In a PEOPLE exclusive interview, Jinger Duggar Vuolo opens up about the explosive new docuseries exposing her family and their religion — as well as her own journey to freedom
Jinger (Duggar) Vuolo is continuing to find her own path forward.
Prime Video unveiled its four-episode limited series Shiny Happy People: Duggar Family Secrets on Friday in hopes of shedding light on the Duggar family's various scandals and their radical religious beliefs under the Institute in Basic Life Principles. And while Vuolo's sister Jill (Duggar) Dillard and cousin Amy (Duggar) King are among the select Duggar family members to appear in the series, the Becoming Free Indeed author has understandably chosen to abstain from doing so.
"I was actually approached and asked to participate in the docuseries, but I thought that from my perspective, I really wanted to make sure that I was able to share my story in my own words and in my own timing," Vuolo, 29, exclusively tells PEOPLE. "So that's why I wrote Becoming Free Indeed, was to share more of my journey out of IBLP's teachings. I wanted to be able to share it in a way that was, like, God-honoring and hopefully sharing my story in a balanced way."
Vuolo says she "had heard a little bit" about Shiny Happy People from Jill, 32. And while Jinger prefers to "be able to share my story from my perspective," she is also aware that Jill "has her voice" as well.
"And I am excited to hear what she has to say, even in this documentary," she adds.
In her debut memoir, the 19 Kids and Counting alum spoke about her upbringing and her family's ties to their controversial religious organization. But getting to a place where she felt comfortable doing so took time.
"I remember whenever I was first coming out of these teachings, I just spent a ton of time just working through it myself, and I was not at the place to speak," she recalls. "I did not feel strong enough. And I think once I got to the place where I could see how far I had come out of this, then I started looking around at the people who I grew up with, these friends of mine who were just having big challenges because of being raised in this teaching. And I thought, how can I best communicate this journey I've been on with not only the people that watch the show but more importantly, those I grew up with?"
Vuolo says she wanted to find the "best form" to communicate to those who needed to hear it. "The reason I decided to write Becoming Free Indeed in a book form was because I thought, 'I want this to be my story in a book form because then whenever people are trying to work through this stuff, they can go back and highlight,' and [go], 'Oh, she was struggling with this too. This is how Jinger kind of walked through it,'" she explains.
The former reality star acknowledged that while she didn't do everything "perfectly," she has no regrets about the method she's chosen to take back her freedom.
"I am just so grateful every day for just the freedom that I've found," she says. "I think the freedom being one that I've said over and over, though, but it really is not this freedom from I'm going to throw off all of my religion in my relationship with Jesus. But I still hold that as what is most important to me, and that's what I value the most."
"My life today, though, does look different because a lot of people would look at it and say, 'Man, you are not holding to these outward things that people could gauge your Christianity on,'" she continues. "So I'm not going to wear skirts only anymore. And there are those different things that even as we have two young girls that we're raising, our daughters, their lives will probably look different than mine."
Vuolo credits "running to Jesus" as her "biggest help" in discovering the truth, but she also notes how "it's hard to do that whenever you come out of these teachings that were mixed up with Christianity."
"I think for my girls, I want them to see the beauty of having this freedom found in Jesus, not throwing off all restraints. But then, at the same time, it's like we have been given so many beautiful gifts to enjoy in this life," she concludes. "That's really what I shared in Becoming Free Indeed. I hope that that was communicated well to those who [are in] the outside world watching, wanting to see where's Jinger today. They can see how I've made that shift."
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Shiny Happy People: Duggar Family Secrets is now streaming in full on Prime Video.
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