NXIVM, a personal development company founded in the 1990s by Keith Raniere, garnered national attention in 2017 when the New York Times exposed it as a pyramid scheme and cult that forced its female recruits into sexual slavery. In the years since Raniere was arrested and later indicted on federal charges. In July 2019, the founder was convicted of racketeering and sex trafficking.
During that time, various people were revealed to be members or recruits -- from an heiress to the Seagram Company fortune to a daughter of a former Dynasty actress --. Still, none were more shocking than former Smallville star Allison Mack. Soon after she was arrested in April 2018, reports alleged that the seemingly wholesome actress was a high-ranking member of the sex cult responsible for recruiting women to be slaves and branding them.
A year later, in April 2019, Mack pleaded guilty to charges of racketeering and is now awaiting sentencing. Since then, several TV projects -- from Lifetime’s Escaping the NXIVM Cult to Vox’s Netflix series Explained -- have shined a light on the cult’s practices and Mack’s involvement.
Mack’s Acting Career and Last Interview With ET
While she was in several made-for-TV movies throughout the ‘90s, like Stolen Memories: Secrets From the Rose Garden opposite Mary Tyler Moore and Dolly Parton’s holiday-themed Unlikely Angel, Mack is most widely known for her role as Chloe Sullivan on Smallville. In the original teen drama based on the DC Comics character Superman, Chloe was one of Clark Kent’s (Tom Welling) best friends and an editor for the high school newspaper. She was an original character created for the show and appeared in 204 episodes during its 10-season run from 2001 to 2011.
In addition to Smallville, Mack made guest-starring appearances on FX’s Wilfred and Fox’s The Following. In 2017, she lent her voice to the Amazon original series, Lost in Oz, which would end up being her last acting gig before her involvement in NXIVM was exposed the following year.
In 2017, seven years after the Smallville series finale, the actress told ET that she was still recognized for playing Chloe. “The character that I played was very accessible and very normal, so the fans that I have are really lovely, and people, more than anything, treat me like a friend that they've had for a long time, which is really nice and definitely a cool benefit of being such an accessible character for so long," she said, adding that while she and her former co-stars “went our separate ways” following the end of the series, they still “love each other and support each other.”
Mack also opened up about her next move, revealing at the time that she was pursuing a few opportunities. “I would love to do some more work on television. I think it's just a matter of finding the right project,” she said. “I think the biggest thing that I've learned is really how to listen to yourself and really understand how to hear your own voice and know what's right for you and what's important to you, and also to really find people and surround yourself with people to work with that believe in you.”
She concluded by saying, “I think it's very easy to get very lost in the industry that we work in and get caught up in other people's ideas of what's good for you.”
The Overlap Between ‘Smallville’ and NXIVM
Among the prominent recruits, there were several people from the acting world, such as Dynasty actress Catherine Oxenberg and her daughter India, who got involved with NXIVM to varying degrees. Coincidentally, a number of actors who appeared on Smallville in a full-time or guest-starring capacity were also recruited by the cult.
The series filmed in Vancouver, Canada, where NXIVM eventually opened a new location as it expanded across North America. Former member Barbara Bouchey said in an E! True Hollywood Story interview that she worked with Canadian actress Sarah Edmondson “over several years to develop the Vancouver center and that led eventually to Allison Mack.”
The actress, who was only 23 at the time, told the New York Times that she “came to NXIVM when she was unhappy with her TV acting career.” She reportedly asked Raniere to “make her a great actress again.”
Mack, however, wasn’t the first Smallville recruit. That was Kristin Kreuk, who played Lana Lang. According to The Hollywood Reporter, shortly after joining the group in 2006, she brought Mack, who was actively befriended by high-ranking member Lauren Salzman. Even though Kreuk was involved with NXIVM, she claims that she left before anything “illegal or nefarious” happened. “I am deeply disturbed and embarrassed to have been associated with NXIVM,” the actress posted to Twitter in 2018. “The accusations that I was in the ‘inner circle’ or recruited women as ‘sex slaves’ are blatantly false.”
Meanwhile, Battlestar Galactica actress Nicki Clyne, who played a waitress in a 2005 episode of Smallville, reportedly joined NXIVM in 2006 and actor Callum Blue, who played General Zod during seasons nine and 10, found himself turning to the organization in 2011, after a personal tragedy.
“At the height of my popularity, I went through some trauma. My father took his own life and I continued working and I was caught up in this spiral of chaos ‘cause Hollywood can be a chaotic and noisy place. And that really opened me up to looking to the outside world to find the answers,” he said in an E! True Hollywood Story interview. Put off by Raniere and his experience, Blue quickly left NXIVM. “I was in it for five days and I heard the same thing again and again and again.”
In 2018, federal prosecutors claimed that Mack and Clyne were married, according to court transcripts obtained by People. It was also reported “the union was at the behest of NXIVM co-founder Keith Raniere.” A one-time publicist for the cult told the magazine, “Nicki has been in the cult for 12 years. She quit her regular role with Battlestar to follow Raniere.”
In Seduced, Oxenberg’s daughter India claimed that both Mack and Clyne forced her to be a witness at their wedding ceremony. “They also wrote a document that I had to sign, saying they were in love and that the wedding was real,” India alleged. “I didn’t realize at the time what I had done was a federal crime. They were not in love and Nicki was Canadian and she needed the marriage in order to stay in the country. This whole thing was orchestrated by Keith.”
Mack’s Role in NXIVM
While Mack’s co-stars, Kreuk and Blue, didn’t stay involved with NXIVM for long, the actress devoted herself to the cult and became a high-ranking member within the organization. According to The Hollywood Reporter, she was “the leader of a secretive sex cult within the NXIVM structure called DOS, which stands for Dominus Obsequious Sororium, or Master Over Slave Women. In this group, Mack allegedly occupied the second-most-senior position (only Raniere was above her) as a ‘master’ and recruited ‘slaves’ from within NXIVM who were held down by other slaves and branded with a hot cauterizing pen.”
In an interview with the New York Times, Mack claimed that she had a part in the creation of the group's ritual, which involved women being branded as a rite of passage with a symbol that includes a “K” and an “R,” Raniere’s initials. Writer Vanessa Grigoriadis reported that when she met Mack, the actress took “full responsibility for coming up with the DOS cauterized brand.” Believing a tattoo was not enough, she “wanted to do something more meaningful, something that took guts.”
“The branding lasted for about 30 minutes,” India recalleded in Seduced, adding that she remembered Mack repeating the phrase, “feel the pain, feel the love,” as she was branded.
She also allegedly forced India to follow a 500-calorie-a-day diet. “Allison was trying to have [India] get down to a certain weight,” a witness identified as Nicole testified during Mack’s trial, the New York Post reported. “It was just really hard to watch, sometimes ... It was tough on her.”
“Allison told me I needed to lose weight,” India claimed in Seduced, before revealing that Raniere wanted her to drop to 106 lbs.
Additionally, as her master, Mack allegedly forced India to seduce the NXIVM founder in addition to various assignments, including keeping a diary, maintaining strict weight, and attending Raniere’s many late-night volleyball games. “Later, the punishments got more severe,” India continued. “I had to do planks, ice-cold showers, stand in the snow at 3 a.m.”
In addition to her role as master, Mack also became a face of NXIVM, appearing in promotional videos for the cult. The Cut reported that Mack was seen “praising her experience working for JNess, an older NXIVM-affiliated ‘women’s empowerment group,’ which she call[ed] ‘the most gratifying thing [she’s] ever done.’” She also attempted to recruit other actresses, like Emma Watson and La Femme Nikita recurring star Samia Shoaib, who told Megyn Kelly that “we got close very quickly, and looking back, it was a very contrived effort, but at the time she seemed so sincere.”
Prosecutors in Mack’s trial alleged that in addition to everything else, Mack recruited slaves and then “directly or implicitly required her slaves … to engage in sexual activity with Raniere.”
Mack’s Arrest and Conviction
Months after the New York Times exposé, the FBI arrested and charged Raniere, who had previously fled to Mexico following the story. Less than a month later, Mack was also arrested and charged with sex trafficking and forced labor before being released on a $5 million bond. During her first court appearance in Brooklyn, New York, where the actress was living at the time, Mack pleaded not guilty to the charges.
In July 2018, Salzman, her mother and other key NXIVM members were arrested for their respective involvement in the cult. Salzman eventually admitted to enslaving women and pleaded guilty to charges of racketeering. According to the New York Post, she told the judge she “knowingly and intentionally harbored Jane Doe 4, a woman whose identity is known to me, in a room in the home in the Northern District of New York.”
By April 2019, Mack entered her plea to racketeering charges. “I must take full responsibility for my conduct and that is why I am pleading guilty today,” she said in court, according to E! News. “I am and will be a better person as a result of this.”
She was initially scheduled for sentencing in September, but the Times Union reported that conviction was postponed to “to allow time to complete pre-sentencing reports” and has since been “released on bond under strict guidelines.” According to several reports, the actress faces up to 20 years in prison.
While Mack awaits sentencing, which has been delayed to the coronavirus pandemic, she has been named as a defendant alongside Raniere and other top members in a new lawsuit charging the personal development company of being a Ponzi scheme, conducting illegal experimentation on humans and exploitation of its female recruits.
In January 2020, ET reported that the civil suit claims that Mack, Raniere and 13 other individuals “exerted power over the plaintiffs; took their money; made it financially, physically and psychologically difficult, and in some cases impossible, to leave the coercive community; and systematically abused plaintiffs physically and emotionally.”
“The recently filed civil suit shows that several of the plaintiffs who appeared as witnesses at the criminal trial were less than candid when they testified under oath they were not going to sue Raniere. Clearly, these people were motivated by money, a motivation the jury should have known. This will be one of several issues we will raise in court,” Marc Agnifilo, Raniere’s lawyer, said in a statement. Lawyers for Mack have not responded to requests for comment.
Since then, Mack has been out on a $5 million bail and under house arrest. During that time she reportedly has been undergoing therapy and working toward a bachelor's degree at University of California, Berkeley. She also filed for divorce from Clyne, who remains a vocal defender of Raniere.
Prior to her sentencing, it was reported that the prosecution revealed Mack had “provided substantial assistance to the government” and that they were seeking a sentence “below” the standard range of 14 to 17.5 years. Meanwhile, her lawyers had requested that she spend no time in prison after she as “turned completely around from depravity and trauma to peace, acceptance and remorse.”
While a trial date for the civil lawsuit has not been set, Mack was finally sentenced on June 30, 2021. U.S. District Court Judge Nicholas Garaufis ordered her to serve three years in prison, pay a $20,000 fine and complete 1,000 hours of community service. She is expected to surrender herself to authorities on Sept. 29.
Mack is the latest high-profile member to be sentenced after Seagram heiress Clare Bronfman was sentenced to nearly seven years in prison and founder Keith Raniere was convicted on racketeering and sex trafficking charges, and sentenced to 120 years in prison.