Souki: Actress Played Her, But Directors of HBO’s ‘The Vow’ Didn’t Tell Audience

Is it a big deal? Probably not. But The Vow hired an actress to play Souki Mehdaoui on The Vow, without disclosing that she was an actress.

The story was true. Souki seems to have been accurately represented. The question is should The Vow, a docuseries that purports to be a verité documentary, have disclosed they employed an actress, instead of leading audiences to believe the woman they watched was telling her own authentic story of abuse?

“Verité” means “truthful;” the style is observational, as if the camera is only watching without direction to those being filmed.

But there was an actress being directed. Maybe it’s not a big deal.

Souki Explains

Last November 22, just one day after HBO aired the final episode of The Vow, Season 2, Souki Mehdaoui appeared on Rough Cut, a podcast about documentary filmmakers and video journalists.

Souki spoke of her experiences with HBO’s “The Vow,” Season 1. 

Souki Mehdaoui on “Rough Cut: What Do Filmmakers Owe Their Subjects”

Rough Cut describes Souki as a “documentary filmmaker, director of photography [DP] and subject coordinator.” She was also “a member of DOS, and NXIVM, and a partner of now-imprisoned Keith Raniere. She was a subject in the HBO documentary series The Vow.”

She was a subject of the documentary, but never appeared in The Vow. Her name is never mentioned.

Souki’s story is told in season 1, episode #4, by an actress who played her, as “Jane.”

While it is Souki’s story, neither Souki, her voice, nor her image appear. It wasn’t supposed to be that way.

It was the result of last minute changes, and instead of Souki appearing and using her name, The Vow substituted an actress at the last minute.

The Vow didn’t explain to the audience that the woman on screen, “Jane,” was an actress, and not an actual member of NXIVM and DOS, as she said.

As far as I recall, she was the only actress in the 15 episodes of the two-season docuseries. The audience and the media did not catch on.

When “Jane” first appears, the audience doesn’t see her face. She says she wants to remain anonymous.

She is eventually seen.

Distractify found it peculiar, writing, “At first Jane is sitting with her back facing the camera. But the audience gets to see her face little by little… First, the cameras show her eyes, then the lower half of her face, then they pan out to show her whole face. By the end of her interview, it feels like anyone who knew ‘Jane'” personally would have had no trouble recognizing her.”

Distractify noted that Hillary Kelly told Vulture, “By the end of this episode, I probably could have sketched her myself.”

Why did they need an actress to play Souki?

Because Souki left The Vow.

In her Rough Cut interview, Souki said she was unhappy with directors, Karim Amer and Jehane Noujaim.

She had worked with them as a cameraperson on ‘The Great Hack.”

For season 1, of The Vow, Souki was both an unpaid “subject,”  filmed in front of the camera, and a paid DP.

In her Rough Cut interview, Souki talks about the problems of working behind and in front of the camera.


“It got really messy, because I met these directors [Noujaim and Amer] and ended up being both a subject and working for them on a slew of other projects for about three years, the biggest being a DP for one of their feature docs.”


“I became a subject for filmmakers while I was working for them as a cinematographer. So my roles would flip sometimes over the course of an hour, where we’d go from being behind the camera to in front of it and vice versa.

“I had the incredibly surreal experience of interviewing DPs to film me on behalf of the directors (Noujaim and Amer), and had to sort of explain my trauma to them as if I was recounting some logline from a film festival directory, and it was requiring me to look at myself, like an object, but for someone else’s story.

“It’s like, don’t try this at home, unless you’re willing to have your heart completely crushed by the knowledge that your pain is entertainment.”

Keith Raniere in his library, a place where he often met his female partners.

As The Vow reveals, Souki found out Raniere, with whom she had an affair, was the head of DOS. She learned it from the Frank Report.

The actress who played Souki


The segment of The Vow where ‘Jane’ appears as Souki.

The actress who played Souki in The Vow said, ‘When the Frank Report came out, I was in shock. I didn’t know about the branding. Or Keith’s initials on the brand. I started for the first time to realize that things were not as they seemed.”

Screenshots from The Vow, used to illustrate who Souki learned about Raniere’s role in DOS.

When Souki confronted Raniere through texts about the brand being his initials, he lied in response.

Raniere texted: “Not intended initially as my initials but they rearranged it slightly for tribute (if it were abraham lincolns or bill gates initials no one would care). The primary meaning and design of the brand symbol has nothing to do with my initials.”

Eduardo, please note for your series, “Lies About NXIVM That People Think Are True,” that Raniere lied about who designed the brand. He did. He drew it first and showed it to the front line slaves. They did not design it as tribute to him. That’s nonsense. Ask Dani Padilla. Then Raniere told them to lie to recruits about its true meaning. Truth should cut both ways. If you want to debunk the lies about NXIVM that people think are true, you might also debunk the lies Keith Raniere tells you that you think are true.

Finally, for the sake of disclosure, I was in six episodes of The Vow, including the one the actress was in, though I knew nothing about it at the time. No actor played me. I played myself.

Stay tuned for Part 2, where Souki explains why she quit The Vow and how she quit. And the torment she had over it.


About the author

Frank Parlato


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  • Souki impresses me much more than ever. She’s smart and talented. Was she exploited or was it just too early to be in a docuseries just out of Dos?

  • I would love to hear more from Souki. I sence she was done a bit dirty by the way the article is presented. I’m sure it took courage and long nights helping create what could have been waaaaay better if Kermit was the producer.

  • Don’t expect too much from a “docuseries” like The Vow. It’s primarily entertainment.

    As for cinema verite…

    “Cinema verite is a unique style of documentary cinema, invented by Edgar Morin…
    It blends improvised storytelling with the artistic use of the film camera to uncover hidden reality or reveal the truth hidden behind conventional reality”

    “Style… improvised storytelling… artistic use of the camera… “ Not exactly a bird’s eye view of absolute unvarnished reality then.

    From the same source:

    “Cinéma vérité is a documentary film style that closely emulates reality. The term was coined in the late 1950s by French filmmaker Jean Rouch, who sought to capture ‘life unadorned’”

    Then there’s the famous “24 times a second”line [referring to the frame rate of the film camera] from Jean-Luc Goddard:

    “Photography is truth. The cinema is truth 24 times per second,” says Bruno Forestier (Michel Subor) in Jean-Luc Godard’s 1963 film “Le Petit Soldat.” Capturing the world has preoccupied humans since the first cave paintings, and no matter the medium, there is room for interpretation regarding realism. Godard was integral to the French New Wave in the 1960s”

    Yes, photography is truth. Except when it’s not. And note that “there is room for interpretation regarding realism”.

    Yeah. Note also that realism is not the same as reality.

    The Vow is what it is. It’s not journalism and it’s not history.

    • “Don’t expect too much from a “docuseries” like The Vow. It’s primarily entertainment.”

      Wow, AS, you’re beginning to sound a lot like Nicki BEFORE she renounced Raniere. Next thing you’ll be calling it a ‘show’.

    • Hey, Anonymous Dummy, Tucker Carlson is now a martyr.
      Carlson’s firing was orchestrated by the Communists who run the Democrat Party.
      Clowns like Joe Biden, Chuck Schumer and AOC who pressured Fox News with threats of censorship.
      Tucker Carlson will now be on the Republican ticket in 2024 with either Trump or DeSantis.
      If the Republicans win, you will have four full years to enjoy this joke.
      You are the butt of your own joke!

      • 1st CNN is Comunist News Network
        2nd Fuck Tucker! He’s always been a loud mouth no it all. My 200 year old grandfather said fuck Tucker as well. Hats off to your mental break down Shadow

      • ShadowState-

        Every “conspiracy fact” you’ve ever posted has been a hoax, a lie, fraudulent, or schizophrenic ramblings.
        Stick to something you know, taxidermy.

      • The problem with Fox is not the man who owns it, or the vile anchors it employs. The problem is an anachronistic constitution, and specifically its First Amendment – the right to free speech.

        This might sound counterintuitive since in itself free speech should be an essential component of any functioning democracy. And yet in US law it allows for both incitement to hatred and the wilful spreading of misinformation and disinformation, which fundamentally undermine a healthy democracy for obvious reasons: people fed lies are not able to vote in the interests of their country, or even their rational self-interest.

        Meaningful regulation of media and journalism is almost entirely absent and left largely to the feeble constraints of civil law, which mainly serve to protect the powerful and wealthy – the very people who often need to be held in check because of their ability to disproportionately influence policy in their favour.

        Dominion Voting Systems were foolish indeed to settle so quickly with Fox News, without even so much as a public apology from the corporation. Murdoch was never going to take the stand in a trial, so the goal was wide open. Going for the trial would have been in the public’s interest, and would have set a legal precedent to ward off future abuses of the truth by large media organisations, and the financial rewards for Dominion may well have been significantly higher too.

        We now live in an age of multiple forms of social media. The rapid progression of artificial intelligence, bot sophistication and bad actors with unprecedented power is daunting. It’s not just about hostile nations seeking to subvert democracy; now the main threats come from within.

        Real election interference is not about spoilt ballots or a few black people trying to vote with a criminal record. Cambridge Analytica played a small, but perhaps telling, role in both Brexit and the 2016 Election. That proven potential will likely be on increasingly higher doses of steroids going forward. It will not just be election interference, but rather election determination. And when there’s a new President controlling a new Congress as well as the US Supreme Court, it doesn’t augur well.

        As the political thinker Montesquieu said in 1748: “When the legislative and executive powers are united in the same person, or in the same body of magistrates, there can be no liberty…there is no liberty if the power of judging is not separated from the legislative and executive…there would be an end to everything if the same man or the same body were to exercise those three powers.”

  • Having recently watched the series, it was quite clear to me which bits were original footage and which were recreated. The style of filming was completely different with mostly long range shots of people obviously acting, background narration and silhouetting of characters. There was no discernible audio. Screen shots were used of the actual text communication between Souki and her “master”, which graphically illustrated the coercive threats and interaction.

    “It’s like, don’t try this at home, unless you’re willing to have your heart completely crushed by the knowledge that your pain is entertainment.”
    I’m not sure I’d describe the series as ‘entertainment’. There are times when docs can be entertainment, e.g. filming of widlife etc, and times when they’re purely informative / educational, e.g. WW2 docs. We all know which category The Vow falls into.

    As docs go it was right up there with the best of them, especially when you compare it to the drivel Netflix regularly puts out. Of course we have Mark and others to thank for the all the original footage and audio recordings which made it possible, and ironically Raniere himself, who wanted to preserve his BS for posterity – the guy was the epitome of hubris! What the fuck Souki saw in him would be fascinating to find out.

    Great editing it has to be said.

  • It would be nice if Frank elaborated on his apparent communications with Dani Padilla.

    As for Souki, how did she get to work for the producers of the VOW?
    Did she already work for them during her NXIVM days, or did she get the job in exchange for her story on the VOW?

    There seems to be no end to the amount of dumb women, all in awe for this genius leader, all eager to be in bed with “the chosen one”. I can’t feel much compassion for them, except for the women that were coerced through collateral and manipulations.

    • I am pretty sure Dani Padilla did not leave NXIVM. She was a First Line slave to Vanturd. She was with him in Mexico when the Federales picked his sorry ass up. I think over the next few months as NXIVM shuttered, she was just forced out as the FBI started seizing it. This being being said, I do not recall seeing her involved in any Dead-groups like Dossier and Make Justice Blind. Also, I do not see her in any Defector groups. I really do not know where Dani landed post NXIVM. Hopefully she pulled her head out of her ass and did something productive in life.

      If anyone has more please chime in. That is my understanding.

    • Last I heard, Dani Padilla got in trouble because she enjoyed the paddling she received from Allison too much when it was supposed to be punishment. I think she is still in.

  • The Vow producers actually wanted to find someone to play Clare Bronfman. They threw casting calls at the Kentucky Derby, Belmont Stakes and Breeders Cup. Yet, they just could not find any horses stupid (and ugly) enough to fool the viewers into believing it was really Clare.

About the Author

Frank Parlato is an investigative journalist.

His work has been cited in hundreds of news outlets, like The New York Times, The Daily Mail, VICE News, CBS News, Fox News, New York Post, New York Daily News, Oxygen, Rolling Stone, People Magazine, The Sun, The Times of London, CBS Inside Edition, among many others in all five continents.

His work to expose and take down NXIVM is featured in books like “Captive” by Catherine Oxenberg, “Scarred” by Sarah Edmonson, “The Program” by Toni Natalie, and “NXIVM. La Secta Que Sedujo al Poder en México” by Juan Alberto Vasquez.

Parlato has been prominently featured on HBO’s docuseries “The Vow” and was the lead investigator and coordinating producer for Investigation Discovery’s “The Lost Women of NXIVM.” In addition, he was credited in the Starz docuseries 'Seduced' for saving 'slave' women from being branded and escaping the sex-slave cult known as DOS.

Parlato appeared on the Nancy Grace Show, Beyond the Headlines with Gretchen Carlson, Dr. Oz, American Greed, Dateline NBC, and NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt, where Parlato conducted the first-ever interview with Keith Raniere after his arrest. This was ironic, as many credit Parlato as one of the primary architects of his arrest and the cratering of the cult he founded.

Parlato is a consulting producer and appears in TNT's The Heiress and the Sex Cult, which premieres on May 22, 2022.

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Phone / Text: (305) 783-7083