Ami McClure is best known as the mom to the McClure twins, Ava and Alexis. The twins have 1.5 million Instagram followers and over 1 million YouTube subscribers, and they were named among the top 10 kid influencers by Forbes. Ami and her husband, Justin, also have an infant son, Jersey. Earlier this year, it became public knowledge that Justin was not the twins’ biological father. In an essay exclusively for Yahoo Lifestyle, Ami shares why the family held off on sharing that information with the public, and what it’s like to be the mom of two of Instagram’s biggest child stars.
Our story starts when I went to get my hair and nails done at a spot in Washington Heights. Washington Heights also happened to be the same neighborhood that Justin was living in at the time. A guy on the street started trying to talk to me, and Justin came over and whispered, “Is this guy trying to talk to you? Just walk with me like you know me, and I’ll help you get away from him.” Of course, I was like, I don’t need help, but there was just something about Justin, so I thought, OK, let’s just see what this guy has to say.
We ended up walking to a restaurant and having brunch together, and during that conversation I realized I’d actually seen him on Match. He gave me his phone number, and when I got back home I started communicating with him on Match, just to check him out and see his profile and if I wanted to go on another date with him.
Justin met the girls about three months later, very casually. I was taking the girls to the park, and I said, “Let’s just meet up there, and we can walk and talk.” I say met loosely because they were in their stroller falling asleep and he and I were just walking and talking, but that was the first time he actually saw them in person.
We both had reservations about getting too serious. He was a single guy who wasn’t sure if he wanted to have any kids, and I was a single mom thinking that I didn’t want anyone else involved in the lives of my children. But about six months into our relationship, Justin started spending a lot more time with us as a family. It just seemed to fit naturally. The girls don’t remember a time when Justin was not there. They know about that time because we’ve told them about it, but they have no recollection of him not being there.
Justin and I got married in July of 2015 on the girls’ second birthday. It was a really special thing. Shortly after that, we started the adoption process, and the adoption became official in July of 2016 when the girls were 3.
I first started sharing pictures of Alexis and Ava on Facebook when they were about 1. My pictures were just cellphone pictures, but Justin dabbled in photography, so he started taking pictures with his professional camera, and those pictures became what we shared. We thought we’d start an Instagram for them, mostly because we wanted to create a place to store their memories — it was kind of our photo album for their growth moments, and as they started to talk and develop their own little personalities, we started sharing videos too. We had no idea that it would catch on the way that it did. We’d still be sharing photos if we had the same number of followers now as we did at the very beginning. It’s just fun.
By fall of 2016 we had about 10,000 followers, and we were like, “Wow, this is huge.” But then we did a “twin talk” video and things went megaviral and basically just catapulted us to a different stratosphere overnight. We had to pump the brakes for a bit because it was way more than we expected. Justin and I had a lot of talks about what would be best for our family.
From the reactions the video got and how far it went and all the different people and countries we reached, we realized we had something really special on our hands with the girls. They were resonating with people, even at that young age — just their raw, natural emotions and conversations were hitting people. So, we decided to give it a go and keep producing this type of feel-good content. Just the girls naturally being who they are.
Ava and Alexis are now 5; they’re starting kindergarten in September. They have a few million followers and understand that they’re recognizable and that people watch the videos we make and like them and share them with their friends. When we go out in public, people recognize them, and we’ve talked to them about how these are the people who watch their videos.
Justin and I made a decision to wait to tell the world about the adoption, but we started talking to Ava and Alexis about it around a year-and-a-half ago, when they were at a level of having more language and understanding things a little better. We started having very simple conversations; for example, there is a picture of me with them when they were babies, and they would ask “Where is Da-da?” And I’d say, “Well, here is what happened: He didn’t know you. I had you. There was another person who made you with me, but that person was never there. It was just me by myself until I met your dad.” The way he tells it is: “I was always meant to be your dad; I just didn’t know you.” We never want them to feel a sense of rejection, and I don’t think they feel that way at all.
I understand that some people feel duped that we didn’t tell them about the adoption before, and I’m sorry for that, but I can only hold true responsibility for my family. Justin would have shared the adoption story a little while ago because he felt like our audience was growing with us. I completely understand that and wanted to share it as well, but my main concern is our little girls. Because they’re recognizable, I didn’t want someone to walk up to us, and not meaning to say anything bad, say something like, “Wow, Justin, so powerful that you adopted these girls and you’re not their biological dad.” What if they heard that and they didn’t understand beforehand? That would rock their foundations. We decided not to say anything to the public until we felt Ava and Alexis had a good enough understanding and could ask questions if they chose.
It’s a beautiful story, and it was never a secret with those close to us. Our agents knew; our family knew; our friends knew. It’s just been about: Let’s make sure we protect our little girls from the public saying something that they don’t completely understand yet.
I went through a lot to have my girls, and it always felt like having them was building up to something. During all the difficult times, my mom would say, “You have to understand these girls are going to be special.” In those moments I could only think: “Oh, this is so hard,” or “This is terrible.” But it’s always been worth it. Now it seems to have come full circle. They are special. Our son is special. And Justin and I are so proud to be chosen to be their parents. This is our family.
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