The featured players on the hit TV reality show “Teen Mom” are elbowing the likes of “Jersey Shore” stars Snooki and The Situation for cover space on entertainment magazines and tabloids. But one of the moms told TODAY she is trying to caution teens about the consequences of her actions — not prime herself for stardom.
“We don’t look at ourselves [as celebrities],” Catelynn Lowell told Matt Lauer live on TODAY Thursday.
“I’ve had a lot of mothers tell me, ‘I sit down with my children and I watch this show.’ They say they think it’s a good show to show their children — like if you have sex and get pregnant, these are all the struggles that you’re going to go through.”
“Teen Mom” began airing on MTV in July and has become the channel’s second-highest-rated reality show, trailing only “Jersey Shore.” The show is a reincarnation of last season’s reality series “16 and Pregnant,” which chronicled four teens experiencing difficult pregnancies.
At peace with their choice
Maci Bookout, Farrah Abraham and Amber Portwood, the other young mothers spotlighted on “Teen Mom,” all opted to keep their babies. But Lowell and her fiance, Tyler Baltierra, agreed to give their child up for adoption. They are also the only couple among the four who are still together.
When Catelynn and Tyler, both 18, handed their infant daughter over to her new adoptive parents on “Teen Mom,” it made for some of the most poignant footage in the series so far. But Lowell told Lauer that, despite reports to the contrary, she and Baltierra are at peace with their decision.
“I get stuff every day that rewards me for my entire decision,” Lowell said. “[I] see stuff that happens back at home, I’m like, ‘Wow, I’m so lucky she’s not here right now.’ I’m just happy that she’s in a very good place.”
Tyler added: “We have peace going to sleep at night knowing what we chose for her.”
Lowell and Tyler are both working toward graduating from their Algonac, Mich., high school this December and plan to put off marriage until after they graduate from college. Lowell told People magazine the couple’s dream is to have their daughter, now 16 months, serve as flower girl at their wedding.
‘Jersey Shore’ in reverse
And though they are on the covers of many magazines, Lowell and Baltierra see their reality show as the flip side to “Jersey Shore.” While that show spotlights fancy-free young people partying and living it up, “Teen Mom” reveals the often painful results of youthful hookups.
“I don’t think it’s glamorizing anything, because all the stuff on the show is real — all the struggles that we go through, and Maci and Farrah and everybody else … no way it’s glamorizing anything,” Baltierra told Lauer.
The reality series also has a big supporter in the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. The group’s CEO, Sarah Brown, scoffs at the notion the show makes teen pregnancy attractive. “To say that these shows on teen pregnancy glamorize — it’s just the same as saying ‘The Biggest Loser’ glamorizes obesity,” she told NBC News. “That’s just nonsense.”
Adds Amy Kramer, the group’s director of entertainment media: “The overarching message of this show is that once there’s a pregnancy, all roads ahead are hard. This show has the potential to show in devastating clarity how important it is to prevent a pregnancy in the first place.”
While the rate of teen pregnancies has recently gone down slightly in the U.S., the numbers are still alarming: Three out of 10 girls become pregnant before age 20, and one in six will become a mother. Overall, the U.S. has the highest incidence of teen pregnancy in the world.
Lauer admitted that even he fell into the trap of calling Lowell and Baltierra “reality show stars,” but pointed out that the public becomes suspicious about the intent of reality show participants when they start appearing on magazine covers. Lowell insists she tries to stay on point when it comes to her show.
“I feel like if you really sit down and watch the show, I don’t think it shows any single thing of glamorizing teen pregnancy,” she said.
She added that the welfare of their child was in the forefront when she and Baltierra made the decision to give their daughter up for adoption, and she hopes other teen moms also think first about the child they are bringing into the world.
“I feel like my No. 1 thing I would say is, just always think about your child before yourself in any decision you make in life, from the point you’re pregnant until the point that they’re old enough to move out on their own,” Lowell told Lauer.