• Ami and Billy Brown met while he was working as a plumber at her parent's house and married in 1979.
• They moved to Alaska and had seven children, living off hunting and fishing.
• In 2017, Ami was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer and underwent chemotherapy and radiation.
• Despite skepticism from fans, Ami is now in remission from her cancer.
• The family has been involved in several scandals and controversies regarding their lifestyle and the authenticity of their show.
“Alaskan Bush People” is one of the most-popular Discovery docu-drama reality series, which follows the numerous members of the Brown family, who rely on their skills to survive in Alaska’s remote harsh conditions, devoid of modern technology. The show premiered in May 2014 and has run for 13 seasons, attracting many fans as well as controversy. The family’s matriarch, Ami Brown, had previously battled lung cancer, which she successfully managed to beat. Now, fans are wondering whether the cancer is still in remission.
Who is Ami Brown?
Amora Ami Larene Brown is a TV reality star, who gained worldwide recognition appearing in “Alaskan Bush People” alongside her family. She was born on 28 August 1964, in Texas, USA, and raised alongside her older brother, Les. Her mother was a civil servant and legal secretary of the Department of Energy in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, while her father, Hugh L. Bronson, was an airman. Regarding her education, she’s never disclosed any details, but many believe that she didn’t even matriculate from high school. According to Ami’s statements, she grew up in a very abusive home, which prompted her to leave. However, her mother and brother later talked to various media outlets, and claimed differently. Her brother said she was a popular cheerleader in high school, and disclosed: ‘She was the baby; she was kind of spoiled”.
Happy birthday to the one and only Ami Brown!
Ami and Billy Brown
Ami and Billy met while he was working as a plumber at her parent’s house. Billy described their meeting as “love at first sight”, despite the 11 years difference between them – Billy was 26 and Amy was 15 at the time.
The two began dating secretly, and by the time her parents learned of their relationship, Ami was deeply in love with Billy. Initially, her family wasn’t against their relationship, despite the significant age gap between them. Her mother said: ‘I wasn’t really that concerned about it, because I assumed Billy was an honest, reputable person. And that he wouldn’t keep Ami from us’. However, everything changed after Billy proposed to Ami, and revealed that they wanted to elope together. As expected, her parents showed their discontent with the idea, but ignoring the family’s disapproval, the two went through with their wedding, tying the knot on 16 June 1979.
— PopCulture.com (@PopCulture) September 27, 2018
Later, when the show gained popularity, hearing the personal stuff Ami disclosed in the show, her mother reached out to a media outlet, and revealed a different side of the story. She claimed that Billy misrepresented himself as a well-to-do individual, with various prospects in life, and offers. Additionally, he forgot to mention that he was a divorced man with two children, her mother explained: ‘He lied about his age! He gave the impression that he was very wealthy and came from a wealthy family. He seduced us with the trappings of wealth’. Her family claimed that he was a charlatan, and deceived underage Ami, who allegedly never managed to complete her studies because of the early marriage.
Following their marriage, her family allegedly renounced her, and severed all ties with her. Even though Ami implied that her family disconnected her, and never tried to repair their relationship, her brother revealed some contradicting information, saying: “Billy started acting very controlling of Ami from the beginning. I realized that Ami never spoke; Billy did all the talking. She would just kind of sit there beside him, smiling. I didn’t realize it then, but she wasn’t allowed to speak. She couldn’t speak without his permission.’
“Alaskan Bush People”
After marrying, the couple remained in Fort Worth, Texas, where Billy owned a small plumbing business. In 1982 they welcomed their first child, Matthew Jeremiah, and Ami gave birth to Joshua ‘Bam Bam’ in 1984. Growing tired of his job as a plumber, and having a free spirit, Billy wanted to travel, leave Texas behind and change his lifestyle. Ami agreed, and the couple spent several years roaming around the US. Talking to People Magazine, Ami explained their mindset at the time, saying: ‘We didn’t really know where we wanted to go, but we knew we weren’t where we wanted to be.’
Ami and Billy sold their possessions and booked Alaska tickets, taking up one of Billy’s friend’s offer. His friend suggested they move to his abandoned cabin on Mosman Island near Wrangell, and settle with their two children. Their life was initially fraught with uncertainty, due to their financial instability – Billy had to work various jobs to support his family, and even spent several months away from them. Allegedly, the family lived off hunting and fishing, and later recounting their experiences, Billy published a book that would become the basis for the show. They spent 18 months there, living devoid of perks of modern life, with no means of communication until a skipper offered to take them back to civilizations. However, despite their struggles, the couple realized that they did not want to live in modern society anymore; Ami said: “After we realized we weren’t going to die, we fell in love with everything.’
They moved around Alaska for several years, building temporary shelters, before settling in Hoonah on Chichagof Island. The Browns also spent some time living in Haines, where they built a cabin that according to Billy’s statement without explanation, was destroyed by the government.
Given their unusual and unique style of living, they eventually developed their own dialect and language. Ami and Billy welcomed five more children, named Solomon Isaiah, Gabriel Starbuck, Noah Darkcloud, Amora Jean, and younger daughter Merry Christmas Kathryn Raindrop.
Ami’s Health Struggles
In 2017, Ami was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer after several months of unexplained pain. Talking to People Magazine, she said: ‘I had some pain in my back. Walking from the house to the garden, I would get winded. There were days I was just bedridden, but I just thought it was my arthritis. We were filming the show, and at times it was all I could do to just stand there — I was in so much pain.”
The family was shooting a promo for the show, and she just felt that there was something wrong with her. Interestingly, she learned about her health issues from a dentist, explaining: ‘in December , I went to the dentist to get impressions made for new teeth, and when they did a scan, they noticed a little capsule. That’s how this all started.’
Her battle with cancer was documented in the show. Following diagnosis, they permanently relocated from rural Alaska to Washington State, where they purchased a 435-acre property in the North Cascade, so that Ami could receive treatment and chemotherapy nearby. The diagnosis was a shock for the family, given that a majority of cancer patients unfortunately lose their battle with the nasty disease. Broken-hearted Bam Bam said: “It’s what’s going on now is the most difficult thing that we’ve ever gone through, because of who it’s happening to, because it is mom, and because of what it is.”
Triumph over Cancer and Health Update
Initially, the doctor revealed that she had only a 3% chance of surviving the disease, given the advanced stage of cancer. The family also purchased a house in Los Angeles, California, so that she could undergo cycles of chemotherapy at the UCLA medical center. After a year of battling the sickness, in January 2018, Ami revealed to a media outlet that she was in remission, and shared her story: “I’m still a little weak and tired and I get a little sick, but I do some walking around the house now. It was so bad and the radiation treatment hurt so badly. To take a sip of water just hurt so bad, and I couldn’t eat anything. Then, it progressed in strength, the hurting.”
Although her health improved dramatically, cancer often reappears despite the treatment, and she realized that it would be a part of her life forever, saying: ‘I have to go in every three months now for the rest of my life and be scanned to see if it’s back or not. But I want to encourage people to enjoy every moment and walk every moment with God, because he knows what it’s about. Never give up faith.”
According to the latest reports, Ami is doing great, and there haven’t been any signs of the cancer recurrence.
Doubting Ami’s Cancer Diagnosis
Although every reality show deals with the question of whether it’s scripted, “Alaskan Bush People” arguably received more backlash for the alleged false portrayal of their life than any other show. As a result, it has gained a status as one of the most false of series. Many fans, viewers and family acquaintances pointed out numerous falsities and lies regarding their seemingly off-the-grid lifestyle. The fans became so distrustful and suspicious of the show’s content that they even doubted Ami’s cancer diagnosis, claiming it was probably an orchestrated ploy to attract more views and sympathy. Some of them wrote on Twitter: ‘I called it on Twitter that Ami wouldn’t die cuz she never had cancer’, and another one commented: ‘I mean it’s ALL FAKE even Ami’s cancer scare was scripted.’
The backlash was so intense that one of her doctors had to release a statement regarding her diagnosis and treatment, disclosing: “Amora Brown was diagnosed with Stage III non-small cell lung cancer in April 2017. Treatment for her cancer included a four-month course of chemotherapy with radiation. Her disease responded well to the treatment, and according to oncologist Dr. Deborah Wong, she is now in remission.”
Arguably the most popular and salient member of the family, Billy carried the show, and was perceived by the fans as an infallible and invincible survivalist who entertained audiences for years. However, in 2018, it became apparent that he was not as invincible as previously thought, after being hospitalized with a respiratory infection, as confirmed by Discovery representatives. His son, Bear Brown, wanted to share some insight into his condition, writing on Twitter that Billy was ‘in really bad shape’. As it turned out, Billy had been struggling with several health issues, including with his heart and kidneys, which were treated at a hospital. Following his infection in 2019, Billy successfully underwent surgery, but unfortunately for the patriarch, he began experiencing seizures. Although he was instructed to relocate, as he and his family lived at a high altitude, Billy ignored the doctor’s order.
@AlaskanBushPPL Prayers are with all of you tonight. We are so sorry to hear of Billy’s passing. We loved watching and always being inspired to believe you can always do what you put your mind to. #BillyBrown #AlaskanBushPeople pic.twitter.com/JYnyCvOXmQ
— Paul Culbertson (@PaulCulbertson) February 9, 2021
In February 2021, it was revealed that the 68-year-old Billy passed away at his estate after suffering a seizure. Discovery representative released an official statement: “We are devastated to hear of Billy Brown’s sudden passing. He has been part of the Discovery family for years- a trailblazer, a lovely man, and most definitely one of a kind. Our heart is with his family and those that knew him and loved him as they deal with this devastating loss.”
Bear Brown also wrote on his Instagram: “We are heartbroken to announce that our beloved patriarch Billy Brown passed away last night after suffering from a seizure. He was our best friend – a wonderful and loving dad, granddad, and husband and he will be dearly missed.”
Scandals and Controversy
Since the show’s inception, the Browns have dealt with numerous scandals, those of a private nature and various others related to the show’s content. Furthermore, some family members, such as Matt Brown and Bear Brown’s wife, Raiven Adams, openly claimed that the show was fake, and that nobody got along. Talking to a media outlet, Raiven said: “None of it is real. About 10 percent of it is real. My son is not going down with the show. This show is not real. The only siblings that get along are Bird and Rain.”
In one of his Instagram posts, Matt, known for his years-long struggle with alcoholism, wrote: “I loved filming the show, but I didn’t like lying about the way I live and how things are in life. We made a lot of money off the show, and because my dad controlled everything, all the money went to him. I didn’t have any money or anything. So my dad kept that all.”
Similar claims were also made by Hoonah residents, who revealed that while portraying their struggles living isolated in Alaska’s unstable and hostile environment, the members often spent time in the Icy Straight Lodge; one of them said: “All of the boys have their own room.”
Anchorage Daily News revealed another interesting detail about their alleged remoteness – as it turned out, the family’s ‘rural’ residence is just a mile away from a pizza shop.
The family claimed that they were not tech-savvy and didn’t know how to use an iPhone. However, this was quickly refuted, after a media outlet came across one of their YouTube channels launched before the show even premiered, effectively proving that they definitely knew their way around online platforms and smartphones.
To make matters worse, Brown’s compound called “Browntown” is allegedly another façade in their carefully curated image of being an anti-technology family. While Billy claimed that he had built the house ‘with his bare hands,’ Radar Online revealed that “Browntown” was more a prop for filming than a permanent residence.
However, regardless of the negative aspects associated with the series, it seems set to continue in the foreseeable future, such is the interest in Alaska of viewers from the other 49 states of the US.