Bristol Palin smiling

Bristol Palin first caught the world’s attention in 2008 when her mother, then-Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin, was named by John McCain as his VP pick in that year’s presidential election. The election took an interesting turn when the young Palin — just 17 years old at the time — announced that she was pregnant and engaged to the baby’s father, Levi Johnston.

The New York Times reported at the time that the public was thrown by the announcement, which was made to dispel rumors that Bristol was the birth mother of Sarah’s youngest child, Trig, who was just a few months old at the time. For better or worse, the news turned the spotlight on the teenager and made the young Bristol Palin a celebrity overnight. After having her baby — and after McCain lost the election to Barack Obama — she remained in the public eye as a young mom and, later, a reality star. There’s a lot that you don’t know about the public figure, though.

She has Yup’ik ancestry

Bristol Palin smiling

While Bristol Palin does not seem to discuss her ancestry much — at least publicly — it is well-documented that her father, Todd Palin, is of Yup’ik descent. Per Britannica, the Yup’ik (also known as Yupiit or Yupik) are an "indigenous Arctic people traditionally residing in Siberia, St. Lawrence Island, and the Diomede Islands in the Bering Sea and Bering Strait, and Alaska."

Carolyn Kraemer Cooper wrote in "Sarah Palin: A Biography" that Todd’s Yup’ik ancestry is through his grandmother, Lena Andree, who kept him in touch with his heritage by making sure he knew "traditional Native ways and the value of hard work."

Andree, according to The Seattle Times, was born to a Yup’ik mother and a Dutch immigrant father, which means Bristol is a few generations removed from her Yup’ik ancestry. Still, the outlet notes that according to the 1970 Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, she and her siblings are eligible to receive health benefits.

Bristol Palin had regrets about being a teen mom

Bristol Palin holding her baby

Becoming a parent can be daunting, especially for someone as young as Bristol Palin was when she learned she was expecting her first child. Being a teen mom would have already been challenging enough, but the fact that her personal life was so public made it even harder.

After giving birth, Palin spoke to Fox News about how much her life had changed. "It’s just, like, I’m not living for myself anymore," she said. "It’s, like, for another person, so it’s different. And just you’re up all night. And it’s not glamorous at all. Like, your whole priorities change after having a baby."

In 2011, at the age of 20, she appeared on "Dr. Drew" and said that while she is happy to have her son, things would have been easier if she hadn’t been so young when she became a mom. "My life, my teenage years were cut completely short," she said (via CNN). "I was on the fast track to adulthood just in an instant because of that one decision." Palin added that she would have liked to have had "an education and a real career path" before becoming a mom.

There were rumors that she had plastic surgery

Bristol Palin side by side

Bristol Palin has made headlines for a lot of things over the years, even stirring up speculation that she had undergone plastic surgery. The rumors started in 2011, when the then-20-year-old appeared at a gala with a noticeably sharper jawline, per the Daily News.

Palin shot down the rumors, telling Us Weekly that she had undergone corrective surgery on her jaw a few months earlier. "It improved the way I look, but this surgery was necessary for medical reasons … so my jaw and teeth could properly realign … I don’t obsess over my face," she said.

The rumors persisted, though, with multiple surgeons claiming that Palin had more than a medically necessary procedure done. "She definitely got neck lipo," plastic surgeon John Millard told ABC News. "Either that or she’s lost 30 pounds." Another plastic surgeon, Dr. Steve Colen, told the outlet that Palin’s appearance was too altered for her to have gone through a simple corrective procedure. "Her claim that it was just functional sounds like a little bit of a cover-up," he said.

Whatever the truth is, it’s Palin’s business — and she made that clear a couple of months later in an appearance on "Dr. Drew" (via CNN). "I’m so sick of people talking about it and I’m so sick of appearance being an issue," she said.

Bristol Palin said Levi Johnston played her

Bristol Palin, Levi Johnston and son

Motherhood became even more complicated for Bristol Palin when she and the father of her child, Levi Johnston, called it quits. The breakup was messy, to say the least, with Johnston bad-mouthing the Palins to the press after they parted ways, according to Today. The couple then briefly reconciled, only for Palin to dump Johnston for good after he admitted that he might have gotten another woman pregnant.

"The final straw was him flying to Hollywood for what he told me was to see some hunting show, but come to find out it was that music video mocking my family," she told People in 2010 after the breakup. Palin was referring to the music video for "After Love," in which he played a guy at odds with his girlfriend’s mother. The Week noted that the storyline mirrored Johnston’s own difficulties with the Palin family, and his ex seemed to agree. "He’s just obsessed with the limelight and I got played," she told People.

Things were rocky between Palin and Johnston for a while, with the couple fighting over custody. At one point, Johnston owed Palin more than $60,000 in child support, per E! News. They’re on good terms now, though. "I completely forgive him," she told Us Weekly in 2018. "I’ve always said, whoever is going to show up for your kids’ soccer game, or graduation, or whatever it is, the more the merrier. And my family forgives him, too."

She competed on Dancing With the Stars

Bristol Palin on Dancing With the Stars

In 2010, Bristol Palin joined the cast of "Dancing With the Stars," where she was partnered with dance pro Mark Ballas. "I’m not the first mom to participate on ‘Dancing with the Stars’ … and like those who came before me, I want to set a good example for all of the amazing moms out there," she told RadarOnline. "Yes, we can balance work and family, and we can also take on a new and exciting challenge."

While she didn’t win the competition, she did make it to the finals, as noted by The New York Times. Even though she only came in third place, Palin still attracted controversy for making it so far in the competition thanks to viewer votes, despite receiving mediocre scores from the judges (via Time).

Palin returned to the competition in 2012, again partnering with Ballas. Fan support wasn’t enough to make up for her scores this time, though, and she was eliminated in the fourth week of the competition, per The Washington Post.

Her son, Tripp, later competed on "Dancing With the Stars: Juniors" when he was 9, telling People he was excited to follow in his mom’s footsteps. While he was eliminated after one episode, he still enjoyed the experience, saying, "I learned that even if I’m not the best, that I can still try my hardest and have fun."

Bristol became an advocate for abstinence

Bristol Palin smiling

Bristol Palin has made it clear that she thinks for herself and doesn’t just echo her mom’s beliefs, although both of them are staunchly against abortion. "They thought that, like, my mom was going to make me have the baby, and it was my choice to have the baby," she told Fox News in 2009. "[It] doesn’t matter what my mom’s views are on it. It was my decision, and I wish people would realize that, too."

Later, Palin emerged as an advocate for abstinence, even going as far as calling sex outside of marriage "a sin" in a 2011 interview with Christianity Today. "Those that practice abstinence have no chance of becoming pregnant," she said in a 2010 speech (via the Daily Beast). "Abstinence is not about morality, it is about reality. It is the only thing that works every time. My message is a simple one: Don’t make the same decision I made, just wait. Young ladies, please hear me."

Forbes reported that she made a whopping $262,500 in 2009 alone for her abstinence work with The Candie’s Foundation, which works to prevent teen pregnancy. Her career as an abstinence advocate came to an end in 2015, though, after she once again became pregnant out of wedlock. In a blog post, Palin acknowledged that the news was "a huge disappointment" for her followers, adding, "I do not want any lectures and I do not want any sympathy."

She had a rollercoaster of a relationship with Dakota Meyer

Bristol Palin with Dakota Meyer

After breaking things off with Levi Johnston, Bristol Palin became involved with Marine veteran Dakota Meyer. The relationship was rocky from the start. Per E! News, they announced their engagement in March 2015, but broke things off just a couple of months later. That December, the couple welcomed a daughter, Sailor Grace, and shared custody of her (via the Daily Mail).

Palin and Meyer eventually reunited, tying the knot in June 2016. "Life is full of ups and downs, but in the end, you’ll end up where you’re supposed to be," the couple told ET.

They welcomed another child, Atlee Bay, the following May, but the relationship ended in divorce in 2018. Palin hinted that the marriage deteriorated due to her husband’s war experiences in Afghanistan. "My husband, Dakota, has been struggling with PTSD and it’s been hard on our marriage," she said on "Teen Mom OG" (via Page Six). "We don’t know how to co-exist together. I don’t want to raise my kids to think this is what a marriage looks like, you know."

Bristol Palin wasn’t happy with how she was portrayed on Teen Mom

Bristol Palin for Teen Mom

Bristol Palin appeared on "Teen Mom OG" from 2018 to 2019, per IMDb. The show follows the stars of MTV’s "Teen Mom" as they navigate life as now-adult moms. Palin wasn’t on the original "Teen Mom," but was instead introduced to the show after cast member Farrah Abraham’s exit, notes CheatSheet.

Palin lasted only one season, complaining about how she was portrayed on air. "No matter how bad @teenmom tries to portray my ‘life’ … my babies, my family, my close friends — they know the TRUTH. I’m a pretty great mom, work my ass off, show up, and hustle every day to give my kids a pretty great life," she wrote in a lengthy Instagram post. Palin griped that "Teen Mom" producers didn’t "want to talk about faith, show work ethic, or juggling three kids alone … [or] to show the humble process of starting over after a divorce, building a career, or any real-life issues." According to Palin, the show focused too much on "baby daddy drama" instead of a full picture of her life: "Every week is a continued disappointment with their inaccuracies and false narratives."

Palin’s breakup with ex-husband Dakota Meyer was documented while she was on the show. He wasn’t happy about how their story was told, either, blasting "Teen Mom OG" on Twitter for being "a trailer trash Real Housewives instead of showing what the true struggles of parenting are."

She’s now thriving as a single mom of three

Bristol Palin posing with her kids

Bristol Palin has been through a lot of hard times in her motherhood journey, from being unprepared as a teen mom to having two very public breakups. But she’s come out on top, and is now thriving as a mom of three all by herself, proving that you don’t need a partner to live your best life.

In a 2018 interview with Us Weekly, Palin said she’s working with her exes to co-parent their children, calling both of them "great dads." She admitted that co-parenting isn’t always easy, but she’s determined to do what’s best for her children.

In May 2022, she reflected on how far she’s come in an Instagram post, writing, "from pregnant at 17 years old — to being a single mom of three — you don’t have to know much about me to know that my life definitely does not have a white picket fence wrapped around it. Despite my own shortcomings or ‘less than ideal’ circumstances, becoming *and being* a mom to these babies has been the absolute greatest joy. I’d eat humble pie every single day for the purpose, and fulfillment, that God placed inside of me with each one of those beautiful babes."

Bristol Palin’s faith has kept her strong

Bristol Palin smiling

Through all the ups and downs in her life, Bristol Palin’s Christian faith has kept her going, and she’s not shy when it comes to talking about it. She said that during the chaos of her first stint on "Dancing With the Stars," she turned to prayer for help. She told People, "It is faith that got me through this, and just praying all the time and just relying on God and knowing that He is on our side and we’ll get through this."

Palin documented her baptism at Christian Life, a nondenominational church, in a 2019 Instagram post (per the Daily Mail). In the caption of the image, which shows her emerging from a pool of water after being baptized, she wrote, "I spent a lot of time thinking that I wasn’t worthy enough to be baptized — and I realize now, that I was completely wrong."

In a 2021 Instagram post, Palin opened up about how "defeated" and "alone" she felt after her divorce from Dakota Meyer, but said that her faith helped in that difficult time. "If you are facing rough waters, know there is light at the end of every storm, and God has so much more for your life when you put him in control, and place your heart in his hands," she wrote.

She could potentially have a political future ahead of her

Bristol Palin taking a selfie

Bristol Palin grew up in the political sphere thanks to her mom, Sarah Palin. While her mom’s career meant that her personal life was splayed across the tabloids, Palin doesn’t seem to harbor a dislike for politics. In fact, there’s a chance that she could one day enter the arena herself. "If I saw something that needed to be changed, then I would step up to the plate and do something about it," she told E! News in 2011 about potentially going into politics, although she said that any political run would be in the distant future.

The following year, Palin appeared on Fox News‘ "Hannity," again addressing the possibility of following in her mother’s footsteps one day. "Not anytime soon," she said. "Yeah, I don’t think I’d shut [the door] completely yet. I’m only 21. But not anytime soon."

Bristol is now working in real estate

Bristol Palin posing

What’s Bristol Palin up to now? She’s turned her communication talents and gift for charming people into a lucrative real estate career in the Austin, Texas area, leading her own team. Per The U.S. Sun, she has sold millions of dollars worth of properties, including a mansion listed at $2.3 million.

Palin opened up about her real estate career in a 2021 Instagram post, writing, "When we started this company, I wanted to be the opposite of that. I want to create real opportunities — I crave true success, and not just that facade. Being able to watch our team grow, and to see these girls creating opportunities for their clients (and their families), has honestly given me so much purpose."

In May 2022, the reality star celebrated her fourth anniversary as a real estate agent, writing on Instagram, "officially four years in the business y’all."