When Keith Raniere was charged, arrested, and convicted of sex crimes, including that of trafficking, conspiracy, and racketeering, his company, NXIVM, that he founded to be a self-help organization, became known as nothing more than a sex cult. However, the new HBO documentary series, ‘The Vow,’ shows how it can be more. Following a number of people who have been deeply involved in the self-improvement group over the course of several years, it highlights the abuse as well as all that went on behind the scenes and away from the sex sorority. One such individual that was followed and who shared his own experiences was cinematographer Mark Vicente.
Who Is Mark Vicente?
Born on June 22, 1965, in Johannesburg, South Africa, Mark Vicente is an author, speaker, and award-winning writer, director, and cinematographer. Along with all this, he is also a former member of NXIVM. He joined the group in 2005 with his wife Bonnie Piesse, and had recorded his experiences in it. From how he felt as if it was genuinely helping him improve himself to how his wife’s misgivings became his own after a while, we saw it all. Like most individuals, Mark had been drawn into Keith Raniere’s orbit because of his charming words, and soon, he found himself to be Keith’s ally and confidant, so much so, that he was legitimately a part of his inner circle before deciding to leave.
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My magnificent warrior. Repost @bonniempiesse The last few years have been a shit show to say the least… betrayal, heartbreak, horror, upheaval of everything I’ve known… but tonight I found myself standing in the rain in Portugal, with so many beautiful new friends and souls in my life, knowing who I am more than ever before, and feeling like goodness really does prevail. 2020 you’ve been a doozy, but you come with gifts I’ll forever hold in my heart 🙏🏻💜
It took a while, but Mark finally understood that the organization operated like a cult, which even we saw with how NXIVM’s Executive Success Programs, or ESP, were transformed into a near-religious demonstration. In 2019, when Keith was on trial, Mark testified against him. He said that the “Vanguard” cultivated a reputation to be one of the world’s top three problem solvers. For the organization, he said that it just exploited innocent individuals. “It’s a fraud. It’s a lie,” he revealed. “It’s this well-intended veneer that covers horrible, incredible evil.”
Mark Vicente even went as far as to admit that he was ashamed to be a part of the cult in a senior position. He had spent 12 years in NXIVM and wasn’t happy about it looking back, at all. During his testimony as a witness, he also revealed that Keith often talked to him about the kinds of films that he wanted to make and once suggested that they pay a family $1 million to be filmed and portrayed as a cult, only for it to be revealed as a lie in the end. Within NXIVM, Mark recalled, Keith refused to use the word “cult” and said that a thing like that didn’t exist.
Where Is Mark Vicente Today?
No longer associated with NXIVM, Mark Vicente is focusing on his self-improvement on his own and is ensuring that no one else is exploited or harmed in the way that he was in his 12 years. That is precisely the reason why he agreed to be a part of ‘The Vow.’ In an interview with Vanity Fair recently, he recalled his decision to leave the organization and how that prompted him to film his experiences, which were shown in the series. “I began to understand what was going to happen to us [when we revealed that we wanted to leave]. They had so much money, so much power, I realized, ‘Oh they’re going to frame us for a whole bunch of things.’ … I realized I had to document everything because, if this thing went south, and they turned it around on us, then I had to have some kind of proof of what we were actually trying to do.”
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My birthday is always a strange thing. Celebratory in the sense that I am here, I am alive. I have survived so far. Then there's sadness at time gone by and memories… so many memories (‘SAUDADE' – as the Portuguese say) and then there’s the existential marker on the timeline of my life. Every birthday involves some massive introspective, existential examination. And yet, I could say this particular existential marker has been going on for 3 years: Help bring about Justice √ (check) Lose MANY cherished people I care about √ Turn my life upside down √ Regain my soul √ — But, there are gifts to these challenges and I am SO grateful. I now have a trusted circle of friends who know what it is to stand in the fire with me. I have incredible creative partners, people who champion me, and shoulders to cry on. I find myself immersed in an explosion of art and creativity like never before. I am so grateful to my Mother, who is still with me. My Grandfather, Grandmother and Fathers who long ago passed away. My heritage, both good and bad, has formed me. I am beyond fortunate to have my magnificent warrior of a Wife. Deep, profound, insightful and loving. Everyday, she fights for what is right and fights FOR me. Today, I know I am a very lucky man. I have been moulded in hot fire; stretched, folded, pounded, shaped and reshaped. I am glimpsing who I wanted to become so long ago. It was never about possessions, status, renown… wealth is now measured by the quality of friendship, soulfulness and love. Thank you to all of you! I AM BECOMING… I feel fibers of strength growing inside of me. Steely resolve and passion. There is no greater privilege than to materialize myself. So here I am at 55. Full of feelings, fire, piss and vinegar, longing, joy, laughter, humor and gratitude. Photo @bonniepiessephotography
He also said that the “sex cult thing doesn’t explore deeply enough what happened to everybody. It’s much more complex…It’s one of those double-edged swords. The very thing that actually demeans many people that were trapped in this thing is also the very thing that got everybody’s attention.” Now, although Mark resides primarily in Los Angeles with his wife because of the kind of work that he does, he also distributes his time between Lisbon and New York. As per his Twitter bio, he is a supporter and is always “In Awe of Science, Activism, Empathy and Art.”
Read More: Where Is Keith Raniere Now?