Exclusive: Lyssa Chapman Talks Beth's Death, Coming Out, Family Business and More
“Dog the Bounty Hunter” star Lyssa Chapman, Duane Chapman's daughter, shared an exclusive glimpse inside many details of her life, including her thoughts on Beth Chapman’s death.
The Chapman family appeared on our TV screens chasing criminals for the first time in 2004. From that point on, we’ve been following their particular lives and careers.
One of the members of the well-known family is Lyssa, a businesswoman and mother of two who currently lives in Hawaii with her soon-to-be-wife, Leiana Evensen, and youngest daughter, Mady.
During this exclusive interview with AmoMama, Lyssa shared how having Duane as a dad was like. How hard Beth’s passing was for her and her daughters and her ambition to find missing children and sex trafficking victims.
We were going to court with [Duane], or even going to pick up fugitives.
(AmoMama): Hi Lyssa! Thank you so much for taking the time to answer these questions. How’s 2021 been for you so far?
Aloha, thank you for your interest! So far, 2021 has had its challenges and its blessings. I think we all are really for some normality.
(AM): We hope that you and your family are doing okay in the middle of this pandemic. How much has COVID-19 affected your life and routine?
Actually, a great deal. I have to say the hardest parts for me are dealing with fear and lack of leadership. What to believe and what not to believe. Luckily, since Hawaii is so isolated, we were hit less hard than the mainland. However, my daughter has yet to return to school, and “distance learning” has taken its toll.
I often find myself trying to focus on the good things. I know families have been torn apart by this pandemic, and I try to sympathize with them and count my family lucky that we were not so deeply affected.
(AM): You were raised by your dad, Duane “Dog” Chapman until you were about ten years old. What was it like to grow up with Duane as a father?
What a great question! My dad was always very fun growing up, he was a single dad, and I never thought that was different or weird. We had lots of adventures. He always took us to the beach, camping, boating. Basically, anything that would come to his mind.
We were never lonely as we had siblings, cousins, even neighborhood kids who dad would take in from time to time to play with. He was strict, but he was FUN.
He also owned his own business, and adventures were often mixed in with him doing his work, so we were going to court with him or even going to pick up fugitives. He has always been a larger-than-life father – and we were aware of that.
(AM): After that, you moved to Alaska with your mother. How hard was that adjustment process?
It was awful. Alaska was a huge culture shock for me. I lived in a very small town of about 500 people, so getting in trouble was easy and not out of the ordinary. I guess you can say I “went wild” in Alaska.
I have made some lifelong friends there and will always hold the wildlife and nature in Alaska close to my heart, but Hawaii is my home.
If you don’t catch this guy, you have to pay the state whatever his bail amount is.
(AM): Also, how’s your mom doing? Have you been able to visit her since the pandemic started?
My mother is great. We talk at least once a week. She cares for my grandmother in Colorado, and I see her each time I go to Colorado. The last time was in May 2020. We had a COVID lunch in the driveway and got to take an awesome picture of 4 generations of women. #GirlPower
(AM): For about six years, when you lived with your mom, you basically had no contact with Duane but eventually came back and worked at the family bail bonds company. What made you return and help with the family business?
As I mentioned earlier, during my years in Alaska, I was a wild child. I was at one of the lowest points of my life. I was living in my car with my daughter, and I called my dad and Beth collect every single day.
One day, Beth answered it and said they needed help with the younger kids and if I could get on a flight that weekend. Basically, I came home to Hawaii and never looked back.
(AM): The business your family is involved in is quite dangerous. What made you and your siblings want to help Duane and become bounty hunters, too? Also, how stressful is that job?
I don’t know about my other siblings, but I really didn’t have a choice!!! I’m giggling while writing this, but dad told me if I wanted to eat, I needed to help out with the family business. I was living in his home, I was eating his food, and therefore I needed to contribute.
I was quite reluctant to go bounty hunting. I was much more content staying in the office and writing bail, but very quickly, I discovered the adrenaline, the rush, and the skill was all in my blood. I think my brothers knew that from an early age, but I needed to be thrown into it to appreciate the thrill.
As far as the stress, I would say the biggest fear is your money running away. Basically, if you don’t catch this guy, you have to pay the state whatever his bail amount is. So, if it’s a $10,000 bond, you’re out 10 grand. The most stressful part is literally chasing your money all around town.
Mady constantly sits in her room and watches reruns of “Dog the Bounty Hunter.”
(AM): “Dog the Bounty Hunter” debuted in 2004, and you joined the cast during season 2. What’s your favorite memory of that time?
I have so many amazing memories from “DTBH.” I have to say one of my favorites was our trip to Breckenridge, Colorado when we did the “hunt for Santa.”
We had all the family there, all the kids and grandkids. We were doing a Thanksgiving episode, so we had Thanksgiving in September, and we were just so happy.
It was a time where we appreciated everything we had, everyone was getting along, and we all were in love with our jobs, families, and each other.
(AM): The chemistry between Duane and Beth Chapman was second to none, which is probably one reason they got their own spin-offs. How much did Beth’s passing affect the whole family’s dynamic? We’re very sorry for your loss.
It’s crazy to think that this June will make two years since Beth passed. I was just saying last night that it doesn’t even feel like one year yet. I find myself at a loss for words to describe what it’s been like since her passing.
I try to focus on the positives and not what could have been. I never would’ve thought that she wouldn’t be here. There’s not one piece of me that envisioned our family without her.
I think the biggest change since Beth’s passing is her ability to bring the whole family together despite whatever differences we had going on. We all have pretty big egos as Chapmans, and Beth could always find a way to make us put those aside and be a family.
I just pray that my dad is happy, that Beth is in heaven with her father and my sister, and most of all, that she is proud of us.
(AM): What’s your favorite memory of your time with Beth?
Shopping, shopping, shopping. I mean, this lady could shop! Some of my fondest memories with her are walking around the mall laughing. Going in for an afternoon cocktail and then going out and just wreaking havoc on Macy’s, Nieman Marcus – all the stores.
I remember just having a blast – not necessarily spending money but just trying things on; we love shopping together. Actually, it’s been hard for me to go to certain stores since she passed because of all of the memories we have together in them.
(AM): Also, how did your daughters, Abbie and Mady, take Beth’s passing?
Hard. It’s been hard. Mady, my youngest, constantly sits in her room and watches reruns of “Dog the Bounty Hunter.” She and Grandma were extremely close from the day she was born to the day she passed.
We watch shows together, and I tell her stories to keep her memory alive. Luckily there’s so much footage of Beth that Mady can watch and get to spend time with her.
Abbie actually moved to Colorado to live with my dad last summer. She will be 19 this year, and she loves living with dad and Francie. She also was very close with Beth, and I think her living with grandpa is great for her to keep connected to her memory.
(AM): Speaking of Abbie, she was born when you were 15 years old. How challenging was raising a child at a young age?
I often compare raising a child as a teen to becoming a Navy SEAL as a teen. I have many friends who are Navy SEALs, and they say they would’ve never made it through the training if they knew what they were getting into, and that’s how I feel about being a teen mom.
I gave birth on my 15th birthday. I had no idea how hard it was going to be. I was a teen mom in 2002 before any TV shows came out or portrayed as normal. I was kicked out of school. I didn’t have any role models, no driver’s license, no ability to get on state assistance because I was under 18.
Being a mom is difficult at any age but extremely hard when you yourself are still growing up. I used the opportunities to go to water parks, zoos, field trips, etc., as my own growth and learning experiences doing them alongside my child.
I grew up with her, and although I wouldn’t recommend it, I’m glad that we had each other. I don’t know who I would be without Abbie. I am a mom before I am anything else. I’ve been a mom since I can remember, and it’s a huge part of who I am and why I do what I do.
I’m so proud that Abbie graduated at 16 years old – with honors. She’s smart. She’s adjusted, and she surprises me daily with her abilities. I’m not sure if I was a good mom or if she is just an amazing human. Either way, I’m lucky.
Barbara [Chapman] was my best friend and the closest person to me growing up.
(AM): What’s the tip or advice about being a mom that you wish someone would have told you at that time?
My advice to other teen moms would be to always do your best and never compare. There are SO MANY ways to be a parent. I’m really here for women supporting women, getting advice, sharing struggles, letting down our “I’m-a-perfect-mom” mask, and saying, “I need help.”
The wise man learns from another man’s mistakes, and sometimes we are so afraid to admit that we don’t have it all together that we're missing out on an opportunity to not go through the same struggles another parent has already gone through. I believe it takes a village to raise a child, and getting any support you can is truly vital.
There're so many types of parenting that are even categorized, like attachment parenting or tough-love parenting. There’s no right way. The best thing to do is get advice from people around you, take what you need or what resonates with you and make your own path as a parent.
(AM): Before Beth’s passing, your family lost another member, Barbara. She died in a car accident in Alaska. How hard was coping with that death?
I was 18 years old when my sister passed. I had my daughter Abbie and [Barbara] had her son Travis only six weeks apart. We are both young mothers and, again, without a lot of direction or guidance.
She was my best friend and the closest person to me growing up. Losing her was a turning point for me. I knew that I needed to make my sister proud, to live the life we had always dreamed of, and get out of the pain we had grown from.
It has taught me that death is a part of life, that tomorrow isn’t promised, to tell the people you love that you love them every chance you get. Kiss your children and make today and every day count.
I know it sounds cheesy, but I think that’s what death does for many people. It makes you realize how precious our time on earth is, and it gives you a sense of mortality that we all seem to hide from daily.
(AM): Last year, you made some headlines after launching a mission to find missing children and sex trafficking victims. First of all, what made you decide to get involved in such a problem? Also, what’s your ultimate goal?
I’ve spent so many years chasing down criminals and pulling families apart before putting them back together. I was raised by the greatest bounty hunter in the world. I’d like to use everything my dad and Beth have taught me to, rather than hunt down criminals, find missing family members.
Since I started this, I’ve had many conversations with families missing their children, their siblings… These cases really stick with you. Imagine not knowing what happened to your child – they walked out the front door one day and never returned.
This happens so often, and these cases are so mismanaged by being overworked, understaffed, and improperly trained authorities. I think local police and authorities are so overrun with cases that, oftentimes, these missing people fall through the cracks, and that shouldn’t happen anymore.
If I can help find one person, help one family, then it will have been worth it. It’s no secret that I have made my share of mistakes in the past. I feel like this can be my redemption.
This is something that sparks a fire in my heart. I think it’s my calling. Maybe this is why I was put on earth. I can help people. Not the teen mom, not Dog’s daughter, not a mugshot on TMZ. The Lyssa who helps families, someone who my kids can be proud of.
(AM): You and your partner, Leiana Evensen, have been together for quite some time. Could you please tell us how you met? Was it love at first sight?
Yes! Lei and I have been together for five years now. We actually met when I owned a storefront, and she was one of my customers. We share the exact same birthday, same day, the same year, and everything. That immediately intrigued both of us.
I wouldn’t say it was love at first sight, but I would say that once we started dating, we quickly knew that we shared similar morals. We wanted the same things out of life, like a strong family, stability, and epic adventures.
After a few months of dating, I met her family, she met mine, and we knew we had something very special. We continue to appreciate each other and keep that love and fire alive.
I have had both positive and negative reactions coming out from fans and family alike.
(AM): How is Leiana different from your previous partners?
I guess you could say that Lei is much more relaxed than my previous partners. I had a very traumatic childhood, and Lei had a different experience. Her parents are still married, she had a very stable home life growing up, which attracted me. She was so “normal.” LOL
Previously, I had always been with partners who also came from a broken home, but Lei's experiences provided me with an ability to recognize when I was acting out of past traumas. She is my calm in the storm. She is a rock. She supports me and my kids, and I think we all need that in our lives.
(AM): How did you know she was “the one”? Do you have big wedding plans?
I knew she was the one pretty early on, actually. We had been dating for a few months, and we were dancing. I had a vision of her dancing at our wedding, and I thought to myself, “Oh my, don’t mess this up and don’t let this one go.”
I think everyone who finds a person they want to spend the rest of their life with feels a sense of calm and kind of coming home. Lei is definitely that for me.
As far as wedding plans, we have always envisioned something very small. We want to get married in the ocean and in our bathing suits. We have flip-flopped back-and-forth a few times between a date and have yet to lock anything down… except for each other.
(AM): When did you realize you were attracted to women?
Well, if I think back, I’ve been attracted to girls since I was young. My first kiss was actually with another girl. I think in your 20s, you’re very sexually confused, and it can take some time to figure yourself out in that aspect. It may not be like that for everyone, but it was for me.
People often asked me, “when did you realize you were gay” The truth is I feel like sexuality is fluid, and most people are on a spectrum. I think as I came into my adulthood, I was able to experience and figure out where I stood on that spectrum. How do you know if you like cheese if you’ve never tried it? Kind of like that.
(AM): We often hear people say that coming out as LGBT to their family is quite difficult (EJ Johnson is an excellent example of it). But was it hard in your case? How did your family react?
Firstly, I have to give credit to all of the LGBTQ members who came before me and forged this path for us. In 2008 it was easier for me then than I could imagine it would have been in 1958.
Having a president who legalized gay marriage in all 50 states, the media portraying parades, TV shows, and a whole lot of PRIDE was the society I came out during.
I have had both positive and negative reactions coming out from fans and family alike. It’s my personal opinion that one’s sex life is their own business.
Excuse my crudeness, but I don’t ask people the manner in which they have sex (i.e., positions, frequency), so I don’t feel it’s appropriate to ask me about mine. Truth be told, I’m not sure if anyone has a problem with it because I don’t care.
My family was surprised, mostly thinking I was going through a phase, and then accepted it pretty quickly. My father has six wives, and I am definitely my father’s daughter when it comes to my admiration of women.
(AM): Speaking of relationships, Duane attracted a lot of attention after getting engaged to Francie Frane, but you and your siblings have supported their romance. What would you say to those who are still criticizing your father?
I think every person is entitled to happiness. My dad went through one of the toughest struggles of his life, caring for Beth during the three years she had cancer. I think when you lose a partner, it’s not like getting a divorce.
This man wanted to be married. He thought he’d found the person he was going to spend the rest of his life with. To be able to find that again Francie is such a blessing.
I don’t know why it makes people feel better thinking of him sitting all alone lighting a candle to Beth’s photo, but knowing that he loves someone and is being loved in return by such an amazing woman is all I could ever want for him.
Our family honors Beth in every way imaginable. Francie also lost her husband to cancer, and I think that pain was something that Dad and her shared. I just want him to be happy, and if you truly knew or know him, you’d want that, too.
(AM): You launched your online clothing line, BABY, in late 2019. Why a clothing line? And has it been hard to keep it running during the pandemic?
Yes, my clothing line! This is so much fun for me. I have been a business owner since I can remember, and this is the first time I get to go after a passion of mine.
I connected with a man in California who is the best business partner in the world (shout out to Ralph), and together, we created the brand BABY by Lyssa Chapman.
I’ve always been passionate about fashion but concede to the fact that 90% of the time, I’m walking around in a T-shirt and sweatpants.
I am a Chapman, a woman, a mother, and I plan to keep my head high.
I think that many people are like me: busy, professional moms and dads who would like to have options to throw something on and be able to mix and match being comfortable and stylish at the same time.
I don’t have loud patterns or crazy sayings on my clothes, just staple items at an affordable price, from my closet to yours.
I’m very grateful that, during the pandemic, my business is online. Although it takes a lot longer to get the items out due to California's restrictions, we were able to keep afloat, and 2020 brought us some of our most profitable months yet!
(AM): Do you have something special prepared for 2021? What can you tell us about it?
I’m so ready to hit the ground running in 2021. I currently own three businesses, but my most important job of all is raising my 11-year-old daughter Mady, keeping her entertained, educated, and thriving through this pandemic.
This summer, I plan to really throw myself into a few of the missing-person cases, including investigating the astonishing rate of missing indigenous women off Indian reservations in states like Oklahoma.
This is a very exciting time to be an American. There’s so much going on with movements like Black Lives Matter, MeToo, etc. I want to be involved in any way that I can change our justice system, revamping the way the police handle cases, and fighting for the rights of minorities.
I have a small stature standing 5”1’, but my soul is giant, and my passion is unstoppable. I am a Chapman, a woman, a mother, and I plan to keep my head high, speaking for the voiceless and giving support wherever needed. Aloha.