Who Is Bristol Palin?
Bristol Palin is the eldest daughter, and second of four children of Todd and Sarah Palin, the former governor of Alaska and 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee. Palin appeared as herself on The Secret Life of the American Teenager in 2010, and participated on the fall 2010 season of ABC's Dancing with the Stars. In 2012, she was invited back to the dance competition show for its 15th season: Dancing with the Stars: All-Stars. Thrown into the public eye with her mother's vice presidential bid, Bristol was the subject of media gossip when she became a teenage mother as well as a paid advocate for teen abstinence from sex.
Palin was born Bristol Sheeran Marie Palin on October 18, 1990, in Wasilla, Alaska. Bristol is the eldest daughter, and second of four children of Todd and Sarah Palin. Bristol's father Todd worked for BP as an oil field production operator, and is currently a commercial fisherman and champion snowmobile racer.
Bristol's first name carries a web of associations for both her parents. Sarah explained, "I worked at the Bristol Inn, and Todd grew up in Bristol Bay. But also, Bristol, Connecticut, is the home of ESPN. And when I was in high school, my desire was to be a sportscaster. ESPN was just kicking off, just getting off the ground, and I thought that's what I was going to do in life, is be one of the first woman sportscasters. Until I learned that you'd have to move to Bristol, Connecticut. It was far away. So instead, I had a daughter and named her Bristol."
According to her mother, as a child, Bristol was "a neat freak and perfectionist," and is "kind of an old soul, mature beyond her years." She possessed an adult personality and strong motherly instincts from a very young age, according to her mother. Sarah once recalled that just before Bristol's seventh birthday, she said, "You are going to rent me a baby for my birthday."
For the first 16 years of her life, up to 2006, Bristol lived a fairly typical Alaskan childhood. She was a diligent and hardworking student who is described by her friends as fun and free-spirited. In 2006, when her mother was elected governor of Alaska and began splitting her time between Wasilla and Juneau, the state capital, the family had to adjust to life in the public eye. Bristol attended three different high schools—Juneau-Douglas High School in the capital, West Anchorage High School in Alaska's largest city (where Bristol briefly lived with an aunt) and Wasilla High School in her hometown.
Bristol's boyfriend throughout much of high school was Levi Johnston, a well-liked star of the Wasilla Warriors hockey team. Outside of school, Bristol worked at a local coffee shop for $7.25 an hour and dreamed of one day opening her own cafe with one of her cousins.
Sarah Palin's Vice Presidential Run
Life changed dramatically for Bristol and her family in 2008. In August of that year, Republican nominee John McCain selected Sarah as his vice presidential running mate in his run for the presidency. One month later, on September 1, 2008, the McCain-Palin campaign publicly announced that Bristol, then only 17 years old, was pregnant with Johnston's child. The announcement immediately set off a media firestorm, in part because of Sarah's political stances against abortion and in favor of abstinence-only sex education. Bristol and Johnston were thrown into the tabloid spotlight and became the subjects of gossip magazine speculation.
Looking back at the day she broke the news of her pregnancy to her parents, Bristol said, "I remember sitting on the couch with one of my best friends and Levi, and I just couldn't spit it out. I was like, 'Mom, Mom.' I was bawling my eyes out. She was like, 'What's wrong?' And I was like, 'I'm pregnant.' And she was like, 'Oh my God. Holy crap.' But once that part was over with and Tripp was here, it was just like, this baby is a blessing." Sarah wrote about her and her husband's reaction to their daughter's pregnancy in her memoir: "We were not giddy happy that our unwed teenage daughter was pregnant, as the press release suggested. Todd and I were proud of Bristol's selfless decision to have her baby and her determination to deal with difficult circumstances by taking responsibility for her actions. But in no way did I want to send the message that teenage pregnancy was something to endorse, much less glamorize."
Bristol gave birth to her son, Tripp Palin, on December 27, 2008. Although Bristol and Johnston were briefly engaged, they separated in March 2009. In November 2009, the couple battled in court over custody and child support. After contentiousness in the courtroom, the couple briefly reunited in July 2010 and announced a second engagement, but split three weeks later. Johnston continued to make tabloid headlines after posing nude for Playgirl magazine and publishing a 2011 memoir Deer in the Headlights: My Life in Sarah Palin’s Crosshairs, in which he alleged he had an affair with Sarah while he was dating her daughter.
Amidst the tabloid scrutiny, Bristol graduated from high school in May 2009. She began working as a medical assistant in a dermatologist's office and living on her own in Anchorage. She also began taking community college courses in business.
Television Appearances & Memoir
Palin did not entirely relinquish the spotlight that was focused on her during her mother's 2008 campaign. She appeared as herself on The Secret Life of the American Teenager, and participated in the fall 2010 season of the celebrity dance competition show, Dancing with the Stars. She was partnered with professional dancer Mark Ballas, and the dancing pair finished third in that season.
In 2010, Palin also appeared on Sarah Palin's Alaska, her mother's travel show on TLC. A year later, she published a memoir, Not Afraid of Life: My Journey So Far and, in 2012, starred in her own reality show, Bristol Palin: Life's a Tripp on Lifetime, which documented her life as a single mother in Alaska.
In 2012, Bristol was also invited back to Dancing with the Stars for the show's 15th season: Dancing with the Stars: All-Stars. She was paired with partner Ballas again, and they were eliminated in the fourth week of the competition.
Teen Pregnancy Prevention
In May 2009, Palin became a spokesperson for the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy and a Teen Pregnancy Prevention Ambassador for the Candie’s Foundation, a non-profit which encourages teens to "delay pregnancy." Bristol was reportedly paid $262,500 by the Candie's Foundation to be interviewed and make public appearances for its cause.
In a 2009 interview with Good Morning America, Palin said: ”Regardless of what I did personally, I just think that abstinence is the only. . .100 percent fool proof way to prevent pregnancy." As an unwed teenage mother, Bristol has been criticized for stepping into the role of abstinence advocate, but she has defended her position: "I don't think it's hypocritical at all. If you get lung cancer from smoking, why wouldn't you want to tell people, 'Hey, look, don't smoke.' Why wouldn't you want to be productive and share your story and do something positive with it?"
In March 2015, Bristol announced her engagement to Dakota Meyer, a former Marine and Medal of Honor recipient. The couple planned to marry in May of that year, but her mother announced that the wedding was called off. However, the romance reignited and the couple tied the knot in May 2016.
On June 25, 2014, Palin announced on her blog that she was pregnant for a second time. “Honestly, I’ve been trying my hardest to keep my chin up on this one,” she wrote in the blog post announcing her second pregnancy. “I know this has been, and will be, a huge disappointment to my family, to my close friends, and to many of you. But please respect Tripp’s and my privacy during this time. I do not want any lectures and I do not want any sympathy. My little family always has, and always will come first. Tripp, this new baby, and I will all be fine, because God is merciful.” Her daughter, Sailor Grace, was born on December 23, 2015.
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