Secrets About TLC’s 7 Little Johnstons

Reality shows about people with dwarfism have reached high popularity in recent years. Shows like “Little People, Big World,” “The Little Couple,” and “Little Women” have all brought their stories to television. Another TLC show, “7 Little Johnstons,” follows the lives of the blended Johnston family.

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They are headed by parents Trent and Amber, their biological kids Elizabeth and Jonah, and their adopted kids Emma, Alex, and Anna. Although “7 Little Johnstons” has documented numerous aspects of their personal lives, it seems there are some facts the Johnstons have kept secret over the years.

The Johnstons Have Dealt With Bullying

People sometimes mock things they don’t grasp. Amber and Trent shared that their family has dealt with bullying many times. One of the main reasons the Johnstons think they face mockery is simply because people can’t explain dwarfism.

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“7 Little Johnstons” has documented times when the family has been bullied. During an episode, the Johnstons were at the Wild Adventures Theme Park in Georgia when another patron started calling the family derogatory names. Remarkably, Amber and Trent stayed calm throughout it all.

Amber Was the Only Person With Dwarfism in Her Family

It turns out that Amber Johnston is the sole Little person in her family. She was diagnosed with achondroplasia at birth, so her body never turned cartilage to bone, particularly in the longer bones located in her arms and legs. It’s assumed that Amber felt isolated during her childhood.

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Amber told People magazine that her family has always been supportive. She said that she was raised equal to her siblings to make sure she never felt different. Being the eldest child meant that Amber got to be in charge even though she was the shortest.

Amber Johnston Had a Painful Childhood Experience

Amber has been open about her childhood struggles with other kids. During a People magazine interview, she shared a harrowing experience that was years ago but remains a traumatic memory.

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Amber was at a gas station with her sibling when she tried to get a pop off the shelf. That was when a group of teenagers pointed at Amber and yelled, “You’re one of them!” As if that wasn’t horrific, Amber shared that it only got worse when she climbed the shelf to grab the beverage.

The Show Has Been on the Verge of Cancellation for Years

When season two aired in 2015, it seemed as though the network was onto a winner since it had three more episodes in this second season. However, season three dropped to eight episodes, leaving fans thinking it was being canceled.

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Luckily, “7 Little Johnstons” returned for season four, but only with six episodes. Although many fans wonder if the show has lasting power, it seems the Johnston family has had continued success as reality TV stars. The most recent season hit televisions in December 2020.

Nobody Knows Much the Johnston Family Makes From the Show

Of course, people have been curious how much “7 Little Johnstons” brings in for the Johnston family. After all, we have seen how reality shows have changed people’s whole lives. Appearing on the series often feels like full-time employment for the family.

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However, nobody seems to know how much the Johnstons are worth or how much they make each episode, though most reality TV families make about 10% of the episode’s budget. TLC budgets up to $400,000 for each episode of ‘7 Little Johnstons.’ If that’s correct, they could be making up to $40,000 per episode.

Amber and Trent Have Jobs Outside of the Show

People aren’t positive if that’s really how much they make per episode, though $40,000 sounds like a substantial amount of money to viewers at home. However, Amber and Trent are responsible for many children, which means their money doesn’t go far.

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It’s not so surprising that the couple also has full-time jobs when shooting wraps on “7 Little Johnstons.” Amber has been working as a real estate agent since 2016. Trent has also been working as a groundskeeper at a local college.

The Family’s Health Issues

The Johnstons don’t want pity; they only hope to educate others on living with dwarfism. Health problems come with an achondroplasia diagnosis. It’s typically easy to see physical signs as those with this condition have shorter limbs and more oversized heads.

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Unfortunately, people with this condition typically have a curved spine, which can mean several treatments to straighten the back. To top it all off, people with achondroplasia have higher chances of getting apnea, ear infections, develop obesity, and live 10 years less than the average lifespan.

Jonah Johnston’s Health Journey

Jonah Johnston is one family member that has dealt with several health problems in his life. The Johnstons did some genetic testing when pregnant with Jonah: he could be of average height, diagnosed with achondroplasia, or carry both dwarfism genes, a fatal outcome.

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Thankfully, the last option was eliminated, but the family still had reason to worry. Jonah was born prematurely and not breathing. Doctors revived him, and Jonah spent his first month and a half in the newborn intensive care unit.

Trent and Amber Are High School Sweethearts

Can you believe that Trent and Amber have been a couple since high school?! They didn’t take long to become close friends since they had a feeling they’d be married. Although many of us find ourselves falling in love with our high school sweetheart, Amber and Trent made it happen.

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Everything wasn’t easy, like when they had a long-distance relationship for 2.5 years until Amber got into a college closer to Trent. The Johnston couple has celebrated 20 anniversaries and overcome plenty of challenges together.

The Johnstons Refuse To Let the Show Change Them

Reality TV success could be enough to change any of us. That could’ve been what happened to the Johnstons as their show took off and they got recognized on the street. Plus, with the additional paycheck, they could enjoy the finer things in life.

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The couple has always held steadfast in the belief that “7 Little Johnstons” won’t alter their lives. It appears that they’ve stuck by that as fans describe the couple as humble, and they each still have a full-time job.

Protecting the Children From the Side Effects of Fame

Amber and Trent hope their kids will never let fame get to their heads. Amber shared with Good Housekeeping, where she shared that the show would be less relatable if they all their money on fancy vacations or extravagant restaurants.

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Amber tries to keep everything normal for her children to ensure that they aren’t overly affected by the success of “7 Little Johnstons.” The mother wants to ensure that her kids never develop the “I have a TV show, so I don’t need to do this” mentality.

The Johnstons Have Rejected Offers of Financial Assistance

Adopting a child is a dream many parents have, but it can be very expensive. It can add up quickly with the classes, legal fees, placements costs, etc. Some parents will spend about $20,000 before even meeting the child, even higher if it’s international adoption.

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The Johnstons had to calculate travel costs on top of all their other payments. Amber and Trent shared they never requested financial help from others to make sure they didn’t spend more than they were earning. Additionally, they don’t receive government disability benefits, even though they qualify.

The Johnston’s Initially Lacked the Funds for Alex’s Adoption

It’s not surprising that adopting their kids hasn’t been simple for Trent and Amber, especially when it came to affording the process. This was especially true when they adopted Alex from South Korea.

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South Korea does not let couples pay the adoption fees over many months, with the biggest at the end; the country forces couples to make the payment in one go. Graciously, a member of their church gifted the Johnstons a $15,000 check to cover everything.

Emma’s Adoption Was Difficult For Amber and Trent

People didn’t have to wait to see the stars of “7 Little Johnstons” adopt a child when they traveled across the world to bring Emma home. In 2010, the Johnstons learned of a baby in China who was born with dwarfism.

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Amber and Trent flew to Beijing. Then they had to ride a two-hour train ride to meet Emma. The Johnstons got to bond with Emma for five days before they made the whole journey backward. This happened after a fast flight to Guangzhou to deal with the official adoption paperwork.

The Duggar Scandals Helped Ratings for “7 Little Johnstons”

Everyone’s guilty pleasure is a good reality TV scandal. For several years, “19 Kids and Counting” was one of TLC’s most-watched shows, which meant lots of paid advertisements. But then Josh Duggar was accused of inappropriate behavior with underage girls.

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These accusations included his own sisters, an attempted cover-up by his dad, and being on a website searching for companionship outside of his marriage. TLC quickly ended the show and filled its timeslot with reruns of “7 Little Johnstons.” This resulted in viewership skyrocketing!

Amber and Trent Were Raised With a Thick Skin

Amber and Trent have overcome difficulties throughout their life and don’t want people’s pity for them or their family. In fact, it’s the thick skin their parents instilled in them during their childhoods that helped inform the “7 Little Johnstons” stars’ parenting styles today.

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Amber has shared how she wasn’t treated differently in her family. Trent shared with People magazine that his family is made up of Little People. They didn’t have or pass on a “poor me” attitude to Trent. Instead, they confronted every issue like anyone else in the world.

The Johnstons Purposefully Don’t Make Things Easy for Their Kids

Most parents want to make their children’s lives easier. The Johnstons have experienced the hard way that things aren’t always built for them to flourish. The couple has chosen to forgo making a “dwarfism friendly” house and instead stayed away from modifications.

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A majority of their furniture is for average-size people. Trent confessed he wants his kids to realize the world is not built for them. Luckily, Trent says his kids are adaptable as they develop creative solutions for problems that could hinder them.

Trent and Amber Aren’t Fans of the Teenage Phase

Having five kids all around the same age could make any parents stressed out. The Johnstons have had to deal with five times the major life moments. Amber and Trent love all of their kids, though they admit that it’s challenging raising five teenagers.

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The parents have said that the teenage phase has been their “least favorite” part of parenting so far. So how do they manage to run it so smoothly? Amber says it comes down to organization and ensuring that each kid individually excels.

Facing Discrimination by Overcoming It

When they don’t understand something, some people can be incredibly mean. The Johnstons are aware that they will never permanently eliminate all harsh comments since discrimination is definitely an issue.

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The couple thinks the best way to deal with it isn’t dealing with it at all. They believe in overcoming the circumstances. Amber teaches her kids that they need to show everyone in their lives that they are capable and will do what is needed.

Amber and Trent’s Key to Survival

Hurtful commentary from others could be enough to drag us down. What about when had commentary is said to you and behind your back? Amber and Trent get plenty of that commentary and are making sure it doesn’t win.

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In fact, Amber and Trent are so determined not to let the comments get them down that they’re committed to teaching the Johnston children to have thick skin. The couple doesn’t let things affect them personally and hold out hope for a kinder future.

Bullying Experiences of the Johnston Children

Unfortunately, no matter how prepared the Johnston kids are, they have no way to prevent people from sharing comments and opinions – even if nobody asked. The kids interviewed with Barbara Walters, discussing times they were bullied.

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Jonah explained that it’s frustrating when people stare at him because they wouldn’t want roles to be reversed. Elizabeth also shared personal stories of elementary school classmates calling her mean names. Instead of letting it get to her, Elizabeth chose to respond that God made her that way.

Driven To Adopt After Elizabeth’s Painful Birth

The Johnstons always knew they wanted a lot of children. But things were very bad for Amber in what was an agonizing second pregnancy. Before getting pregnant, she was 48 inches tall. While pregnant, she was 51 inches tall.

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Amber’s hips kept dislocating to adjust to the growing baby. Unsurprisingly, Amber spent the majority of her pregnancy in a lot of pain. This was one of the things that turned her off the idea of giving birth a third time.

Anna’s Story Convinced Amber and Trent To Adopt Kids

The couple had already concluded they would adopt a child in the future since they already had two biological toddlers at home. That was until the director of Little People of America contacted Amber about Anna’s case and inquired if she knew of anyone who wanted to adopt Anna.

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Of course, Amber couldn’t help but learn about her story and fell in love with the little one right away. The couple knew it was time to consider adoption seriously. Luckily, it wasn’t long before Anna became an official Johnston.

Amber Had Surgery To Ensure No Additional Pregnancies

It’s normal for women to have a range of emotions as they wait for their babies to join the world. Sometimes, meeting a newborn is evidence enough for some to rationalize wanting to welcome more members of the family.

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Amber realized that a third pregnancy would be too strenuous on her body. During her C-section, she made the tough call to take this opportunity to ensure her body wouldn’t go through the trauma again. She was lucky enough to expand her family through adoption.

Anna and Elizabeth Are Talented Artists

We all have our own talents, and it seems that Elizabeth and Anna Johnston are both skilled artists. Both of them have flourishing Etsy stores where they sell their pieces. Anna’s store is focused on jewelry, while Elizabeth’s has greeting cards and paintings.

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Elizabeth had her first art show in 2018, where she got to show her paintings and sculptures. According to Elizabeth, the Johnston house has an art studio for her, so she has a place to work on new art pieces.

Respect Is the Top Johnston Family Value

Fans of “7 Little Johnstons” have noticed how polite the kids seem to be towards their parents, even with simple requests. Respect has always played a prominent role in both Amber and Trent’s lives, and they wanted to instill the same values in their kids.

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It’s normal to hear the Johnston kids say “please” and “thank you” or call someone “sir” or “ma’am.” Amber shared with Southern Living that it’s always been something the kids have to follow in their house as they view it as basic respect. This strategy certainly appears to be working for the Johnstons so far.

Making a Show To Promote Acceptance

Thankfully, viewers of “7 Little Johnstons” have never had to be concerned about anyone in the Johnston family trying to get their five minutes of fame. In fact, don’t think for a moment that “7 Little Johnstons” is a ploy for the high life.

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The Johnstons have been transparent with their intentions, as they state that the show’s purpose is to educate others. Amber and Trent were interviewed, saying that the show is meant to get social acceptance and have viewers see them as people instead of becoming famous.

Children With Dwarfism Have a Higher Chance of Being Abandoned

One troubling issue “7 Little Johnstons” has highlighted is about kids born with dwarfism and how they have a higher chance of being abandoned by their biological family. Many couples aren’t looking to adopt a child with dwarfism, and the parents of these kids put them up for adoption.

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Baby hatches are rooms fully equipped for a baby as there was a vast number of families abandoning disabled children in dangerous conditions. Even if the kids are located by the police, it’s still likely that they will remain in the orphanage.

The Couple Sought Children From Places That Don’t Accept Dwarfism

Trent and Amber could’ve adopted children from wherever they wanted since they were good candidates. They had experience raising two kids, and both have full-time employment with a steady income. Because of their own life experiences, they wanted children with dwarfism.

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Not only did they want children with dwarfism, but the Johnstons wanted to adopt from places where dwarfism isn’t as accepted, where kids spend their entire lives in orphanages. Ultimately, the couple adopted Anna from Russian, Alex from South Korea, and Emma from China.

Adjusting to a New Life

Emma was five years old, and Anna was four years old when they were adopted, which meant that they had years of memories of life before Trent and Amber in the United States. This also meant the two older girls had some issues adjusting to their new lives with their new family.

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Anna had to adjust to the presence of men, and Emma had a meltdown when she left Russia. Both needed some extra adjustment time, but thankfully, it didn’t take too long for either of them to settle into their new routine.

“7 Little Johnstons” as a Family Business

“7 Little Johnstons” is different from other reality shows as its only goal is to educate the world about their family. It’s like the cameras aren’t there as the Johnstons go about their day as usual – and that’s how they like it.

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It wasn’t long before the Johnston children began thinking of the series as their job. Apparently, the kids are often reminded to use their vacation or sick days wisely when they have plans and want them off-camera.

Other Shows About Little People Aren’t as Relatable

The Johnstons believe that their show is distinct compared to other series about little people, as Amber has said because it’s actually relatable. The Johnstons fill the void of down-to-Earth family shows.

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Consider the fact that “The Little Couple” is about a doctor, and “Little People, Big World” follows a family on their farm. Though great to give the opportunity to share their story, they aren’t the most universally relatable. This is what makes the Johnston family’s show so unique!

Showcasing Everyday Life of People With Dwarfism

One of the most distinct ways the Johnstons have made themselves more relatable by essentially ignoring the cameras. They wanted their show to be more in the style of a documentary rather than a reality series.

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Amber said that viewers are fascinated by little people’s lives, which is blatantly clear based on the number of shows about these families. It was straightforward: have their lives taped! Amber also believes they have highlighted beyond just the difficulties of living with dwarfism; they’ve also highlighted the struggles of raising teenagers and within their marriage.

The Show’s Involvement in a Lawsuit

A little background: LMNO Cable Group produces “7 Little Johnstons,” and Discovery Communications owns the series. In 2016, an LMNO employee discovered that an accountant had falsified records and stolen money. He tried blackmailing Discovery about the records unless they gave him more money.

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They refused, and he exposed them. LMNO then filed a lawsuit against Discovery for false books to affect their working relationship and retain footage for season two. Then Discovery counter-sued, claiming LMNO used falsified books. A judge conclusively ruled Discovery was the true owner of the show footage.

Are the Johnstons Getting a Divorce?

While there are no official reports that Trent and Amber Johnston are getting a divorce, some viewers have wondered if it could on the horizons for the couple. All the rumors started after one specific episode of “7 Little Johnstons.”

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Amber tells Trent that she wants to adopt another kid from China with dwarfism. Trent has reservations about the idea. Trent sits the children down for an important talk; something fans thought was him announcing their separation. The couple later went on social media, where they hinted they were planning to sell their home.