Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Readers abuzz about Mankato girl on '16 & Pregnant'

Kayla Jackson, an 18-year-old former West High School student, went and got herself moderately famous Tuesday night, but feedback is certainly mixed as to whether that’s a good or bad thing.

Jackson of Winthrop was on an episode of MTV’s “16 and Pregnant,” which was taped mostly in the Mankato area last summer through part of the winter. She gave birth to her son, Preston, Nov. 4 in Mankato.

Each episode of the show focuses on a different girl and her unique struggle with teen pregnancy. Jackson’s episode focused primarily on recurring symptoms of anorexia, even going a day eating almost nothing while pregnant, resulting in a brief hospital stay. But mostly viewers are reacting to how her mother was portrayed on the show.

During the 90-minute episode, Jackson’s mother (who was also a teen mom) allows Jackson at 17 to live with her then boyfriend, Mike, in Jackson’s home while she spends most of her time with her own boyfriend an hour away. Her mother then starts charging Mike $300 rent, which he doesn’t earn as a teenager, so Jackson has to help pay it. That leaves them $60 to buy food and baby supplies.

When Jackson repeatedly complains about her mom’s lack of help with her pregnancy and later her baby, she’s met with little sympathy. Even the night Jackson’s water broke, her mom wouldn’t get out of bed, but rather told her she was probably still wet from being in the shower. Jackson and Mike drove to the hospital, and almost a full day later, she delivered by C-section.

Perhaps worst of all, after the baby was born, her mother asks her anorexic daughter if she would go on a diet with her.

Jackson now lives in Winthrop with her dad, whom at the start of the episode she said she hardly knew.

Jackson’s official fan Facebook page has been filled with comments denouncing her mother’s behavior on the episode. But many comments are positive.

Mandi Matz wrote, “Loved your episode!! I live in Mankato, too. If you ever need a babysitter, I have a profile on!!! :) Lol!! ... .”

Feedback on The Free Press Facebook page also has been mixed. Doug Mulville wrote, “Why would you promote this trash? This show basically rewards irresponsible decision making by teens. What a terrible joke journalism and entertainment have become.”

From Shelly Neville Berger: “I felt bad for how her mom acted last night. Her mom needs to grow up! But (I’m) also glad that she is with her dad and happy! Living in a small town is the best (way to go). Kayla, welcome to Winthrop.”

Mankato folks have been buzzing about the show for more than a year, calling and emailing The Free Press about where they saw the MTV camera crew when they were here. The Coffee Hag, Mayo Health Systems, Dino’s Pizzeria and Target were a few locations featured in the show.

Jackson herself has been mum to interview requests. Her mother e-mailed last summer to say her daughter wasn’t at liberty to discuss the show. That may have changed now that the episode has aired.

Here’s what I can glean from the fan page: Jackson plans to finish high school and graduate in June. She has plans to live on her own this summer and attend college in the fall or next spring. She and Preston’s dad are no longer together, but he is involved in Preston’s life. So far, Jackson appears to be OK with the attention. Ashley Brown posted the question: Do you think you will regret doing “16 & Pregnant” after seeing the negativity all the other girls have gotten? “No” was Jackson’s response.

Here’s when you can catch repeats of the episode: 11:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. today/Wednesday; 2:30 p.m. Thursday; 12:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. Friday; 9 a.m. and 8:30 p.m. Saturday; 8:30 a.m. and 8 p.m. Sunday; and 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.

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