Six years ago, Allison Mack sat on a purple rug filming a segment for her YouTube channel. A colorful scarf knitted by a friend. Mack said. As charming and innocuous as she appeared, Ms. Mack was entranced by an organization that promoted itself as a mentorship program but was on the brink of devolving into a so-called sex cult.
In April, the year-old actress pleaded guilty to racketeering and racketeering conspiracy and faces up to 20 years in prison. Beyond the lurid details of the case is a story of a bright, beloved young woman in Hollywood who longed for enlightenment, but instead became enthralled by the teachings of a twisted leader.
Mack declined to be interviewed while the trial is proceeding, but interviews with former Nxivm members and those who knew her before she joined the organization outlined her journey from Teen Choice Award winner to convicted member of an apparent sex cult. As she moved into her teens, Ms. Mack was poised but lacked sophistication, needing help with her makeup and style, recalled her former agent, Judy Savage. After high school, Ms. But Ms. Lakin and others said that Ms. Lakin said. I think she was just constantly searching for something that was missing in her life.
Mack, who was sensitive to criticism. Despite the public pitting the two against each other, Ms. Mack and Ms. Kreuk bonded quickly. It was Ms. Kreuk who brought Ms. The weekend seminar was held in a Vancouver hotel where Ms. Mack seemed to bask in the attention from Nancy Salzman, who co-founded Nxivm with Mr.
Salzman was teaching a workshop and spoke about how men are genetically polyamorous, said Susan Dones, the owner of a Nxivm center who was there that day, though she had begun to question Mr.
By the end of the seminar, Ms. Mack had grown close to Ms. Raniere in Albany. Nxivm courses were said to help eliminate psychological and emotional barriers, and Ms. Mack saw them as a way to enhance her relationships and acting abilities, said Barbara Bouchey, a former girlfriend of Mr. She was also eager to help and soon hosted, along with Ms. Kreuk, a Nxivm a cappella concert, said Frank Parlato, a former publicist for the organization.
Mack tended to throw herself wholeheartedly into experiences, a habit she said she developed at a young age when she watched her mother battle and beat cancer. Greedy, in a way. By , she was insisting that anyone she hired enroll in Nxivm classes, wanting to make sure her team had the same ethical foundation. She also turned increasingly inward, obsessing over defects in her character, said a woman who worked for Ms.
Mack for eight years who asked not to be named for fear of being contacted by current Nxivm members. Martorana said. The friendship deteriorated when Ms. Mack invited him to a Nxivm recruiting event at a Los Angeles mansion overlooking the ocean. Mack moved to Brooklyn where she packed her apartment with paintings and books and listened to jazz. She yearned to reinvent herself.
She bought a home in Clifton Park, N. Mack joined their a cappella group, Simply Human. Her social media pages became collages of nature photos and inspirational quotes, and she reached out to high-profile potential members on Twitter, including the actress Emma Watson and the singer Kelly Clarkson. Around , Ms. Her manager did not respond to requests for comment. In , she was helping to start a media website for Nxivm that promised to strip news of its spin. A year later, prosecutors said, a secret society formed within Nxivm called D.
Mack is said by prosecutors to have targeted vulnerable women under the guise of female empowerment, starving them until they fit Mr. Although Ms. Raniere, former members of the organization said. But Mr. Raniere, who is on trial on charges including sex trafficking and coercing an underage girl to engage in sexually explicit conduct, now stands alone.
When Ms. Mack appeared in court in April to plead guilty, she wore a camel-colored mock turtleneck and tired eyes. Mack also began to lose friends. Among them was Frank Martorana, a confidant for years.
Her small voice wobbled as she spoke. She apologized. She wept.