A handful of stars have been brave enough to talk about growing up in strange sects.

From Joaquin Phoenix to Keira Maguire, here are the celebrities who have revealed what life was like and how their lives changed when they left.


The Charmed actor spent the first nine years of her life living in the polygamous Children of God sect in Italy.


"My father ran the Italian chapter, and from the outside it would be considered strange, but if you grow up in it, it's normal," she told Interview magazine in 1997.

"I suppose all children are at the mercy of their parents, and whatever trip they happen to be on, and my parents were tripping pretty hard," she laughed.

Even though she was young, McGowan quickly realised that she wasn't comfortable with the values of the sect.

"I remember watching how the (group's) men were with the women, and at a very early age I decided I did not want to be like those women," she told People magazine. "They were basically there to serve the men sexually โ€” you were allowed to have more than one wife."

McGowan's dad decided he had to flee the sect with his kids when it became clear that sex between children and adults was allowed.

"I remember running through a cornfield in thunder and lightning, holding my dad's hand and running as fast as I could to keep up with him," McGowan told People about their daring escape.

"(They) sent people to find us. I remember a man trying to break in with a hammer."


Just like Rose McGowan, the Walk The Line star also spent part of his childhood inside the Children of God sect.

"My parents had a religious experience and felt strongly about it," Phoenix told Playboy magazine.

"They wanted to share that with other people who wanted to talk about their experience with religion. These friends were like, 'Oh, we believe in Jesus as well.' I think my parents thought they'd found a community that shared their ideals."

The actor said his parents left the group when they realised they were in a cult, but added the sect wasn't as extreme in the 1970s compared to what McGowan experienced during her time in the sect in the 1980s.

"Cults rarely advertise themselves as such," he told Playboy in 2014. "It's usually someone saying, 'We're like-minded people. This is a community,' but I think the moment my parents realised there was something more to it, they got out.

"I think a lot of what has been exposed about the group happened in the 1980s. She (McGowan) was there well into the 1980s, I think. It's kind of a typical progression of something like that, you know? It starts out one way and takes some time before it evolves into something else.

"When people bring up Children of God, there's always something vaguely accusatory about it. It's guilt by association. I think it was really innocent on my parents' part. They really believed, but I don't think most people see it that way. I've always thought that was strange and unfair."

Joaquin Phoenix. Photo / Getty Images
Joaquin Phoenix. Photo / Getty Images


Maguire's upbringing in a polygamist cult came to light after she appeared on The Bachelor in 2016.

The cult was founded by her father, Alistah Laishkochav, in the 1970s in Bells Beach in Victoria and was dubbed "The Seaside Sect".

Maguire's mum was one of Laishkochav's nine "wives" and the cult leader reportedly had 64 children in total.

"My mother removed my family from that environment when I was five years old," Maguire told news.com.au at the time. "I was brought up by my mother and grandmother in Brisbane in a loving, caring and compassionate household."

In a 2016 interview on The Project, Maguire said, "I didn't know who my mum was until I was five".

"It sounds strange, but it just is what it is. I didn't even have birthdays. I think I had my first birthday when I was seven. For other people, it might be really sad. But it's not, because it's my story."

Laishkochav was convicted of child sex offences in 2000 after being found guilty of assaulting four girls aged between seven and eleven years old from 1987 to 1991. He died in 2012.


When Glenn Close was seven years old, her dad joined a religious movement called Moral Re-Armament.

The group advocated what it called the 'Four Absolutes': Absolute honesty, absolute purity, absolute unselfishness and absolute love.

"You basically weren't allowed to do anything, or you were made to feel guilty about any unnatural desire," Close told The Hollywood Reporter.

"If you talk to anybody who was in a group that basically dictates how you're supposed to live and what you're supposed to say and how you're supposed to feel, from the time you're seven till the time you're 22, it has a profound impact on you. It's something you have to (consciously overcome) because all of your trigger points are (wrong)."

The actor left the movement in the late 1960s and said, "Many things led me to leave โ€ฆ I had no toolbox to leave, but I did it".

Glenn Close. Photo / Getty Images
Glenn Close. Photo / Getty Images


The American rapper grew up as part of the Pentecostal Greater Apostolic Faith which she now refers to as "a cult".

"We all lived in the same community, within 10 minutes of each other," she told The Guardian.

"You weren't allowed to talk to anyone outside of that, you weren't allowed to wear jewellery, listen to music, to eat certain things, to date people โ€ฆ you weren't allowed to do pretty much anything.

"Church was on Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. When they did revivals it was every day. I used to just crawl under the bench and try to sleep."

Angel Haze, who identifies as agender and briefly dated Ireland Baldwin, left the group when she was 15.