The biggest secrets about Honey Boo Boo's family

Here Comes Honey Boo Boo was a train wreck during its TLC tenure from 2012 to 2014 (and that's why we all loved it at the time,) but the off-screen antics of Alana "Honey Boo Boo" Thompson, June "Mama June" Shannon, Anna "Chickadee" Cardwell, Lauryn "Pumpkin" Shannon, Mike "Sugar Bear" Thompson, and the rest of the gang proved much more disturbing than any redneck fantasy reality show producers could ever concoct on purpose. From physical violence to teen pregnancies to emotional and sexual abuse, what began as a light, silly diversion based around a pageant princess quickly turned into an examination of the dark underbelly of child exploitation.

Here are the biggest secrets that Honey Boo Boo's family tried to hide from the public. Don't be too distracted by Mama June's From Not to Hot body to remember just how dysfunctional this clan can get.

Mama June is almost blind

Mama June's eyesight is so poor that she's not allowed to drive. According to the Daily Mail, the reality star "is legally blind as a result of childhood cataracts that were not properly treated." A TLC representative said, "She can't have surgery because they believe it could do more harm than good." Consequently, Mama June reportedly has no sight in one eye and severely impaired vision in the other. She can often be seen on her TV shows squinting to view info on her phone.

In February 2018, People reported that Mama June underwent emergency eye surgery for a detached retina, which was documented on Mama June: From Not to Hot. The surgery had a 50-50 chance of success, and the recovery hasn't been easy. Unfortunately, the medical procedures required to save her sight reportedly led her to pack on 25 pounds worth of weight she lost after her gastric sleeve surgery. "I can't do anything and have to lay down most of the time and take care of my vision," she told People. "I have to worry about that right now. That's my main concern."

Mama June dated a man imprisoned for molesting her child

Documents obtained by Radar Online reveal that while in a relationship with Mama June in 2002, Mark McDaniel allegedly sexually abused then-8-year-old Anna "Chickadee" Cardwell numerous times. Cardwell alerted a teacher to the abuse, who then contacted authorities. However, Mama June was allegedly skeptical of her own daughter's story. "A week or so after it happened, I talked to Mama and she was upset, crying and saying, 'I don't believe you, I don't believe you, why would you do this to me?'" Cardwell told People. "And I was like, 'Mama, he did that to me and I can't do anything about it. You were never there to see it. You were always at work.'"

McDaniel was eventually indicted on charges of rape, child molestation, aggravated child molestation, enticing a child for indecent purposes and aggravated sexual battery. In a plea bargain, he pleaded guilty to aggravated child molestation and served a decade in prison, reported Radar. Upon McDaniel's release in 2014, he was spotted with Mama June, leading to the cancellation of Here Comes Honey Boo Boo. Mama June denied dating McDaniel following his release from prison.

Her relationship with Chickadee was strained for years

Mama June Shannon's relationship with Mark McDaniel was arguably her worst parenting offense, and yet one could suggest she preferred not to parent eldest daughter Anna "Chickadee" Cardwell at all.

Janice Shannon, who was married to Mama June's brother, Jimmy, told the National Enquirer that a pregnant Mama June asked her to care for Anna after she was born, but an adoption never materialized. According to the tab, "Throughout her childhood, Anna was shuf­fled between June's house and the home of her grandmother, Sandra Hale. The instability lasted until she was 7, when June finally dumped Anna at San­dra's for good so she could move into a trailer with a boyfriend." 

According to one source, Anna lived with Hale until 2012, "when June bribed her with $500 a month to move back in with the family and be on the TV show. They thought that Anna's illegitimate teenage pregnancy would make for good storylines for the show." Cardwell's baby daddy, Caleb Clark, concurred, telling the Enquirer, "June was a lousy mother to Anna."

Mama June may have used Sugar Bear to keep CPS at bay

The Georgia Division of Family and Children's Services launched an investigation following reports about Mama June's alleged relationship with registered sex offender Mark McDaniel, and as a result, Mama June's ex, Mike "Sugar Bear" Thompson, may have been pressured to cohabitate with his former flame again. 

"Social workers weren't comfortable with only one adult supervising the three minor children," a source told Radar Online in 2014. "Alana has missed having her daddy in the house, and it was suggested by the department that he move back into the house, while the investigation was still ongoing. Sugar Bear agreed to do it, but wasn't happy about it." The source added, "Sugar Bear and Mama June can't even be in the same room together at the small house. He doesn't believe her constant denials in the media that she only saw Mark McDaniel twice. He is only staying in the house so the girls don't get taken away from June. Sugar Bear is being used as a pawn, and he knows it. It's a sad situation."

Child protective services already side-eyed Mama June

The National Enquirer reported that production was almost halted on the very first season of TLC's Here Comes Honey Boo Boo after YouTube footage surfaced of Honey Boo Boo dancing for money in a dimly lit bar. The Georgia Division of Family and Children's Services supposedly visited the family at home after the incident, with Hollywood Life reporting that the organization also expressed concern over the children's diet, which included Mountain Dew and Red Bull "go-go juice" and roadkill –  all of which made it to air on the series.

No charges were filed, but Mama June was apparently scared enough to say (via Radar Online), "I'm not gonna put Alana in that situation again." Of course, she reportedly also qualified the statement with the defense that the bar was a college bar, not a "sleazy" one, suggesting that she may have missed the entire point of the investigation.

Mama June picks controversial baby daddies

Mama June's four daughters all have different fathers, and the National Enquirer reports that at least three of those fathers have prison records. 

Anna's father, David Dunn, reportedly served time for stealing a handgun in 1995 and cigarettes in 1998. He claims he didn't even know he was a father until he was removed from a prison work detail and sent to a child support hearing. "Anna looks just like me. They wanted me to sign away my rights to Anna, but I refused," he told the tabloid. "I always want Anna to know who her father is. But June won't let me see her."

Jessica's father is Michael Anthony Ford, a registered sex offender who served two years behind bars for sexual exploitation of a child over the internet. Ford told the Enquirer that he and Mama June dated briefly. "The last time I called and asked to see [Jessica,] they told me if I came down there, I would be arrested for harassment," he said. "My daughter has grandparents, and I want her to get to know them while they're still around."

Alana's father, Mike "Sugar Bear" Thompson, was sentenced to five years in prison in 1988 "for a crime spree in which he robbed a series of hunt­ing camps and set fire to at least one camper," reported the Enquirer.

As for Lauryn, a family source told the tab: "There are all kinds of family stories about who Lau­ryn's dad is. I don't think June even knows who it is."

The children may have been exploited for cash

A family source told the National Enquirer that there's a reason Mama June never legally tied the knot with any of her baby daddies: She'd lose out on free money. "We're convinced June never got married to any of her kids' fathers because she gets child support and welfare payments for each of those kids — if she got married, the money would stop," the source alleged. Jessica's father, Michael Anthony Ford, quipped, "I think the kids are being exploited. It's sad and aggravating."

In fairness to Mama June, that may be, in part, because she's not sure how else to make money beyond couponing and entering Alana into pageants. Also, she may have had a tough time finding work after she was accused of cashing bad checks and of stealing $3,300 from a safe at a McDonald's in Georgia where she worked. According to the Enquirer, "those charges were later dismissed."

Chickadee has serious baby daddy issues

The National Enquirer reported that Anna "Chickadee" Cardwell's daughter, Kaitlyn, may have some daddy issues of her own in a few years. Mama June reportedly blocked Caleb Clark, who dated Cardwell for two years, from having a DNA test to prove he fathered Kaitlyn. The tabloid reported that Clark had been denied access to Kaitlyn since her birth. "Kaitlyn is my daugh­ter — I believe that with all my heart," he told the tab. "All I want is to know for sure that she is mine, and to do what is right for my baby."

Clark claimed he and Cardwell split after she confessed to cheating on him in an email. "I lost all trust in her after that and broke up with her," Clark said. "But in my heart, I am still sure that baby is mine." Clark claims he can't afford an attorney, and he says Cardwell refused to grant him a paternity test unless he agreed to be on the show. He declined, saying, "I don't want to be part of that circus."

Sugar Bear may not have been so sweet

In 2016, Mike "Sugar Bear" Thompson admitted on Marriage Boot Camp that he cheated on Mama June with both women and men, explaining that he was "curious" about same-sex encounters. Mama June had previously revealed on the show that she suspected Thompson had been cheating and allegedly found explicit photos from men on his phone. Not long after the show aired, Mama June and Thompson split for good, but not before some scary allegations emerged about the one-time fan favorite.

Mama June told Page Six that Thompson was physically and emotionally abusive to her children. "It's time the world sees him for what he is. [Lauryn 'Pumpkin' Shannon's] eye buckle was caused by him … because he got mad. So many emotional and physical scars with the kids." Mama June claimed that attempts to film a Mama June: From Not to Hot reunion special with Thompson ended poorly because of his anger issues. "I'm not going to put my kids through that ever again," she said.

Thompson denied the allegations, telling Radar Online, "No, I never abused them kids. I loved them kids!"

She was arrested on drug charges

Though Mama June has seemingly transformed her lifestyle into one focused on her health and wellbeing, a drug arrest indicates that she may be battling dangerous habits behind the scenes. According to People, Mama June "was arrested on possession of a controlled substance and drug paraphernalia charges" in March 2019. According to TMZ, the arrest went down at a gas station in Alabama. Cops reportedly "patted June down and found a glass pipe with white residue inside the pocket of her jogging suit. They also found a green pill bottle containing a white controlled substance in the glove compartment. June said the white substance was crack cocaine." June was with her boyfriend, Geno Doak, who is also facing felony drug charges in connection with the incident.

Days later, TMZ spotted Mama June and her man at a casino around 3 a.m. Making matters even more complicated, People noted that trailers for her reality show, Mama June: From Not to Hot, indicated that she has been gaining weight, "eating whatever she wants," and could be pregnant.