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Jamie Lynn Spears was just 16 when the then-star of Nickelodeon’s Zoey 101 announced, in December 2007, that she was pregnant. While the baby news was wrongly blamed by some fans for causing the show’s cancelation — “in today's world, immediately I'd have my social media to post something, and it'd be cleared up,” says Spears, noting that she got pregnant with daughter Maddie about six months after production on what had already been announced as the final season had wrapped — it did result in the actress and singer taking an extended break from Hollywood.
In a new interview with Nylon, the 29-year-old Spears opens up about being a teenage mom — and a famous one at that — and the steps she took to “give my child some sense of normalcy back in her life.”
“You have your first love, or what you call love in high school,” says Spears of her romance with Maddie’s father, Casey Aldridge, from whom she split in 2010. “You think it's forever, and then, oh my gosh, I’m pregnant. I am mortified to have to tell my parents this and my family this. I do not care what TMZ thinks about it.
“That was all I was thinking about: ‘These are the people I love that I have to tell, and also, I’m pregnant. There's a human being growing inside of me, and I'm so young, I'm almost a baby myself.’ I didn’t really care about any of that nonsense, but when we did announce that I was pregnant, I did hide away for a little bit during that time and I didn't have a phone. But of course, the paparazzi still found me. It's not like I was in L.A. walking down the middle of the most popular boulevard; I was in the middle of nowhere Mississippi.”
Reintroducing #JamieLynnSpears ✨ After taking a break from the spotlight, the actress-singer (and mom) is ready for her second act. At the link in our bio, @jamielynnspears talks new music, her family, and that #Zoey101 reboot with @mccarthylauren #NYLONSpecialReport . . . Photographer: @tawnibannister Stylist: @kattypaldos Art Director: @ehover Hair: @hayleyheckmann Makeup: @livmadorma Manicure: @nailsbymimi VP of Fashion: @tiffanyreid VP Of Creative: @karen.hibbert Producer: @kii.brown
A post shared by NYLON (@nylonmag) on Oct 19, 2020 at 7:02am PDT
And it was Mississippi where the former teen star would stay, leaving behind a promising career that, in addition to the lead role on Zoey 101, had included two seasons on the kid comedy show All That and major film opportunities; indeed, she tells the magazine she experienced morning sickness while waiting to audition for Twilight (“I felt so sick. Little did I know, I was pregnant.”). But leaving Hollywood behind felt like the only way forward.
“I got me a little house,” she says. “I put a big gate up around it, and I was like, ‘I’m going to stay here, raise my baby, and figure this out because this is real life. I’ve put myself in this situation, I’m not condoning it or saying it's right, but these are the cards that I have to play.’ And I tried to do the best that I could. And yet, sure enough, everywhere I went in Mississippi for that whole nine months, there was always paparazzi on me everywhere I went. But I just knew that if I just stayed away from it long enough that I could give my child some sense of normalcy back in her life.”
Spears has since married and has a 2-year-old daughter with husband Jamie Watson. Maddie, meanwhile, is now 12.
“I have a seventh-grader,” Spears says in disbelief. “When she goes into ninth grade, someone's going to have to come rescue me, and I’m going to have to have another baby or something.”
In the meantime, she’s got major plans that revolve around her beloved Nickelodeon character. After taking part in a Zoey 101 reunion over Zoom early on during the pandemic, the cast is ready to reboot the show. Spears is also releasing a tweaked, techno-influenced version of the show’s theme song, “Follow Me (Zoey 101),” which she originally sang with big sister Britney Spears, this week.
While motherhood initially saw her stepping back from the limelight, Spears feels like she’s the best mom she can be when she’s giving herself space to pursue her creative passions, too.
“This is what I love to do,” she says. “This is how I work. I can’t not do that. It’s not good for me and it’s not good for my children to see me deny myself of something I love to do … I don’t want to feel like I have to hold myself back in any way because I can be a mother, I can be a wife, I can be a daughter, I can be a sister, and I can be an artist. I put so much into my personal life and really building that to be strong, that now it’s time for me.
“My ultimate thing is just continuing doing stuff that I love and that serves me and my family, and hopefully brings some happiness into the world, and for heaven’s sake, gives those Zoey fans what they want. Amen.”
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