mother your the best child I could have ever asked God for," Farrah wrote on Instagram. "I love being apart of your journey as you do extraordinary things Happy 9th Birthday my shinning star your explosive...Cheers to the sweet life with you! Love, Your one & only mom."

Though Farrah's relationship with Derek had soured and she objected to his mom visiting with Sophia, she apparently made sure that the child knows at least some of her dad's side of the family. Derek's stepmother, Debra Underwood, insisted to Radar Online in 2016 that the thoughtful mom who brings Sophia for visits, the one who brings her daughter to Derek's grave site every year, is more indicative of Farrah's real character than the often obstinate-sounding young woman who sold a sex tape with a porn star who called her the drama queen.

Theo Wargo/WireImage for Candie's

"Every three to six months, Farrah visits us so Sophia can get to know her grandparents," Underwood told Radar. "She's always been very dedicated to that. She wants Sophia to know our side of the family. I have two daughters, they get together with her as well."

"We don't get involved with the drama," Debra continued. "We just live in a small town in Missouri. When Farrah calls, we're here...I think if you treat Farrah with respect, she treats you with respect."

She added, "Derek was excited to be a dad and planned to be in Sophia's life, no matter what. He told us that."


Meanwhile, though Farrah's mom, Debra Danielson, was largely supportive of her daughter during her pregnancy and helped her care for Sophia—"we're not the greatest family ever, but we still have love," Farrah mused on 16 and Pregnant—their relationship also started to unravel.

Danielson, whose short temper had been on display on camera, ended up 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." Per TMZ, she pleaded to a lesser charge the following month and received a suspended 30-day jail sentence, provided she behave herself.

Farrah moved out and in 2011 enrolled at the Fort Lauderdale Institute of Art to get an associate degree in culinary art and management. She attempted a musical career and, more explosively, got to work on a memoir.

In her 2012 book My Teenage Dream Ended, she lamented losing Derek and raked her mother over the coals. 

Remembering getting the phone call that he was dead, she wrote, "I got off the phone and tried to calm down, but my mind was racing. Derek was the father of the baby I was carrying inside me. He was my first love, my only true love. Now Derek was gone forever, and so was my happy ending."

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Her parents didn't share her sorrow, she claimed.

"My mom would say, 'Some things happen for a reason. Maybe him not being here is better for you and your baby,'" Farrah wrote. Her dad Michael Abraham, she wrote, was arrested after threatening Derek with a knife after catching him in Farrah's room (in the incident she'd mention years later on Teen Mom OG), though they both had knives. She claimed that Derek refused her request to pay her dad's bail, since she blamed him for Michael's predicament, so she ordered her boyfriend to buy her $50 worth of cosmetics at the drug store. Which he did, Farrah added.

Farrah also tried to clear up the big elephant-shaped question mark in the room—why Derek's death, which occurred while MTV was filming her, wasn't part of the story line. Surely that wasn't the network's idea.

"I made it clear to the producers that my parents weren't okay with Derek being part of my story," she wrote. "I lied to everyone [about the funeral] and said that I wasn't going so the cameras wouldn't follow me to film and my parents wouldn't try to talk me out of it."


Debra and Farrah's relationship has continued to be rocky, to put it incredibly mildly. Farrah's sister Ashley called their mom a "satanic bitch" when, while visiting Farrah and Sophia in Florida, Debra blurted out that, of all the people who tried to get close to Farrah, "no one was left standing." But they've never entirely called it quits. Farrah surprised a lot of people by attending her mom's wedding in November, even standing in as honorary maid of honor.

Farrah denied she was doing it for the cameras, telling In Touch, "I don't need to be pressured by a production company to do things their way or be told how Farrah is. I know that I'm a great daughter. I'm a great person. I'm loving, I'm caring, and I'm awesome."

Their relationship experienced another downswing, however, after Debra published her own new book, Vapor: A True Story of How I Fell Victim to Catfishing, and said it was her daughter who had beat her up during that explosive fight in 2010, and she was only defending herself.

"She was found guilty, was put in jail, has it on her record, and had to do social service work, and could not be left alone with my daughter," Farrah fired back to Radar Online in January. "My mother is mentally unstable, jealous of me and intimidated by what God has given me to succeed in life. 

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

Danielson in turn told Radar that she hadn't seen her granddaughter since Oct. 20. "My daughter doesn't talk to me...It's sad. I'm shunned. I'm not considered at all. It's sad and heartbreaking."

That synopsis comes into play often.

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Though there were no clear signs of her missing anybody (the only thing she seemed to miss was her freedom) on her first couple of seasons on MTV, Farrah has continued to maintain that she was devastated by Derek's death. Which ultimately makes more sense than her not being devastated, especially as she started to grow up and wonder what might've been.

"We would have definitely probably gotten married and got to experience all of those things," she said on Bethenny in 2013, "a marriage, and let that blossom. And I probably wouldn't be where I am if I had that life."

Where she was, was having just sold the sex tape she made with porn actor James Deen to adult film distributor Vivid Entertainment.

"Who knows if James or the other editor who with my video could just let it be out and I would've just been exploited?" Farrah explained to E! News her decision to get on board with an official release of the video. She continued, "Really I'm not that sexually active, I don't have a boyfriend, I don't get to do things that regular people get to do, like go on dates and feel comfortable. And so I had to treat my situation differently...Some things, girls should be able to do no matter what."

Ethan Miller/Getty Images, Amanda Edwards/WireImage

Though Deen claimed to Playboy that he got a call one day asking if he wanted to do a "celebrity sex tape" with Farrah and was not dating her, she told Huffington Post in 2014 that she was in a relationship with him at the time—or at least, she herself thought she was having a relationship.

"I can only say what I personally am, and what I was under the belief of. I can't really vouch for anyone else or anything," she said.

(In 2015 she alleged that Deen sexually assaulted her during their relationship; Deen, who by then had been accused of assault by multiple women, told the Daily Beast he was "completely baffled" by the allegations. "All of the accusations are from either ex-girlfriends or events that happened on set," he said. "I always try to take responsibility for my actions and apologize when needed. As far as these other claims, at a certain point I feel like people have to step back and analyze this stuff in context. Most of these are descriptions of things on BDSM or rough sex sets. When I am on set I am under instruction of the company who is paying me... I have no desire to blame people who consider themselves victims or throw stones. I will just say this: my job as a performer for rough sex companies is to engage in certain acts. If at any point I pushed boundaries past the point of comfort, I am sorry. I have always tried to respect peoples' limits and safe words and operated within that space. If someone expressed anything to me I honored the request with the fullest care.")

Ralph Notaro / Splash News

She'd continue to earn extra cash making appearances at parties and strip clubs, and in 2014 even had her own line of sex toys molded in the shape of her own anatomy and penned a trilogy of erotic books.

My mindset before was so limited and small-minded...I am such a different person than who I was and always reflect back on that," she told E! News in 2015.

"I've taken a break after finishing the trilogy that I finished, and I don't know if I'll do literary soon," she continued. "But then there's other novelty toys that I'm producing, and who knows, there's other stuff always...Hopefully in five years I can go back to school. I really want to get my doctorate and I want to do plastic surgery. So that's just something on top of all of the other things that I want to do, but that would probably be my end goal."

She appeared on Couples TherapyCelebrity Big Brother in the U.K. and Marriage Boot Camp, which she walked out of during the first episode ("I get really upset when I'm around liars," she told E! News), and her own MTV spin-off special Being Farrah

In the meantime, she continued on as part of the Teen Mom OG family, where her tempestuous relationships with nearly everyone, including Amber Portwood, played out onscreen and on social media. 


But her run, she claims in a recently filed $5 million lawsuit, came to an end last October when she was fired for continuing to pursue adult entertainment opportunities. She left a meeting with producers and crew feeling "harassed, humiliated and discriminated against, disrespected, ridiculed and sex shamed," she alleges in court documents. Farrah also claims that had previously filed an internal grievance against Teen Mom producer Morgan J. Freeman and MTV retaliated by terminating her deal.

MTV parent Viacom told E! News in a statement: "We respect Farrah's decision to pursue other endeavors, and we wish her the best. Regarding her suit, the claims are without merit."


In response to rumors that Teen Mom OG is moving on without her with Mackenzie McKee, of the short-lived Teen Mom 3, Farrah told E! News she had no comment on any possible casting shakeup.

"I can't confirm what MTV is doing to try to save the 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom franchise since my departure," she said, "but I do hope Viacom starts treating the women and children better, as that is my statement as I move on to my next projects."

The next chapter awaits.