There have been a number of cults that have garnered the attention of the media through their deviant beliefs and practices. Most of them have their own agenda. Some are political cults, while others are doomsday cults or even destructive cults. Regardless, whichever group a cult belongs into, one thing is for certain, just the word cult can garner up a variety of negative images. When defining what a cult is, the most common definition is that a cult is a tight knit group of people who are basically brainwashed into doing things that they would otherwise not even think about doing.
Some people might be surprised to learn that some of their favorite celebrities were involved in a cult. Most of these celebrities were born into a cult society and were lucky enough to escape while others, unknowingly, got themselves in a cult like situation. Whatever their reasons for being in a cult, these celebrities were lucky enough to get out, but that doesn’t mean that their harsh upbringing didn’t scar them along the way.
5. Joaquin Phoenix
Joaquin Phoenix and the late, River Phoenix grew up in a sect called the Children of God. During his time in this sect, Phoenix and his family traveled around Mexico and Venezuela, where they were sometimes forced to beg to get by, in order to get new converts. Phoenix has described his family’s living conditions during this time as “disgusting.” In 1978, when Joaquin was just seven years old, the Phoenix’s decided to leave the Children of God sect, when they became uncomfortable with the fact that the sect used sex in order to gain new recruits. The family eventually escaped the cult and Phoenix’s parents became Christian missionaries.
It can be argued that the unconventional upbringing of Joaquin and River Phoenix affected them greatly later in life. River died of a drug overdose in 1993, while Joaquin suffered a very public meltdown, which was shown in the controversial film, I’m Still Here.
4. Rose McGowan
Rose McGowan was also a part of the Children of God sect during her childhood. The cult is described as, “a religious movement that mixed the free-love attitudes of the ‘60s with the proselytizing in the streets,” (abc News). McGowan’s father ran the Italian chapter of the sect, so Rose spent a lot of her childhood traveling through different sects in Europe. McGowan has said this to People magazine about being in the Children of God, “You had no contact with the outside world. Things that are completely unacceptable became normal. I remember watching how the men were with the women, and at a very early age I decided I did not want to be like those women. They were basically there to serve men sexually…you were allowed to have more than one wife.” McGowan’s family escaped from the cult before she experienced any sexual abuse, but that doesn’t mean that McGowan doesn’t know how lucky she is to have gotten out. McGowan said, “There’s a trail of some very damaged children that were in this group. As strong as I like to think I’ve always been. I’m sure I could have been broken. I know I got out by the skin of my teeth.”
3. Winona Ryder
When Winona Ryder was just seven years old, her family moved into the Rainbow commune, a group that is committed to nonviolence and egalitarianism. Ryder moved to the small community with her parents and her younger brother. In the community, the Ryder’s and seven other families attempted to solely live off the land. The Rainbow Commune had no electricity or television, so Ryder became very interested in reading to entertain herself. Her reading addiction is what eventually got her interested in a career in acting. When her family moved out of the Rainbow commune a few years later, Ryder started auditioning for acting roles.
Fun Fact: Winona Ryder’s grandfather is one of the biggest proponents of LSD
2. Glenn Close
At the age of seven, a seemingly popular age for future celebrities to get pulled into a cult, Close’s family joined a conservative missionary movement called ‘Moral Re-Armament.’ She was a part of the cult until she managed to escape at the age of 22. The cult was focused on re-arming morality instead of military rearming. Frank Buchman, the driving force behind the group, said this about the Moral Re-Armament in London, “The nations must re-arm morally. Moral Recovery is essentially the forerunner of economic recovery. Moral recovery creates not crisis but confidence and unity in every phase of life.”
When reflecting on her life in the Moral Re-Armament, Close has said that everyone had to adhere to the same beliefs. Questioning the doctrine that the group lived by was unacceptable. Close told the Daily Beast, “Any kind of group-mandated thing, for a child is quite dire. It’s cult living where you’re told what to say and how to act. It’s very sexually repressive and yet you’re supposed to be re-making the world, but you re-make the world in someone else’s eyes, so you give up your individuality.”
1. Michelle Pfeiffer
When Michelle Pfeiffer first moved to Hollywood, she felt utterly and completely lost. So when a seemingly well-meaning couple offered to take her in and show her they way, Pfeiffer gladly accepted. Unfortunately for Pfeiffer, the couple belonged to a group that believes in breathearianism. Breatharianism is a movement that believes that humans don’t need food or water to survive. All they really need is sunlight. Obviously, Pfieffer was unable to live on such a strict diet, which she says, “nobody can adhere to.” However, Pfeiffer didn’t even realize anything was wrong with living with this couple until she met her first husband, who was working on a film about another cult, Moon Sung Moon’s Unification Church. According to Pfeiffer, “We were talking with an ex-Moonie and he was describing the psychological manipulation, and I just clicked. I was in one…a cult.” I guess what they say about cults is true, they really can mess around with somebody’s mind.