An actress said in a television interview that Smallville star Allison Mack tried recruiting her into Nxivm, the controversial self-help group one former member has described as a “cult.”
Appearing Thursday morning on NBC News’ Megyn Kelly TODAY, actress Samia Shoaib said she first met Mack in New York City back in 2013, when they both auditioned for the same pilot.
The two exchanged email addresses and dozens of messages allegedly followed, Shoaib — whose film and television credits include Sex and the City and The Sixth Sense — told Kelly.
Shoaib told Kelly she believes she was “love bombed” by Mack. Noted cult expert Rick Ross characterizes “love bombing” as a persuasion tactic in which prospective recruits are smothered with affection as a way to discourage doubts and reinforce “the need to belong through use of child-like games, singing, hugging, touching, or flattery.”
“She was mirroring me,” Shoaib said. “I would say ‘I am very interested in feminism,’ and she’d say, ‘Oh, me too!’ I said I’m from Pakistan and she said, ‘I love other cultures — tell me more.’ Looking back, it was a very contrived effort but at the time, she seemed so sincere.”
According to prosecutors, Mack is accused of recruiting women to join what was purported to be a female mentorship group within Nxivm that was designed to address their weaknesses. Prosecutors say the group was actually created by Nxivm co-founder Keith Raniere so that he could take advantage of the women sexually.
Mack and Raniere have both been charged with sex trafficking and related charges.
According to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of New York, Nxivm operated like a “pyramid scheme,” where female “slaves” were subordinate to “masters.” Mack was allegedly “one of the women in the first level of the pyramid immediately below Raniere,” the statement says.
As such, she allegedly had “slaves” underneath her, according to the statement, which claims Mack “directly or implicitly required” two women “to engage in sexual activity with Raniere.”
“In exchange, for this, Mack received financial and other benefits from Raniere,” the statement alleges.
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Mack and Raniere have pleaded not guilty to the charges they face.
They face a minimum of 15 years in prison if convicted on all charges. On Tuesday, Mack was released from jail but will remain under house arrest at her parents’ home in California, where she will be monitored electronically.
‘She Used Feminism Towards Such Nefarious Ends’
According to Shoaib, she met Mack while she was “in a fairly vulnerable time.” She had been drinking heavily after enduring “a traumatic experience,” but found no solace or comfort in Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, which were typically male-dominated.
“There was a lot of male energy,” Shoaib told Kelly. “She told me, ‘I have an alternative.’ She put me on the phone with a guy named Edgar, who spouted all this self-help stuff.”
In time, Shoaib met Mack in person. She told Kelly she met Mack and another woman for dinner. She believes that third dinner guest was India Oxenberg, the daughter of Dynasty star Catherine Oxenberg, who has become an outspoken Nxivm critic since India joined the group.
Shoaib said the dinner was unusual because Mack’s demeanor was drastically different than it had been at the audition and over email.
“She was very dour, very moody, very pulled down and serious,” Shoaib said. “It was strange to see her go from a smiling, chirpy, extremely friendly girl into someone quite stern.”
Shoaib said she had “no doubt” Mack was recruiting her: “It was very clear she was pumping up her feminist interests to lure me in. I was very heartened that this woman was looking to do something positive … I’m angry she used feminism towards such nefarious ends.”
Jennifer Pastiloff, a yoga instructor and writer, told PEOPLE earlier this week she, too, thinks Mack was trying to recruit her into Nxivm in 2013.