Shelly Miscavige

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Shelly Miscavige
Michele Diane Barnett

(1961-01-18) January 18, 1961 (age 61)
OrganizationChurch of Scientology
Known forMarriage to Scientology leader David Miscavige and public absence
(m. 1982)
Parent(s)Maurice Elliott Barnett
Mary Florence "Flo" Fike Barnett

Michele Diane Miscavige (née Barnett; born January 18, 1961) is a member of the Church of Scientology, married to Scientology leader David Miscavige. She was last seen in public in August 2007.[1]

Since her withdrawal from public appearances, she has been the subject of speculation and inquiries regarding her whereabouts and wellbeing. In 2012, attorneys who said they represented her responded by saying she was merely living a private life devoted to the Church of Scientology. In August 2013, actress Leah Remini, a former Scientologist and vocal critic of the organization, filed a missing person report regarding Miscavige with the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD). Within a few days of receiving the report, the LAPD stated that they located Miscavige, and further stated that she was not actually missing, so the case was closed. A further communication by an attorney representing the Church of Scientology in 2018 indicated that she continues to be a dedicated Sea Org member and is continuing to live a private life.[2]

Scientology career[edit]

Miscavige is a member of the Sea Org, the organization responsible for the international management of the Church of Scientology and its affiliated entities. From the age of 12, she was a member of the Commodore's Messenger Organization (CMO), the internal Sea Org group responsible for personally servicing Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard aboard his flagship, MV Apollo, in the 1970s. She was described as "quiet, petite and younger than most of the other Messengers at the time ... and a bit overshadowed by the older girls".[3] Jim Dincalci, one of her shipmates, says that she was "a sweet, innocent thing thrown into chaos".[3] At the age of 21, in December 1982, she married a fellow CMO member, 22-year-old David Miscavige.[3] She came to view Miscavige as the reincarnation of Simón Bolívar and herself as his mistress Manuela Sáenz.[1]

She subsequently joined her husband's group as the official assistant to her husband, the chairman of the board (COB) of Scientology's Religious Technology Center. According to author Lawrence Wright, she was closely involved in Scientology's liaison with its highest profile member, Tom Cruise.[4] When Cruise began a three-year relationship with Penélope Cruz, Miscavige supervised Cruz's auditing and helped her through Scientology's Purification Rundown program.[5]

After the end of the Cruise–Cruz relationship, Miscavige was reported to have led a Scientology program to find a new girlfriend for Tom Cruise. Around a hundred young Scientologist actresses were interviewed, though they were not told why.[5] An actress named Nazanin Boniadi was introduced to Cruise and dated him for a few months before he broke off the relationship in January 2005.[6] The search resumed, with more actresses invited to audition for what they thought was a role in a forthcoming Mission: Impossible film, and eventually concluded with Katie Holmes meeting and marrying Cruise.[7] His attorney denies that any Scientology executive set him up with girlfriends.[8] Miscavige subsequently oversaw a project to use Scientology members and contractors to renovate Cruise's nine-bedroom mansion in Beverly Hills.[9]

Public absence[edit]

In 2006, Miscavige's husband, Scientology leader David Miscavige, left the organization's international base. Upon her husband's return, Miscavige was said[by whom?] to have "visibly changed" her mood and to have "looked cowed". Mike Rinder, then Scientology's chief spokesman, says that she asked him if her husband was still wearing his wedding ring. Shortly afterwards, in June 2006, she no longer made any appearances in public.[10] Miscavige has not appeared in public since August 2007.[11][12]

Missing person reports have been filed with the Los Angeles Police Department concerning Miscavige. At least two such reports have been filed; one is reported by Lawrence Wright, though he does not state who submitted it,[13] while another was filed in August 2013 by actress Leah Remini.[14] Detective Gus Villanueva, in response to the missing person report, said: "The LAPD has classified the report as unfounded, indicating that Shelly is not missing."[15] In August 2013, the Los Angeles Police Department confirmed they located and spoke with Miscavige following a missing-persons report filed by Remini.[16] Remini, who used to be a member of the Church of Scientology, questioned her absence at the wedding of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes.[17] Remini further questioned Shelly Miscavige's whereabouts in her show produced for the A&E network, Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath in December 2018, five years after detectives closed her missing persons case, saying that they had met with her in person.[18] The Church of Scientology responded to the announcement of the episode in a letter: "Remini is a foaming anti-Scientologist. Mrs. Miscavige has personally and repeatedly told law enforcement that Remini's acts are abusive. Remini is unhinged and Remini and her cohorts should be prosecuted for knowingly filing a false missing person's report."[19]

The Church of Scientology has not commented on Miscavige's location.[20][21] In July 2012, responding to press accounts of speculation on Miscavige's whereabouts, two UK newspapers were informed by lawyers who said they represented Miscavige and "that she is not missing and devotes her time to the work of the Church of Scientology."[22] In December 2018, a lawyer representing the Church of Scientology told The Daily Beast that Miscavige is a dedicated Sea Org member who "lives a private life" and that the lawyer's partner had personally met with her.[2]

Some former members of Sea Org have said that they believe Miscavige is being held against her will at the compound of the Scientologist's Church of Spiritual Technology corporation near the mountain town of Running Springs in San Bernardino County, California.[11]

Family and personal life[edit]

Miscavige's mother, Mary Florence "Flo" Fike Barnett, was a long-time Scientologist.[23] Flo resigned from Scientology, taking with her copies of the "confidential upper-level materials". Flo later joined David Mayo's Advanced Ability Center, an independent Scientology organization.[24] On September 8, 1985, she was found dead at age 52 from a shot to the head from a Ruger 10/22 rifle. The body also had three rifle shot wounds to the chest (one surface wound, one through a breast implant, and one that passed through the left lung and fractured a rib), and there were superficial slash marks on her wrists that were identified in the autopsy report as possibly having been a few days old.[25] Despite the multiple gunshot wounds and the unwieldy nature of the weapon, her death was ruled a suicide.[25] According to one former member of the Sea Org, David Miscavige said of Flo's death: "That bitch got what she deserved."[26]

Miscavige's father, Maurice Elliott Barnett, died in 2007.

In popular culture[edit]

The Fox police sitcom television series Brooklyn Nine-Nine makes reference to Miscavige's alleged disappearance in its fifth-season episode "NutriBoom". The episode satirizes Scientology as a multi-level marketing company that produces amino acids and amino acid reducers, allegedly to improve their clients' health.[27] Brooklyn Nine-Nine's parody of Miscavige, Debbie Stovelman, is found to be alive and well, having faked her own disappearance to allow her to run Nutriboom and escape the consequences of illegal activities.[27]

In the Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt episode "Sliding Van Doors", the character Gretchen, who rose up in the ranks of a parody of Scientology named Cosmetology, repeatedly asserts that her husband Shelly is “definitely alive.”[28]

In John Oliver's Last Week Tonight, he included “Where’s Shelly” (in Spanish) in the opening montage of the show for an entire season. In the final episode of season 5, he did a piece that wrapped up his year long secret “advertising campaign” for scientology and demanded that they pay him $650,000-$700,000 for it. In his October 2021 segment on Taiwan, he joked about Miscavige's wife before asking, "Where's Shelly?"[29]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Wright, Lawrence (2013). Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief. Alfred A. Knopf. p. 303. ISBN 978-0-307-70066-7.
  2. ^ a b Stern, Marlow (December 19, 2018). "Where Is Scientology Leader David Miscavige's Wife?". The Daily Beast. Retrieved February 27, 2019.
  3. ^ a b c Wright, p. 176
  4. ^ Wright, p. 248
  5. ^ a b Wright, p. 285
  6. ^ Wright, pp. 286–287
  7. ^ Wright, pp. 290–291.
  8. ^ Wright, p. 290.
  9. ^ Wright, pp. 300–301.
  10. ^ Wright, p. 302
  11. ^ a b Edwards, Jim (July 13, 2012). "Tour The Compound Where The Missing Wife of Scientology's Leader Might Be Living". Business Insider. Retrieved March 24, 2013.
  12. ^ Lutz, Ashley (July 3, 2012). "Scientology leader David Miscavige's wife has been missing since 2006". Business Insider. Retrieved March 24, 2013.
  13. ^ Wright, pp. 302–303
  14. ^ "Leah Remini Files Missing Person Report for Scientology Leader David Miscavige's Wife". The Hollywood Reporter. August 8, 2013. Retrieved August 8, 2013.
  15. ^ Finn, Natalie; Passalaqua, Holly (August 8, 2013). "Leah Remini's Scientology Mystery Solved: Missing Person Case for Shelly Miscavige Now Closed, Per LAPD". E! Online. Retrieved September 2, 2013.
  16. ^ Blankstein, Andrew (August 9, 2013). "Scientology leader's wife located by LAPD after Leah Remini inquiry". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 23, 2020.
  17. ^ Kelsey, Eric; Sinha-Roy, Piya (July 13, 2013). "Latest celebrity defection casts light on Scientology leadership". Reuters. Retrieved March 12, 2019.
  18. ^ "Leah Remini thinks wife of Scientology leader is dead". Page Six. December 20, 2016. Retrieved March 12, 2019.
  19. ^ Barilla, Lucille (December 19, 2018). "Leah Remini Demands Answers About Missing Scientology Leader's Wife On Latest Episode Of A&E Series". Inquisitr. Retrieved March 12, 2019.
  20. ^ Wright, p. 303
  21. ^ "Where's Tommy Davis". Nine Network. Retrieved August 20, 2012 – via YouTube.
  22. ^ "Mrs Shelly Miscavige". Telegraph. July 31, 2012. Archived from the original on January 12, 2022. Retrieved September 19, 2012.
  23. ^ Tobin, Thomas C. (September 13, 2015). "The man behind Scientology". Tampa Bay Times. Archived from the original on July 3, 2009. Retrieved February 18, 2021.
  24. ^ Prince, Jesse (September 13, 2018). The Expert Witness: My Life at the Top of Scientology. Createspace Independent Publishing Platform. pp. 145, 154. ISBN 978-1725992634.
  25. ^ a b Ortega, Tony (January 25, 2012). "The Strange Death of Flo Barnett, Mother-in-Law to Scientology Leader David Miscavige". Village Voice.
  26. ^ Prince, pp. 145,154
  27. ^ a b Ferguson, Latoya (April 15, 2018). "With 'NutriBoom' and 'DFW', the Nine-Nine works through some unfinished business". The AV Club. Archived from the original on November 4, 2019. Retrieved July 25, 2020.
  28. ^ Lewis, Hilary (January 19, 2019). "Breaking Down the Scientology Parallels in 'Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt's' 'Sliding Doors' Episode". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved October 26, 2021.
  29. ^ "BJohn Oliver — Where's Shelly?". March 31, 2021. Retrieved October 26, 2021.