While many people prefer to wait to have children until they are older and established in their careers, not everyone follows this route. These famous figures all had children before they reached the age of 20, and many of them raised their kids on their own. Being a teenage parent is by no means easy, but these people managed to raise kids and have incredibly successful careers. The path to fame is never an easy one, but these celebs were able to juggle parenthood and success.
Anna Nicole Smith
Before she launched her modeling career, Anna Nicole Smith was a high school dropout working at a fried chicken restaurant. It was there that she met her first husband, Billy Smith. The couple were married when she was just 17 years old and Smith gave birth to a son, Daniel Wayne Smith, less than a year later.
The marriage was a short and unhappy one, but Smith was devoted to her son. Daniel died from an accidental overdose when he was 20 years old, leaving Smith devastated. When she died a few months later, her ex-boyfriend, Mark Hatten, claimed that it was from a broken heart. “When I heard Daniel died I knew she wouldn’t last long,” he told In Touch. “I’ve seen people pamper their kids but he was literally her world.”
Politician Wendy Davis had a hard life before her success as a senator. The Texan was married at 18, and going through a divorce by 19. The single mother struggled to get by and worked two jobs while attending community college. “I knew I was poor because of the struggles that I and my young daughter, Amber, were experiencing,” she told TODAY. “I was having a really hard time making ends meet, paying for my childcare, paying for a car payment, paying rent and making sure that I kept the lights turned on. Sometimes, it didn’t happen.”
The young mother never gave up, though. She eventually remarried, had another daughter, and went on to study law at Harvard. “I’m not an overnight sensation,” she said. “I’m a Texan. And I’m a Texas success story. I am the epitome of hard work and optimism.”
Country superstar Loretta Lynn has never made a secret of the hard life she had before becoming famous. She wrote in her autobiography, Coal Miner’s Daughter, that she was married at the age of 13 and had four children by the time she was 18. While some documents refute this, showing that Lynn was actually married at 15, it is certain that she gave birth to more than one child while she was still in her teens.
Still, despite a difficult childhood and and life as a teenager mother, Lynn became the first woman honored with the Country Music Association’s “Entertainer of the Year” award in 1972.
Boy band member Taylor Hanson went from being a teen heartthrob to being a teen dad. In 2002, the 19-year-old became a father to Jordan Ezra Hanson. His wife, Natalie Anne Bryant, was just 18 at the time. “We are so excited to start a family,” he announced in a statement to the press. “Having Ezra is the best thing we’ve ever done. Life and art are all about these moments.”
Taylor may have been the first of the Hanson brothers to have a baby but he certainly wasn’t the last. Today, the three brothers have twelve children between them.
Model Jourdan Dunn was 18 when she found out that she was pregnant with her son, Riley. Dunn told Vogue that telling her mother about her pregnancy was “the hardest thing” and that her mother was “angry and upset” when she heard the news.
“She had me at a young age and didn’t want me to go through her struggle,” Dunn said. Dunn knew that being a teenage mother wouldn’t be easy, but decided that she “was just going to have to make it work.” Her son has sickle-cell anemia and has to be monitored carefully; fortunately, Dunn has the support of her mother who is helping her raise Riley.
Dunn said that her son keeps her motivated. “I’m his voice, I’m his lifeline, I have to be driven,” she said. “I think he pushed me in the right direction. I’ve always been ambitious, but now I have more focus. I’m more hardworking.”
British crooner Tom Jones has a voice made for lullabies, perhaps because he got practice from a very young age. Jones left school at the age of 16 and, the following year, he married his childhood sweetheart, Melinda Trenchard. A month after the couple got married, Trenchard gave birth to their son, Mark.
Jones had barely started his music career at that point and worked in a paper mill to support his family while waiting for his big break. Soon after his son was born, he quit the paper mill and started singing for a local band, Tommy Scott and the Senators. The rest, as they say, is history.
Reality star Evelyn Lozada had her first child at the age of 17, but waited much longer before having her second. There is a 20-year age gap between her first child, Shaniece, and her second child, Carl Jr. In 2016, BET asked her what it was like being the mother of an adult and a toddler at the same time.
“It was definitely me starting over because I was,” said Lozada. “I feel like now that I’m older, I’m more in tune with motherhood. With Shaniece, I was 17, fearless and didn’t worry about anything. He’s a crazy toddler. I’m tired. I’m 40 years old. He keeps me really busy.”
While many mothers struggle to lose the baby weight after giving birth, Russian supermodel Natalia Vodionova had no trouble getting back on the runway after having her son, Lucas, at the age of 19. Far from having trouble getting her figure back, it actually helped her become famous.
“I lost a lot of weight for my height,” she told Vanity Fair in 2005. “In two weeks after giving birth to Lucas, I was on the catwalk. I was so skinny and the clothes just sat on me incredibly and no one could believe it. Everyone wanted to put me in their shows. I did everything.”
Vodionova was thrilled to be a mother. “I have always dreamed about having children, a lot of children,” she said. “I actually want to have very soon another one.” The model has fulfilled her dream of having a large family and, as of this writing, has five children.
Naomi Judd entered the workforce as a nurse, not as a singer. For years, she struggled to support her two children, Wynonna and Ashley. Judd was only 18 years old when she gave birth to Wynonna in 1964. Ashley followed four years later, and Judd raised both girls as a single mother.
It wasn’t until 1983 that the mother-daughter singing duo of Naomi and Wynonna Judd were signed to RCA Records, launching a successful music career as The Judds. When Judd retired from singing in 1991 due to complications with chronic hepatitis C, Wynonna entered a successful solo career, while Ashley pursued a career in acting.
In 1998, Judd returned to the spotlight with her daughter Wynonna. The two last toured together in 2010 after which Judd struggled with “completely debilitating and life-threatening” depression that led to hospitalizations. In Judd’s 2016 interview with ABC News, she said the treatment she has received for depression has now made her “content and at peace.”
Renowned poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou raised her child as a single parent with the help of her mother, Vivian Baxter. HuffPost reported on an interview Angelou gave Oprah about her struggles as a young parent. “The world would throw me flat on my face with this little baby I’m trying to raise,” Angelou said. “I would go home to Vivian Baxter. She would act as if it was the best thing that ever happened… She never, ever made me feel that I had done the wrong thing.”
When the 16-year old told her mother she was pregnant, she was asked if she loved the father. When Angelou said she didn’t, and that he didn’t love her, her mother told her, “We’re not going to ruin three lives. We’re going to have a beautiful baby.”
Angelou was the first African American woman to be a nonfiction bestselling author for her memoir I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings in 1969 and received many honors and awards before her death in 2014.
Vocal powerhouse Aretha Franklin was already making a name for herself as a singer when she had her first child shortly after her fourteenth birthday. The child prodigy had already recorded some songs and gone on tour, which thrust her into an adult world as a young teenager. Motherhood didn’t deter Franklin from her career. The single mother continued to perform even after having another child two years after her first. By the time she was in her 20s, she was balancing motherhood with churning out hits that topped the music charts.
With 18 Grammy Awards as of this writing, the Queen of Soul certainly didn’t let anything, even the struggles of being a teen mother, stand in the way of her journey to the top.
More than a statistic
Teenage parents are so often viewed as a statistic. There is often a stigma surrounding young parents, with many assuming that they have ruined their lives. This obviously isn’t true, however, and these celebrities prove that you really can have it all. Having a child can be a challenge at any age, but with hard work you truly can accomplish anything. These celebrities show that while being a teenage parent might be difficult, it is a rewarding path.