‘Dancing For The Devil’ Explained: Is The 7M Management Company Really A Cult?

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The new documentary series on Netflix, Dancing for the Devil might arguably not be the most intriguing of watches, but it is surely an instance of a show that might actually affect the real investigation in some way. The 7M TikTok Cult basically refers to the controversial 7M Films talent and production company, which is known for handling profiles of popular dancers on TikTok but is widely believed to be a cult in disguise. Dancing for the Devil: The 7M TikTok Cult delves into the allegations against the company and the Shekinah Church, both of which are owned by a certain Robert Shinn, and covers the efforts made by family members of those believed to be still stuck in the group


Who are the Wilking sisters?

The three-part Netflix documentary series Dancing for the Devil begins with a video of two sisters, Miranda, and Melanie Wilking, talking to the camera about a certain letter they had found from their childhood days. The video is actually from the sisters’ own YouTube channel, named ‘Wilking Sisters,’ and it has an emotional tone to it as the letter basically details one sister’s love for another from when the two were about four and six years old respectively. What makes the inclusion of this video in the opening minutes of the series quite heartbreaking is the fact that the sisters now have almost no contact with each other. When Dean, a teacher and counselor by profession, and his wife, Kelly, also a teacher, made a modest start   with their two charming daughters, Miranda and Melanie, they gave all the love and attention to their girls, and whatever they wanted to do. The children took a keen interest in dance from a very young age, and they pursued the art form as their passion even when they grew up.

Both sisters wanted to make dance their main profession in life, so around 2017, they moved to Los Angeles in pursuit of better chances, like in dance reality shows and other such programs. Miranda and Melanie also shared a very close bond with each other and were quite inseparable, despite showrunners often telling them that they needed to work as individuals in the industry. The sisters still wanted to perform together, and this coincided with the popularity of dance videos on social media platforms, particularly TikTok, which took the world by storm around the time. The Wilking sisters immediately decided to make use of the platform, which would not only let them be and perform together but also bring in direct revenues for them without having to rely on shows. Thus, they created an account on TikTok where they posted dance videos together and got quite a significant number of views on a regular basis. Seeing the potential in social media, they also started their YouTube channel at the time, where they uploaded daily vlogs and lifestyle-related content.

For quite some time, Miranda and Melanie enjoyed success as TikTok stars, gaining millions of followers and then also the attention of other such stars on the platform. One such dancer was James Derrick, who is more popular by his screen name BDash, as he contacted the sisters and soon collaborated with them on a few videos. This also began a romantic relationship between James and Miranda, as they started to date soon after meeting each other. Melanie was very happy with them as well, and James even spent a lot of quality time with the Wilking family. It was basically through James and his friend-cum-videographer, Isiah, that the sisters were first introduced to the Shekinah Church, a small religious community in Los Angeles that apparently already had a number of TikTok dance celebrities as its members. The owner of the Shekinah Church, a Korean man named Robert Shinn, had also recently started a production company named 7M Management, and the business was essentially handling business profiles of TikTok dance personalities. James eventually invited both Miranda and Melanie for dinner with the Shinn family, and although Miranda seemed somewhat convinced by them, the younger sister found the experience to be quite awkward. The Wilkings were never too religious, and so when Robert Shinn spoke of moral judgment and religious sins, Melanie naturally wanted to distance herself from him.

Melanie admitted that she did not want to be a part of the group, but she never imagined that this decision would also destroy her lifelong bond with her sister. Miranda continued to hang around with the Shekinah Church members, most importantly her boyfriend James, and with time, she dropped all contact with her family. Messages sent by her parents and sister failed to be delivered, and calls would go unanswered, to the point of the Wilkings growing extremely concerned about her well-being. Dean’s efforts at going over to the official address of the Shekinah Church only to meet with his daughter once also did not result in anything. Soon, the family members were extremely scared that Miranda was actually stuck in a cult despite her regularly posting dance videos and other content online.


Is The 7m Management Company Really A Cult?

The exact allegation brought by the Wilking family against the 7M Films company was revealed to the world through an Instagram post made by Melanie, in which she and her parents spoke out against all that they had to go through. This video gained popularity online, and soon TikTok was filled with content that tried to decode whether 7M is really a cult hidden behind its front as a production company. It all began with the fact that Miranda Wilking had suddenly dropped all contact with her family after she grew close to the company members, who also belonged to the Shekinah Church. Soon, the Wilking family found out that they were actually not the only ones  facing such heartbreaking behavior from their child, but the parents of another TikTok dance celebrity, Nick Raiano, were also going through the same ordeal. Both Miranda and Nick refused to meet their respective families or even contact them in any way, which made everyone suspect that they were probably being held hostage against their wishes.

This situation ultimately changed, though, when mainstream media picked up on the claims being made by the Wilking and Raiano families, and there was some significant pressure on the owner of the business, Robert Shinn. As revealed by some of the ex-members, Shinn stressed the need for members to get back in touch with their families at this time, but these interactions also came in an extremely measured and awkward manner. But for the most part, it is quite certain that the 7M Management company, as well as the Shekinah Church, are actually fronts for a religious cult founded and run by Shinn. His business originally began with the church, as he took money from members and also managed to keep them away from any friends and family. Eventually, Shinn quickly adapted to the new ways of the modern world, and he saw great potential in the TikTok dancers, who could earn him even more money and wealth.

Based on the information provided by a number of other TikTok dance personalities who were once members of the 7M company, as seen in Dancing for the Devil, Shinn uses his already existing wealth to lure in the youngsters. As an online content creator, one has to arrange for everything all by themselves, which is often quite a task, especially for young people who do not have enough capital to work with. Robert Shinn approaches creators and provides them with the required money and the space to shoot their videos, with only a membership to his church in exchange. This is then reshaped into a model of monetary extortion, as the creators are made to pay rent for the lavish houses where they live for their videos, along with donations to the church and a membership fee in the form of tithes. A certain amount is also to be paid to Shinn himself, who is considered the Man of God, and in this manner, almost the entire money that the creators earn through their videos is actually taken away from them. All of their bank accounts are also seized and controlled by the cult members, who also use these accounts to launder their money from various sources. Ultimately, Robert Shinn makes use of TikTok content creators to make himself exorbitant amounts of money without himself doing anything, and this is also why he initially arranged for the members to not get any counsel from their families. 


Who are Melanie and Priscylla Lee?

Along with the Wilking sisters, the case that Dancing for the Devil deals with also involves another pair—the Lee sisters, Melanie and Priscylla. Born in South Korea, the sisters had a rough childhood as their father had abandoned the family, and they were raised by their alcoholic mother, who took the decision to move to the United States. Growing up, Priscylla and Melanie were the only considerable family to each other, and they enjoyed the community feeling at their local church, which was named Shekinah. More than the religious attraction towards it, the girls were interested in the fact that all Koreans in the neighborhood were members of the church, and they all helped each other out in times of need. This was basically their introduction to the world of Shekinah Church and its evil owner and boss, Robert Shinn. 

As Priscylla and Melanie turned into young women, they were eventually targeted by Shinn in a lecherous manner, as they were made to believe that physically serving the Man of God was the most pure thing to do. While Melanie did not agree with these teachings and realized what sort of trouble she was heading towards, the elder sister, Priscylla, was easier to mold for the church members. They were also taught that members had to cut all ties with their family members in order to ensure that their beloved parents and siblings would not end up in hell, and Priscylla was also indoctrinated into these beliefs. Therefore, when Melanie escaped the cult with the help of a high school friend, the elder sister decided to stay back and still be a part of the cult. This resulted in Priscylla getting sexually abused and assaulted by Shinn on a regular basis for many years. A number of other women members of the Shekinah Church also accused Shinn of sexual misconduct at the time, but their allegations were never paid any heed to, and they were all banished from the community.

Shinn had established a hierarchy among his followers, in which a select few women were given the promise of being made the leader’s wife, which would grant them a lot of facilities and religious blessings. While Priscylla initially stayed back, eyeing this position and also with the intention of doing good for her sister, she eventually realized how she was being forced into all sorts of unpleasant acts, and she finally escaped the cult as well. Following their experiences and also motivated by the efforts of the Wilking and Raiano families, the Lee sisters have also decided to bring Shinn to justice and speak up for the ones he has wronged for so many years.


Where is Robert Shinn now?

Despite the best efforts of the families and all the women who have now come forward with their official complaints against Robert Shinn, the complexities of the case have prevented the authorities from taking any action yet. Firstly, there is hardly any way to prove that the sexual assaults took place, and the claims can be very easily countered by the accused. In the case of financial fraud, though, those who have been cheated actually need to file complaints with the police, but most of them, like Miranda and James, still remain a part of the 7M group. Therefore, the only way forward has been for Priscylla Lee to sue Robert Shinn for his crimes, and a court trial is to be held in 2025. If there are any major developments in the case, and if any new information comes out, we can most definitely expect a follow-up from Netflix regarding the same next year. 

Although Miranda now occasionally meets her parents, it is clearly just for show, that she puts up on her social media accounts, and the woman is still very much under the influence of Shinn. In fact, Miranda and James’ strict condition with regards to meeting with the Wilkings is that they will not be questioned about their involvement with 7M or Shekinah Church. While the parents have accepted this condition for the sake of being able to meet their daughter, Melanie seems to have lost the desire to reconnect with her sister anymore, as anger and frustration have rightly taken over. But she still remains hopeful that the arrest of Robert Shinn will once again reunite her with Miranda in a proper way, some day in the future.


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Sourya Sur Roy
Sourya Sur Roy
Sourya keeps an avid interest in all sorts of films, history, sports, videogames and everything related to New Media. Holding a Master of Arts degree in Film Studies, he is currently working as a teacher of Film Studies at a private school and also remotely as a Research Assistant and Translator on a postdoctoral project at UdK Berlin.

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