Nadya Suleman, better known as "Octomom," became a viral sensation after giving birth to octuplets in 2009, but her joyous situation soon took a turn for the bizarre. After dominating headlines for a few years, Octomom’s popularity soured and she became completely irrelevant. Why did the public lose interest in her unusual household?
She didn’t exactly come across as ‘mother of the year’
Octomom’s situation made her somewhat of an unsympathetic character almost immediately. Amazement at her successful pregnancy gave way to backlash when it was revealed she’d purposely sought to have babies she simply could not afford. According to Today, Suleman didn’t have a job or enough money to support her growing family. Even more shocking, this was her second successful pregnancy involving multiples using IVF treatments with the help of Beverly Hills doctor Michael Kamrava. She’d previously given birth to sextuplets! CNN said the controversy surrounding Octomom’s pregnancies resulted in Kamrava getting his license to practice medicine revoked.
For many, the most upsetting aspect of the entire Octomom controversy was just how remorseless Suleman seemed about her actions. She was "the most vilified mother in America," said NBC anchor Ann Curry during an interview with Octomom. When faced with criticism, Suleman said she had no regrets. "I personally do not believe I’m irresponsible. Everything I do revolves around my children."
She was the most ironic PETA spokeswoman ever
If you didn’t think things could get more creepily cringe-worthy than Octomom’s masturbation porn, then you missed Suleman’s stint as the most ironic PETA spokeswoman ever. The animal rights group successfully convinced her to promote the importance of spaying and neutering pets to control the pet population by planting a poster in her front lawn and using her picture in ad campaigns. PETA even bragged about offering Octomom $5,000 and "a month’s supply of veggie burgers and dogs" in exchange for her support. The animal rights group was seemingly capitalizing on Suleman’s notoriety while simultaneously poking fun at her, referring to her kids as being part of a "supersized litter" and running a "fight breedism" campaign that included the slogan, "Don’t let your dog or cat become an ‘octomom.’"
She pursued the life of a D-List celeb
Octomom revealed early on that she was willing to do just about anything to stay relevant, as relevancy seemed to be directly tied to her ability to provide for her family, à la free veggie burgers. In 2011, Suleman unabashedly joined the ranks of D-list celebrity boxers and even managed to defeat Amy Fisher. Yes, that Amy Fisher. Alas, The Huffington Post said Suleman was banned from the sport in 2012 because her agent reportedly owed money to multiple people. On top of that, Octomom allegedly broke an opponent’s hand during a pillow fight. (You can’t make this stuff up.)
That same year, Octomom posed topless for the British magazine Closer. It seemed no matter what Octomom did to make ends meet, her plans unraveled and entangled her in serious legal woes.
She was charged with welfare fraud
Perhaps Suleman’s darkest moment came during her 2014 welfare fraud case. Despite the embarrassingly public nature of Octomom’s attempts to make money, CBS News said she failed to report her earnings to the government. For someone still receiving public assistance, this was definitely a major no-no on her part. Suleman ultimately avoided felony charges and was instead forced to "perform 200 hours of community service" and "pay a small fine," according to CBS. She was also placed on probation for two years, meaning Octomom had no choice but to stay on the straight and narrow, both for her sake and that of her children. Although the legal drama proved scary, it also seemed to be a blessing in disguise, giving Suleman an opportunity to say goodbye to the Octomom life for good.
Her infamy caused her to rely on Xanax
In the fall of 2016, Octomom resurfaced from an extended public hiatus for a brief round of interviews in which she sought to set the record straight on her infamous past. During one of the interviews, Octomom, who has reverted back to using her birth name, Natalie Suleman, told The Daily Mail that she "made the decision to ‘kill’ the Octomom character in March 2013 in a bid to save her life." Suleman said, "The media created the character and I shamefully embraced it in 2009 out of scarcity and desperation to survive."
In order to deal with what she viewed as her unwitting embrace of the Octomom "character," Suleman said that she resorted to Xanax in order to numb her "deep toxic shame and self disgust." Though she claims she never took more than she was prescribed, Suleman — who "tries to lead a natural, vegan lifestyle" — knew that the drugs were enabling her poor decision making. "I wasn’t able to exploit myself and do what I was doing without it, which became a problem – it wasn’t healthy," she said. This means if she was going to kick her Xanax habit, she’d have to ditch the reason she acquired it in the first place, which meant no longer being famous.
She was no longer able to shield her children from the negative effects of her fame
Suleman has maintained that throughout her crazy tabloid fame her children were mostly kept in the dark about her less than savory antics – the adult film, the stripping, ect. But as they got older, particularly the six children Suleman had before the octuplets, that became impossible to manage. Though Suleman told People that she was always looking for a way out from under the Octomom persona, the motivator came when she observed her 10-year-old, Amerah, "integrating" her "traits and behaviors."
"After I had observed my daughter beginning to emulate me, I saw her going down that same potentially destructive path, and I realized at that moment I’d rather be homeless in my van with all 14 kids than continuing down this path. It was not what I wanted for my children," Suleman said. She shed more light on the anecdote to The Daily Mail, saying that what she saw was Amerah "parading round the house in a pair of spike heels," which cause Suleman’s "suppressed emotions" to "bubble out into rage," at which point she "took the heel and threw it across the house and it stuck in the wall." That might seem like an over-the-top response to a little girl innocently playing dress-up, but Suleman alleges that the incident happened after she’d returned from "a scheduled bikini shoot" that she reluctantly took part in after being coerced by her manager, so there’s at least some context there if her story is to be believed. And speaking of her shady manager…
Her management team allegedly stole from her
While Suleman’s new claim is that she never intended her infamous career path, a large part of the impetus from her retreat from the spotlight probably had to do with the fact that her management team allegedly ripped her off. During the course of her welfare fraud case, Suleman claims that her attorneys discovered that "her manager and her people" had "stolen over $50,000" from her.
Suleman told The Daily Mail that her relationship with her manager had become contentious, and she alleges that when she tried to sever ties, her manager "threatened to report her to the IRS for fraud if she quit." Suleman claims that she handed over control of her bank account to her manager for six months, because she was "overwhelmed" with caring for her kids, so what happened in the welfare fraud case wasn’t her fault. Anyone else getting a strong "still refuses to accept the consequences of her actions" vibe yet?
She felt she wasn’t able to tell her side of the story
Suleman’s mini-redemption tour also landed her an appearance on The Doctors, where she gave the answer to the all important question: "If you already escaped the spotlight you supposedly hated for the past three and a half years, why come forward now and expose yourself all over again?" Suleman said that even though she’s refocused on just working and being a mom, the spectre of her past still "haunts" her family. She feels that her negative image, which she admits was exacerbated by her temporary embrace of the Octomom "character," still lingered in part, because of untruths that were never addressed.
One of those untruths was her previous claim that she had been the one who insisted on being implanted with the 12 embryos that resulted in her octuplet pregnancy. Now, Suleman is claiming that she only agreed to having 6 embryos implanted, and while she was under partial sedation, her IVF doctor got her to agree to having her remaining 6 embryos implanted as well. She’s saying she lied "to protect" her doctor even though she also acknowledges her "selfish" desire to have more children for whom she was not able to provide.
Though she’s admirably trying to leave behind her past, Suleman’s new round of media appearances feels like just a new attempt to exploit herself back into the public eye. Whether that’s what is really happening, and the public already rejected her attempted return, or Suleman truly wants to set the record straight and return to her quiet life remains to be seen. But one thing is for sure: For now, Octomom’s back in the tabloid footnotes.