[I must begin with an explanation of this post’s length. Most celebrity cult survivors give only one or two interviews on the topic, so I have very little to work with. Leah Remini has given dozens of interviews and written a book about her time in and break from Scientology. Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology comes out September 20th, and you can preorder now. Remini’s words generally confirm the statements of other defectors and the Pulitzer Prize winning journalism of the St. Pete Times.]
Actress Leah Remini spent most of her life in Scientology. After her parents divorced when she was seven, her mother’s boyfriend introduced them to the religion. Leah’s mother Vicki Marshall began working for the Scientology center in Times Square, and brought her two daughters into the faith.
Leah liked the church and says it gave her an early confidence. In an interview for ABC’s 20/20, Remini said, “Scientologists view children as spiritual beings. You are not treated as a kid, so you are given a lot of responsibility. Your ego becomes extremely inflated.” In a later interview about her book Troublemaker Remini added, “It gave me a lot of confidence. I was bossing people around, thinking I’m a spiritual being. ‘My body is nine but I’m, like, big.'”
Leah and her sister Nicole became members of Sea Org, the devout full time staff who live and work on Scientology properties, and moved to Flag Base in Clearwater, FL. Scientology claims to no longer accept children into Sea Org, whose members sign billion year contracts and are often not protected by state labor laws. Sea Org members perform office tasks, construction projects, and menial labor. They are paid well below minimum wage and often compensated only with room and board.
Leah left public school in eight grade to focus on her Scientology studies and Sea Org duties. She and her sister lived in a dormitory she described as roach infested. Leah’s unwillingness to accept those conditions led to tensions. “I would try to start a mutiny because I felt we deserved better rooms.”