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The Moment Michelle Pfeiffer Realized She Was "In a Cult"

"It was like a light bulb went off, and I never went back.”

Whether you first got a glimpse of Michelle Pfeiffer in Grease 2ScarfaceThe Fabulous Bakers Boys, or any of the other dozens of films she's acted in, you probably think of her as an unflappable star who's perfectly confident onscreen and in real life. However, at the very beginning of her career, the now 63-year-old actor was drawn into a harmful group that she's since described as "a cult." In a recent interview, Pfeiffer opened up further about the situation, which led to her losing a great deal of money, and the exact moment she realized that she had to get out. Read on to learn more about the group and how Pfeiffer extricated herself.

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Pfeiffer started acting after winning a beauty contest.

Michelle Pfeiffer in 1985
Georges De Keerle/Getty Images

The star grew up in California and found her way to Hollywood through pageants. In 1978, she won the Miss Orange County contest and went on to compete for Miss California. That was the end of her career in that field, however—Pfeiffer scored a talent agent and began auditioning for roles.

Her earliest acting jobs were on TV, beginning with a 1978 guest appearance on Fantasy Island. Pfeiffer also appeared in the Animal House spinoff series Delta HouseCHiPs, and the cop show B.A.D. Cats.

She fell in with the wrong people in Los Angeles.

Michelle Pfeiffer in 1982
Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

As described by The Hollywood Reporter in their recent profile of her, Pfeiffer, like many young people hoping for stardom, was "desperately seeking answers" at that time. Through her search, she ended up under the spell of a couple who preached "Breatharianism"—the belief that humans can train themselves to live on light and air and have no need for food or water.

"There was a lot of mind-[expletive] and brainwashing," Pfeiffer told THR. In 2013, when she first revealed her history with the belief system, the actor told The Sunday Times (via USA Today) that the couple, who she has not named, were "very controlling."

"I wasn't living with them, but I was there a lot and they were always telling me I needed to come more," she said. "I had to pay for all the time I was there, so it was financially very draining."

She credits her ex-husband for helping her leave.

Michelle Pfeiffer in 2022

Pfeiffer, who has been married to TV producer David E. Kelley since 1993, was first married to actor and director Peter Horton, from 1981 to 1988. A project Horton was working on when they were dating is what gave Pfeiffer the perspective she needed to get out of her unhealthy situation with the Breatharians. He had been cast in a movie, Serial, that was loosely based on the Unification Church (otherwise known as the Moonies), a religion which has been described by many as a cult. Horton asked Pfeiffer to accompany him to a meeting with a cult deprogrammer.

As the deprogrammer spoke, Pfeiffer had a moment of realization.

"I'm like, 'Oh my God, I'm in a cult,'" she told THR. "It was like a light bulb went off, and I never went back."

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Some people still claim to be successful Breatharians.

Road and field on sunny day

Pfeiffer saw the error of her ways, and the founder of Breatharianism, Wiley Brooks, was undone back in 1983 when his co-founder reported that he'd been supplementing his air and light diet with late-night trips to convenience stores, as per SF Gate. But still today, many people claim to live a Breatharian lifestyle. In 2017, a GQ journalist attended a Breatharian retreat and reported that one rule of the event was "no food or water for three days, and only juice for another four," and that there were no medical professionals present.

In case you're left with any doubt, medical professionals and scientists have debunked the claim that it's possible for any human to be sustained simply by light, air, and "prana," or life force. In fact, the belief has caused at least the handful of deaths that are on record.

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Sage Young
Sage Young is the Deputy Entertainment Editor at Best Life, expanding and honing our coverage in this vertical by managing a team of industry-obsessed writers. Read more
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