While the words ‘celebrity’ and ‘cult’ immediately conjure up images of a smiling, toothy Tom Cruise explaining his passion for Scientology, it turns out that there are actually a lot of celebrities who were either raised in cults or dabbled in unorthodox groups later in life.
While most of them have since talked about seeing the light and breaking away from the cults that they were once part of, some continue to remain as members of organisations that have a sinister ethos – and again, we’re not just talking about Tom Cruise and the fact that Scientology forbids women from making noises during childbirth – seriously, what the hell?
Here are seven celebs that were/are members of cults:
Joaquin Phoenix is an American actor whose roles span from Parenthood to Walk the Line, Gladiator and Hotel Rwanda. An Academy Award nominee, Phoenix endured somewhat of an unconventional upbringing in the Children of God cult. The controversial group were known for forcing their members to live in squalid poverty while beating, starving and sexually abusing children.
Phoenix later spoke about his experience, saying that when his parents realised that it was more than a religious community they “left very early on.”
Apparently, Will Smith’s son, actor and model Jaden Smith, alongside his sister, Willow Smith and model Kylie Jenner, are all members of the Orgonite Society. The Orgonite Society claim to be a secret organisation of individuals ‘who create and place Organite to balance Gaia’s energies’. In Greek mythology, Gaia is said to have created the universe.
The famous teens reportedly serve the cult by transforming the negative orgone (or ‘cosmic life energy’) into a positive orgone by distributing cleansing pyramids and crystals around the place.
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While it’s perhaps a bit of a stretch to label the Orgonite Society a cult, it certainly has some aesthetically pleasing decorations.
Early on in Pfeiffer’s career, she fell into a cult called Breatharianism via some personal trainers (yet another reason to stay clear of the gym.) Followers of the cult bizarrely believe that humans can complete photosynthesis like plants. They claim that food isn’t necessary for life and that sunlight can provide all the nutrients and nourishment the body needs.
After encouraging the actress to subscribe to their diet, she only realised that Breatharianism was a cult when she was introduced to her future husband, Peter Horton. Horton, who had been cast in films featuring cults, informed her about the typical characteristics, therefore prompting her to break ties with the personal trainers.
Pfeiffer later said of her experience, “I had to pay for all the time I was there, so financially it was very draining. They believed that people in their highest state were Breatharian.”
The Stranger Things actress was somewhat of a 90’s ‘It Girl’ with roles in Beetlejuice, Mermaids and Edward Scissorhands.
However, in her youth, her family relocated to the ‘Rainbow Family Commune of Living’ – essentially a large farm in California where several families lived together without electricity, television or music.
Since those living on the farm discouraged any films as part of their group ‘ethos’, Ryder’s mother would secretly project them on the door of a barn, which in turn inspired her passion for acting.
After starring in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the Scream series, David Arquette also tried out professional wrestling. However, he had an unorthodox start to life, having been born and raised at the Skymond Subud commune in Virginia.
The commune posed itself as a non-sectarian spiritual ‘social experiment’ that was allegedly meant to replicate a form of utopia. However, their view of utopia differs slightly from what you might expect. Instead of luxury, members of the cult were faced with no bathrooms, no electricity, and no running water – what a paradise…
Close – star of Fatal Attraction – was part of a cult from the ages of seven until 22.
Her father forced her family to join a religious faction called the Moral Re-Armament, which was founded by religious evangelist, Frank Buchman.
Founded in the 1930s, the cult held four absolutes as gospels: honesty, purity, unselfishness and love. Seems legit…
While these sound decent in theory, they actually masked the all-controlling traits of the cult, which gradually developed into a possessive and exclusionary organisation.
Close has said that the cult restricted any free-thinking and that she spent most of her childhood having to pretend to agree with the cult’s oppressive belies. In fact, she’s even claimed that this experience gave her the natural ability to act.
Fans of super-hero show Smallville were shocked to discover that the show’s leading lady, Allison Mack, went on to become second in command of a sex cult.
The cult, called NXIVM, are known for branding women, putting them on starvation diets and beating members if they disobey. The group also functioned as a master-slave hierarchy, with Mack being second in command with several slaves of her own.
Ex-members have spoken out about the atrocities they were subjected to as part of the NXIVM, including the fact that Mack and cult leader Keith Raniere would restrict their diet to 500-800 calories per day, since Raniere only wanted to sleep with slim women.
One report said that Mack’s initials were also branded on women’s pubic region.
In April 2018, Mack was arrested on charges of sex trafficking, sex trafficking conspiracy and forced labour conspiracy. If found convicted of all their charges, Mack and Raniere face a minimum of 15 years imprisonment.
Of course, no celebrity cult list would be complete with touching on TC’s involvement with the Church of Scientology.
A vocal advocate of the ‘religion’, Cruise is the Church’s most high profile member and has come under intense scrutiny for it. Celebrities such as Brooke Shields have all challenged his views.
After Cruise claimed that Shields shouldn’t have been taking anti-depressants to help with her postpartum depression since there’s no such things as ‘chemical imbalance’ and that psychiatry is a form of “pseudoscience“, Shields hit back claiming that Cruise “should stick to saving the world from aliens and let women who are experiencing postpartum depression decide what treatment options are best for them.”
If you’re unsure about what Scientology is, you can read more about it here, but given that Cruise’s ex-wife, actress Katie Holmes, is said to have divorced him over fears that their daughter, Suri, would be pressured into becoming a member of Scientology, that should tell you all you need to know.
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