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First photo: Jaycee Dugard as she is now

The hair is darker, bordering on brown, but Jaycee Dugard’s clear blue eyes still sparkle in a face lit by a brilliant smile. Looking out from the cover of People magazine, the young woman who was kidnapped at the age of 11 appears to be 10 years younger than her 29 years.

“I’m so happy to be back,” reads the headline on the cover of the Oct. 26 issue, which hits newsstands this Friday. The cover photo of Jaycee, the first since she was rescued on Aug. 26, can be viewed now on People.com.

People first wrote about Jaycee in November 1991, five months after she was kidnapped outside her home in South Lake Tahoe, Calif., allegedly by convicted sex offender Phillip Garrido and his wife, Nancy. The Garridos were taken into custody after a campus cop at University of California at Berkeley thought something was suspicious about the man who was seeking a permit to hold a religious meeting on campus.

Dugard was not interviewed by the magazine, although people close to her spoke at length about her rehabilitation and that of her two daughters, Angel, 15, and Starlit, 11. Dugard and her daughters are recovering from their long ordeal at an undisclosed location in northern California; Jaycee’s mother, Terry Probyn, is with them.

The 10-page article is accompanied by many pictures of Dugard and her mother. Dugard’s daughters are shown only from the back.

TODAY’s Matt Lauer asked People’s managing editor, Larry Hackett, if the magazine paid for the photographs, which were taken by a private photographer engaged by the family.

“We have bought photographs in the past,” Hackett said, apparently confirming that the family was paid for the pictures. “I don’t want to go into the details.”

‘She looks radiant’Hackett said that Dugard and her mother decided to allow publication of the photos and to tell their story because of the intense interest.

“They thought, ‘We want to control this situation. Let’s do it now,’ ” Hackett told Lauer.

Hackett remarked on how well Dugard looks in the photos. “She looks radiant, she looks healthy, she looks happy,” he said. But, he added, the story in the magazine shows recovering from years of abuse will not be easy.

“As you read the story, you realize this is a long process, an extraordinary process of her trying to get her life back,” Hackett said. “It’s a long, slow process. Somebody likened it to an adoptive parent meeting their child. There’s 18 years of time to make up. I just don’t think she’s ready to answer a lot of questions involving a lot of things that have happened in her life.”

Erika Schulte, a family spokeswoman for Probyn and Dugard, also spoke with TODAY’s Ann Curry. She said the interview is the family’s way of thanking all the people who have sent messages of support.

“I have seen a family,” Schulte said. “If you didn’t know the circumstances, it would just seem like any other family. [They] are just very close and comfortable and happy.”

Prepared to testifyBoth Schulte and Hackett said that Dugard is prepared to testify against Garrido and his wife when they are brought to trial.

A therapist is using horseback riding to help Dugard and her daughters cope with their years of captivity in a makeshift encampment behind Garrido’s home. “Jaycee loves animals,” Schulte told People.

“I’m so happy to be back with my family,” Dugard said in a statement to the magazine. “Nothing is more important than the unconditional love and support I have from them.”

Schulte said Dugard provided the photos to People because she wanted to “lift the veil and acknowledge that she is doing well. She wants to thank everyone for their support and best wishes and to let people see that this is her.”

‘This has been a miracle’She is staying with her mother, a 50-year-old middle-school secretary, and her daughters. Schulte told People that despite never having gone to school, both Angel and Starlit have been tested and are performing at grade level. That, Schulte said, is a testament to Dugard, who educated her daughters despite not having gone to school beyond the fifth grade herself.

“This has been such a miracle — that Jaycee was able to do all that she’s done under those circumstances just tells us what a strong woman she is and how extremely intelligent she is,”

The new People Magazine cover, left, and a photo of Jaycee Dugard, at the age of 11, right.

Probyn’s stepmother, Joan Curry, told the magazine.

Schulte said the mother and daughters spend their time catching up, cooking and reading. “They’re not hiding,” Schulte told People. “They’re enjoying their privacy.”

Curry said that everyone understands that challenges lie ahead. Dugard was allegedlyraped repeatedly by Garrido and her daughters thought that she was their sister, not their mother. “Jaycee’s realistic,” Curry told People. “She knows this is not going to be the easiest road that she’s ever traveled, but she is just very upbeat, giddy that she’s with her family.”

In a later interview with TODAY’s Natalie Morales, another People editor, Betsy Gleick, also commented on the difficult road the family has ahead.

“What we know is that there are some difficult conversations going on,” Gleick said. “The man who is allegedly their father is allegedly a violent sex offender and they have to come to terms with this.”

Dugard has also taken delight in getting to know her half sister, Shayna Probyn, 19, who was just a toddler when Dugard was kidnapped and is now a college student.

Schulte said that Dugard does not want to dwell on the past, choosing instead to look to the future and more forward.

“She is never looking back,” Schulte told People. “They are just taking things one day at a time. She wants to have a home with her girls, and a happy, quiet, normal life.”

To see the People cover as a larger image click here. The magazine goes on sales on newsstands on Friday.

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