It’s been seven months since Leah Remini announced her departure from the Church of Scientology. Now the actress, who had been a lifelong member, is opening up further about why she left.
In a new interview with BuzzFeed, the star of the upcoming series The Exes admits there were “dozens of influencing factors.” But the final straw came when her daughter Sofia, 9, approached the age when auditing – a process that involves a series of probing questions – became required for acclimation into the church.
“In my house, it’s family first – but I was spending most of my time at the church,” she says. “So, I was saying ‘family first,’ but I wasn’t showing that. I didn’t like the message that sent my daughter.”
Remini, 43, says she tried to speak to her friends within the church to instigate change, but “they only cared that their lives would be disrupted if they stood with me. They didn’t care about doing the right thing.”
The actress admits she grew up “resenting” her own mother for spending so much time at the church instead of at home. “We went from a middle-class lifestyle [in Brooklyn] to living in a roach-infested motel with six other girls off a freeway in Clearwater,” Remini recalls of her family’s transition to the church’s Florida compound during her childhood. However, Remini insists she and her mom are now closer than ever.
“The fact my mother stood by me after all her years in the church totally took away any resentment I may have been harboring,” she says. “When it mattered the most, my mother was there for me. It was the moment that erased all those days she wasn’t there.”
Upon leaving the church, Remini claimed Scientology officials were controlling and intimidating toward members. She later admitted to losing friends over her decision.
These days, the former King of Queens star is learning how to “celebrate life,” which ranges from new projects like her stint on Dancing with the Stars to just enjoying a glass of wine.
“Before, I would be going to the church right after lunch. There’s no going to dinner with friends and having a glass of wine – I never did that in my adult life,” she says. “It was so crazy to me because you can’t get counseling the next day at the church if you’ve had a drink, so most Scientologists don’t drink.”
Another woman in her life who has offered guidance and support since she renounced the church is best friend Jennifer Lopez.
“Jennifer made special rings for all the women in her life that say, ‘I Love Me,’ ” she shares. “I’ve really come to realize you have to love yourself before you can expect someone else to. You have to learn to believe you deserve love. And I’m getting there. I’m starting to believe it.”