Yesterday, a tabloid addicted world oohed and aahed as Britney's kid sister, the 17-year-old Jamie Lynn Spears gave birth to a healthy baby girl. Well, there was more oohing than aahing. And while some are using the opportunity to point out the scary statistics and difficulties that accompany teen motherhood (and/or being born into the Spears family), we're trying to look at the bright side. Here are five people, born to teenage moms, who did just fine.
1. Jackie Joyner-Kersee
Regarded by many as the best all-around female athlete, Jackie Joyner-Kersee was born in 1962 to teen parents in the south-end slums of East St. Louis. Named for Jacqueline Kennedy (her grandmom insisted that the baby girl was going to grow up to be "the first lady of something"), Joyner-Kersee grew up amidst poverty and, at age 11, saw a man get shot outside the tiny home her family shared. Around that same time, Jackie's mother started fearing her daughter was growing up too quickly. She decided that her children wouldn't be allowed to date until they were 18. So, Jackie channeled her energy into sports. By the time she was 12, she could long jump almost 17 feet!
Joyner-Kersee went on to attend UCLA and in 1984 she won her first Olympic medal, in the heptathlon. She spent the next 18 years winning medals (three gold, one silver, two bronze) and setting and breaking world records. She retired in 2001, her place in history solidified as the first lady of track and field.
2. Jack Nicholson
The three-time Oscar winner was raised by his grandparents, and told that his mother was his older sister. In 1936, June Nicholson, a 17-year-old showgirl, was pregnant and in love with a 27-year-old man who was separated but still legally married. Nicholson's grandparents decided to raise Jack as their own.
Nicholson only learned the truth in 1975.
A Time reporter working on a cover story stumbled across the true nature of Jack's birth and called him with the stunning news. By the time he figured it out, both June and his grandmother had passed away, taking with them the secret that they hid for nearly 40 years.
3. Daunte Culpepper
In 1977, a teen serving time for armed robbery begged a 62-year-old woman to take in her one-day-old baby. Having already raised 14 children (none of them biologically her own), Emma Culpepper initially refused. But after realizing the child would be placed in foster care, she relented. Emma gave the baby her last name and would spend the rest of her life loving and supporting the eventual first round draft pick. Today, the quarterback is a massive supporter of the African American Adoption Agency. As for Emma Culpepper, she passed away on May 5th, 2007, at the age of 92.
4. Bob Marley
In 1945, the prolific artist credited with bringing reggae to the world was born to a teenage black Jamaican mother and a white Jamaican father in the village of Nine Mile. At the age of 10, Marley's father died of a heart attack and the family was forced to move to the slums of Trenchtown. Bob quickly found his niche, making friends with musicians in the area; he spent his time recording and would soon form the group that would later become The Wailers.
Bob spread his message of love, peace and music in Jamaica before becoming an international sensation in the mid-seventies. It was then that a soccer injury would lead doctors to find a cancerous tumor in Marley's toe. They suggested amputation, but as a devout Rastafarian, it was out of the question for Bob. The cancer spread and Marley succumbed to the disease in 1980. Earlier this year, Martin Scorsese announced plans to produce a documentary on the well-loved singer to be released on February 6th, 2010—the date that would have been Bob's 65th birthday.
5. Eric Clapton
The three-time Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee (The Yardbirds, Cream & solo) was born in 1945 in Surrey, England. His mother was 16; his father was a 24-year-old Canadian soldier. Like Nicholson, Clapton's grandparents decided to raise the child as their own, telling Eric that his mother was actually his older sister. Clapton, however, learned the truth when he was nine. He searched for his biological father for years, eventually learning the true identity (and news of his death) from a Canadian journalist. As for Clapton's father, who died in 1985, he never knew that the famed music legend was his son.
Stefanie Fontanez is an occasional contributor to mental_floss.