With their nine-episode docu-series The Vow, filmmakers Jehane Noujaim and Karim Amer take a deep, immersive dive into the history of the self-improvement company NXIVM, a multilevel marketing organization whose co-founder Keith Raniere used his status to establish a literal cult within the company’s ranks. Along with a small group of women, Raniere developed DOS – a secret society that branded women and forced them into sexual slavery.
The Vow follows former members as they work to bring an end to Raniere’s covert reign of terror while saving their loved ones from his grasp. The documentary also shows how everyday people are duped into joining groups that turn out to be much more nefarious than meets the eye. Now that federal law enforcement has intervened in NXIVM’s dealings, the story is far from over. In fact, The Vow has been renewed for a second season.
10 Sarah Edmondson
Former NXIVM member Sarah Edmonson went public with her experiences in Raniere’s cult, bravely explaining how she was recruited to join DOS by her longtime friend and NXIVM member Lauren Salzman. Edmonson endured the branding ritual for DOS – where women were literally branded with Raniere’s initials on their lower abdomens – before she finally left.
Edmonson lives in Vancouver with her husband Anthony Ames and their two sons. She continues to blow the whistle on NXIVM’s past indiscretions.
9 Anthony Ames
Sarah Edmonson met her husband Anthony Ames while both worked as high-ranking counselors for NXIVM. After his wife’s tortuous experiences with DOS, Ames also decided to leave NXIVM in 2017 and focus his energy on bringing Raniere to justice.
Edmonson and Ames have managed to keep their marriage afloat through their escape from NXIVM. “Ultimately, I married her character, and when it was tested, it proved to be what I thought it was,” Ames shared with Insider.
8 Bonnie Piesse
After joining NXIVM in 2010, Stars Wars prequel actor and songwriter Bonnie Piesse decided to leave in 2010. She is depicted as the first member of the group The Vow follows to leave, and her choice inspired other former members interviewed in the docuseries to also flee – despite fears of legal retribution from NXIVM’s leaders.
Piesse now lives in Portugal with her husband Mark Vicente, who is also a former member whose story is explored in The Vow. Like Edmonson and Ames, the couple has managed to stay together through a trying few years.
7 Mark Vicente
Mark Vicente was recruited by NXIVM co-founder Nancy Salzman after the release of his award-winning documentary What the Bleep Do We Know!? Vicente spearheaded NXIVM’s marketing arm for years, using his filmmaking skills to paint Keith Raniere as a saint – despite the mountain of criticism lodged against Raniere.
Vicente remained in NXIVM after his wife Bonnie Piesse departed, but he finally left when he learned about DOS. The hours upon hours of NXIVM footage shot by Vicente during his time in the group was used to paint a telling portrait of Raniere in The Vow.
6 India Oxenberg
The actor Catherine Oxenberg features prominently in The Vow. When she was 19, she and her daughter India attended a NXIVM conference that eventually led India down a path toward becoming completely engulfed by the organization’s cultish corridors.
Although it’s not depicted in The Vow, India eventually left NXIVM. She is now the focus of a new NXIVM documentary series on Starz, one entitled Seduced: Inside the NXIVM Cult.
5 Lauren Salzman
One of Keith Raniere’s closest confidantes and many sex partners, Lauren Salzman (pictured right) was a high-ranking NXIVM member who was second only to Raniere in DOS. She recruited dozens and dozens of women into DOS, where they were forced into a master-slave relationship that involved starvation and eventually being coerced into having sex with Raniere.
Lauren was arrested in early 2019 and charged with many crimes, including sex trafficking, racketeering, and forced labor. She is on house arrest while she awaits her sentencing.
4 Nancy Salzman
Lauren’s mother Nancy co-founded NXIVM with Raniere. The nurse and hypnotist was responsible for much of the curriculum developed for NXIVM courses, as well as for much of the behind-the-scenes manipulation and blackmail that kept former and current members quiet for so long.
Nancy was arrested in 2018 and pled guilty to one charge of racketeering. She remains on house arrest until her sentencing, where she faces prison time and large fines.
3 Clare Bronfman
An heiress to the Seagram’s Gin fortune, Clare Bronfman joined NXIVM after attending one of its courses. Along with her sister Sara (pictured right), Clare became one of NXIVM’s most important financial donors.
The Vow shows how Keith Raniere and Nancy Salzman used the Bronfmans’ wealth and status to intimidate their perceived enemies. Clare was recently sentenced to six years in prison for her involvement in NXIVM.
2 Allison Mack
Smallville actor Allison Mack was also one of Keith Raniere’s top-ranking confidantes, who worked as a recruiter for DOS like Lauren Salzman. Mack, who joined NXIVM in 2006, apparently held an even higher position than Lauren within DOS; it was even her idea to brand DOS members.
Mack was arrested in 2018, and she pled guilty to charges ranging from sex trafficking to forced labor at her arraignment. She remains on house arrest while she awaits her final sentencing.
1 Keith Raniere
The Vow demonstrates how Keith Raniere spent decades manipulating and brainwashing those around him for his own villainous ends. Raniere, from the beginning, pressured multiple females around him into sexual relationships, including some who were underaged.
Raniere fled to Mexico, but he was arrested in 2018 without bail. On October 27, 2020, Raniere was sentenced to 120 years in jail, which means he will be in federal prison until he dies.
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