Catherine Oxenberg is an actress and mother of India Oxenberg. She went through a public and prolonged battle to save her daughter from Nxivm, a multi-level marketing organization that branded itself as an empowerment training center but has since been accused of being a cult with a sex-slave ring. Oxenberg wrote a memoir about the experience, titled Captive: A Mother’s Crusade to Save Her Daughter From a Terrifying Cult. That memoir was turned into a dramatized made-for-TV movie, which premieres on Lifetime on Sept. 21.
Prior to her involvement with Nxivm, Oxenberg was known for her role as Amanda Bedford on the television series Dynasty. She has appeared in a number of other shows and movies, per her IMDB page. She is also, notably, of royal lineage: her parents are Princess Elizabeth of Yugoslavia and Howard Oxenberg.
And though she had never publicly identified who India’s father was prior to the Nxivm involvement, he spoke out in 2017: per The New York Post, William Weitz Shaffer, 71, announced that he was India’s father, saying to the publication, “I’ve had a close and personal relationship with my daughter India her entire life. I know in my heart she will do the right thing. She’s an angel.” Shaffer now lives in Santa Monica; he met Catherine in Germany.
In 2019, Oxenberg has been making the rounds in a number of publicity tours leading up to the Lifetime movie release. And in those interviews, she’s offered up information about how she’s doing, what her experience has been life, and what her daughter is up to a year after her departure from Nxivm.
Oxenberg is portrayed by Andrea Roth in the Lifetime film. Here’s what you need to know:
Oxenberg Was Offered to Play the Role of Herself in a Film About Nxivm, But She Declined
In an interview with Variety, Oxenberg revealed that she received a number of offers for movie adaptations of her successful memoir. She even was offered to play herself in a dramatized role, she said, but that offer wasn’t very appealing.
She said, “To be quite frank, going through this once was plenty, and I’m so grateful to hand the part over to somebody else. I’m barely recovering from the first time.” She also noted that the movie is split largely between her perspective and her daughter’s perspective, but that her daughter’s perspective was created largely from Nxivm research, versus from actual memory.
“I’m very careful to say that this is not her story. She has yet to tell her story. In my book I’m very careful not to trespass on her story at all, and so probably the hardest part for me was reading the parts of the script that tell her side of the story — because I’m very, very sensitive to my daughter having ownership over her perspective. But in order to tell this story in a visual medium, she had to be portrayed — and in moments that no mother wants to see her child, whether it’s the branding ceremony or scenes with Keith. But she did not participate in the telling of this story, and she will be telling the most accurate story from her perspective when the time is right.”
In the movie, viewers are able to see how India was pulled into Nxivm — and in particular, they’re shown that Oxenberg was the one to introduce Nxivm to her daughter. Oxenberg said in an interview with Good Morning America, “They had this supposed leadership self-help program and he funneled people through and it looked legitimate. I thought that there was some benefit in the beginning, but truthfully it’s a bait and switch and it was a recruitment funnel for sexual partners for him, but you didn’t know that walking in.”
In another interview with Entertainment Tonight, Oxenberg said, “I didn’t sign my daughter up for a sex cult.”
Oxenberg Tried to Save Her Daughter From Nxivm For Seven Years Before India Finally left
As she details extensively in her memoir, Oxenberg’s struggle to free her daughter from Nxivm lasted a whopping seven years. During these seven years, as The New York Post reports, India was branded with Raniere’s initials on her body, forced to live on a 500-calorie daily diet, and was allegedly pressured to have sexual interactions with Raniere.
A Nxivm witness at Mack’s trial said, “Alison was trying to have [India] get down to a certain weight. It was just really hard to watch, sometimes … It was tough on her.”
Much of India’s experience within Nxivm has not yet been revealed, as she has yet to disclose anything from her own perspective. However, she did leave Nxivm in 2018. Oxenberg said to Entertainment Tonight, “It was my life, 24/7 until I accomplished my goal, which was when I personally couldn’t affect her thinking. I was up against indoctrination.”
As for how she felt about Raniere’s subsequent conviction, she said it was “the deepest relief I ever felt in my life; gratitude; the privilege of watching the wheels of justice turning and justice being served, it was closure for me. The ultimate closure for me will be his sentencing. I hope his body never gets out of jail.”