On July 10th, 2013, I had the opportunity to sit down with Jon Gosselin from ‘Jon and Kate Plus 8’. If your memory of Jon is fuzzy or you have no idea who Jon Gosselin is, one Google search will produce a cavalcade of webpages chock full of reality show information, Wikipedia pages, rumors, scandals, quotes, reports, and sightings of he and his family.
‘Jon and Kate Plus 8’ was a weekly show on TLC chronicling the life and times of Jon and Kate Gosselin and their 8 children, twin daughters Mady and Cara and sextuplets, Aaden, Hannah, Joel, Leah, Alexis, and Collin. At its height, it was TLC’s top rated show and one of televisions’ most watched (their 5th season premiere had almost 10 million viewers). After filing for divorce in 2009 and two more seasons (then renamed ‘Kate Plus 8’), the show ended.
After a brief moment in the spotlight and on tabloid pages, Jon slipped away. The public persona that had been built up from years of being on reality TV and front and center on tabloid magazines waned. The public began to not only see less of Jon but hear less from him too. Jon, very purposefully, retreated from big cities and back to where he grew up, Berks County, Pennsylvania, in an attempt to live a normal life.
I reached out to Jon because I thought it would be interesting to find out what it is like to not only be a father to 8 kids but to be a “celebrity” father to 8 kids. As a bonus, Jon and I both grew up in Berks County so it would be easy to set up a time to meet. To my surprise and my delight, after a few cordial emails back and forth to one another, Jon agreed to sit down with me at his home.
Driving to his house, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had spent some time reading up on stories old and new about Jon and his former wife and of course about their show but Jon’s silence over the past 4 years left me having to rely on my imagination and what I had read to prepare me. Yet I wanted to keep an open mind about all of it knowing full well what is written, reported on, or said, is not always 100% true.
What I found out is Jon is no different from any other dad trying to navigate through a divorce and take care of his children. As Jon would put it, he just happened to be on television. Now he lives in a modest house with homemade crayon pictures hanging on the walls, a refrigerator full of as much food as it is with pictures of his family on the front, and the noise only kids can produce. He lives much like all of us except at his front door; he has 8 pairs of sneakers. During the course of the interview, Jon opened up about a variety of topics. Jon was passionate and had a sense of confidence about what he was saying that was missing during his television show’s run. I found Jon to be honest, open, articulate, and while not arrogant, certainly self-aware of the weight, whirlwind and occasional controversy his name can bring.