I first heard about the Nxivm (pronounced Nex-ee-um) cult around 2017 when I read about it in the New York Times. All I recall about the article and my overall impression was that it was sort of like a secret invitation-only boot camp/cult for hot women who want to go next level with their life and success. Once you were in, you got branded and had to go on a diet.
That was it until The Vow came out on HBO. It took me a bit before I watched it, even though I kept hearing about the vow, the vow, the vow. So, I was late hopping on the train in regards to this documentary. But like a lot of quarantined people, I ended up binge watching all nine episodes and quickly became obsessed.
I will snark, but truth be told, I found most of the ex-Nxivm cult members likable and in this way, it seems I am kind of in the minority. There is a lot of harsh opinions out there on the web about the people who were ultimately responsible for bringing this cult down. It seems the internet opinion machine thinks that a lot of them are self-absorbed idiot narcissists or as culpable as the cult leader Keith Raniere himself. So, I just wanted to start by saying that while I plan to make fun of this or that, because what’s the point of writing a review/recap if I can’t make poke fun, I probably won’t be trashing the ex-members all that much. Depends on which one.
Anyway, Keith Raniere was the leader of a self-improvement company/organization/spiritual movement/cult that included women and men. All were introduced to the group first through a five day introduction intensive called the Executive Success Program. ESP for short. For 2500$ or so, you could overcome many self-limiting beliefs and/or fears that were getting in the way of your potential. As Keith explains it, “ESP Nxivm is a methodology that allows people to optimize their experience and behavior.” Woo-hoo, sign me up!
Seriously, I probably am exactly the sort of person that would have been drawn to such a thing because I am all about self-improvement/overcoming negative self-beliefs and other new-agey shit. The only thing that would have prevented me from doing an ESP intensive is if you think I would shell out 2500+ for it you are mistaken. I am way too cheap for that.
So, ESP is one of the sub-groups under the umbrella company/organization/cult Nxivm. Eventually we will learn about all the other sub-groups, including the one for hot women that required branding, but that is a bit down the line. For now, we will start with episode 1 where we meet the whistle-blowers and learn how they got involved with Nxivm through ESP.