How did Allison Mack get involved with a sex cult in the first place? Disturbing new details emerge
Allison Mack arrives at the United States Eastern District Court for a hearing in relation to the sex-trafficking charges filed against her on May 4, 2018, in New York City. (Photo: Jemal Countess/Getty Images)
As Allison Mack and Keith Raniere await trial, new details have emerged about how the Smallville actress ended up in an alleged sex cult in the first place.
The Hollywood Reporter interviewed people for an in-depth look at Mack’s disturbing rise to No. 2 in DOS, a secret society in the self-help group Nxivm, which stands for Dominus Obsequious Sororium or Master Over Slave Women. Mack and Raniere, the founder of Nxivm, have been charged with sex trafficking, sex-trafficking conspiracy, and forced-labor conspiracy for their involvement in the alleged sex cult.
So how did Mack go from a TV fan favorite to potential felon?
It started in late 2006, when she attended a two-day introduction to Jness in Vancouver. The program was billed as a “women’s movement” workshop within Nxivm and the then-23-year-old actress attended with thousands of other people around the world. Mack was living in Canada as she filmed Smallville and it was her co-star, Kristin Kreuk, who brought her along.
Kreuk, who played Lana Lang on the CW show, has admitted to being in Nxivm but denies any involvement in or knowledge of the secret sorority. She tweeted a statement explaining that she left the group years ago and has declined to comment further.
Susan Dones, a former Nxivm member and “field trainer” who had her own center in Washington state, tells THR that Raniere instructed members to roll out the red carpet for Mack. Nxivm’s president, Nancy Salzman, was speaking at the event and had her daughter Lauren seek out the young actress. “By the end of the weekend, Lauren and Allison were like best friends,” Dones, who left the group in 2009, recalls.
When the seminar concluded, Mack was invited to fly to Albany, N.Y., on a private jet to meet Raniere, whose teachings she had been hearing about all weekend. Mack accepted the offer as she was told he could help her with her acting career. Apparently, this was a rare move even when attempting to recruit VIPs.
A few weeks later, Dones visited the corporate offices and training facility outside Albany, and she was surprised to see Mack still there: “[Allison] said she was having a great time.”
“Her celebrity was her appeal,” cult specialist Rick Ross tells THR. “There were other women who were pretty, but she was the one who was so poised, so good on camera. She was somebody who could really sell it.”
Mack, 35, has been in the entertainment industry for the better part of her life. She started acting at age 4 and was enrolled at the Young Actors Space in Los Angeles. (Leonardo DiCaprio and Keri Russell are a few notable names who attended the performing-arts academy.) Someone who worked with Mack — but didn’t want to be named — tells THR she was “as normal as ‘normal’ can be in this business … Her parents were just like, ‘This is what she wanted to do.'”
Mack was 18 when she landed the role of Chloe Sullivan on Smallville, which ran from 2001 to 2011. It was in her fifth season that she attended the Nxivm conference and some friends say it was because she was looking for something more.
“She was so hungry for something bigger, some kind of sign [that would show] the purpose and meaning of life,” Step by Step actress Christine Lakin tells THR — the two were friends as fellow child actors in the ’90s. Some friends say Mack was insecure about not going to college and wanted to get knowledge elsewhere.
“I have a tendency to say I am stupid. I [have become] very comfortable chalking things up to the fact that I don’t have a ‘proper education,'” Mack wrote on her blog in 2007. “The truth is … I am an eternal student, and I am loving all the opportunities I have to grow.”
One of her former roommates in Vancouver also tells the publication she was looking for mentorship: “Allison had such a desire to be a strong businesswoman and have a mentor.”
That’s exactly what Mack has said she found in Raniere. In an interview last year, she credited him with helping her cope with the “overwhelming and intimidating” fame she experienced from Smallville. “I have a wonderful teacher and mentor named Keith Raniere, who really gave me some incredible guidance. I think everyone needs a mentor,” she said. “I don’t think any of us really know the answers without a little bit of wisdom. If you aren’t willing to be humble enough to seek wisdom from other people, I think you’re missing a lot of really incredible opportunities to build a certain amount of depth and value in your life that you wouldn’t have if you didn’t have somebody to help guide you.”
But Mack’s fame is exactly what drew Raniere to her.
One former Nxivm member tells THR that in 2009, Raniere sought to mimic more of what Scientology was doing. “The group’s leaders were studying Scientology and saying they wanted to be more like them — more visually appealing, more streamlined, more like the cool kids,” says the source. “And they wanted people who were attractive and compelling; that’s why they went after people like Allison Mack.”
Rick Ross adds, “She was the Tom Cruise of Nxivm.”
When Smallville ended, Mack purchased a house near Albany and her ties to Raniere and Nxivm became only deeper. “She really believed that teaching the difference between men and women was good, that it was pure and noble,” says a former consultant. “I don’t think any of us saw where it was going, that it was teaching women to be subservient.”
Mack attempted to recruit friends and fellow celebrities to join the group, and if those close to her pushed back, she usually cut them off.
“Her personality [increasingly] turned inside out,” a former employee says, alleging that Mack began berating and humiliating her for small instances. This person says Mack was just as hard on herself, proclaiming at one point she would never choose to have kids because she was “so f***ed up.”
It’s believed Mack became much more intimate with Raniere by 2010. Susan Dones alleges she knew first-hand that he kept a harem of more than a dozen women. One former member of this intimate group believes she saw signs that Mack was part of it. “I took one look at Allison, and I knew she was involved romantically and sexually with Keith,” the woman alleges. “She had a gray pallor that was common to Keith’s women because they all start to get a little sickly. I know I did. They drop weight. Their heads get too big for their bodies so they become bobbleheads. It’s scary-looking.”
Three of the women in DOS that Raniere trusted most — called “the wolf pack” by Dones — left for various reasons from 2013 to 2016, and Mack appeared to fill this void. Frank Parlato, who briefly did PR for Nxivm and was the first person to expose DOS on his blog last year, says Mack “had the ability to bring women to Raniere’s bed. She procured some startling beauties.” He alleges Mack had more than 50 slaves, which was the same number cited by federal prosecutors.
OneTHR source claimed to have spoken with two of Mack’s alleged slaves. “These slaves said Mack was incredibly intimidating, cruel and punitive,” the source claims, adding that Mack blackmailed them to sleep with Raniere. “You made a lifetime vow!” Mack screamed, according to the source. “She berated them and told them they were worth nothing, that they were weak, and couldn’t uphold their word.” Both women allegedly were branded and in Mack’s “slave pod.”
People who know Mack seem to be split on whether she should be viewed as a victim herself, or simply as a co-conspirator. Some are worried the actress is so brainwashed, she might take the fall for Raniere by saying DOS was her idea and that he had no knowledge of it.
Raniere has pleaded not guilty on all counts, and some reports suggest that Mack is working on a plea deal. A status update has been set for June with a trial date of Oct. 1. They could each face up to 15 years in prison if convicted.