When TLC started broadcasting Sister Wives in 2010, it upset the popular notion of plural marriage, with dominating husbands and demure wives. Two years ago, the Brown family, comprising a husband, four wives and 17 children, moved from Utah to an undisclosed cul-de-sac in suburban Las Vegas. On Oct. 15, the family will participate in a panel discussion on plural marriage, and we got a quick preview with wife number two.
Why did you guys decide to do this panel?
They approached us. They are genuinely interested in kind of how our family works and some of the choices that we made. We really enjoy going and talking to college audiences because they’re usually very thoughtful and they ask some, kind of not the normal questions. We really do like speaking with them. It gives us a really good chance to talk about important things without getting lost in some of the noise it does with the bigger venues.
So this isn’t the first time you guys have talked to a college audience. You’ve done panels like this in the past?
We’ve done a few and we’re hoping we can do more as the time goes by. We’ve done one in Boston and we’ve done one in another local college. So this is kind of — this is a new arena for us, but one that we’re really excited about.
When you’ve done these in the past, have you found the audiences to be pretty friendly?
So you do find some who are holding their stereotypes, but as a general rule, we have found — and this is our experience — that the college students don’t have a lot of prejudice in place. They’re really interested in what makes different people from different walks of life tick. So their questions generally go beyond superficial stereotypes, and they ask really great questions. I’m actually quite excited to go talk with them.
Do you get to meet with your fellow panelists — a professor of family therapy and a licensed therapist — and talk about the discussion beforehand?
We’ve done some preliminary discussion, and I don’t know what they’re going to ask exactly, but I know that I’ve heard some of their speculation on what they’re going to talk about, and it will definitely be not run-of-the-mill to what you see us talk about in other venues, so it should be quite interesting.
So how hard do you find it when you are out talking about your family to protect your kids at the same time?
We are very careful to protect our children from too much exposure and they lead in general pretty normal lives. So people are very respectful when we’re out in public. Here in Vegas, people are very respectful.
Do you guys get recognized a lot?
Yes. But it’s really great because we’ve had to opportunity to meet so many interesting people, especially the natives here in Vegas. We’ve generally enjoyed living here, people are fairly open-minded, and we really are settling in here and it’s become our new home town.
You said one of your older children might be on the panel? How often does the public hear the kids’ perspectives?
Yes, my oldest son, who is actually our oldest child, Logan. He will be attending UNLV, and they are asking him to come and he is trying to clear his schedule. He might be there as well. They do interview the teens occasionally, but he has had opportunities to do some press and give his perspective on things. And we definitely don’t censor him at all. So we’re always kind of wondering what’s going to come out of his mouth. So if he’s there, he’ll give a real straight-up answer about how he thinks about things.
When you’re up there with a professor who has studied plural families, do you ever worry about coming across more as a specimen than a normal family?
We’re pretty loud and it’s pretty hard to classify us that way. We’re pretty outgoing and talk over each other. It’s probably hard to get a word in edgewise. We’ll probably have to really watch it.
We know that other plural families are out there, but not be as public as you are. Can people who come to the panel make any generalizations about plural families from your experiences?
I will say yes, they can. They can generalize it as much as we were adults who chose this lifestyle, and we do our best to make a commitment to family every day, and we’re not without our struggles. But, you know, every family is really different, and every family is a melding of the cultures of each individual adult who is coming in. So we know plenty of large, happy, functioning families, you know, who struggle every day to make family life work.
What I will say is that I personally know more families like us than are the stereotypical families out there that you see in the media. I don’t even want to call them families, one where you have a very dominant man who is taking away the voices of his family. In my world, there are more families like us. Not like the Warren Jeffs of the world. In my world, I know dozens and dozens of families that are like us, and I’ve personally never interacted with a family like you see portrayed in the media before we went public.