The Alaskan Bush People have a reputation for keeping things simple. They don't use technology, they don't have a lot of money, and they stay far away from society in their own remote den...or do they?
There are plenty of reasons to believe that the Browns are leading more normal lives than what we think. They seem to be pretty savvy on social media, they go out on dates (sometimes with members of the filming crew), and they go on lavish vacations. Some say they even lived in a hotel instead of the shack from the show. The family patriarch is a published author of several books and the show was apparently launched to recreate the stories told in them, so then is it really a reality show at all?
Face it: there are tons of things that even superfans don't know about the Alaskan Bush People (who, by the way, aren't from Alaska at all). One of them grew up rich, for instance, while another one is thought to be secretly married. Did you know that Ami was only 15 when she wed Billy? Probably not.
Here are 25 things you probably didn't know about the Browns.
25 They're Actually New To Alaska
While the Browns often claim they were "born wild," the family isn't originally from the bush. Both parents were actually born and raised in small towns in Texas and started a life together in Fort Worth, a city of almost a million people. Billy was running a plumbing company and decided he couldn't bear the nine-to-five life anymore. That's when he and Ami, with their two sons Matt, then three, and Bam, then one, hit the road. The family lived a nomadic lifestyle in the lower 48 states until 1983, People says, when they moved to Alaska. Even still, they didn't actually move to the bush until years later.
24 Billy Brown Comes From Money
Though he apparently leads a simple life now, Billy wasn't always penniless. In fact, his family back in Texas was rather well off. At the age of 14, he was given his own ski boat, Nicki Swift says, and at 15, a new Camaro. When he turned 16, when every other kid dreams of getting a car, Billy got a small airplane. That year, however, Billy's parents and only sister died in a plane crash, leaving him homeless and broke, and not by choice. Now, the family takes pride in their humble life.
23 Ami Was Only 15 When She Married
When Billy met Ami, he was 26 and she was only 15 years old. Billy had been doing a plumbing job for Ami's mother, Earlene, and fell in love with the woman's daughter in the process. Later, Earlene and Ami's brother, Les, claimed that Billy lied about his age and his financial status when he asked for Ami's hand in marriage, Radar Online has reported. Ami's family said they thought he would keep his teen bride in school and let her visit home, so they gave their consent, but Billy and Ami apparently never went back.
22 Billy Could Have Come Between Ami And Her Family
Needless to say, there's a lot of bad blood between the Browns and Ami's family, the Bransons. Ami hasn't seen her family in almost 40 years, Radar Online says. Les and Earlene spoke out last year to Radar about the Discovery Channel stars, saying "(Billy) seduced us with the trappings of wealth." Fans of the show are already aware of Ami's family estrangement, as it has come up several times in the series. On camera, Ami has repeatedly accused her family of being out of line with their accusations, but her 80-some-year-old mother has told Juneau Empire, "I just want to see her before I die."
21 They Go On Tropical Vacations
In fact, at one point, Earlene made the long 3,500-mile journey from Texas to Alaska to surprise her daughter in the bush only to find out that the family was vacationing in Maui when she got there. Wait, the Browns go on vacations? To Maui? The family was spotted sporting leis in Hawaii in 2016 when Ami's elderly mom was in the bush banging on their door, Inquisitr says. How can Alaskan Bush People afford a Hawaiian holiday when they claim to be so impoverished (albeit by choice), you ask? Well, they get a check for their famous TV show, of course.
20 Billy Brown Is A Published Author
Ever wonder how the Discovery Channel ever learned about the Alaskan Bush People in the first place when the family lives so far off the grid? It's because Billy is a published author. He has not one, but two memoirs called One Wave at a Time and The Lost Years. The former, which was published in 2007, was written with the intention of becoming a movie or a show, and when the family returned to Alaska, they came with the Discovery production crew in tow "to recreate the journey described in the book," Nicki Swift says.
19 Some Say They Live In A Luxury Hotel
Some locals have said that the Browns didn't live in the bush at all. They say the remote cabin in the woods on the show was all a big facade and that the family of nine actually would stay in the Icy Strait Lodge — a cozy hotel with a restaurant attached — in the nearby city of Hoonah, InTouch says. And in fact, there are official claims to back their accusations up. In 2014, the Browns went to court for 24 counts of unsworn falsification for lying about living in Alaska to receive government checks. The verdict said they didn't actually live in the state from 2009 to 2013, and Billy and Bam Bam were actually sentenced to jail time but got away with paying thousands of dollars in fees instead.
18 They Date
One person who has called the Brown family out for not living in the bush is an ex-girlfriend of Matt, who said he told her they lived in Haines until he was a teen. The show makes it seem like the seven sons and daughters live so far away from civilization that they find it tough to date, yet they do have relationships. And their dates aren't all climbing trees and setting bear traps, either. Bear Brown says on the show that his vision of a perfect date includes starting in the woods, then taking a skiff to an island and watching a romantic sunset. However, according to InTouch, it turns out the Brown kids probably just go out for dinner and a movie like the rest of us.
17 Bam Might Have Liked A Crew Member
Bam recently announced on the show that he was taking some time away to find himself a lady. In 2017, he told People that he had, indeed, found a city girl who "stirred something inside (him) and made (his) soul wake up." That lady, many speculate, was actually one of the show's producers, Allison Kagan. The two were spotted out together at New York City's Grand Central Station Oyster Bar sharing a spaghetti Lady And The Tramp style (well, almost).
16 Bam Could Have A Wife
At the time that rumors started circulating about Bam's love affair with Kagan, the Alaskan Bush People star posed for a photo while attending a Paul McCartney concert in New Jersey. In the photo, he's seen smiling with his arm around a fan, and on his finger is a big fat ring. Fans immediately thought he had tied the knot to Kagan because he's sporting the accessory on his wedding ring finger in the photo, but Bam never confirmed or denied such allegations.
15 One Of Their Dates Was An Actor
While it seems like Bam's date with a crew member was entirely real, Noah's on-camera date with Karynna Kauffman was almost definitely fake. During the fifth season of Alaskan Bush People, Karynna made the journey from California to Alaska to tour Noah's chicken coop (no, really) but it wasn't long before fans Googled the girl's name and made the surprising discovery that she had an active IMDb page. The producers could have paid an actress to fake interest in Noah (and if so, that's just sad).
14 Their Nicknames Are Not Just Nicknames
All of Billy and Ami's kids have cool nicknames: Bam Bam, Rain, Birdie, and Bear. But believe it or not, some aren't nicknames at all. Rain's real name is, indeed, Raindrop Brown. Actually, her full name is Merry Christmas Catherine Raindrop Brown (no joke). And Birdie's real name is Snowbird, which is appropriate because she turned out to be a natural-born animal-lover. Bear's real name, however, is Solomon Freedom Brown, and Bam Bam got the short end of the stick with just plain out Joshua.
13 Matt Had A Drinking Problem
Anyone who watched the show's fifth season already knows that Matt, the couple's first-born, has a drinking problem. During the season finale, he even headed off to rehab. However, not everyone knows that the star had an encounter with the law over his alcoholism. In 2013, Matt was arrested over a DUI after a night of partying in Juneau and Billy bailed him out for $250, Radar Online reported. Apparently, the Brown brother hit a parked motorcycle in the parking lot of Wal-Mart and when he was pulled over, threw up on the Breathalyzer test.
12 The Secret Sister Wasn't A Secret
Billy had a whole life before he fell in love with Ami. At the age of 16, he married a 17-year-old girl and the couple had two children who still live in Texas. One of Billy's long-lost kids, daughter Twila Byars appeared on the show for a surprise reunion with her dad, who said he hadn't been in contact with her for 30 years. Sources told Radar Online afterward though that the two had always had an on-again, off-again relationship leading up to that emotional moment.
11 They Sometimes Make Mistakes That Send Them To The Hospital
At one point, Matt blew up his refrigerator and needed nine staples in the head after being hit with the flying debris. How did he blow up his fridge, you ask? The eldest brother had combined gunpowder and cannon fuse and kept it in a mason jar in the cooler — bad news. The exact scientific explanation of why the cocktail exploded is unknown, but some would argue it's just common knowledge not to put explosives in the fridge. Unfortunately, the camera crew wasn't around at the time to capture the action on film.
10 The Show Started With Another Name
The Browns used to call themselves the Alaskan Wilderness Family before their Bush People days. Their original title was brought to life through Billy's memoirs and is also still the name of the Brown family website, which is operated by "friends who helped with the books." It's likely that this would have been the name of the show, but Discovery Channel changed it to Alaskan Bush People for fear that it would strike a chord. Nevertheless, the Browns didn't start calling themselves bush people until 2014.
9 Alaskans Don't Even Like The Show
Even with the name, they go by now, the Browns still stir up controversy with fellow Alaskans because their show portrays the state's real bush people as white Alaskans, which isn't actually the case. The real bush people of Alaska are the native people who lived there long before white Europeans as the Browns' ancestors arrived. On the show, Billy has even credited Egyptian technology for his bush methods instead of the indigenous communities who have been using those same methods there for centuries.
8 Sabrina The Cow Was Only A Storyline
Just like Noah's apparent fake date, it seems as though Sabrina the circus cow was merely a storyline, too. On the show, the family claimed to have bought a cow named Sabrina to use as a milking cow to help the Browns better live off the land, and scenes showed the girls giving her gentle, loving hugs. How sweet? However, a newspaper in Washington reported that while the family did indeed buy the cow, they immediately gave her up after the filming was over. Sabrina was only a storyline after all.
7 They Could Have Lied About Being Attacked
Back in the day, during the first season of Alaskan Bush People, the family of nine got all dramatically defensive because they claimed they were being attacked. Later reports by the local Alaska Dispatch-News revealed that no one was shooting guns around the Browns that night. There was, however, reports of fireworks in the distance, but you would think that such seasoned shooters as the Browns would certainly know the difference. Despite what you might be thinking, though, it wasn't just a shtick for the show — see below.
6 They're Not Popular With The Neighbors
The fireworks that were shot in the darkness that night were set off by an unhappy neighbor (because yes, they do have neighbors). Apparently, the noise of the filming machinery — a low-flying helicopter, to be exact — was making the neighbor's four-year-old son cry during dinnertime, so he shot off fireworks in the direction of the chopper, which then earned him a $500 fine. In the show, however, the fireworks were portrayed as gunfire and the Browns played into the storyline of an attack.
5 They Lived Next To a Pizza Parlor
The Browns made it seem like their first abode was miles upon miles away from civilization, yet Grizzly Pizza was only a half-mile up the road. According to an Alaska Dispatch-News report, the house was super accessible, located just right off the highway. The owner of the pizza parlor did confirm to the paper, however, that the family was living there even in treacherous weather, saying, "(Discovery) did try to make them live in the tarp shack. At the end of the last scenes here, it started snowing on them. It was 10 below and it was snowing on them."
4 They Have Internet
That tarp shack must have had WiFi because the Brown kids are all over social media. Most of the kids have their own YouTube channels, where they've even promoted their dad's book. In 2008, Gabe posted a video to the site saying that there could be a movie about his dad's memoir, One Wave at a Time, being made and ends it with impressions of celebrities that he later claimed on the show he had never heard of. Strange how they were already YouTube-savvy by the first season when they said on camera that they didn't know how to work an iPhone.
3 Rain Loves Posting Selfies On Instagram
Rainy Brown has almost 90,000 followers on her @heroofkirrkwell Instagram account, where she has posted nearly 500 photos and most of them are selfies. In her biography spiel, she calls herself a fitness and nutrition teacher and an aspiring motivational speaker. The "bush barbie," as her family endearingly calls her, is always posting photos of her wild siblings, healthy snacks and new hairstyles, of course. One thing is for sure: the girl loves her coconut water and vegan ice cream.
2 They Make Their Own Holidays
Everyone who watches the show knows that the Browns dance to the beat of their own drum. It's no surprise, then, that they celebrate their holidays at odd times, sometimes even six months early. For instance, the family threw their father Billy a 63rd birthday party during season five, except it was a whole half a year in advance. When asked about it, one Discovery Channel spokesperson said: "They celebrate when it strikes them." And to that, we say touché.
1 They Have Actually Moved
The Alaskan Bush People have officially uprooted and moved to Washington this year, People says. After a year of battling cancer in Southern California, Ami and her family have packed up Browntown and relocated to the Pacific Northwest. They've moved to a 400-acre ranch with livestock and the lot, now saying that they can never return to the Alaskan bush because they need to be nearer to medical facilities for Ami. They initially thought they would settle into Colorado but opted for The Evergreen State instead. Billy said about the new move that "this is definitely the biggest adventure (they've) ever done."