Premiering in 2008, 19 Kids and Counting served as the vanguard of a programming wave that set TLC on its current course of sensational, highly binge-watchable, and often extremely successful reality shows. While the ten-season saga of Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar and their quiver full of children eventually ended in scandal, nothing that popular stays gone forever. With 2015’s Jill & Jessa: Counting On, the spotlight shifted to the lives of the older Duggar kids and their own growing families.
Jill, the fourth Duggar child, was a fan favorite and breakout star. Counting On kept track of her as she husband Derick Dillard performed Christian missionary work, raised their son Israel, and followed them home to Arkansas. So given her significant role in the evolving Duggars narrative, it was a surprise when Jill and Derick disappeared from Counting On in 2017.
Fans wondered why Jill left the spotlight? Did the shame and scandal surrounding the 19 Kids cancellation prove too much to outrun? Was it Derick’s inflammatory, combative social media presence? Perhaps the pressures that came with being a reality television star ultimately didn’t jibe with her wholesome lifestyle as a wife and mother of two young sons. As revelations about Jill and Derick’s departure from Counting On have come to light, her burgeoning independence and deviations from the family’s conservative standards of living have also increased. Here’s all the ways Jill Duggar has distanced herself from her family.
Jill Duggar wanted more 'control' of her life
In an October 2020 interview with People, Jill Duggar Dillard and her husband Derick Dillard revealed to the world what motivated their Counting On departure. Jill described a restrictive culture surrounding the show, one where TLC and Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar had final say over the everyday details of their lives. “Our control to choose what jobs we were allowed to accept and even where we were allowed to live was taken away from us,” Jill told the magazine.
Such a workplace culture would be difficult for anyone to endure, but since Jill’s statements portrayed her parents as the heavies, the revelations were that much more dramatic. The Dillards went on to tell People that their decision to leave Counting On “didn’t go over well with anyone,” and that the situation was so toxic, they “had to pull out completely to reevaluate and get our bearings.”
The story Jill and Derick tell is certainly concerning. But their statements didn’t address Derick’s troubling transphobic comments regarding fellow TLC reality star Jazz Jennings. The timing of those comments aligns with the Dillard family’s departure, and TLC went so far as to publicly clarify Derick’s permanent removal from Counting On. Nevertheless, now free of TLC and the elder Duggars’ control, Jill and Derick stayed in the public eye as they continued to explore their new freedom.
Jill Duggar wasn't counting on getting paid
As Jill Duggar Dillard and husband Derick Dillard continue to live outside of the reality show bubble, their description of life inside the TV world has become more damning. Despite her years spent before the TLC cameras, Jill told People she was forced to enlist an attorney in a quest for compensation. What’s more, she revealed to the magazine that she didn’t get paid at all until after her 2017 departure from Counting On.
As In Touch Weekly reported, Derick elaborated on this during an interview with vlogger Katie Joy. “For a long time, Jill and I were under the impression that the family didn’t make any money from the show, but, rather, it was presented to us kids as something that was done as a ministry that TLC periodically subsidized.” Subsidized, that is, to the tune of between $25,000 and $45,000 per episode, compensation that was apparently controlled by Jim Bob Duggar, according to People. The younger Duggars complained, lawyers got involved, and relationships suffered.
Now living at a distance from her family, Jill feels comfortable being more open about the experience. “Up until around the time we left the show,” she shares in a YouTube video, “we hadn’t been paid for anything.”
Contraception has been embraced by Jill Duggar
In a September 2020 YouTube Q&A video made with her husband Derick Dillard, Jill Duggar Dillard explained how her stances on many things have evolved. “We haven’t changed who we are as people…as Christians, we want to have the Bible to be our standard,” Jill said. “But I think like just growing as people and the whole ‘leave and cleave’ thing, has been helpful.” In another video, she confirmed that they use contraception.
It was a startling admission from someone whose upbringing, in real life and on camera, was strict, conservative, and Christian. “Growing up, it was ingrained in me that if you don’t have as many kids as you’re able to, that there’s something wrong with that,” she explained to People in a later interview. “There was a shift in me where I felt like it wasn’t wrong if you decide as a couple that it’s best for you to wait.”
Wait, Jill Duggar has the Kama Sutra?
Christian faith and conservative value systems are central to Jill Duggar Dillard and husband Derick Dillard’s lifestyle and rise to television stardom. So a lot of fans looked down their noses when, as E! reported, the couple celebrated their fifth wedding anniversary by visiting Branson, Missouri, and exploring a tome about sexuality and eroticism first published in the second century. Wait, what?
When a copy of the Kama Sutra appeared in Jill’s Instagram photos of the anniversary weekend, fans questioned the couple’s values. “Bible open in background, Kama Sutra and massage oil in the foreground,” one commenter wrote (via ET).“You wear modest clothing to keep your body covered, yet you share intimate details about your sex life with the world?”
The blowback was severe enough that Jill amended her post with a disclaimer. “We are not recommending the Kama Sutra. We believe marriage is ordained by God and husbands and wives should filter everything they read and hear together through the lens of the Bible and not practice anything unbiblical,” Jill wrote in the Instagram post. She also said that “the little book” is an “edited version” of the classic text, noting that they have “not read the actual Kama Sutra.” As she explored new avenues of freedom in her marriage and shared those experiences with her fans, Jill discovered how quick many viewers are to judge.
Boozy date nights for Jill Duggar and Derick Dillard
Part of what makes programs like 19 Kids and Counting and its spinoff Counting On so compelling to a wide range of viewers is the window they offer into an insular world. The Duggars’ belief system dictated chaperoned dates, side hugs only, no dancing (after all, as Michelle Duggar says, it encourages “sensual feelings”), and definitely no alcohol. And since fans were so familiar with these strictures, they definitely noticed when Jill Duggar Dillard’s Instagram revealed there was a boozy piña colada on the table during a date night with husband Derick.
But as People noted, the comments that poured in were largely positive. “That is completely OK. Everything in moderation. Even Jesus drank wine. Congratulations on making a life of your own,” wrote one fan. “HELL YES JILL! Live yo best life girl!!!” offered another.
The Daily Mail elaborated on the import of Jill’s admission that she imbibed. Reporting on a previous Instagram post where Jill and Derick joined her cousin Amy and her husband at a tavern (‘Our new favorite word: Freedom!’ wrote Amy in the post), the Mail noted that the piña colada photo was the first time the 19 Kids and Counting alum’s flat-out admitted she consumes alcohol.
Cheers to newfound freedoms, right, Jill?
Jill Duggar wears the pants
In September 2020, People put it bluntly: “Jill (Duggar) Dillard is keeping it raw and real.” In yet more deviation from the straight and narrow imposed by her devout relatives, the reality star opened up in a YouTube Q&A about some of the things in her life that may not line up with her parents’ beliefs. She talked about her decision to trade in skirts for pants (“I felt like I could be modest and wear pants”) and her facial piercing. “I kind of always thought [nose rings] were cute,” Jill said in the video. “But I think that some of the decisions that we’ve made, like, I probably, even if I liked something before, maybe wouldn’t have done it because of maybe some of the backlash that I would get or something from people close to me.”
Jill was more reticent about the idea of getting a tattoo, but she didn’t seem totally opposed to the idea. As In Touch Weekly reported, she not only said she could empathize with someone’s sentimental reasons for getting ink, but believes getting tattoos lines up with her faith. “Biblically — which is how we want to make our decisions as Christians — I don’t think that there’s something wrong with it.” she said.
The Karens are no match for Jill Duggar
Apparently, Jill Duggar Dillard decided to get ahead of all the “Karens” out there and call them out before they could sling any judgment her way. In an otherwise innocuous October 2020 Instagram Story about a mom navigating her kids’ rambunctious behavior, Jill dropped a less-than-subtle message to her haters. According to In Touch Weekly, when Jill posted about her exasperation over her two young children dropping a flashlight in an, ahem, occupied toilet, she threw in a little note for any potential critics: “And flashlight is in the trash Karen.”
This preemptive takedown of the trollers was another example of Jill’s desire to live her own life, addressing the chippiness of the contemporary social media landscape head-on to express how she felt about being judged as a mother. It’s 2020, and she’ll thwart the trolls if she wants to.
Just keep swimmin', Jill Duggar
Not even her family’s well-known enforcement of modesty in dress was safe from Jill Duggar Dillard’s increased distance from the rest of the Duggars. Goodbye to long-sleeved shirts, ankle-length skirts, bathing costumes, and, as The Blast put it, being “this present that’s wrapped” for husbands only; hello to modern swimwear with an admitted nod to wholesome living.
Jill made waves in July 2020 when she entered into a paid partnership with ModLi, a fashion outlet specializing in “modest clothing.” In posts to her Instagram and Facebook feeds (via People), Jill appeared in swim outfits and athleisure gear from the online retailer, writing on IG that she was excited about ModLi because “All of their swimwear is UPF50 and they have so many cute swim & sport clothing options everyone will love!”
For someone who’s part of a family that, as The Blast noted, once asked to have Michelle Duggar’s “knees blurred while she was water skiing and her long swimming skirt,” Jill’s confident new direction must have been a real repudiation. But Jill’s fans were effusive in their support. As People recounted, one Instagram commenter wrote “I’m glad to see you coming out of your shell more. Not only are these cute but also super modest.”
Derick Dillard has major drama with his father-in-law
Jill Duggar Dillard and Derick Dillard’s relationship with the other Duggars — especially Jim Bob — is shaky, to say the least. In October 2020, Jill told People that she and her husband have “distanced themselves from her family” and sought out a lawyer over disputed financial restitution. Meanwhile, Derick has gone after the patriarch with some cold-blooded Instagram comments (via the Daily Mail). “It’s still under his control,” Derick wrote about Jim Bob’s power over the hit reality series, “and he will attack the victims if they threaten his show. We were humiliated and threatened when we first tried to not film. Now it’s not dependent on us anymore to keep the show going because more kids got married, so it’s ok if we quit.”
Derick went on to compare his father-in-law to Jeffrey Epstein (yikes!) who “already showed us that if you have enough money, power, and influence, you can get away with anything.” As for Jill’s stance on the rift between her dad and Derick, she hasn’t directly commented, though as Cinemablend noted, her social media posts frequently refer to her husband as her “favorite person,” illustrating the solidarity they and their young family feel in having separated themselves from all the Duggar drama.
Growing up Dillards
While the Dillards left Counting On and the world of reality television, viewers still craved access to the world they were creating on their own. Thus, The Dillard Family website was born. And while Jill Duggar Dillard doesn’t shy away from writing about her family or her roots on the site (and Derick Dillard freely acknowledges Jim Bob Duggard’s role in how he met his wife), the site is just as often a clearinghouse for the same recipe recommendations and cute kid stuff that any family in the age of social media would share. The website very much represents where the Dillards are now, and not where they’ve been.
The conscious distance Jill has placed between herself and her famous TV family manifests in the frequent video Q&As, where she and Derick respond to fans’ submitted questions and declare their unified stance on their lives as well as larger cultural issues. Titles such as “Learning From The Past & Preparing For The Future” and “Birth Control, Budget, LGBTQ” reveal more candor and openness about the contemporary world than life in the Duggar bubble certainly offered.
And while Jill and Derick are clearly counting on the future and not focusing on the past, their family website still offers a peek for the public eye.
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