Stars who had kids when they were really young

Though many Hollywood celebrities pursue parenthood in their thirties and forties, these stars became moms and dads when they were very young — some still kids themselves! Though their paths were challenging and nontraditional, these actors, musicians, and entertainment icons each, in their own way, overcame adversity and beat the odds to make an impact on the next generation. 

Legendary figures such as Oprah Winfrey and Aretha Franklin overcame heartache and trauma as teen mothers. A-list movie stars like Reese Witherspoon and Sofia Vergara continued to grow their careers as they raised their little ones. Reality star Bristol Palin was forced to reexamine her abstinence advocacy when she got knocked up as an unwed teen. From basketball star Lebron James to Nick kid Jamie Lynn Spears, let's look back at the circumstances surrounding these often unexpected pregnancies and find out what these parents and kiddos are doing today. These are the stars who had kids when they were really young.

Sofia Vergara

Modern Family star Sofia Vergara gave birth to her son, Manolo Gonzalez-Ripoll Vergara, in 1992 when she was just 19 years old. Manolo's father was her high school sweetheart, and the pair still co-parent. They even posed for photos together at their son's graduation from Boston's Emerson College in May 2015.

Manolo is reportedly pursuing a future in film. According to The Huffington Post, he has already acted in Head & Shoulders commercials (yes, he inherited his mom's magical hair,) produced his own YouTube series called "My Life with Toty," and appeared in Vergaraland, a reality series with his mom aired exclusively via Snapchat.

Though he's old enough to be a dad himself, Manolo could become a big brother in the near future. He walked his mom down the aisle at her November 2015 wedding to Magic Mike actor Joe Manganiello. Prior to the ceremony, a 42-year-old Sofia told Redbook that she's not opposed to having more children. "Joe is younger than me," she said. "He's never had kids. How am I going to say no. I tell him if we're going to do this, we have to do it, like, now, because I don't want to be 50 with a baby."

Bristol Palin

Bristol Palin made waves in 2008 when it was revealed that she was expecting a child at age 17. The news made headlines because her mom, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, was running for vice president of the United States as a Republican preaching conservative Christian family values, such as abstinence. Bristol and then-boyfriend Levi Johnson tried making it work, giving birth to Tripp Easton Mitchell Johnston-Palin (above) in December 2008. The young parents split in 2010, after stirring up a whole lot of additional controversy, including spreads in Playgirl and a contentious custody battle.

Bristol became an advocate for the Candie's Foundation, speaking out against teen pregnancy. In March 2015, she got engaged to U.S. Marine Dakota Meyer, but a couple months later, they called off the wedding just days before walking down the aisle. In June 2015, Bristol announced that she was pregnant with Meyer's child, assuring the world it was planned this time. In December 2015, she gave birth to daughter Sailor Grace Palin Meyer. By January 2016, she and Meyer were locked in a bitter custody war ... and by June 2016, they were married. Then they had another daughter named Atlee Bay Meyer in May 2017.

In 2018, Bristol split from Meyer and joined the cast of MTV's Teen Mom OG, telling E! News that she's "been a huge fan of the show forever" and that "God gave me a platform and I need to use it."

LeBron James

NBA all-star LeBron James grew up fast. By high school graduation, the standout athlete had already graced the cover of Sports Illustrated, and during his rookie year in the pros, he found out he was going to be a father. James' girlfriend, Savannah Brinson, was a senior in high school when she got pregnant. In a 2010 interview with Harper's Bazaar, she recalled that pivotal moment in their teenage lives. "I was thinking, 'What am I going to tell my parents? What's going to happen to his career?'" she said. "I was very scared. I was bawling. But he said, 'It's not going to slow me down, and it's not going to slow you down. We're going to keep doing what we have to do.'"

LeBron James Jr. was born in 2004; Bryce Maximus James followed in 2007; and daughter Zhuri James arrived in 2014. James and Brinson wed in 2013. Being an MVP to his children is important to LeBron, who has talked openly about his struggles growing up in a single-parent home. He launched the LeBron James Family Foundation and works with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America in an effort to connect kids with positive role models.

Aretha Franklin

There's having kids young, and then there's Aretha Franklin. The soul legend passed away at age 76 in 2018 after a battle with pancreatic cancer, leaving behind four children, the first of which she gave birth to when she was still a child herself. Franklin was just 12-years-old when she welcomed her first son, Clarence. He was fathered by "a school friend" named Donald Burk and named after Franklin's preacher father, according to David Ritz's 2014 biography, Respect (via The Sun). 

Aretha's father, C.L. Franklin, was a minister at the Bethel Baptist Church, which was once dubbed a "sex circus" by the late, great Ray Charles, according to the Daily Mail. Unfounded rumors even circulated that C.L. was the father of Aretha's baby. The Queen of Soul gave birth to another boy when she was 14 — just around the time that her career was taking off. Her second son was named Edward after his father, Edward Jordan, though there were unfounded rumors that fellow soul singer Sam Cooke was Edward's real dad. 

Areha later gave birth to two more sons: Teddy Jr., whose father was her manager and husband for a while, and Kecalf Franklin Cunningham, whose father was her road manager for a spell. All of Aretha's children have inherited touches of her musical genius.

Jamie Lynn Spears

Tabloids went berserk when Britney Spears' baby sister had a baby. Jamie Lynn Spears was just 16 and starring on Nickelodeon's Zoey 101 when she revealed she was expecting with then-boyfriend Casey Aldridge in 2007. The kids network quickly, but cordially, distanced itself from Jamie Lynn's growing belly and her controversial on-again off-again romance with Aldridge, who was nearly two years her senior. She gave birth to daughter Maddie Briann Aldridge in 2008. After splitting from Casey in 2010, Jamie Lynn moved to Nashville and eventually released a country album. In 2014, she married businessman Jamie Watson, owner of Advanced Media Partners.

When asked about the controversy surrounding her teen pregnancy, Jamie Lynn told Tinseltown Mom in 2014, "Being a mom in general is hard, no matter your age. So, I will never let my age be an excuse to be any less of the mother that my daughter deserves. I think the hardest thing was knowing there were young girls who looked up to me, and wouldn't understand this." 

Jamie Lynn told the blog she'd like to have more children someday, but she doesn't want them to become child stars. "I would support anything my child is passionate about," she said. "But ... I would not let her sign one contract or make it 'work' for her until she was 18 and could make that choice herself. My job is to keep her protected from the 'grown-up' stuff till she is 18."

Lil Wayne

Rapper Lil Wayne was just 16 when his daughter, Reginae "Nae" Carter, was born. By the time Nae reached that age, she was already a fixture in the spotlight, having starred in a rather memorable episode of My Super Sweet 16. Not only did Nicki Minaj perform live at her party, Nae also received two new cars from from her dad — a BMW and a Ferrari. "I'm daddy's little girl, and he showers me with anything I want," she admitted (via MTV). "I'm gonna shut Atlanta down."

Nae (who is rumored to be dating Atlanta rapper YFN Lucci, as of this writing) was the target of a death hoax that went viral in 2008. The prank claimed she perished in a car crash, and her famous father was forced to respond, calling the story "completely false and unfounded." Nae and daddy dearest have remained close. She's even featured on her dad's hit 2018 album, Tha Carter V, laying down the chorus for "Famous."

Wayne now has four children by four different women. Speaking to GQ in 2011, the rap star said he planned to retire at age 35 so he could focus solely on his kids, though that landmark has come and gone, and he doesn't seem to be slowing down.

Oprah Winfrey

When Oprah Winfrey realized she was pregnant at only 14 years old, she tried to hide her growing belly. In an emotional video on Oprah's Lifeclass, she spoke about her tumultuous childhood, which was rife with abuse, molestation, and rape. Winfrey's baby died in the hospital soon after its birth.

For decades, Winfrey kept her pregnancy a secret, until a relative sold the story to a tabloid in 1990 for $19,000. "Only my family and closest friends knew." she told the New York Post. Winfrey had feared the truth would damage the career she'd worked so hard to achieve. "I imagined that every person on the street was going to point their finger at me and scream, 'Pregnant at 14, you wicked girl...expelled!'" Instead, to Winfrey's surprise, "No one said a word...not strangers, not even people I knew. I was shocked. Nobody treated me differently. For 20 years, I had been expecting a reaction that never came."

Though Winfrey has no biological children, she has dedicated herself to improving the lives of children at risk, particularly young girls. In 2007, she launched the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa.

Roseanne Barr

Most people recognize Roseanne Barr for her unapologetic stand-up comedy and self-titled sitcom, Roseanne, but did you know this firecracker of a funny gal struggled mightily as a teenager? She dropped out of high school and was living nearly destitute when she gave birth to her first daughter at age 18 and made the difficult decision to give the infant up for adoption.

In the years that followed, Barr tried to protect her child's privacy, but as the comedian's fame intensified, the press uncovered her secret and even tracked down her daughter. Barr "begged reporters not to pursue the story, but the teenage girl was besieged by the press," reported the Chicago Tribune in 1988. Barr and her firstborn, Brandi Brown, have since developed a warm and tight-knit relationship. Recalling their reunion for People in 1989, Barr said, "She's a really cool kid. I saw a lot of me in her. She's intuitive, trusts her perceptions and feelings and listens to what's not spoken. That's how I've lived my life."

Barr's brood now includes three daughters, three sons, and grand-kids too.

Fantasia Barrino

American Idol winner Fantasia Barrino endured some incredibly dark times prior to fame. At age 14, she was was reportedly raped at her high school and taunted by some classmates about the attack. "I didn't even cry my way home," she told VH1's Behind the Music (via MTV). "I was numb, very numb, confused. I just felt nasty. Disgusting."

Barrino "turned into a rebel" after her ordeal, partying hard to hide the pain. This partying led to an unexpected pregnancy — the future star was just 17 when she realized she was carrying Brandel Shouse's baby. "He was somebody I was crazy about," Barrino said. "The first guy who showed me attention." They brought their daughter Zion into the world together, but their relationship later disintegrated.

Life after American Idol has been a roller coaster for Barrino. Appearing on the show reportedly kickstarted a cycle of depression that led to an attempted suicide in 2010, but she managed to conquer those demons. The following year, she welcomed her second child, Dallas Xavier, into the world. She married Kendall Taylor in 2015 and has made it her mission to help "broken women and young mothers" find happiness like she has. "Love is there," Barrino told Essence. "It's out there and there's somebody for everybody."

Natalia Vodianova

Speaking with The Tot, supermodel Natalia Vodianova spoke of growing up in Nizhniy Novgorod, Russia, a city that has a rich cultural heritage but is encircled by "dangerous suburbs." As such, the beautiful mom revealed that her childhood was a million miles away from the life her kids live today. "My sister, Oksana, has cerebral palsy, and for my mother, looking after her was very difficult," Vodianova said. "My father left when I was little. It was a very tough upbringing." However, watching her mother struggle didn't deter Vodianova from starting her own family at a young age.

"I was only 19 when I gave birth to Lucas, my first-born," she said. "His birth was an intense but very beautiful experience." The supermodel declined an epidural, insisting that the birth be a natural one, believing it would help her become a "stronger mother." She has since adjusted that way of thinking. "I never went back to that 'Mother Nature' style again, but I was so happy that I got to experience what it was like for women centuries ago," she said.

Vodianova now has five children. Lucas was followed by Neva, Viktor, Maxim, and Roman, who gave the family quite a scare when he arrived in 2016. "I had placenta detachment three months into pregnancy and had to lay down for a month and a half to keep Roman healthy," the model and philanthropist revealed.

Emily Maynard

Reality star Emily Maynard was shattered when she lost her boyfriend in a plane crash at age 18, but the emotions were compounded when she found out she was pregnant with his child shortly after his passing. The North Carolina girl gave birth to their daughter, Ricki, on her own, but she refused to give up on finding love. Maynard appeared on Season 15 of The Bachelor and won, receiving an offer of marriage from Brad Womack. It didn't last, however, and neither did her subsequent engagement to Jef Holm, who she met when she returned to The Bachelorette in 2012. At that point, Maynard started to believe that she would never be a bride.

"I gave in to the idea that maybe marriage and that life was not for me," she told People in December 2017. "I really had to come to terms with the fact that maybe it was going to be just Ricki and me forever. Then I met Tyler, and I knew that was not the plan." The new Mrs. Tyler Johnson wasted no time expanding her family — they had three boys in less than three years. "I've always wanted a lot of kids," she said. "I made it clear on our first day, 'Listen, my clock's ticking, and I'm ready to get on this!'"

Whoopi Goldberg

Whoopi Goldberg was a 17-year-old in rehab when she fell for her counselor, Alvin Martin, and got pregnant. "Marrying seemed like a good idea at the time," she told the Daily Mail in a 2009 interview. The marriage didn't last long, so Goldberg moved with baby Alexandria to California to scratch out a living as an aspiring actress. After eight years of "living on the edge, existing on welfare," Goldberg began landing serious roles, including an Oscar-nominated lead in Steven Spielberg's The Color Purple and her Oscar-winning turn in Ghost.

Like her mother, Alexandria Martin became an actress, producer, and a young mom. According to the Daily Mail, she was only 14 when she gave birth to a daughter named Amarah Skye. Now that Goldberg's grandchildren are getting older, she has joked that she's hitting the brakes. "I accepted the grandmother thing in my 30s," she said in 2009, "but great grandchildren I'm not doing!"

Keisha Castle-Hughes

Despite having no prior acting experience, New Zealander Keisha Castle-Hughes was plucked from a pool of "several hundred young girls" to star in 2002's Whale Rider, reported History. She was a revelation as the young heir to a Maori tribe, putting in a performance that the Academy couldn't ignore — the 13-year-old was nominated for best actress, becoming the youngest actress to make the shortlist in that category at the time. Charlize Theron wound up winning that Oscar, and Castle-Hughes returned to a relatively normal life in New Zealand — until she made headlines for her life off-camera. 

Castle-Hughes was only 16 when she revealed that she was carrying her 19-year-old boyfriend's child. The Kiwi media went after her hard, dubbing her "New Zealand's Lindsay Lohan" and publicly shaming her for becoming a teen mom. "I kind of felt like a dirty girl who had done something wrong," the actress told Vanity Fair. "No one was happy for me. I didn't want to become the poster girl for teenage pregnancy, but I wasn't focused on that or what other people were thinking, I just did the best I could." The actress – who now counts Star Wars and Game of Thrones among her credits – said she wouldn't change a thing, telling Vanity Fair, "Having Felicity was the best thing that ever happened to me."

Lamar Odom

Former NBA and reality TV star Lamar Odom was only just coming to the end of his teenage years when he found out that his girlfriend was pregnant. According to the Daily Mail, his daughter Destiny (above) was born in 1998, the year before he was drafted by the Los Angeles Clippers. Odom and his partner, Liza Morales, welcomed their second child, Lamar Jr., into their family in 2002, and a third child named Jayden in 2005. Tragically, Jayden succumbed to sudden infant death syndrome (the unexplained passing of a seemingly healthy baby, usually during sleep) at six months old.

Dark days followed. "I leaned on my spirituality," Morales told People. "I leaned heavily on my family, my friends." Odom turned to cocaine to help dull the pain, and in 2015, The Mirror reported that the basketball great had suffered a series of strokes and heart attacks during a "near-fatal overdose."

Along the way, Odom convinced Khloé Kardashian to marry him – a lifestyle shift that was hard on his daughter. "When your dad's an NBA player that's already enough, but when he's marrying a reality TV star, things are so public and you don't have a private life anymore," a 17-year-old Destiny told People in 2017. Odom and Kardashian divorced in 2016.

Niki Taylor

Supermodel Niki Taylor was still a teenager when she gave birth for the first time, welcoming twin boys Hunter and Jake at the age of 19. "I always wanted a family and wanted to have kids early," Taylor told Hello magazine. "I love being a kid, and I love my kids. They are everything." Things didn't work out with the twins' father (former football player Matt Martinez) but Taylor has continued to expand her brood. 

In 2006, she wed NASCAR driver Burney Lamar. "I looked at Burney and said to myself, 'This is the guy I'm going to marry,"' she told Us Weekly (via Today). They have two kids of their own together. Son Rex and daughter Ciel (above) appear to be close to their older brothers. Some of those kiddos are already following in their mother's footsteps. Hunter has walked the runway at Men's Fashion Week in New York, and Ciel took part in her first photo shoot by age 7. "She definitely would love to model," Taylor told the New York Post. "I didn't teach her, she just automatically is good [at posing]. We did a shoot together a while back for Russian Allure, and she loved it."

Shirley Temple

Shirley Temple rose to fame during the height of the Depression, becoming a welcome escape for the millions of Americans struggling to make ends meet. As a child star, she was Hollywood's biggest draw in the late '30s. "As long as our country has Shirley Temple, we will be alright," President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared at the time (via the Independent). "It is a splendid thing that for just 15 cents, an American can go to a movie and look at the smiling face of a baby and forget his troubles."

Better times lay ahead for the United States, but Temple had already peaked. It seems audiences wanted to see the cherub-faced child, so when the actress started to grow up, her opportunities diminished. At age 17, she said "yes" to a marriage proposal from soldier-turned-actor John Agar. They gave birth to a daughter named Susan before separating after about four years of marriage. Temple later gave birth a son named Charles Jr. (pictured) with her second husband and "true soulmate," former naval officer Charles Black.

Temple and Black remained married until his death in 2005. Temple passed away in 2014, at age 85. "As a mother, she was devoted and generous, although she could be a little bit stern if we didn't behave," daughter Susan told Closer. "But family was a really, really important part of her life. She was all about her children and her husband."

Dev

Singer Dev had her daughter, Emilia, in December 2011, when she was 22, and she documented the experience with an MTV special. Dev told PrideSource in 2013 that being a mom hasn't curbed her lifestyle much. "I love being able to travel with my daughter or bring her to the studio or sit at home and watch Bubble Guppies for 10 hours on repeat," she said. "But what's really cool is that I get to go and still be sexy and still be 24 and still get to celebrate. I want my daughter, one day, to feel just as powerful and sexy. I can have family time and I can also wear hot pants and it's f**king sick. That balance is awesome."

Solange Knowles

Solange Knowles is probably still best-known for attacking Jay-Z in an elevator, which is a shame considering she's proven herself as an artist in her own right. Like her superstar sister, Beyonce, Solange started singing and recording material at a young age, but all that had to be put on the back burner when she got pregnant at age 17 with her son, Julez. 

"It was one of the most bittersweet moments of my life, because I was so in love with Julez, and having spent a lot of time on the road, I yearned to be in one place, to have the opportunity to really ground myself with him," Solange told Elle. "And it was just Julez and me most of the time. It was hard to imagine being able to progress in my career in any way." Her marriage to Julez's father, Daniel Smith, didn't last, but all three still get along. Julez attended Coachella 2018 with his dad, who has often stepped up to help Solange co-parent.

Solange has dabbled in acting as well as music, continuing to evolve as an entertainer despite the nontraditional Hollywood timing. "Just going through a marriage and a divorce — which I essentially did by 21 — will give you an insane amount of perspective on life," she told Harper's Bazaar.

Charlie Sheen

It may not surprise you that Charlie Sheen has a bunch of kids. It's usually his two daughters with Denise Richards (Sam and Lola) or his two sons with Brooke Mueller (Max and Bob) that end up in the news whenever he has an episode, but what many people don't realize is that Sheen has a fifth, much older child. Cassandra Estevez was born when her dad was still a fresh-faced 19-year-old coming into his own in Hollywood. Sheen passed the acting bug onto her (he came to watch her perform on stage while attending Loyola Marymount University) but she didn't make her way into the Hollywood scene. 

Sheen was all smiles when he walked his eldest down the aisle in 2010, and despite his turbulent personal life, Estevez has stood by her father. "I love my dad is really all I can say right now," she told E! News in 2011, adding that the time wasn't right for her to come forward with her story. "Someday I will, but not now." We're still waiting for that story, but in the meantime, Sheen has proven himself more than capable of endlessly generating his own headlines.

Reese Witherspoon

Actress Reese Witherspoon met her first husband, actor Ryan Phillippe, at her 21st birthday party. "I think you're my birthday present," she brazenly told him (according to her father.) The pair hit it off and a whirlwind romance followed. Witherspoon was said to have been around six months pregnant when they tied the knot in June 1999, shortly after filming teen drama Cruel Intentions together. The actress was 23 when she gave birth to Ava, who could legitimately pass as her twin.

"I think the way Ava and I are most alike is our strong opinions and our empathy," the Oscar-winning actress said in 2018. "From the time that she could speak, Ava has always had her own ideas, and I love to watch her express herself. She also cares deeply about her family and the world around her." Ava has even become the face of Witherspoon's Draper James clothing line.

Witherspoon and Phillippe also welcomed a son named Deacon in 2003 before they separated. She welcomed her second son into the world almost a decade later, giving birth to Tennessee James (her first child with second husband, talent agent Jim Toth) in 2012. She's still acting on the regular, but Witherspoon has also carved out a reputation as "a formidable producer, investor and entrepreneur," Forbes reports.