‘Dancing For The Devil: The 7M TikTok Cult' is a disturbing docuseries about a religious cult

Miranda Wilking’s sister Melanie Wilking. Picture: X

Miranda Wilking’s sister Melanie Wilking. Picture: X

Published Jun 5, 2024


"Dancing For The Devil: The 7M TikTok Cult“ is a gripping three-episode docuseries that takes viewers on a chilling journey into the world of cults.

It explores the lengths to which individuals will go for acceptance and success, revealing the often hidden dangers lurking behind seemingly benign façades.

The series begins by focusing on famous TikTok dancers who have turned their social media presence into successful careers.

As it unfolds, we see the darker side of their success, highlighting how the desire for fame and belonging can lead people into dangerous situations.

One chilling realisation that echoes throughout the series is the unsettling fact that "it's not illegal to start a cult". This loophole adds a layer of fear, emphasising the ongoing threat posed by these groups.

At the heart of any cult is its leader, and the series introduces us to Robert Shinn, the charismatic figure behind the Shekinah Church in Los Angeles.

Like many modern religious organisations, Shinn's church thrives on financial greed and the manipulation of its followers.

The docuseries centres on Miranda Wilking, a talented dancer and content creator who gained fame alongside her sister Melanie on their popular TikTok channel, the Wilking Sisters.

Their genuine sisterly bond and impressive dance skills gained them millions of followers and lucrative brand deals.

However, Wilking's life took a dramatic turn after meeting her now-husband James (BDash) Derrick and signing with Los Angeles-based 7M Films, a talent management agency owned by Shinn, who also serves as a pastor at the Shekinah Church.

Despite 7M Films' statement in 2022, claiming it operates separately from the church, the docuseries delves into the murky connections and manipulations at play.

Many former followers of the Shekinah Church and 7M Films shared a common theme: they joined in the hope of finding direction, not feeling lost anymore and sharing their talents in an "easy" way while making money at the same time.

They believed this set-up would be good for their careers and their spiritual growth.

However, the reality was far from what they expected. To top it off, the dancers in the agency all lived together in a house to create their content, focusing on modern choreography to old hits, some of which were specifically chosen by Shinn.

And, of course, they listened because he claimed to be a man of God, asserting that God lived within him.

Cults attract people by promising a sense of belonging, purpose and an exclusive understanding of the world. But in reality, they often involve financial exploitation, psychological manipulation, and sometimes even physical harm.

"Dancing for the Devil" addresses these dynamics very well, illustrating how people can get drawn into such groups and its devastating effects on their lives and relationships.

Through Wilking's story, viewers witness the dangers of cults and why it's important to be aware and think critically to protect against such threats.

In the docuseries, former dancers and followers speak out about their experiences and how they got involved. Initially, it seemed like the ideal church, reading the word together, attending services, and putting God first.

In this case, however, they put Shinn first.

Former member Melanie Lee and Robert Shinn. Picture: X

Adding to the disturbing nature of Shinn's control, he manipulated some of the women to offer him sexual favours, presenting it as a way to please the Lord. Many women felt disgusted and confused, realising they had been brainwashed into such actions.

One of the victims, Priscylla Lee, had been in the church for 23 years, only to discover those years were wasted. She, like many others, struggled to return to a "normal" way of living, finding it extremely difficult to readjust.

Eventually, the victims hit him with a lawsuit, despite the challenges of getting a cult or its leader in prison.

According to interviews with former 7M members and audio recordings of Shinn’s sermons, 7M members were asked to "die to" themselves and their families.

This meant completely cutting contact with them to ensure that they and their loved ones would go to heaven in the afterlife.

“Dying to yourself means that whatever you want or whatever you need, you have to ‘die to it,’ because whenever you die to something, it’ll come back to life and resurrect,” one former member explained in "Dancing for the Devil."

While watching you can’t help but feel sympathy for the victims and their families entangled in this web of manipulation. It's gut-wrenching to see how they believed they were acting in their best interests, driven by a misguided sense of love.

In the end, their intentions were rooted in affection but the outcome is actually tragic.

While some managed to break away from the cult, others chose to stay. Look at Wilking, now known as Miranda Derrick, who is still part of 7M Films and continues to post dance videos on social media.

She speaks with her family occasionally, under the condition that they aren’t allowed to ask or talk about 7M or the Shekinah Church.

But if you pay attention, you will see a vacant, almost zombie-like look in the eyes of those videos and photos. Despite their undeniable talent, it's unsettling to know the dark truth behind it all.

∎ “Dancing for the Devil: The 7M TikTok Cult” is streaming on Netflix.