UPDATE: We think we’ve identified Mimi Faust’s mother, who chose Scientology over her own kids. See below.
We noticed a lot of people talking about a “Mimi” and Scientology tonight on Twitter, and eventually figured out all the fuss was about reality TV star Oluremi “Mimi” Faust on VH1’s show Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta.
The rebroadcast just happened, so we got a chance to see what Mimi had to say about how the controversial church affected her life.
In a short segment that took place with a relationship counselor, Mimi explained that her mother had been deeply into Scientology, and at only 13 Mimi herself was asked to “sign a contract” but she refused to do so and “got kicked out.” At that point, she explained, her mother decided to dedicate herself to the church rather than her own kids, and Mimi has been carrying around that feeling of betrayal ever since.
After the jump, we’ll explain what kind of “contract” she was talking about — a contract for a billion years.
We’re going to try to reach Faust through VH1 to see if she’s interested in explaining more about her family’s past. But here at the Village Voice, we’re very familiar with Scientology and its practices — we write about it just about every day.
[See our basic overview, “What is Scientology?”]
Scientology is a set of philosophies and practices founded by a science fiction writer named L. Ron Hubbard after a book he published in 1950, Dianetics, proved to be a popular bestseller about his theories of the mind.
Hubbard believed that everything we experience gets recorded somewhere in our brains, even events that happened to us in the womb (and earlier, in past lives). Through his process of Dianetics, he believed we could relive those early experiences and therefore neutralize them so they don’t affect us in our present lives.
[Why do high-level members accept beliefs about a galactic overlord named Xenu?]
Over many years, Hubbard built up a vast number of processes and policies as he grew his movement and convinced a growing number of people that they could not only “clear” their own minds of negative influences, but clear the entire planet — and go on to take over the galaxy.
People who followed him were encouraged in their fervor. A hardcore elite of those who do much of the hard work for the church, called the “Sea Org,” tend to be recruited at a very young age, and are asked to commit themselves to Scientology for a billion years.
They sign a contract to that effect, and they then begin a very obsessive life of working for the church up to 100 hours a week, with only a few hours of sleep each night, and for only about $50 a week. Many former members describe it as a brutal existence, and one they were encouraged to join as young as 10 years old.
[Read the harrowing account of Ramana Dienes-Browning’s Sea Org life.]
From what Mimi Faust described in the show, it sounds like members of the Sea Org tried to recruit her because of her mother’s involvement, which is quite common. Many Sea Org members tend to be the children of Scientologists.
If she refused, why would her mother abandon her? The sad truth is, her mother may have been ordered to by the church.
As we’ve explained many times here at the Voice, one of Scientology’s most toxic policies is called “disconnection,” and it often rips apart families.
When a person leaves the church, they can be excommunicated — “declared a suppressive person” or “SP” in the language of Scientology. When that happens, all members of the church in good standing must “disconnect” from that SP, even if it means cutting off ties with their own child, or a parent, or a spouse.
[Read a tale of disconnection: The Derek Bloch story.]
If Mimi, in refusing to work for the Sea Org, had been declared an SP by the church, her mother would have been told to “disconnect” from her.
Based on what Mimi told her therapist in the show, Dr. Jeff Gardere, it’s possible that this might have happened.
“She stayed there until she died,” Mimi said about her mother. “She gave up her kids, everything.”
On the other hand, some Scientologists become so dedicated to their work, they drift away from other people anyway even without a formal policy.
As we’ve heard from many ex-Scientologists, the disconnection they were subject to is something that has scarred them deeply. And it sounds like Mimi Faust may know exactly what they’re feeling.
UPDATE: Indefatigable researcher Smurf has tracked down that Mimi Faust was born “Oluremi Fela James,” and legally changed her last name to “Faust” in 1996. And if she was 13 when she was “kicked out” of Scientology and her mother abandoned her, that would have been about 1985. With those clues, can our eagle-eyed readers help us track down the name of Mimi’s mother and something about her Scientology involvement? We have a message in to Mimi herself and hope she answers.
2nd UPDATE: I think we have it. According to this obituary, Gloria Olaiya Odufunke Simmons died on October 27, 2003 in Duarte, California, though she is referred to as a “resident of Clearwater.” Her surviving children are “Kwesi James, Ingrid James and Mimi Faust.”
And here’s what a reader sent in about Mimi James when she was in the Mace-Kingsley school in Silver Lake in Los Angeles (not the notorious ranch school in Palmdale, CA or in New Mexico):
I went to Scientology school with Mimi James (Mace-Kingsley school in the 80’s). Her mom was in the Sea Org and Mimi did not live with her. Mimi ended up sort of floating from house to house with different friends from school whose parents weren’t in the Sea Org. One friend in particular, Jessica (can’t remember her last name) and another girl Tanya Larson (who lived in Simi Valley, CA) took her in and she stayed with their families most of the time. She stayed with Jessica’s family most often.
I don’t think Mimi was declared for not joining the Sea Org but she was certainly on her own. Because she didn’t join the SO she had to fend for herself from a very young age. This is the case with every single kid I knew growing up in Scientology. If their parents were in the SO and they didn’t also join, the parents would make some other arrangements for their kids (live with friends or relatives because they were busy doing the very important job of saving the planet and kids who are not with the program don’t fit into that), or no arrangements would be made (this happened more often than anything else), and these children would end up on their own in the big world by 12, 13, 14, 15 years old. Either that or they joined the SO because they had nowhere to else to go.
I haven’t found any Scientology completions for Gloria on the databases, but this gives us a lot more information, and we’d love to hear more about Mimi and her mother Gloria from our readers.
Scientology’s president and the death of his son: our complete coverage
What Katie is saving Suri from: Scientology interrogation of kids
Scientology’s new defections: Hubbard’s granddaughter and Miscavige’s dad
Scientology’s disgrace: our open letter to Tom Cruise
Scientology crumbling: An entire mission defects as a group
Scientology leader David Miscavige’s vanished wife: Where’s Shelly?
Neil Gaiman, 7, Interviewed About Scientology by the BBC in 1968
The Master Screenplay: Scientology History from Several Different Eras
And a post that pulls together the best of our Scientology reporting
Please check out our Facebook author page for updates and schedules.
Tony Ortega has been the editor in chief of the Village Voice since March, 2007. He started writing about Scientology in 1995. You can catch his alerts at Twitter (@VoiceTonyO), at his Facebook author page, on Pinterest, and even this new Google Plus doohickey.
New readers might want to check out our primer, “What is Scientology?” Another good overview is our series from last summer, “Top 25 People Crippling Scientology.” At the top of every story, you’ll see the “Scientology” category which, if you click on it, will bring up all of our most recent stories.
As for hot subjects we’ve covered here, you may have heard about Debbie Cook, the former church official who rebelled and was sued by Scientology. You might have also heard about the Super Power Building, Scientology’s “Mecca,” whose secrets were revealed here. We also reported how Scientology spied on its own most precious object, Tom Cruise. (We wrote Tom an open letter that he has yet to respond to.) Have you seen a Scientology ad on TV lately? We debunked some of the claims in that 2-minute commercial you might have seen while watching Glee or American Idol.
Other stories have looked at Scientology’s policy of “disconnection” that is tearing families apart. You may also have heard something about the Sea Org experiences of the Paris sisters, Valeska and Melissa, and their friend Ramana Dienes-Browning. We’ve also featured Paulette Cooper, who wrote about Scientology back in the day, and Janet Reitman, Hugh Urban, and the team at the Tampa Bay Times, who write about it today. And there’s plenty more coming.