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Keisha Castle-Hughes Finds Young Motherhood a Blessing

09/16/2009 at 08:30 AM ET
Juan Rico/Fame

Since becoming a teenage parent, Whale Rider Oscar nominee Keisha Castle-Hughes is relishing the role of a lifetime – costarring her daughter.

“I absolutely love being a mother,” Keisha, 19, told PEOPLE at the Toronto International Film Festival premiere of her new movie The Vintner’s Luck. “It’s been a blessing. It’s fun and it’s hard, but it’s absolutely amazing.”

At the age of 17, Keisha gave birth to Felicity-Amore, now 2, with boyfriend Bradley Hull. Since then, she’s chosen to be out of the Hollywood spotlight to focus on taking care of her toddler, who is blossoming into a mini version of herself.

“Felicity’s just like me. All trapped into a little body,” says Keisha. “It’s quite full on. She’s got lots of energy and quite dramatic. She’s picked up quite a few dramatic tendencies from me, which is good and bad. But it’s very exciting to watch her personality develop.”

As for being a teenage mom, the youngest female star ever to be nominated for a Best Actress Academy Award – she was 13 – says, “It’s no different for me than any other mum in the world. It can be a little stressful and tiring, but it’s the most rewarding thing.”

While critics called her too young to become a mother, Keisha said she respectfully disagrees. “I was in a very different situation when I had her. I was in a loving and stable relationship with her father, who I’m still with. I had quite an established career and so the decision to have her was very easy,” she says.

“Once I found out I was pregnant there was no decision really. I was shocked but it was just like, ‘Okay, we are having a baby. That’s great.’”

She adds, “I’ve lived a fast-paced life, but I had the best childhood. I didn’t miss out on anything by having my daughter at a young age … If I would go back and change things, I would not. I can’t imagine living my life without her.”

Click below for more on Brad as a father and if the couple want more children.

Keisha is still in a happy and committed relationship – and revealed that she and Bradley, 22, have “been engaged for 2 ½ years,” she said enthusiastically. “It’s a very long engagement but no immediate plans. Eventually it will happen. I love him and we will be together for the rest of our lives.”

As for Bradley’s parenting skills, Keisha says Felicity-Amore could not have a better dad. “He’s very present in her life. He’s a fantastic father who absolutely loves her. He’s very gentle and very loving with her. He does everything with her and is the perfect dad.”

The New Zealand native also says she “absolutely” wants little Felicity to have siblings. “I have no idea how many, but it changes every day. I come from a big family, so I’d like to have a big family.”

Keisha says she has a difficult time being away from her daughter. “When I’m away from her it’s torture. The minute I see a little kid on the street, I want to be with them. The [parents] go, ‘Excuse me, can you not touch my child?’ And I’m like, ‘I just wanted to hold them because I miss my own kid!’”

– Paul Chi

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Showing 30 comments

Xan on

Wow, I must say, I’m rather impressed with Keisha’s maturity and levelheadedness. While I still maintain that 17 is a rather young age to become a parent and certainly not ideal, this appears to be a case in which a baby entered a home life that was stable and loving. Good for them!

Beverley on

I just want to point out that Keisha is in the minority when it comes to it being easy to be a teenage mom. Most teen moms don’t have a successful acting career and all the money that brings with it, so Keisha doesn’t have the financial worries that face teenage moms, such as where to live, how to financially take care of the baby, how to pay for childcare so they can either finish school or go to work. Also, the average teenage mom misses out on a great deal. I don’t think if you give birth at 16 or 17 you will still be able to be on the field hockey team or be a cheerleader, and going out with your friends is something you won’t be doing much of. Forget dating, prom and pretty much everything else on the social calendar. Even with the help of the most supportive parents or the most helpful teenage father (which is rare), teenage moms do NOT have it as easy as Keisha talks about. I just want to be realistic, not flowery about how easy it is.

I was 26 and married for 3 years before I had my first baby, and we were financially ready for a baby, and even then it was still difficult to adjust to. There is a great big difference between life before a baby and life after a baby.

Alex on

Personally, I think the ability to be a good parent at any age comes from the maturity level of the people in question. Keisha was ready to become a mum at 17 where as someone 20 years older might not have been. In my job (I am a social worker) I have seen a 40-year-old with five children who hasn’t got the first clue how to parent any of them (hence our involvement in the family). Her 18-year-old daughter has a now one-year-old son and is wonderful with him, better than her mother ever was with her or her siblings. My point is, the whole concept of good parenting is subjective. It’s crazy to assume that all young parents will be worse than parents much older than them. It’s all down to the individual person. Keisha and Bradley are clearly doing a wonderful job with their little girl, despite the judgement they received that was spectacularly unwarranted. People really should’ve given them the chance to prove themselves (like they clearly have) before they rushed to condemn them.

Anna on

I’m not intending to criticize her, but I don’t understand the concept of “we’ve been engaged for 2 1/2 years, but marriage isn’t going to happen anytime soon.” If that’s the case, then what’s the point of being engaged? Perhaps I’m just missing something? Again, I’m not criticizing her; I’m merely curious.

Sarah K. on

I don’t think it’s about condemning them. I don’t think teens can never be good mothers. But, it is harder for the average teen to have a stable life with a baby. Most teens are not financially independent or are in a committed relationship with the father. Teens mothers usually haven’t finished getting an education or have steady jobs. So, it’s not that they are incapable of being good parents. They just have many many more obstacles in their way. Keisha is an exception and I’m happy that things worked out so well for them.

Elby on

It’s good to see someone speaking out for teenage mums, they get such bad press generally. I’m not a teen mum and my teen years were a long time ago but I don’t see that just because they’re young means they’re a bad mum. One of my pre-natal group mummy friends was 18 when she had her son and she’s an absolute natural. In fact she’s one of the few mummy’s from that group that I still see regularly 3 years on and she’s fabulous.

momof4 on

I was a teenage mom. I had my first at 16, then 17, 18 and then 20. all by the same father who im with today happily married for almost 16 years. I dedicate my life to my kids. As soon as I found out I was a mom. My focus was on my baby. My husband did right by his family he was 18 when our first was born. He joined the Army and he is still in it. 4 classes away from a Bachelors. Im going to to school for Paralegal. I have NO regrets and I dont feel like I missed out on anything.

momof4 on

One more thing, I’m lucky because my kids WANT school then a family. School is very important in our house. I didn’t miss out on anything, but I want different for my kids.

JMO on

I don’t get the point in long engagements either. I’m sorry but if you love someone and you truly want to marry them you’ll make it happen. Lots of people get engaged when they find out they’re pregnant and most never end up marrying.

I think Keisha is very mature for her age and I wish her the best. But some of you are right. Of course when your 17 and already have a successful career not to mention I’m sure a nice bank account to go along wiht it of course it’s going to be slightly easier. Many teens don’t have that and most don’t even finish school.

Bb on

Keisha seems like a wonderful mother. I never really got the criticism of her because as she says, her personal circumstances were very different from most teenage mothers so why shouldn’t she have a child if she felt ready and was financially stable and in a committed relationship. Maybe it was a role model issue, although i never knew who she was until i saw the film a year ago!

Jennifer on

I must say I’m disappointed in the way teen pregnancy is celebrity-ized. She had a baby while she was a teenager, and i don’t think that’s necessarily something your readers would aspire to do. Why not just keep the posts about 18 and ups? And this is coming from a 28 yr. old, btw. The majority of REAL 17 yr. olds who get pregnant in the real world would not have as charming a story as this girl.

Lola Marie on

She sounds mature. Its not the ideal scenario or age but once it happens all you can do is move forward and make the best out of the situation and be the best mother and father you can be.

Hard to believe that a little over a hundred years ago being a teenage mother was the norm.

Kerri on

Regarding long engagements, I was engaged for 3 and a half years before I got married. We were only 21 when we got engaged, so for us, it was a wise choice to wait and see how our relationship developed while we grew up a bit. A portion of the decision was financial, but a lot of it wasn’t.

Getting engaged is still a commitment, an intent to get married, beyond just dating or being in a relationship. I of course loved him, but I just wasn’t ready to be married. By the time we did get married, I was.

Trina on

I was barely 18 when I found out I was pregnant. My now husband was 23 and had a 3 year old daughter. I did a lot of partying in my teen years and maybe more than some. But as soon as I found out I was pregnant I worked my butt off to get promoted to a job with security and insurance. When she was 1 we found out we were pregnant again. We have both done everything for our kids. If we can’t get a date night then we rent a movie. I was young and I look even younger but like keisha we have dedicated our lives to our kids. I now have a wondeful office job and he is a manager. Its nothing about age. Anyone can have a baby but its what you put into being a mother and a good one at that and your dedication to making things work is what matters. We have been together now 7 years and married for 3. We weren’t getting married just bc kids. We got married bc we love eachother. I’m 24 years old now and I see older moms that have nothing on me. Again its not about age its about dedication and hard work to make a family. And that’s what I have done as well as keisha.

Alice on

Keisha doesn’t encourage teen pregnancy. She sn’t glamorizing it. She isn’t telling others to do the same.
She says SHE was ready, which is possible, not everyone wants to be a cheerleader at 17… and most importantly she says she was also able to do it financially and emotionally, so there was no question. Of course the main problems with teenage pregnancy are money and school. But those are issues Keisha did not have! She shouldn’t be ashamed or regretful of her choice and I’m happy for her that she is blossoming in her role as a mother.

As for the long engagement well I wouldn’t do it myself but I think maybe she wants to wait for the ceremony, do it when her baby is a little older, when she’s less busy with work and her toddler, but she and Bradley still want their relation ship to be more official than boyfriend/girlfriend. Maybe it has nothing to do with this but there may be a reasoning behind it.

alice jane on

Jennifer, very few of the mothers in the non-Hollywood world have as “charming” a story as any of the celebrities featured on this blog, regardless of age. Of course we’re never going to read about the more “realistic” situations where families are struggling with finances or childcare, because this is Celebrity Baby Blog, where the families we read about are famous and rich. If CBB were to ignore the teenage celebrities who get pregnant, all it does is keep up a negative image. The fact is that there ARE teenage parents who are mature and able to give their kid a good life. I hear enough stories in the news about parents (of all ages) doing awful things to their children, and I like seeing the positive ones here.

Sorry, rant over, what I really want to say is that I am very impressed by Keisha and her fiance; they really do seem to have a good thing going for them!

beatrice on

Jennifer, how is talking about real life “celebrity-izing” this? Ms. Castle-Hughes had a baby when she was 17. She was nominated for an Oscar at 13. She is a celebrity. So…what, no one should report on her or her child or her life or her work? Because she had a baby when she was under 18?

Elby on

Re their long engagement: my husband and I got engaged at 22 and 21 respectively, at the time we knew we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together and we wanted to get engaged but egually we knew we weren’t financially or emotionally ready to get married. I was in my 3rd of 4 years at university and my husband was about to embark on his masters so we waited till we’d both finished uni, got jobs and saved a bit of money till we married. It was nearly 4 years between engagement and wedding and it was the right length for us.
If Keisha and Bradley want to wait to get married till they feel ready then so be it, it’s not like they’re not commited to each other – they do have a child.

Jessica on

Alex-awesome post,couldn’t agree with you more :) As for the long engagement, who’s business is it the amount of time she’s engaged? She and her daughter’s father are in a loving committed relationship, you people will complain about anything. And Beverly, you’re right having a baby changes things, but I don’t think it’s a reasonable excuse to terminate or give up a baby because you won’t make the field hockey team or prom. Keisha has already shown more maturity than many of the posters on this blog…

Liliana on

Jennifer, despite what one may think, it is possible for a teen parent to be a good mother or father. Making posts about parents 18 and older has little or no effect on the situation. Of course it’s ideal to be able to provide for one’s child in all ways necessary but often times, teen mothers learn to adapt to their situation in order to give their child the best. Some teen parents don’t have a charming story to accompany their pregnancy and parenthood but some 28 year olds often find themselves in the same situation.

I was 16 when I learned I was pregnant with my first and 17 when he was born. I was lucky to have the support of both my family and the father’s but I knew from the beginning that it was MY responsibility to take care of MY son; not theirs. I worked two jobs, continued and eventually graduated from high school, graduated from college and am now working in an environment that I love. Was it easy? Absolutely not. But I wouldn’t change my experience for the world.

Also, nowhere in the article does it state that she’s an advocate for teen pregnancy. It’s not as if she’s doing interviews and saying, “I’d like to encourage all teenagers out there to become pregnant. It’s so fun!” Instead, she seems like a mature woman and a wonderful mother to her daughter.

Lauren on

By no means do I support teen pregnancy or the glamorization of it in any way. Keisha is the exception to the rule and should be treated as such. That said, I would rather read about and see photos of her and her baby over Kourtney and her offspring any day. There is no question in my mind which mom is better qualified maturity-wise to parent a child, regardless of the age difference. It may not be the ideal situation, but at least Keisha makes teen moms proud. Kourtney is just an all-around embarassment.

Alex on

Jessica – thank you :).

Sarah M. on

I think how long a couple is together (whether it be dating, engaged or married) depends a lot on their parents’ relationship, how long they were together. Keisha’s own parents were together for around 9 years and had 3 kids together before they parted ways. Poppy Montgomery and Adam Kaufman have been dating for 4 years and have a 1 1/2 year old son, her mom told her not to marry Adam and to just live together. (Her parents were together for many years and had 5 children and didn’t get married until one of their kids said something.) Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins have been dating for over 20 years and have 2 kids together. And there are still others. While I personally believe that marriage should happen before children, that’s not the best situation for all families. To each their own.

I also agree with others that said that just because she was 17 doesn’t mean she wasn’t ready for a baby. The majority of teenagers aren’t ready (physically, emotionally, etc.) for children, but Keisha is in the minority that was. I know several people in their mid-twenties and older who aren’t ready for children. Keisha does better at 19 with her daughter than some I know who are older would do with kids. It’s more about maturity than it is about age.

She seems very levelheaded and I’m glad that the life she has is working out for her! Her daughter is super cute, too!!

Tess on

Lauren – great post. I completely agree.

Kat on

We also have to remember that culture norms have a lot to do with when a person is ready to start a family.

The culture Keisha is from (Maori) often become mothers younger in life, I believe.

Kat II on

Adding onto the other Kat’s comment, Keisha lives in New Zealand which has a completely different set of cultural norms to the United States.
It seems like you are judging her by your own standards, rather than the standards of the society from which she comes.

Ashlee on

I agree that it is hard to be a parent in your teens. I do not believe that age has anything to do with how well you parent. I became a parent at the age of 17, my husband was 20. I graduated early because I was an overachiever and had enough credits. I didn’t want to become a mother at 17 and I took precautions (birth control pill religiously) to prevent that. Things happen and you have to grow up and deal with them. I had been with my boyfriend since middle school and he did an amazing job of stepping up to the plate. I am now 22 with a bachelor’s degree and I have an amazing job. My husband who did not go to college is a manager and makes more money than I do with a degree. We own our own home and both have brand new cars. We now have 2 children and our 2nd WAS planned. We both came from lower middle class family’s, but we still have done well for ourselves. Starting out it was hard and I did miss a lot, but I had amazing friends before and they are still my friends now. I didn’t go to my senior prom but I had been to a few before. I had to step down as captain of the dance team, but I didn’t lose any sleep over it. Young parents get a bad rap, but it’s well undeserved. I know a lot of parents in their thirties who should have had their tubes tied before ever conceiving in the first place, but we don’t catergorize every parent in their thirties to be bad parents. I am glad to see a story on a teen mom who is doin well for themselves with or without fame, it is very encouraging.

nita on

i dont believe Keisha being maori has anything to do with why she got pregnant so young. teenage pregnancies happen all over the world, to all different races, and she just happens to be maori. the legal age here in new zealand is 16 – not 18 like in the states, so saying that this article should not be posted because she is under 18 is unfair on Keisha because she did nothing wrong. she is a wonderful mum, and she was always very mature and intelligent for her age. how else do you think she got nominated for an oscar so young! everyone’s journey in life is different, and i think Keisha deserves alot of respect for not only being a hands on and loving mum, but also for being so open and honest about her experiences at being a teenage mother. others could learn a great deal from her :) being a teenage mother might not be an ideal situation for most people, but Keisha has definately turned her situation into a very positive one.
and also, just because Keisha has been in a couple of movies, it does not make her rich. small movies like Whale Rider that are made in NZ are made on small budgets. we are not hollywood :P

lots of aroha to Keisha and her whanau xoxo

nadine7777 on

I’ve always liked Keisha because she reminds me of one of my best friends:) That said, I would be terrified of becoming a mother (married or unmarried) at my current age of 23. I’m definitely waiting at least 10 years! But I know that I’m a bit immature for my age and there are certainly younger people than myself who can handle parenthood.

TARRYN on

She does sound mature, however-how do we know that she is a good mother? We haven’t seen Felicity, we don’t know if she’s well behaved, loved etc…
I don’t know if I buy the gab, the proof is in the pudding.

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