Levi Johnston. Remember him? He’s the father of failed vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin’s grandson and one-time Playgirl model.
As you may recall, Johnston burst into national consciousness in August 2008 when Sarah Palin announced that her 17-year-old daughter, Bristol, was five months pregnant with his child. Not only that, but the two teenagers, who were high school sweethearts, were engaged to be married! Isn’t that exciting?!
The wedding was called off, however, shortly after the election.
In the ensuing months, Johnston did a series of high profile TV interviews, during which he talked about feeling used and discarded by the McCain campaign and never missed a chance to trash the Palins.
Not only did he call B.S. on Bristol’s post-pregnancy efforts to promote teen abstinence, but he said he was “pretty sure” Sarah knew her daughter was sexually active when, as Governor of Alaska, she publicly stated that kids should wait until marriage to have sex.
Then in a bombshell interview with Vanity Fair in September 2009, Johnston claimed Sarah initially wanted to keep Bristol’s pregnancy a secret and even offered to adopt the baby and raise it as her own.
The Palins responded by calling the claims “untrue, malicious, and appalling” and said Johnston was just “attention-seeking and desperate.”
Johnston’s popularly reached its apex in November 2009 with a highly-publicized, highly-disappointing appearance in Playgirl, where he was purportedly paid $100,000 for six photos. None of the pictures were full frontal, however, leaving many readers who paid for the magazine feeling ripped off.
And not long after that, he fell back into obscurity.
So what happened next?
Well, in July 2010, Johnston and Bristol briefly (very briefly!) got back together. Johnston issued a statement apologizing to the Palins for all the nasty things he had said about them over the years and claiming that most of it was “not completely true.”
Three weeks later, however, he and Bristol split up again and he issued another statement saying, um, actually, he “never lied about anything” and regretted ever apologizing.
Then in 2011, as rumors were swirling that Sarah was considering a 2012 bid for the White House, Johnston attempted to recapture some of his earlier popularity by publishing a memoir titled Deer in the Headlights: My Life in Sarah Palin’s Crosshairs.
Much like his Playboy photo shoot, however, the 300-page book underdelivered on its promise to “air the true story of the Palin household.” It also underdelivered on its sales projections and ultimately wound up in bookstore bargain bins shortly after its release.
Over the next few years, Johnston flirted with the idea of running for mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, a title formerly held by his ex-mother-in-law, and dabbled in reality television, appearing as a “celebrity coach” on an episode of some show called Mansformation.
Then in 2016, when Sarah was once again rumored to be considering a run for the presidency, it was reported that Johnston was negotiating the terms for a second appearance in Playgirl.
Someone claiming to be a rep for the magazine confirmed it was in talks with Johnston, but that the deal would only be inked if he agreed to go full frontal this time. The photoshoot never happened, however, because Johnston’s wife, Sunny, who he married in 2012, purportedly squashed the idea.
Since then, he hasn’t really been in the headlines. In fact, he seems to be actively avoiding them.
Today, Johnston, now 30, lives a quiet life in Wasilla with Sunny and their three daughters–Breeze, Indy, and Delta Jo. He works as an electrician and occasionally shares photos of his family with his roughly 7,200 Instagram followers.
And though he will likely never rid himself of the stink of the Palins, he does seem to be pretty well-adjusted for someone whose 20s can only be described as tumultuous, troubling, and maybe just a little bit titillating, too.