By Dianne Lipson
DOS slave Nicole took the stand on the afternoon of June 6th in the trial of Keith Alan Raniere.
She was wearing a white jacket and black slacks. She is very thin and attractive. One spectator thought she was beautiful. Nicole is an actor. She is not a household name, she’s in SAG [actor’s union.] She had an agent. She did a lot of commercials.
She was examined by Moira Penza.
Nicole is different from the other witnesses. She’s more spontaneous. She uses slang expressions a lot and uses the word “cool” to describe things. Her feelings are close to the surface. Like a lot of actors. She almost talked to Moira Penza like she was talking to a girlfriend.
Nicole testified she was living in LA but decided to move to New York because actors there were more serious. She was dating Mark Hildreth at the time. Hildreth, a successful actor, started pitching Nicole on Nxivm. He mentioned Keith Raniere to her. It was 2013.
Mark said he was part of a program that would make her a better person. And he told her about some people in Nxivm, like Allison Mack and Kristin Kreuk. Nicole knew these people were successful actors. And Emiliano Salinas and Richard Branson.
Mark lent her the money for an intensive. Nicole did no research on Nxivm because Mark told her the best way to go was with a completely open mind and have no expectations. Don’t Google Keith Raniere or Nxivm, Hildreth said, because, sometimes, when people don’t understand something, they judge it wrongly. [This was a year after the Albany Times Union came out with their series where woman accused Raniere of being a pedophile and a rapist – which was available online.]
Hildreth said some people who wrote things online had gotten it wrong. It’s better, he said, that she have her own experience. Nicole trusted Mark.
She took the Nxivm course and learned some interesting things. She wasn’t the biggest fan of the secrecy aspect. She thought if something’s good, why not talk about it? That’s what she likes to do. Also, the sashes, she didn’t see why these were used.
After the first intensive. Mark pressured her to take more classes, which she did.
She took a five-week Nxivm acting course [the Source] in Albany. She borrowed money from her parents to pay for the program. Allison Mack taught the classes.
Nicole’s impression was that Allison was passionate about The Source, which was like her baby. Allison wanted to be a serious actor. Nicole also wanted to be a serious actor.
Keith appeared in most of The Source training videos.
Allison spoke about how Keith and she created The Source together. Allison referred to him as Mr. Raniere in the class.
Nicole went to Vanguard Week. She shared a room with Allison and Rebecca. She stayed in the same bed as Allison to save money.
Allison said she was part of this “really cool women’s mentorship group.”
Allison said it was a really cool thing for strong women. This was all Allison was going to tell her about the group for now.
Nicole noticed there was a lot of running out of the room by Allison. Kind of drill. At Vanguard Week, Allison brought all her own food. Allison said she was eating 500 calories a day.
It was only later that Nicole realized Allison had a sexual relationship with Keith.
Nicole thought it was a little odd that Keith was put on a pedestal.
Nancy Salzman referred to Keith as “the smartest man in the world.”
Nicole testified that to her way of thinking “how would you know who’s the smartest person in the world? It sounded like bullshit to me.”
At this point in Nicole’s testimony, everybody in the courtroom laughed. The spectators laughed; the prosecutors laughed, the jury laughed. Even the judge had to cover his face to hide that he was laughing.
Keith’s face was red, and he had his head down.
That was a great moment. And the judge choked out, “Next question.”
Nicole became friends with Emiliano; they would run together. The idealization of Keith felt weird to her, but Emiliano said, “Keith doesn’t want this idealization to be put on him. People project on to Keith.”
Nicole bought into that since Emiliano was well educated; he went, after all, to Harvard.
The next course in The Source was on the way to becoming certified to teach the course. The course was $6,000. The classes would also help you learn how to enroll actors into these classes – and you would get 50 percent once you were a certified teacher.
At some point, Allison asked Nicole if she was willing to let go of her desire and attachment to having a family. Nicole said no.
Nicole was working long hours at a restaurant, waiting tables. She could barely pay her bills. Things got worse in January 2016. February was very hard. It was her first winter in New York. She was making nothing. She felt lonely. She didn’t know how to move forward in New York. She missed her life in LA.
She was depressed and struggling. She cried on the witness stand as she told her story. She was describing how much pain she was in. She felt suicidal.
It might be a coincidence that she felt suicidal only after taking Nxivm courses.
Nicole sent emails to Allison. Allison’s philosophy was to question if your feelings are real or not real.
Nicole was scared but oddly calm because suicide would give her an option, a way out.
Nicole said she felt like she screwed up everything in her life. She didn’t know who she was anymore. She felt lower than she ever did before. Nicole is crying now on the witness stand.
Allison said she would come to New York and make time for Nicole. They met at a hotel and Allison told Nicole about a secret women’s mentorship organization. The mentorship program would make everything better. This made Nicole feel hopeful.
Allison said if Nicole wanted more information about this mentorship group, Nicole had to provide collateral. Allison explained there would be a woman above you to mentor you and then eventually you’d mentor someone else. Nicole thought it would be “cool” to have a mentor.
Allison said it had nothing to do with Nxivm.
Allison said the collateral required to learn about the women’s group could be something financial like a house or a car. Nicole didn’t have a house or a car. Allison said she could make a video or write letters that would be hurtful to Nicole’s family. Nicole didn’t know how to react at first. It sounded intense.
Allison said it was “exactly what you need right now.”
Allison explained that she herself wrote a letter for her collateral that her father had sexually molested her when she was young.
Nicole is almost crying as she describes how she did not want to write something against her family.
“My family’s amazing. I love my family. My family’s amazing.”
Allison said to Nicole, “You could write a lie.”
Nicole wrote a letter against her family.
Penza asked, ”You wrote the letter?”
Nicole said yes and started sobbing. The court had to wait a few moments for her to compose herself. She really burst into tears.
There were other letters about her family that said bad things. She also had to write a letter that would affect her career. She did that as well. But this is all later, after she joined DOS.
Nicole said this was difficult but Allison said the collateral was an exercise in trust.
Allison said besides no one is ever going to see any of this.
Nicole was concerned if someone found the letters. “What if I died and somebody found the letters?” but Allison said the letters would be kept safely. No one would ever see them.
Allison said, “Don’t you want to be the type of person who trusts someone?”
Nicole didn’t mind making a sex video and she gave Allison the first collateral at a coffee shop in a hotel in New York. Once in possession of the collateral, Allison told Nicole about this group that was called the Vow or DOS.
Nicole learned she would have a mentor above her. It would be an intense growing empowerment group, where women would push each other to be strong mentally, physically and emotionally so that women could build the kind of life they wanted. Allison said it would be a lifetime commitment.
Allison said all women involved would have a small brand, like a tattoo.
Nicole thought the lifetime commitment was scary. But everything else sounded interesting. As an actor, she wanted to be strong intellectually, mentally and physically. And emotionally.
Allison gave Nicole 24 hours to decide whether to join DOS. Even though Nicole was scared of the lifetime commitment, she accepted it.
“Looking back, why did you join?” Penza asked.
“I was looking for something to be helpful. I wanted to be working on something to rebuild my career. I wanted to be like Wonder Woman. And that’s how DOS sounded.”
“Based on what Allison told you, what was your understanding of the women’s mentorship?” Penza asked.
Nicole answered “To build your career. It would be women pushing through their fears to be strong so they could help people.”
Allison never said Keith was involved in the group. If Nicole had known that a man was running a women’s empowerment group, she wouldn’t have joined.
Looking back, there were other things that would have caused her not to join the group – if she’d known about them. Namely, that she was giving up her free will. And that more and more collateral would be demanded, and that there were to be daily demands made on her.
Did she know that there was a sexual component to this?
No, she wouldn’t have been interested if she knew that.
And she would not have joined if she knew how the master-slave relationship worked – for instance every morning she had to text her master [Allison], “Good morning master” and every night she had to text “Good night master”. It felt weird.
Still, her initial impression of this group, at first was good. Allison was very loving. Allison would come down to New York, they’d have lunch. She would check in on Nicole and it was nice.,
Allison even set her up with her agency, which was a great agency. She also set up Nicole with her first off-Broadway auditions.
Mark Hildreth moved to New York and Nicole and he were dating on and off. Allison Mack gave Nicole her first assignment which was not to have sex with Mark anymore. It was presented to her that this was a distraction. Moving back and forth with Mark was a distraction to her career. Nicole agreed. She wanted to focus on her career.
Her next assignment was to be celibate for three months.
In the meantime, Nicole got a new job. She met a “cute boy” at this job. When she told Allison about him, Allison “flipped out.”
Nicole said the guy asked for her phone number. Allison texted back demanding to know if Nicole gave him the number: “Did you give it to him?”
Nicole said yes.
Nicole thought she could still fulfill her order to be celibate for three months and date the boy.
In fact, she thought it would be a good – a good way to get to know him first, before having sex.
Nicole said, “This would be a cool way to use this first challenge.”
But Allison said that Nicole violated her word by even giving the boy her number; it wasn’t a good thing; that she wasn’t keeping her side of the bargain.
Allison told Nicole that she “needed to fix it.”
Nicole felt “super unnerved” at such an extreme reaction. She began to think DOS wasn’t the best thing for her.
But with her better job at the nightclub, she could pay her bills. She was starting to meet people. She could go to auditions during the day.
At some point, Nicole’s mom was coming to New York. Allison met with Nicole and her mom. They went to see a play on Broadway called Blackberries. It’s about a young girl who falls in love with an older neighbor and they have a relationship. Allison was the one who bought the tickets for this play.
When they were together, Nicole’s mother asked her about the cute guy she had been interested in.
Later, Allison told her that what Nicole did was wrong. Nicole said she wanted to leave DOS.
Allison told her that wasn’t an option. Did she want to give up her career growth for a boy? DOS was a lifetime commitment.
Nicole started crying. Allison seemed upset but Allison couldn’t let Nicole out of DOS no matter how hard Nicole cried because that would show that Nicole could get out of this by crying harder.
Allison told Nicole that Allison’s master [who was unknown to Nicole at the time but she later learned it was Keith Alan Raniere] said her collateral would be released if she quit. They would release the sexual tape if she didn’t get her act together.
Allison reported that Nicole did get her life together very fast after the threat.
Nicole was scared. “What did I get myself into?”
Nicole was in DOS for one year and two months. And Nicole was repeatedly told if she ever left DOS, her collateral would be released.
An email, on March 31, 2016 from Nicole to Allison reads [paraphrase]. “I’m losing hold of my ability to choose something for myself.”
Allison replied that “It’s all in how you look at an experience.” meaning that it’s her choice to look at a situation differently. Allison said, “Why are you scaring yourself? You made a commitment. You can’t go back. It’s the choice you made. Don’t question it. It just a waste of time to question it. Just do it.”
Another assignment was to reach out to Keith.
Nicole had never met Keith.
Allison didn’t say why this assignment was given. Nicole said it was her first secret assignment. She found it strange that Allison wouldn’t even give her Keith’s contact information but told her to get it from someone else.
Nicole got Keith’s email from Mark Hildreth. Nicole wrote Keith an email but he did not respond.
Allison accused Nicole of being “slow as molasses” in contacting Keith.
Nicole thought, “How do you get the attention of the smartest man in the world?”
That’s how today ended.