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When Michelle Pfeiffer came to Hollywood at age 20, she didn't know where to turn -- and she ended up in a cult. A a pretty weird one, too. The actress, 55, opens up about this chapter of her past for the first time in an interview with the U.K. Telegraph. "They worked with weights and put people on diets. Their thing was vegetarianism," Pfeiffer explains. "They were very controlling. I wasn’t living with them but I was there a lot and they were always telling me I needed to come more. I had to pay for all the time I was there, so it was financially very draining."
That's not the weird part, though. The cult leaders, says Pfeiffer, believed that "people in their highest state were breatharian" -- meaning, enlightened people do not require food and water, and can live on sunlight alone.
Breatharianism is still around, oddly enough, and has caused several followers to die of starvation. Fortunately, Pfeiffer got out before she caused herself any lasting harm. Her a-ha moment came when her first husband, actor Peter Horton, was researching a film about another cult (the Unification Church, or the "Moonies").
“We were talking with an ex-Moonie and he was describing the psychological manipulation and I just clicked,” she recalls.
Most (if not all) religions have been called "cults" at some point, and there's no single accepted definition. Usually, a cult is considered to be a small religious group with extreme or dangerous beliefs, which separates members from the outside world and often causes them physical or psychological harm. Scientology is frequently called a cult, as are Kabbalah and Hare Krishna. All three remain extremely popular among celebrities. But what about the more obscure ones, like "breatharianism?" Here are 5 celebrities, besides Pfeiffer, who have been associated with groups commonly called cults.
When the Charmed actress was very young, her father ran the Italian chapter of the Children of God cult (which disbanded in 1978 and later re-formed as The Family International). "You had no contact with the outside world. Things that are completely unacceptable became normal," McGowan told People in 2011. "I remember watching how the [cult's] men were with the women, and at a very early age I decided I did not want to be like those women. They were basically there to serve the men sexually -- you were allowed to have more than one wife."
River & Joaquin Phoenix
The late actor and his Oscar-nominated brother were also raised in a Children of God sect, which traveled through communes in Mexico and Venezuela. River had called the conditions of his childhood "disgusting." The Phoenix parents removed their family from the group in 1977.
The British model recently tweeted that she's a "Thelemite," a follower of occult philosopher Aleister Crowley. Frequently called a "sex cult" by critics, the religion (also known as Ordo Templi Orientis, or "OTO," which Geldof has tattooed on her arm) advocates secret occult rituals and sexual promiscuity. It's debatable whether it's a true "cult," though, since members are allowed to live their lives as they choose and leave at any time.
The Damages actress joined a spiritual movement called Moral Re-Armament (now called Initiatives of Change) when she was seven years old. "It was a cult, where everyone was told to think alike, and that's devastating," Close told New York magazine in 2012. "I decided that I would not trust even my instincts, because I didn't know what they were. Everything had been dictated." She left the group at age 22.