Jamie Lynn Spears opened up about the struggles she faced from getting pregnant at 16 — while starring on a hit TV show.
“When I was not much older than my daughter is now … I became pregnant, and yes, that was something that I took responsibility for the way that made sense for me,” Spears, 32, said during the Wednesday, July 26, episode of the “Better Tomorrow With Hannah Brown” podcast. “That doesn’t make sense for everyone else, but it made sense for me, and the whole world came down and told me I was the worst human alive for doing so, and that every young girl who ever watched my show was going to be ruined because of me and my personal decision.”
While Spears, who was starring as the titular character on Nickelodeon’s Zoey 101 at the time of her pregnancy, shared that she “didn’t want to let anyone down,” she also “had to do what was right” for her. Her decision to have a baby while working on a teen show ultimately sparked a public outcry.
“[People were] having the conversation of young girls my age were having sex. And I think people didn’t want that … Of like, this is going on, but a lot of them aren’t getting pregnant” she explained, adding, “If I would’ve had an abortion, no one would have known about it, but it wouldn’t have changed the fact that I had sex. So I think that was really the bigger conversation, like, ‘Now, young girls are going to want to have sex, or they are.'”
Spears led the show, which followed her character as she settles in at her new boarding school in Malibu, for four seasons before the network ultimately pulled the plug in 2008. The actress gave birth to her daughter, Maddie, whom she shares with ex Casey Aldridge, later that year. (Spears also shares daughter Ivey, 5, with husband Jamie Watson, whom she married in 2014.)
While Spears told Nylon magazine in October 2020 that she “didn’t become pregnant until probably six months” after Zoey 101 wrapped — and that the show had simply run its course — she noted on Wednesday’s podcast episode that she was “shamed as a woman for making a choice.”
“No one said one good thing,” she recalled. “It was just like, ‘You are the worst, you’ve ruined everything, every child now, wow, what a let-down you are.’ And so I just think that like, I would hope that we would do better.”
Spears added that she hopes things would be different today — and that her experience returning for her new film, Zoey 102, which premiered on Paramount+ Thursday, July 27, was a “full-circle” moment.
“When my daughter [Maddie, now 15,] came on set of [Zoey 102], she was like, ‘Wow, Mom, I can’t believe all of these people are here because of your show, and you did that, I’m so proud of you,'” Spears shared. “And I swear to you that was like the moment that I said, ‘Thank you, God. Thank you so much, that moment makes it all worth it.'”