Cults, Psychology, public figures, True Crime, Uncategorized

#NXIVM: Catherine Oxenberg Says Daughter “Will Be Fine…More Than Fine”

Catherine Oxenberg is many things. She’s enviably beautiful. She’s intelligent and she’s kind. She’s also “royal” – her mother is Princess Elizabeth of Yugoslavia – in addition to having played royalty on televisions as an actress.

But these days Catherine Oxenberg is known for more than her television roles, most notably for starring on Dynasty, and her lineage. These days she’s known as a fierce crusader and a fighter, one who took on a cult and didn’t back down until she knew her daughter was safe. It is a group that has threatened its detractors, terrorized them via bogus litigation, and maligned former members. Yes, it is the cult that is the subject of many conversations and is currently all over the media. The one that fronted as a mainly innocuous, but money-sucking, professional empowerment/self-help group and has changed names many times, but is now known by one represented by Roman numerals. The cult that – it was subsequently discovered – had a unique division devoted to the sexual slavery of women. That division, called DOS, called for fierce loyalty pledges from members, requiring the handing over of “collateral” (incriminating information/pictures that would mortify the individual should they defect from the sorority) and branding in the pubic region.

As Catherine details in her new book Captive: A Mother’s Crusade To Save Her Daughter From a Terrifying Cult, she and her daughter India went to a meeting for what appeared to be a self help group back in 2011. Catherine’s then-husband made a somewhat offhanded and jokey remark, following some creepy observations about the group’s leader Keith Raniere. He suspected aloud to her that Keith was involved sexually with the group’s women. Catherine remembers the comment (which would prove to be a confirmed truth) in hindsight, but it was stated in such an off-the-cuff manner that she didn’t focus deeply on it. She had also only briefly met the cult leader.

Following that fateful meeting, Catherine took some NXIVM courses that promised success in business and taught about the tools and skills to excel. She reflects now: “A lot of what you hear Keith say about NXIVM’s philosophy sounds like gobbledygook when you listen to him on YouTube and see how captivated (former Smallville actress) Allison Mack is by his words. He has this ability to break you down and then reel you in.”

Catherine said that she gets annoyed by how people undermine those who are susceptible to brainwashing: “Anyone is susceptible because the person doing it is clever and has a strategy. It’s about appealing to an individual’s interests and goals. India is a confident and self-assured woman. There were prominent, highly intelligent people who took NXIVM courses. It’s very insulting when people criticize and judge how one can be taken in by this group. Aside from offering community, NXIVM offers the promise of doing something and being a part of something special that will make a difference in the world.”

When they were first introduced to the group, India was committed to improving her own business skills following a failed food-related venture. Catherine describes India as someone who sees the kindness in people and who is committing to bettering humanity.

“That is something that this group looks for in individuals,” says Catherine, explaining that India was a prime recruit for the group because of her uniquely innate desire to help people and contribute to society. “They slowly convince people – there are brilliant people who have become involved! – that they are part of something that is going to make a huge difference.”

Catherine took some overly pricey NXIVM courses and despite initial interest, became more skeptical and more disenchanted over a three year period. She gave up on NXIVM, but India only became more committed. Then she moved to Albany to be with the group and surrounded by its members.

In Catherine’s book, and on a recent episode of Dateline (in which Megyn Kelly is the interviewer), Catherine speaks about the former NXIVM member who reached out furtively and fearfully to alert her that her daughter was in danger. Catherine was then provided with evidence and became invested in amassing more evidence – which she eventually turned over to the New York State General Attorney’s office.

Although the authorities had been repeatedly pointed to the unethical practices of the group (including shady financial transactions and Keith Raniere’s sexual relationships with women under the age of consent), it was Catherine’s diligently collected mountain of evidence that helped spur law enforcement to serious action.

I ask her if she thinks her status as an actress and coming from royalty helped with her being taken seriously. She laughs: “I think they were tired of being hounded by me and knew I was this mother who wasn’t going to give up!”

While all of this was happening, India had essentially estranged herself from a mother pleading for her return. Mother could not get in touch with daughter or be sure of her whereabouts for a lengthy period of time, and while India was now an adult, Catherine knew the dangers of NXIVM and saw no choice other than to speak out publicly.

This was a move that would have repercussions for Catherine, with India further evading her and ensuring more secrecy regarding her whereabouts.

Going to the media was something that pained Catherine to do, but it was a last resort and a desperate measure called for by a desperate time. Having been in the limelight many years before as an actress and as the daughter of a princess, she would much rather have avoided the media than begged them to shine a spotlight on something.

But in this case, there was a singular goal in mind: getting her daughter out of harm’s way as quickly as possible and to safety.

You will have to read Catherine’s book to see how complicated this journey was. Her daughter India has asked for privacy during this time. We do not know if and how she was culpable in NXIVM’s illicit activities, but few question that she was a victim of Raniere’s intense mind control.

I ask Catherine if India now knows she was “brainwashed.”

“She does not like that word, Catherine states adamantly, “That’s definitely not a word that gets a good reaction so I stopped bringing it up. India feels for the ordeal that I’ve been through. She feels for the ordeals of others.”

By “others”, I privately hope that in time, the empathic India Oxenberg will have little to no sympathy for Keith Raniere.

For now, mums the word, but India has told her mom that she’ll tell her story her way and specifically, in her own time.

To hear India’s carefully crafted statement to the media, you’ll have to check out the Dateline episode. Catherine was able to share with me (and with Megyn Kelly) that she recently reconnected with her daughter and India is safe. The media has reported that she’s away from NXIVM (or what’s left of it currently) now.

When questioned by Megyn Kelly about India’s future (with the allusion of possible lingering effects of NXIVM), Catherine smiled at the interviewer. It was an authentic and heartfelt smile that she hadn’t exhibited publicly in a long, long time. “She will be fine,” she replied, then paused as her smile widened a bit: “…more than fine.”

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#RHONY, Bravo TV, Reality TV, Uncategorized

#RHONY: Bethenny’s Got Your Back!

Several weeks ago, I was privately given the heads-up that Luann De Lesseps of Real Housewives of New York was drinking again. Anyone remotely connected to Bravo franchises and their cast and crew will hear something second, third or fourth-hand. In many cases, we (bloggers, writers, podcast hosts) dismiss the gossip as speculative. If it comes from a malicious place, as I suspected with this particular rumor, many of us refrain from exploring a rather obscure “tip” further and back away, fearing a sordid backstory.

I watched as this tidbit made the rounds of Facebook postings and Instagram comments, all the while cheering Luann on for her celebrated sobriety on TV. I hoped that these nasty rumors contradicting the RHONY footage were untrue. I wanted the recently humbled (after her infamous Palm Beach arrest) Countess to thrive.

Yesterday, in a bizarre turn, former Lu frenemy Bethenny Frankel was quoted by Dave Quinn of People, as she provided the update that Lu had entered rehab for a relapse on the heels of family-related stress. Furthermore, Luann would not be at the reunion taping, which, according to Tamara Tattles is actually happening as I write this.

The People article conveys that Lu, who is not currently working with a personal publicist (where is Darren Bettencourt? Or Matthew David Byers? Or Lizzie Grubman?!!!!) had appointed Bethenny as her unofficial spokeswoman. This development attests to the authenticity of the fresh bond we see between the two costars on screen this season. Considering the fact that Luann is, allegedly, only close to two of her cast mates at present, this was a sound selection.

While Sonja Morgan would have been the only other candidate, her loose lips could sink battleships, and after the “boat ride from hell” in Colombia, the Countess likely deemed it best to avoid anything that even metaphorically has to do with sea vessels.

Bethenny’s no-nonsense, articulate and expertly crafted statements on Lu’s behalf surely has Bravo’s VP of Communications cowering about his potential replacement.

Where was Bethenny when we were all waiting for Peggy Sulahian to address the horrific homophobia rumors during last season of RHOC? Perhaps Bethenny could provide counsel to Southern Charm‘s most embattled duo? Maybe she could salvage Your Husband is Cheating on Us? Or recast Southern Charm Savannah?

Lu’s absence at the upcoming reunion has likely put a wrench in the “receipt” amassment activity of her cast mates. Dorinda Medley reportedly had axes to grind with her costar (including Luann’s harsh critique of her drinking) and now Dorinda will be forced to take the high road rather than get to say “I told you so” or underscore any hypocrisy.

Some viewers are speculating that there will be a videotaped message from Luann as the other women air grievances with one another.

Like it or not, I’m envisioning a separate unshaven Andy-Luann sit down in Sag Harbor — like the one we were treated to last year after the reunion.

Reports are now circulating that because of Lu’s absence, Ramona will be seated on a different couch than what was initially designated for her. I predict that Dorinda will go hard at Bethenny, with Carole and Tinsley as cheerleaders. Carole will also complain about Bethenny’s treatment of her. Without Luann, Bethenny will only have Sonja in her corner, and Sonja will have to deal with the other ladies’ complaints about her – particularly from Dorinda.

While the playing field seems uneven, – Bethenny and Sonja versus everybody else – we know that Bethenny is a sharp shooter and the queen of one-liners. As annoyingly predictable as this sounds, she’ll smack her attackers down and defend Sonja successfully against Dorinda, Ramona, Carole and Tinsley.

Yes, Luann may have temporarily lost control over her sobriety, but she has not lost her mind. Not. At. All. Having Bethenny be her mouthpiece is a brilliant move. At the reunion, Lu will have the authoritative and commanding voice – the one that Andy listens to most – representing her and issuing a positive message to the world.

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Gender Stereotypes, Women in the workplace, Uncategorized

#Google: Is the “Images” Platform Reinforcing Gender Stereotypes In the Workplace?

A new study indicates that Google images may be reinforcing gender stereotypes in the work place.

As you can see in the above table, images for a certain profession often align with what people perceive to be prevalent jobs for a specific gender. If you were to, say, type the word “CEO” into Google Images, you would find only 11% of female CEOs represented in the results, as opposed to an actual 28% reported in the US Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey.

The study goes on to show that if you type the word “journalist,” females are underrepresented by 28% in the search results. When it comes to “bus drivers,” our minds typically conjure up a male image and Google Images represents that in its platform results. Women are underrepresented by 29% in comparison to US Labor Force Statistics data.

AdView analyzed United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics data, along with the results of Google Image searches for a range of job roles.

Psychology dictates that we come to know and understand things based on what we are shown. It is perplexing to think that societal perceptions could be so influenced by a popular search engine – when we are not getting accurate representations from that popular search engine!

More astonishing is this fact: After the search giant’s most recent annual report was released, it was revealed that Google has had a mere 0.3% growth in the percentage of women employed since 2014.

The misrepresentation of genders within job roles on Google Images is particularly salient because between May 2017 and May 2018, Google held 87% of the search engine market share in the US.

The Most Underrepresented Roles for Females on Google images are:

Baker – females are underrepresented by 33% on Google Images

Bus Driver – females are underrepresented by 29% on Google Images

Journalist – females are underrepresented by 28% on Google Images

Hairdresser – females are underrepresented by 24% on Google Images

CEO – females are underrepresented by 17% on Google Images.

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Bravo TV, Reality TV, Uncategorized

#RHOD Returns 8/15: Some of the Drama Ahead…

I had just learned that Brandi Redmond was quite upset about my interview with her cast mate.

Following a post-Season Two Q&A conducted by phone with LeeAnne Locken for Huffington Post (My HuffPo Interview with Leeanne Locken), I was feeling good.

It had been a really fun interview with a polarizing, unfiltered Real Housewife who I found to be delightfully candid about her many on-camera faux pas and faults. Locken also knocked the loyalty of her wishy-washy castmate Brandi Redmond who had her back at the start of the season, then turned on her, and then, surprisingly, reached out warmly after filming wrapped.

I had hit publish and within minutes, I was getting feedback on social media from those who liked Leeanne and others who lambasted her. Then I saw I had a direct message…Surprisingly, it was from Brandi Redmond herself.

Brandi wondered when I had spoken to Leeanne because she found the following words in the interview to be quite hurtful:

Since the season ended, Brandi has actually reached out to me. But it’s like the frog and the scorpion. The scorpion tells the frog ‘Why would I sting you?’ and convinces the frog to give him a ride across the pond. When the scorpion stings, the frog asks ‘Why did you do that?’ and the scorpion answers ‘Because I’m a scorpion.’

I felt somewhat caught in the middle, but let both ladies know it’s a show and we viewers have widely varying reactions – essentially, not to get worked up about the interview because everyone will have different takeaways. Easy for me to say as someone who would NEVER go on reality television…Instead, I just (hypocritically) write about the people who do.

A source close to the Real Housewives of Dallas cast members tells me that some of the interviews the ladies did with members of the media (i.e. websites, blogs, podcasts, on-air interviews) caused tension during filming. Because it’s very much “breaking the fourth wall,” I don’t expect Brandi to mention the interviewers by name, but my source says the theme of what was said in interviews may come up this season. It seems very meta, but also extremely possible: If you watched Season Two, then you know that these ladies excel at rehashing what smack was said about whom behind who’s back….

The new season of RHOD begins August 15th at 9/8c. Here’s a look at some more of the drama ahead: RHOD Season 3 Trailer

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#RHONY, Reality TV, Uncategorized

#RHONY: “Not Well, Bitch!” Dorinda & the Cast Divisions Between Seasons

I’ve written before about Real Housewives of New York‘s Sonja Morgan snaking in stinging jabs at Dorinda Medley. I’m not sure what it is about these women (and the viewers do relish this about the franchise), but they keep the drama going while the cameras aren’t rolling.

A source tells me that Sonja is talking all sorts of smack about Dorinda’s past relationships, revising history through tall tales. For instance, Dorinda gets along terrifically with her ex husband Ralph, but Sonja gossiped to one fair-weather friend that Ralph latched on to a close pal of Dorinda’s, who he ended up marrying. She was insinuating that the most amicable of divorces was anything but…

Those who know Dorinda and Ralph can attest to the fact that the parents of Hannah are in a great place, friends who communicate regularly. There is also no beef there with his wife.

This feud between Dorinda and Sonja has been going on for a long period of time. In fact, when I interviewed Dorinda for The Huffington Post last year, it was right before the season began and she and Sonja were not speaking. Dorinda also recently made the point of emphasizing to Heather McDonald on an episode of the podcast Juicy Scoop, that she and Sonja didn’t socialize before filming and it seems they’re merely on-camera frenemies. To the contrary, Dorinda and Ramona Singer are real life true friends and it was Ramona who actually encouraged Dorinda to do the show.

Sources say Dorinda is not having it easy in this seasonal interim. She and Bethenny have had some sort of falling out that previously led Bethenny to block her on social media. Dorinda is also quite peeved with cast mate Luann De Lesseps for hypocritically criticizing her drinking in a blog post. Remember, Lu herself went to rehab following her own drunken antics in Palm Beach (long story, but suffice it to say: “It was about Tom.)

On a happy note for Dorinda, the love affairs with Carole Radziwill and Tinsley Mortimer seem consistent and stable. The three recently took a vacation together.

To sum it up for those keeping score, there are two teams. Team A: Dorinda, Carole, Tinsley, Ramona and Team B: Bethenny, Sonja and Luann. Despite these divisions, the women of RHONY will continue to make terrific television together.

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Bravo TV, Reality TV, Uncategorized

#SouthernCharm: Breaking Down the ‘Blind Gossip’

Someone who is way better at updating her website than I am, as well as more impressively diligent about frequent postings and keeping current with numerous reality shows is Tamara Tattles. Personally, I’m just starting out with this website, ShirasGotTheScoop, and trying to manage other jobs and endeavors (including a gaggle of offspring) simultaneously, but I’d like to post as often as I can. In that regard, I look up to Tamara who is admirably a #SuperBlogger – #Goals. I’m in awe of friends who post multiple times daily and I’ll admit that I’m not sure of my aspirations for this site yet as I fret about other work. What I can tell you is that sometimes, the savvier website- keepers inspire me greatly to weigh in… So tonight, I’m going to delve into Tamara Tattles’ most recent post.

Tamara has authored a blind item that I shall attempt to interpret as one would explore Talmudic text (my Jewish day school contemporaries may or may not crack a smile at that. They may or may not eschew the reference entirely, deeming it despicably sacrilegious). There will be lots of commentary and speculation on my part, and I’ll make sure to pepper my postulations with allegedlies – in order to be as fair as one can possibly be here.

Tamara Tattles’ site, which I urge you to check out, is TamaraTattles.com, and she currently also has her blind item on the website BlindGossip.com. Before I weigh in and break it all down as if it is a tractate of Gemara, here’s the full item:

On a certain reality show, there is one evil b* that is worse than anything we have ever seen. EVER. She has literally hooked her way on to the show by way of another aberrant creature we recently got rid of.

In an odd turn of events, I totally warned the male in this story about the female in this story very, very, early on when she was trying to sell stories to the sites that pay for the dirt.  He was polite, but didn’t really believe me so I just bowed out to watch nature take its course.

Now I am finding out that she has been constantly digging up the dirt on her “beloved.” She has gone through his phone, she has gone through his computer, and she has a lot of information to share. She has attacked a woman relentlessly who politely declined to play the role she is currently playing. She’s psychotic.

Here just a few things she has on her equally despicable “mark”.

◦ Very early on, his sisters tried to pay him to send this female back to where she came from and try to get the female who declined “the opportunity” to reconsider. That was never a possibility but the sisters didn’t have the full story.

◦ She was particularly incensed about his will. She was not happy with the beneficiaries.

◦ Some sort of lesbian sex tape with toys. I presume he was on camera but my source was not clear about that.

◦ She was also pissed about him asking people via email about her call girl reputation. She was not working and living with her mother at the time they were introduced.

There is a lot more. He is terrified. He’s tried on multiple occasions to break up with her but she is threatening to sell stories. Oddly, that is the very thing I warned him about months and months ago. At least I tried, and honestly, knowing what I know now, that I didn’t know then, I’m hoping these two drag each other to death. Neither one of them need to be breathing our air unless it is behind bars. At least we know that neither of them will be on out TV again unless it’s on the news about their court cases.

See You Next Tuesday has a significant meaning for this blind. Because she will be speaking unsupervised next Tuesday. And she’s a loose cannon. Expect bizarre social media posts from him on Tuesday as well and more from me as soon as I get the tea.

So here’s the deal…and be prepared for potential **spoilers** in this post. It has been rumored that Ashley Jacobs, Thomas Ravenel’s girlfriend and the Southern Charm “villain” of the season, is not just a Cali girl but a call girl!!!!

I’m not sure that I’m “buying it” personally, but in the episodes ahead, you may very well see one of the other ladies in the cast bring it up to the group.

At this stage, rumors are just rumors, and of course, there has been smoke —but is there fire? That question could very likely be the cliff-hanger of the current season. If Thomas Ravenel and Ashley Jacobs are kaput post reunion (meaning: not slated to return next season), we’ll be left with a lot that is unanswered. The reunion is being filmed tomorrow – hence the reference above to “Tuesday.”

I’m sorry to disappoint readers, but I am doubtful we’ll get our answers to the “call girl” question. Thomas’s contract actually expires after the reunion, and we do not know (and frankly, it seems DOUBTFUL) if it will be renewed for another season.

The friend who introduced Ashley to the show is said to be Landon Clements (a cast member from last season). Rumor has it (and again, keep in mind the above disclaimer about rumors merely being rumors) that after Ashley went through Thomas’s emails, she concluded that a former Ravenel girlfriend of just one week, Luzanne Otte, was to blame for the cast’s dislike of her.

It has also been alleged that Landon assisted in planting these particular seeds of doubt in her friend Ashley’s mind.

In the next few episodes of Southern Charm, you will see Ashley and Thomas’s relationship deteriorate as Ashley is plagued by insecurities. Thomas does little to reassure her (or to be nice at all, in my opinion).

It seems he “checked out” earlier on when his new squeeze attacked Kathryn, who impressively maintained her composure amidst the volatility.

From what one can decipher in the item, Tamra Tattles tried to warn Thomas that Ashley might have found allies in a group of curmudgeons running a revenge-slanted blog.

Twitter users have noted that said blog has been the only outlet to praise Thomas amidst multiple sexual assault allegations. It has also been pointed out that the site unabashedly slut-shamed the daughter of a Ravenel sexual assault victim, deliberately posting one sexy photo after another of her (she’s a model and realtor) between article paragraphs. The intention is beyond transparent.

Before the sexual assault allegations garnered media attention, Ashley Jacobs allegedly went on a tear: She blamed TRav’s ex Luzanne Otte (the ONE WEEK “relationship” gal who ended things with Thomas after witnessing absurd and temperamental behavior) for animosity she felt from cast mates.

Sources claim Ashley fed the aforementioned blog many of the stories they ended up running. This was much to the dismay of privacy-craving Luzanne Otte, a woman who would never go on realty TV and who would really rather that folks not even know her name. Unfortunately, she was forced to go public in order to clear it.

You will see in the episodes ahead how Ashley’s relationship with Thomas Ravenel unravels. I was informed that Ashley even asked Shep Rose if he would date her – should things not pan out with Thomas.

What else would she possibly do in Charleston otherwise?

You’ll get the sense that she would really like a reason to stay.

Tamara alludes to the fact that Thomas’s family members had suggested Ashley go back to Santa Barbara and that might have been the best move, but the harder things have gotten, the stronger Ashley has fought to stand her ground and stay.

There are implications in the above blind item that Ashley has some secrets she’s keeping about Thomas (the “lesbian sex tape”, whatever that entails, may be a part of it…or it might not be). There is so much more to Thomas (risqué sexcapades? More information about sexual assaults? Other TRav troubles? The manner in which Ashley and TRav truly met?) that Ashley seems to know. She may be lording all of that knowledge over him, essentially blackmailing him to stay in the relationship and allow her to remain in his home.

Again, all of the above is ALLEGED, but pay special attention to the dynamics between Thomas and Ashley in the coming episodes.

If I’m interpreting things correctly, Tamara Tattles tried to forewarn Thomas about the mess that lay ahead…whatever it is exactly.

It seems quite clear that the issued warning went unheeded. The blind item implies that Thomas may be desperate to break up with Ashley.

However, for once, the powerful, affluent, former politician and alpha male of the notorious “All boys club” (a monster of Haymaker Productions’ making) is powerless.

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