Bayou Billionaires is the highest rated original show in CMT history and has already been renewed for a second season. The reality series follows the Dowden family of Shreveport, Louisiana headed up by Gerald Dowden, 62, and his wife Kitten Dowden, 59. Gerald and Kitten recently struck it rich when the fourth largest deposit of natural gas in the United States was found on their property. (You can read all about how they family gets what they call their “mailbox money” HERE.)
Though Gerald and Kitten’s seemingly endless supply of positive energy and love for their family members is a big part of the show’s success, it is the wide array of real characters in the rest of the Dowden family that make this show so addictive.
One of those wonderfully “real” family members is Gerald and Kitten’s daughter Valerie Dowden, – a 42-year-old single working mom with three children: Jessica (19), Devyn (16) and Nikki (10). Valerie and her kids – especially Nikki – are a huge part of the Bayou Billionaires storyline as they adjust to the changes resulting from Gerald and Kitten’s financial windfall while living in a double-wide trailer on the couple’s property.
Here’s an intro video for Val and her family from CMT. (Their site is acting a quirky so you may have issues seeing the clip. If so, CLICK HERE to watch it on CMT.com – if it’s working there.)
A number of blogs and people on social media have made harsh comments about Valerie’s mannerisms on the show and she recently responded to those unkind words in an interview with CMT.com in which she reveals she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis more than three years ago.
Here are some excerpts from the interview:
CMT.com: We have seen that some people have made some harsh comments about you on social media about how you appear in Bayou Billionaires. What do you want people to know?
Valerie: I have multiple sclerosis. It’s an auto-immune disease, and it affects my spinal cord and my brain.
CMT.com: How did you know you had it?
Valerie: I was diagnosed in 2008, although I think I’ve had multiple sclerosis a long time, I just never knew what was wrong with me. At first, I went to different doctors who said it was in my head, there’s nothing wrong with you, it’s stress, it’s this and it’s that.
I knew something was wrong when my legs, from my knees down on both sides, would go numb, and felt like they were on pins and needles, like the way it feels when your foot goes to sleep. That feeling never went away. I talked to momma about it and she got worried, and I knew in my heart that something was the matter. She took me to the ER and I went to the hospital, and they diagnosed me with MS. I had to take several rounds of a high dose steroid to get it under control.
CMT.com: How does it affect your family?
Valerie: I think it worries everyone. My oldest daughter, she worries about me a lot. My son Devon doesn’t say much, but when I have a hard time getting up or moving, he’ll come and help me. He’s even gone so far as to pick me up and carry me where I need to be.
^ Valerie and her daughter Nikki. (Buck Edwards/Magilla Entertainment)
CMT.com: In the show, do they address the MS issue at all?
Valerie: No, and that was my choice. I didn’t want people to feel sorry for me. I don’t feel sorry for myself, although I do have days that I get angry, more of a “why me.”
CMT.com: Does your family’s money help with your treatment? What kinds of expenses are involved?
Valerie: First off, I don’t get a gas check like mom and dad do. I work and I support myself and my three kids. If something were to happen to me, my parents would definitely do whatever they could to help, but I pay for my own medicine. I’m grateful to have the support of my family and the people that love me.
CMT.com: What else do you want people to know?
Valerie: Don’t make fun of people that you don’t know because you’ve never walked in their shoes. There are people who say stuff about me or my family, and they’ve never walked in my shoes. They have no idea.
I don’t do anything that anyone else doesn’t do. I’m like a lot of single mommas out there – I roll out of bed every morning, I put my kids on the school bus, I go to work, I work all day, I come home and clean house. I cook dinner, do Girl Scouts, 4-H, tae-kwon-do and hope that I can maybe get in bed by 10 o’clock. That’s what I do, it’s who I am.
CMT.com: Is there anything else you want to say?
Valerie: I would like to tell my parents how much I love them, and my grandparents, and my kids, and my brothers, and my sisters, and my nephew, and my niece. They mean the world to me.
Wow! We were already Val fans, but after reading this, we have such immense respect for her! We thought she was awesome, and now it’s obvious that she’s incredibly strong. It’s noble of her to not address her MS diagnosis on the show because she didn’t want anyone to feel sorry for her, but now that it’s been revealed hopefully they’ll talk about it next season.
Bayou Billionaires shows on CMT Saturday nights at 9/8c!