All the new NXIVM cult members we learned about in ‘The Vow’
HBO’s The Vow documents life within the NXIVM cult. The docuseries follows the experiences of notable celebs and former members like Sarah Edmonson. However, the first episode, “The Science of Joy”, introduces a couple of other celebs involved in NXIVM that the media didn’t focus too much on.
Bonnie Piesse and Mark Vicente were well-known NXIVM whistleblowers in NXIVM circles, but were overshadowed by bigger names like Allison Mack. The Vow shows how Piesse & Vicente met in NXIVM, got married there, and how they left. Here’s what we know.
Bonnie Piesse is best known in the U.S. for playing a young Aunt Beru in the Star Wars prequels. In her native Australia, she’s better known for her singing and acting career. Like Smallville’s Kristen Kreuk, she was an average member and didn’t get so far in that she joined the inner circle.
However, when Bonnie Piesse found out about DOS, the sex slavery pyramid scheme within NXIVM, she decided to leave. However, there was a small problem. She was married to an NXIVM member and her decision to exit the cult strained her marriage.
When Piesse first told her husband, Mark Vicente about wanting to leave, he had his doubts. He didn’t believe NXIVM was capable of that kind of abuse. Through Vicente’s own experiences, which The Vow will probably cover in later episodes, he realized that he and Piesse needed to leave. After becoming whistleblowers, they moved to Portugal.
Vicente was an actor & filmmaker who’s best-known for the sleeper hit What the Bleep Do We Know? A grassroots marketing campaign launched the movie’s success and it earned Vicente several awards, including Best Documentary at the Ashland Independent Film Festival.
Vicente met Bonnie Piesse during a NXIVM seminar. When he and Piesse got married, Keith Raniere himself officiated the wedding ceremony. He even wanted to write the couple’s vows.
Vicente is one of the prominent narrators in The Vow alongside Sarah Edmonson. “The Science of Joy” is partially viewed from his perspective, where he expresses his doubts about Piesse’s experiences before concluding he should leave.
Catherine & India Oxenberg
Catherine Oxenberg was marginally involved with NXIVM. She attended a seminar and was impressed with their message of female empowerment. The former Dallas star’s daughter, India, was starting her own business and Oxenberg believed NXIVM could help her daughter build confidence & connections.
Unfortunately, India went in too deep. Bonnie Piesse was the one who contacted Catherine Oxenberg about the dangerous side of the cult. According to Oxenberg, Piesse was instrumental in India’s escape.
Sarah Edmonson’s husband, Anthony Ames, features in The Vow’s first episode. Ames played small roles since 2001, most famously appearing on Supergirl. His father was a famous architect of the same name and he’s a former Ivy League Quarterback. His narrative seems to be tied-up into Edmonson’s who was a more prominent member.
Sarah Edmonson’s story is well-known to people already following the NXIVM case. Edmonson served in NXIVM for years, recruiting enough to make an income. She left the cult after Keith Raniere & Allison Mack invited her to join DOS, where she was branded with a pen.
After the incident, Sarah Edmonson told authorities about her story. The New York Times featured her in an expose, opening up an investigation into NXIVM. The investigation would lead to Keith Raniere’s arrest & conviction, and Allison Mack’s arrest & plea deal.
“The Science of Joy”
The first episode sets up the abuse that is to come without delving into the punchline. Although people like Bonnie Piesse express concerns, The Vow shows NXIVM as another hokey self-help group, leaving the nefariousness for later episodes.
While viewers know where the story is going, “The Science of Joy” makes them question the appeal of NXIVM in the first place, especially with cheesy 80s videos and campy seminars.