Ready to feel old? Well, Jamie Lynn Spears — Britney’s little sister and a Nickelodeon star in her own right — is 25 now. Yes, she’s grown into a young woman and is definitely no longer a little kid anymore. But while the world still remembers her as a child star, what has she been doing since becoming a fully fledged adult?
Britney Spears might have been huge in 2002 — Forbes named her the world’s most powerful celebrity that year — but she was still happy to share the spotlight with her little sister Jamie Lynn. And when Britney landed her first movie gig in Crossroads, her younger sibling was fittingly cast to play the early-years version of her character.
The film was a box office smash hit, and it wasn’t long before the younger Spears’ acting talents caught the attention of some pretty big names. She was picked to star on season eight of the channel’s sketch comedy series All That and raked in the praise for her comic timing. In fact, it soon became clear that this Spears had just as much talent as her famous sibling.
And then in August 2004 Spears entered into a contract with Nickelodeon, the channel that had previously helped launch the careers of people like Alanis Morrisette and Jessica Alba. Not only that, but Jamie Lynn would star as the protagonist in a brand new TV series.
That show was Zoey 101, a drama about a group of teens and their life at boarding school. Spears’ rising star power – in addition to the fact that her big sis had penned the theme song – meant that the new show was highly anticipated. Indeed, its 2005 premiere received the highest ratings Nickelodeon had seen in years.
Zoey 101 proved to be an enduring hit, too, and even today it’s actually remembered as one of the best shows Nickelodeon ever put out. And Spears was the bright heart of it all, picking up both a Young Artist Award and a Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Award for her leading role as Zoey.
At that point in her life, Spears was poised to become a big star. Many tween idols end up being successful in the adult world of acting, and she certainly had talent on her side – plus an already established connection to the world of fame through her sister. But in 2007 her career took a sudden dive.
Five days before Christmas Day, Spears made an announcement to OK! magazine that many people found deeply shocking. And no, it wasn’t related to drugs or alcohol addiction, or even anything that was strictly against the law. The youngest Spears sister — who was just 16 at the time — revealed that she was pregnant.
It was an absolute scandal. Parents everywhere publicly questioned how they could tell their kids that Zoey from Zoey 101 — the girl with a whiter than white image on screen — was pregnant. Fans expressed shock, newspapers published thinkpieces on teen pregnancy and Britney Spears suddenly had to field questions about her sister rather than herself.
People wanted to hear from Jamie Lynn’s parents, too. Eventually, then, her mother Lynne gave her opinion by telling the press, “I didn’t believe it because Jamie Lynn’s always been so conscientious. She’s never late for her curfew. I was in shock. I mean, this is my 16-year-old baby.”
That age – 16 – would come up again and again in the media over the next few months. And it didn’t help that Jamie Lynn’s boyfriend, Casey Alridge, was 18 and so two years older than her. In fact, some commenters suggested that he should be charged with statutory rape as Spears was deemed underage in some states.
And while Spears’ career wasn’t ruined – let’s face it, actors have come back from a lot worse – it was still basically on hiatus. Because while the finale of Zoey 101 was actually already done and wrapped, she couldn’t just very well jump into another franchise with a baby on the way.
Spears gave birth to a daughter, Maddie, on June 19, 2008. But although Alridge later proposed to her, the pair never made it up the aisle. And after an initial breakup and reconciliation, they parted ways for good in 2010.
Career-wise, meanwhile, Spears disappeared from the media completely for a few years. She raised her daughter quietly, with no new controversies coming her way. And although sister Britney continued to make headlines, the younger Spears seemed all but forgotten.
But as her daughter grew up, an older and wiser Jamie Lynn prepared to make a comeback. She was now 25, and she had plenty more to say and do. For a start, she wanted to tell the world what being pregnant and famous at 16 had really been like.
And so she released a documentary entitled Jamie Lynn Spears: When the Lights Go Out on TLC. In it, she detailed the truth about her pregnancy, including the cruel comments made about her at the time.
She also revealed on the documentary that she had found out she was pregnant while in the bathroom of a gas station. “I don’t know how you can say this without feeling a little tacky,” she said. “We didn’t want to do it at home, so I went in the BP and I took a pregnancy test.” And, of course, the whole world eventually knew the result.
But she also revealed how mature she had behaved, even at 16. She added, “At the end of the day I knew I had to make a decision as a young girl myself to do something that I could sleep with every night. I knew deep down that I was going to have my little girl, even if I had to raise her on my own, and that’s what I did.”
Spears is in a good place now, both personally and professionally. She married businessman Jamie Watson in 2014 and their relationship appears to be going strong, even if it is slightly weird that they both have the same first name…
She’s also embarking on a new career as a country singer and looking forward to putting out some new material. Meanwhile, big sister Brit is doing well again, and her little daughter has a bright future ahead of her, too. So although Jamie Lynn’s teen pregnancy came as a surprise, she has absolutely, positively made the best of it.