Your favourite celebrity’s favourite organization

Jasmine Garcha (she/they) // Contributor
Ethan Woronk (he/him) // Illustrator

Cults have been a common area of study for the past century and have really come to the forefront of mainstream media in recent years. Everybody wants to know about cults and wants to toss the word around, whether accurate or not. To me, a cult is a religious-adjacent organization that may have outlandish faith systems or beliefs and is not part of a religion. I’ve heard religions be called cults and vice versa. I’ve also heard people say that all religions begin as cults. Although I agree there may be similarities, there are certain distinguishing differences between cults and religions.


Religions are much more open with their teachings, whereas cults may have a subscriber-based or loyalty-based ‘unlocking’ of information in which participants either must be chosen or must pay money to be initiated. It is also oftentimes mandatory to pay to unlock features or to fund private events, but in religion the money is optional and on a donation basis. Donations are  usually used to fund aspects of the organization that benefit the whole community or for public events.


The idea of community is also a big differentiating feature. Religion brings communities together and is oftentimes a uniting force regardless of which religion you follow while also encouraging familial and friendly relations, whereas cults isolate you from the outside world.


Cults are so easy to join that people get tricked into them all the time; maybe they’re even so mundane and out in the open that you’ve already joined one without realizing it. *Cough* looking at you, fandoms, standoms, Swifties…


Who can blame anyone, though, when the cults themselves have major celebrity endorsements? Tom Cruise for Scientology (Scientology is a religious-adjacent organization, self-described as a religion, which is what made me use it as an example; it is not a cult) and Miley Cyrus for whatever cult people think she’s joined now. It’s not easy to avoid the topic if your idols are the center of it.


I was recently informed of an organization you may have heard of recently, described as a ‘sex cult’ across North America. It was called NXIVM and was founded by a sex offender by the name of Keith Raniere. He would recruit people in highly populated cities, including Vancouver, and he targeted high-profile persons such as our very own Kristin Kreuk and Allison Mack. Under the guise of ‘self-help,’ Raniere would go through Hollywood’s social circles recruiting actors and directors to become high-ranking officials in the cult.


It was rumoured that Raniere would feed off of those actors’ insecurities from their lack of consistent larger successes and coerce them into joining NXVIM. The cult used the aforementioned loyalty-based unlocking of information; with the promise of achieving meaningful success, outside of film and television, they would be working to climb the social ladder within the organization. Getting closer to Raniere, thus gaining his affection and being told that they were making a meaningful difference.


It was also rumoured that they were branded across the pelvis, however it is unclear whether that also made a meaningful difference.

It seems like a common belief that people who fall victim to cults must be stupid or weak-minded but I think that it’s our responsibility as the consumers of information, the ones responsible for making up the public opinion, to turn that back onto the cult leaders. They are the ones manipulating and preying on vulnerable people.


People seem to think that you have to be a really specific type of person to join a cult and that celebrities should be immune since they have power and influence. I’m not a regular defender of  celebrities — I don’t keep up with that stuff often enough. However, with evidence from the case of Raniere and NXVIM backing up this point, I do think that this is exactly the reason they get targeted — power and influence. So, enjoy your fanning, stanning, and Swifting, but remember to be careful with how deep you fall.

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