— It’s been more than 13 years since former Seattle schoolteacher Mary Kay Letourneau made international headlines when it was revealed that she was having a sexual relationship with her 12-year-old student Vili Fualaau — a relationship that netted her a seven-year prison sentence for child rape.
Today she’s 48-year-old Mary Fualaau: married to that former student, raising two daughters, and she recently greeted her first grandchild, a girl. And she has a word of advice for her daughters: “Wait.”
“You want your children to wait,” Letourneau told TODAY’s Meredith Vieira in an exclusive interview Friday. “You want them to be productive adults, to get an education first, and experience all sorts of actual fun.” And that’s especially true if those children are girls, she said (hers are 12 and 13).
It’s not that Letourneau, who was a married mother of four when she became pregnant in 1997 with the child of Vili Fualaau, who had by then turned 13, believes it’s appropriate for underage boys to be sexually active. “In an ideal world, nobody would say that’s OK,” she said.
But, she added, “there really isn’t a comparison to a male in that situation compared to a female … there’s physiological issues with a female engaging in sexual activity.” And that, she maintained, would be true even if one of her daughters “was with someone her own age.”
Not looking back
With Vili, her husband of five years, at her side — he’s now 27 and a Seattle-based DJ who raised a few eyebrows in 2009 when the New York Daily News reported that he hosted “Hot for Teacher” nights at a local club — Letourneau said she tries not to spend too much time looking back.
“I don’t really look at life that way,” she said. “I take every day and I do my best. I don’t look back and say, ‘What could I have done better?’ I look back and say, ‘I was doing my best in every situation at the time.’ ”
The couple have told their children about their past, Vili Fualaau told TODAY, parceling out the details as they grew old enough to understand them. “I explained what they could handle way back when they were younger, and a little bit as they were growing up,” he said. “They’re fully aware of what happened back then … but it’s not like a conversation we have at the dinner table.”
And since her release from prison in 2004, Letourneau, who now works as a legal assistant, has rebuilt her relationship with her four older children from her first marriage. Her granddaughter, Ava, was born in December to Letourneau’s son Stephen, who is one year younger than Letourneau’s husband.
While she was in prison, “I know there was a lot of pain there from this separation … it wasn’t … like there’s anger, it was a different kind of feeling,” she said. “When I was back and we were all back together, I just think there was so much joy … you can’t not look at every day as a blessing.”
For his part, Fualaau says he tries to instill in his daughters a sense that they need to get something different out of school than he did. “Everybody says I’m pretty strict about my daughters having boyfriends, but I actually think I’m pretty relaxed,” he told Vieira. “I try to keep them focused more on what’s important in life right now, and try to just stay a kid and focus on your schoolwork and keep your grades up.”
Related: Mary Kay Letourneau and Vili Fualaau on Dateline, June 2006
The couple, who continue to live in Seattle, say that despite their notoriety, they rarely encounter ill feelings from their neighbors. “I think it’s pretty normal how people react when we go out in public,” he said.