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Izabella Tovar, a 16-year-old student at Juan Diego Catholic High School in Draper, became a reality TV star on May 31 when her episode on the hit MTV series "16 and Pregnant" debuted.
Since then, fan pages have popped up on Facebook lobbying for Tovar and her fiancé, Jairo Rodríguez, 18, to become regulars on MTV's other popular series, "Teen Mom," which follows young parents as they struggle to raise their children.
Whether Tovar will appear on "Teen Mom" is still undecided, said Tamika Young, a junior publicist for MTV press.
But even if the Utah teenager doesn't have her life filmed as she rears her now nearly 9-month-old son, Enrique, while finishing high school, she can count on a steady fan base that continues to build online. More than 6,000 people have "liked" the "Izabella Tovar From 16 and Pregnant (Official) Fan Page" on Facebook and regularly visit her page at http://www.formspring.me/IzabellaMTV. Viewers post questions to the teen ranging from how she likes to style her hair, to how her relationships with her friends have changed, to how she balances school and motherhood.
An MTV spokesman said Tovar was not available for an interview with The Salt Lake Tribune this week about her experience on the show, as she was traveling outside the country.
Her story continues to reach a wider audience as reruns air on MTV.
Tovar kept her pregnancy a secret from friends and some family members until she began showing around her eighth month. She made excuses when friends called to invite her out. When one longtime friend, Cassidy, finally learned the news of Tovar's pregnancy, she became distant as the pregnancy progressed.
Other stressful moments played out on the episode. Tovar quit drill team because of the pregnancy and weathered tense moments between her parents and now-fiancé as he struggled to complete school after telling Tovar's family he'd already graduated.
Film crews captured all the drama, including Enrique's birth at St. Mark's Hospital.
In an online interview with MTV that aired after her episode, Tovar said she was reluctant to share her news because she feared being judged by her peers.
"I think it was mostly because at my school there was a girl that had just gotten pregnant a couple months before I did," she said in the interview, posted on http://www.mtv.com. "I saw how badly people were treating her and everyone was really rude to her at school in the halls, and she lost a lot of friends and I didn't want to be like that."
Tovar is the first Utahn to appear on the MTV show, which has received criticism for glorifying and glamorizing teen pregnancy. Critics have also claimed the show encourages teens to get pregnant for a possible payoff on the "16 and Pregnant" sequel, "Teen Mom" particularly after Life & Style magazine reported last year that the stars of "Teen Mom" earn $60,000 per season.
MTV has battled negative claims by touting research that says the show helps teens understand the challenges of pregnancy and doesn't promote teen parenthood.
In October, the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy polled 1,000 youth, ages 12 to 19, about their perceptions of the show. Seventy-nine percent of girls and 67 percent of boys said the show made them think of pregnancy risks and how to prevent an unplanned pregnancy, according to the poll. Another 82 percent said the reality series helped them to better understand parenting challenges.
"Some adults have suggested that the show makes teen parenting desirable. Thankfully, they are wrong. The overwhelming majority of teens who have seen '16 and Pregnant' say the show makes the burdens and challenges of teen pregnancy very real not attractive or enviable at all," said Sarah Brown, CEO of The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, after the release of the poll.
Tovar has said her parents remain supportive and her baby's father remains an integral part of the boy's upbringing. Also supportive are her fellow students, said Molly Dumas, director of advancement at Juan Diego High School. While cameras weren't allowed on campus in the interest of student privacy, Tovar's classmates were supportive of her decision to become a young parent, Dumas said.
"We felt like we needed to be a community of support in making that decision," said Dumas.
What is '16 and Pregnant'?
"16 and Pregnant" is an MTV reality show that documents teenagers during their pregnancies, childbirth and first few weeks of adjusting to life as new parents.