Today’s prosperous society revolves around social, marital, sexual, and serial monogamy, but some people argue polygamy is the natural state. With that in mind, viewers are often fascinated by modern polygamous couples following religions such as denominations of LDS (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) and usually living in Utah, USA.

Unfortunately, not all relationships work out long-term, but some individuals feel trapped and pressured to stay by their partners or church. That’s where the cast of “Escaping Polygamy,” a TV show aired between 2014 and April 2019, stepped in to help. We checked where the cast members are four years later, one of whom publicly stepped down.

Image source

Cast members of “Escaping Polygamy” help victims

Jessica and Andrea Christensen and Shanell DeRieux were three sisters who left a polygamous group entitled The Order, a Mormon fundamentalist denomination based in Salt Lake City, Utah. After exiting, they assisted other individuals, starting with their family and friends, who wanted to break free from their religious unions. They mainly helped people who subscribed to the beliefs of FLDS (Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints) and AUB (Apostolic United Brethren).

Although the show premiered on A&E, it moved to Lifetime, an A&E subsidiary since 2009, where it aired its fourth season. Unfortunately, although the network never officially canceled the show, Jessica informed her audience via Instagram in 2019 that she would not return for the fifth season. Her sisters presumably chose not to go back without Jessica, and that’s the last viewers heard.

We will discuss where the three sisters and a few notable women they saved from polygamy ended up. Some became mothers, while others chose to remarry and remain childless, which is a common reason husbands are encouraged to get more wives in The Order. Moreover, all women on the list became independent and pursued their passions, something the religion’s leaders claimed would be impossible if they left.

Jessica Christensen is perhaps the best-known cast member

Viewers usually recognize Jessica first and most often; the show’s trailers and the first episode featured her receiving a text message from a woman asking for help escaping her polygamous relationship. Her story encouraged those women since Jesissca was the sixth of 12 children of the Kingston clan’s leader, Daniel Kingston, and his sixth wife, Heidi Mattingly Foster.

After at the age of 14 she almost became engaged to her uncle, who was 42, her aunt swooped in and saved her from becoming his third wife. Unfortunately, although Jessica escaped, the court took away the custody of her two daughters. She began saving women in a similar situation almost immediately after she turned 18, and another family adopted her.

Jessica, who often goes by Jess, left her lifestyle behind and shifted to monogamy. She married Toddwho got his master’s degree from Purdue University in 2022, and has three children with him – two were born prematurely; she welcomed her oldest in 2010 at 29 weeks and her youngest, Rosie, at 32 weeks. Jessie consistently complimented her husband for being present in his children’s lives, safe and supportive of her independence. Jessica and Todd bought a house in 2022, and are raising their children to be LGBTQ-accepting and loving to their cousins but not seeking marriage.

She also disclosed that her grandfather and grandmother were supportive and loving, that her grandma preceded him in death, and that he passed away in late 2022 from Alzheimer’s. Further, she’s a proud food and fitness lover, who enjoys listening to a Hawaiian artist Keilana.

Jessica’s biggest struggle is not becoming a workaholic, because she spent her childhood working for the cult. She also commented on the September 2022 lawsuit against her former religious group, noting she wasn’t among those that filed, but backed their claims. Jessica added that all members left after she did, so she couldn’t testify, however, she provided a paystub of working 191.2 hours a month without pay as a child, and declared that stories of various abuse feel familiar.

Jessica is a social worker and influencer

As of 2017, Jessica was pursuing a master’s degree in social work and presumably finished it before being employed as a social worker. Jessica is particularly annoyed by some states’ child protection laws, especially what was deemed abuse and asking for help. Moreover, viewers of similar TV shows know that polygamous groups survive by relocating to states suited to their lifestyles.

Additionally, although she continues to work as a social worker to this day, Jessica started working in healthcare during the COVID-19 pandemic, and chose to home-school her children. During the height of the pandemic, she emphasized the importance of masks, since they helped her pre-emptively born children, who always had to take antibiotics for respiratory illnesses.

Andrea Christensen ran away with Jessica

Andrea Christensen, who now goes by Brewer, is Jessica’s sister and the third child of Daniel and Heidi. She escaped with her aunt’s help at the same time as Jessica, however, after being placed in foster care at 12, the sisters were separated, and only reconnected and remained close after they started helping others escape their former lifestyle.

They also chose different life paths and residences. Andrea wanted a law degree, so attended Pacific Lutheran University and then graduated from the University of Washington. At first, she seemed to be a practicing public service law attorney, but switched to civil litigation cases in the last few years. Moreover, although news shortly after the show ended cited her residence was Seattle, Washington State, Andrea’s Twitter profile, under the handle @BrewerA_2012, revealed she moved to nearby Tacoma.

The profile also displayed Andrea’s opinions, like her issue that ‘white’ was deemed a default race and rarely specified. Andrea also discussed the 2020 Presidential Election, mental health issues in the polygamous community, and the challenges of making friends post-polygamy. She also commented on the Washakie Renewable Energy scam the Kingston clan, mentioned as Davis County Cooperative Society, used to steal hundreds of millions of US dollars.

Andrea has an active social media presence

Andrea believes reading self-help books, talking to others in the polygamous setting, and accepting help were key actions in her transition to a monogamous lifestyle. Thus, she co-founded a non-profit organization entitled Hope After Polygamy to assist everyone in her former situation with funds for necessities and education. She also urged the polygamous community in Utah to wear a mask, fearing how quickly COVID-19 would spread with husbands going back and forth between their wives.

She also uses her Twitter profile to share the latest developments in polygamy and promote the organization’s work. For instance, Andrea brought attention to the case of Vanguard Academy, a private charter high school, and Ensign Learning Center, an elementary school. According to her and FOX 13 findings, the non-profit organization behind those institutions allegedly hid $12 million in assets from taxes, as they owned 11 homes not required or used for teaching.

Moreover, its directors, officers and teachers in charge were allegedly all members of The Order who used the funds for personal matters. Furthermore, the organization reportedly had ties to the Kingston family and 100% white students and personnel. They also apparently abused polygamous family relationships to avoid putting taxable business actions on paper and got people to sign over their homes, vehicles, and other property. Suzanne Owens, then-director, lied about ‘only hearing about the Kingston clan’ and was later deposed.

Shanell DeRieux is Jessica and Andrea’s half-sister

Shanell DeRieux has the same father as Andrea and Jessica. After receiving physical and verbal abuse from a first cousin at 18, her mother, Shirley Snow, the seventh wife of Daniel Kingston, helped her escape the marriage.

Shanell had an identical situation to Jessica; after she divorced her cult-involved husband in 2021, she married a new husband outside polygamy at 21 and has three daughters. Unfortunately, she chose to live away from the spotlight and is absent from social media after an interview with The Salt Lake Tribune in 2017. However, she continues to help women through Hope After Polygamy. She also attended meetings with the Utah State Charter School Board in 2022 over the case of Vanguard Academy and noted that all four of the school’s representatives who attended were related to the cult leader, Paul Elden Kingston.

Many fans also remember Amanda Rae Grant, who appeared in six episodes in 2018 and left the religion in 2011. Although she wasn’t a primary cast member, she was a rare member who took legal action against The Order. First, she clarified many things during the FOX 13 investigation of the Ensign Learning Center. For example, she noted that people, including her mom, signed everything to the religious business in exchange for getting everything they could want—education, a house, a job, and a car. Although this seemed ideal on paper, it allowed the religious group to control members, and stop them from leaving since they had nothing under their name in the outside world.

Amanda Rae Grant also launched a joint lawsuit against The Order in September 2022. It included 109 pages of accusations against Paul, the leader, and other higher-ups, several of whom are his brothers. Besides the earlier tax evasion and frauds, the allegations include sexual abuse, forcing women into marriage and early pregnancies, violating child labor laws, and human trafficking.

The Kingston group accused one of the lawyers, Roger Hoole, a documentary producer behind polygamy-based shows such as “Keep Sweet: Pray and Obey,” of using the case as grounds for new media content. They claim he offered money to incentivize former members to join the lawsuit, and wanted to leverage preconceived notions to win the case. At the end of the statement, they proclaimed innocence as the accusers could not substantiate their claims.

Amanda Rae also has an Instagram account, @amandaraegrant, with over 17,000 followers, and a YouTube channel with over 32,000 subscribers. She used the latter medium to detail her life in her cult, such as the family abuse she went through, and why people she confided in ignored it. Amanda also explains The Order’s control over members, and released over 60 episodes of her podcast, Culty Cup of Coffee, by March 2023, one of which features Jessica Christensen.

Where Jennifer went

Jennifer should have received more time to shine in many viewers’ opinions. She wasn’t an original cast member, and only fled from her father, John Daniel Kingston, and mother, Heidi, around mid-2016. Jennifer frantically called her older sisters Jessica and Andrea in the second season’s first episode, entitled “Father’s Wrath,” confiding that their parents are forcing her to marry a man in The Order she does not love.

However, her story only drew attention in the fourth season, halfway through 2018, when producers spotlighted her. Fans primarily remembered her escaping by jumping out of a three-story window, and her saying it was less painful than suffering her parents’ controlling behaviors.

Unsurprisingly, fans were nosy after the show’s run ended, wanting to know if Jennifer found love like her older sisters. Sadly, she decided to maintain a low profile and barely revealed anything about her post-show life besides dating a 12-year-older first cousin.

About Vanna’s life

Vanna Barlow was another victim the sisters helped escape, but attracted interest for her personality. Thus, although she isn’t a leading cast member, her story merits a brief look. As a reminder, Vanna escaped alongside Ariel from FLDS in 2017, and although it went without an issue, Ariel afterwards learned that she was pregnant. Using her Instagram profile, @vbarlow.vb1, Vanna revealed she had a daughter, Avaya, in 2019. Vanna didn’t disclose who her husband is, but took a selfie with her sister Ariel in 2020 to signify the two remain close. She also confirmed that she’s now living in Arizona

Kollene was not an original cast member

Another non-original cast member but a prominent personality featured in one of the episodes was Kollene Snow, Shanell’s sister. At 16, she married her second cousin, but the relationship was monogamous. However, religion, family, and friends influenced him to desire more wives a mere year later. Kollene disliked this, and escaped the marriage after she tried to convince her husband to leave the community, too.

Kollene Snow now seemingly still lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, and is an aesthetician, make-up artist, dancer and model. She also creates costumes, is a proclaimed yogini, helps others leave a polygamous style in her free time, and works for or collaborative with hair salon Lunar Hair in Boise, Idaho. She also appeared in her cousin’s podcast, Culty Cup of Coffee, and exclusively that she attempted to leave the cult at 15. Sadly, she was caught and sent to a ‘repentance home’ in Idaho, where she did hard labor on a potato farm while fasting and praying. Furthermore, Kollene revealed that she met her first husband there. She divulged other unknown information, too, such as that her husband forbade her to attend school because he feared other men would hit on her.

As noted, all main cast members and several prominent women featured in a few episodes pursued distinct goals outside the cult. They all switched to monogamy, and some had children. One sister became a lawyer, another a social worker and worked in a hospital during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the third remarried but kept her primary occupation private. Most women, including the victims the main cast members rescued, relocated to different states to avoid The Order’s influence. Moreover, the show’s main cast co-founded and remains active in a non-profit organization, Hope After Polygamy.

Although the three sisters showed no regrets about filming the show, they now lead separate lives away from the camera. Viewers assume the show declined in popularity after TV shows such as “Sister Wives,” “Seeking Brother Husband,” and “Seeking Sister Wife” often displayed the benefits of consensual polygamy and polygyny.

Additionally, the crew claimed that they never pressured any victim into leaving before they were ready, and “Escaping Polygamy” was sometimes dangerous and posed a legal risk. Fans undoubtedly remember when someone pointed a red laser, presumably from a long-range, high-powered weapon, in April 2019 in Phoenix, Arizona. Moreover, Susan Nelson, mother to Melanie Nelson, featured in the first season, sued the Lifetime crew for trespassing in December 2014.

Lifetime, however, has yet to cancel the show formally, and Laura Fleury, the head of programming at LMN, cited ‘overcoming adversity, believing something better is out there, and spreading the message of love and family’ are the key messages of the show. Furthermore, the official Twitter account, @EscapePolygamy, posted twice after the filming, asked for donations to the cause in 2020, and provided an update about the Kingston clan in 2021. All this information suggests the show could restart with other cast members, and there are many candidates; the Christensen sisters have over 200 siblings.

Leave a Reply

Pin It