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‘I feel like my sister died’: inside the shocking TikTok dance cult

🌈 Abstract

The article discusses the story of the Wilking sisters, Miranda and Melanie, who were popular TikTok dancers, and their involvement with a management company called 7M and its affiliated church, Shekinah, led by a man named Robert Shinn. The article explores how Miranda became estranged from her family and joined 7M, leading to the creation of a new Netflix docuseries called "Dancing for the Devil: The 7M TikTok Cult" that examines the alleged psychological, financial, and sexual abuse perpetrated by Shinn within the organization.

🙋 Q&A

[01] Overview of the Wilking Sisters' Story

1. What was the relationship between Miranda and Melanie Wilking like growing up?

  • Miranda and Melanie Wilking were sisters who grew up exceptionally close in suburban Detroit, dancing together since they were young girls.
  • They pursued a professional dancing career together, with Miranda moving to Los Angeles first and Melanie following soon after.

2. How did the Wilking sisters find success on TikTok?

  • In the late 2010s, the Wilking sisters started a TikTok account together as the "Wilking Sisters" and by 2020 had over 3 million followers on the platform.
  • They found success through posting short, peppy dance videos to a front-facing camera, which was a popular format on TikTok at the time.

3. What happened that caused the sisters to stop posting videos together?

  • In 2021, the sisters suddenly stopped posting new videos together, as things fell apart behind the scenes.
  • Miranda had joined a management company called 7M and its affiliated Christian church, Shekinah, led by a man named Robert Shinn, which caused a rift between the sisters.

[02] Miranda's Involvement with 7M and Shekinah

1. How did Miranda's behavior and appearance change after joining 7M?

  • Miranda began acting strangely, distancing herself from her family and anyone not associated with 7M.
  • She chopped her hair short, dyed it blonde, and started new social channels, posting dance videos that followed a distinct 7M template.

2. What were the concerns that Melanie and her family had about 7M and Shekinah?

  • Melanie and her parents, Dean and Kelly Wilking, went public on Instagram Live, using the word "cult" to describe 7M and Shinn's church, and asked the public for help.
  • They believed that Miranda was being psychologically manipulated by Shinn and 7M.

3. What allegations were made against Robert Shinn and 7M/Shekinah?

  • According to former 7M dancers and Shekinah members, Shinn referred to himself as the "man of God", demanded members give most of their money as church tithing, and allegedly engaged in emotional, financial, and sexual abuse.
  • Shinn was accused of instructing followers to "die to yourself" and sever contact from loved ones, and that "your thoughts are not your own".

[03] The Netflix Docuseries "Dancing for the Devil"

1. What is the focus and approach of the "Dancing for the Devil" docuseries?

  • The series captures the real-time efforts of the Wilking family and other former 7M/Shekinah members to expose the cult-like manipulation and abuse within the organization and hold Shinn accountable.
  • The series places the victims and their families at the center, allowing them to tell their own stories in their own words.

2. How did the filmmakers handle the sensitive nature of the subject matter?

  • The filmmakers stressed the importance of creating a safe space for participants, with a small crew and the ability for participants to pull the plug at any point.
  • They also continued the conversations and trust-building after the camera stopped rolling, recognizing that this was about people's real lives, not just making a documentary.

3. What is the current status of any legal action against Robert Shinn and 7M/Shekinah?

  • As of the end of the docuseries, Shinn has not been formally accused of any crimes, as it is not illegal to run a cult.
  • However, at least three women, including Priscylla Lee, have reported sexual assaults by Shinn to the police, but he has not been arrested.
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