I've been reading about the NXIVM cult for a few years. The leader is a 57 year old con man named Keith Raniere who has been recruiting gullible women since the early 2000's. He allegedly insists that his inner circle of chosen women grow their hair long, restrict themselves to 800 calories a day and allow themselves to be branded with his initials. From the Atlantic Telegraph:
"The story tells of a ceremony held by the NXIVM self-help group in which five women in their 30s and 40s were branded by a doctor who utilised a cauterizing device to make two-inch-square symbols of cult leader, Keith Raniere’s initials in a procedure that endured for between 20 and 30 minutes. One source, a former member of NXIVM, also reports that some women have had the initials of former Smallville actress Allison Mack branded onto their bodies.
In addition to fellow actress Kristin Kreuk who has been tied to the group, many other celebrities and business people have been associated with NXIVM, including billionaire Richard Branson and actress Linda Evans. The group also seems to target the impressionable female children of celebrities and other influential people.
Reports indicate that women wishing to join are required to give their recruiter, called their “master”, naked and pornographic photos of themselves as “collateral”, to be released in the event they later try and leave the group or disclose its existence.
Sarah Edmondson, one of the initiates at the ceremony, reports that each of the women undressed, before lying on a massage table. Whilst three others held them down by their shoulders and legs Lauren Salzman, a top official of the group, told them to say “Master, please brand me, it would be an honor.”
Some 16,000 are estimated to have enrolled in NXIVM self-help courses since the late 1990s. Some of these, however, appear to have taken the group more seriously and have given up much of their lives to follow the group’s leader Keith Raniere, referred to by the group’s most staunch adherents as “Vanguard.”