What Is 7M? All About the TikTok Dance Cult

Melanie Wilking

As ever, Netflix is keeping true crime fans well fed this spring, and one of the streaming platform's most intriguing new documentaries is Dancing for the Devil: The 7M TikTok Cult.

The real-life story of this cult is still somewhat shrouded in mystery, but the Netflix synopsis offers some hints about what to expect: “TikTok dancers are trapped in a cult masquerading as a management company called 7M; as dancers and former members escape and work to rebuild their lives, they come together to put a stop to the cycle and heal.”

Here's a primer on the situation to date.

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What is 7M Films?

According to the company’s own website, 7M Films is “a Los Angeles-based talent management company representing some of the top social media influencers in the world,” with a roster of clients that also includes dancers, actors, models and music industry professionals. But according to several dancers who worked with the company, that description is a smokescreen for something much more sinister.

Is 7M a cult?

In March of 2023, per Rolling Stone, three dancers who had previously been managed by 7M sued the company and its owner, pastor Robert I. Shinn. In making this filing, the trio joined a pre-existing complaint against the company and the Santa Ana-based church it is affiliated with, Shekinah. They alleged that the church is a cult masquerading as a religious institution, and that Shinn exerts physical and economic control over the church’s members.

Allegations that 7M was a cult had begun spreading on social media more than a year before, but this marked the first legal action taken by dancers against the company. According to a Rolling Stone report published in March of 2022, friends and family members of 7M clients noticed that they were withdrawing, behaving oddly and refusing to socialize, and became concerned that the company was deliberately isolating and manipulating them.

In a statement given to The Daily Beast in 2022, 7M Films denied being a cult, and claimed that the business dealings of 7M were entirely separate from the Shekinah Church.

Who runs 7M?

Robert I. Shinn is the founder of 7M, and is also a pastor of the affiliated Shekinah Church. Shinn, a 65-year-old Toronto native, founded the church in 1994 after immigrating to the US. 7M Films is a much more recent offshoot, dating back only as far as 2021, so it’s no surprise that there’s much more information available about Shekinah Church.

In court documents cited by Rolling Stone, Shinn describes the church as “a small and tight-knit group of Christian believers committed to spreading their religious message through peaceful religious study and outreach.” The church has a history of controversy dating back to at least 2009, when a former member sued Shinn for fraudulent practices and labor law violations, alleging that she had been forced to do hours of unpaid work. A judge ultimately ruled in Shinn’s favor in that suit, but years later, similar allegations appear to be piling up.

Shinn is currently the subject of an IRS investigation, according to The Sun, following a complaint which alleges that he had forced his followers to “work unpaid for God.” He has reportedly already lost one labor lawsuit filed in California by a former follower, who alleged that she was forced to work 40 hour weeks in exchange for a $30 stipend, and that Shinn justified this by telling her that it was “in the name of God.” The Sun also reported that he is accused of using church donations to fund his for-profit businesses—possibly including 7M Films, although this has not been confirmed.

What does TikTok have to do with 7M?

7M has been widely dubbed “the TikTok cult” because a number of prominent TikTok dancers are represented by 7M Films and are involved in the lawsuit. Short dance clips are one of the most popular content types on TikTok, and a number of dancers affiliated with 7M first found viral fame via the app.

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How is TikTok influencer Miranda Derrick connected to 7M?

7M first drew public attention thanks to the story of Miranda Derrick, a TikTok dance influencer. In February of 2022, Derrick’s family members posted an emotional Instagram video in which they claimed that she had been manipulated into joining a cult, and was being “brainwashed" by 7M, which represented her at the time.

“Miranda is a part of a religious group, and she’s not allowed to speak to us,” her sister Melanie said in the video. “Her sister and the other group members are “not in control of their lives. Someone else is controlling their lives, and they’re all victims of this.”

The following month, Derrick seemingly denied those allegations by posting a video mocking her family’s concerns. According to Rolling Stone, 7M claimed through an attorney that Derrick was estranged from her family due to an unrelated dispute.

Derrick originally became TikTok-famous alongside her sister, Melanie Wilkins. The duo regularly filmed videos together and had a follower count of more than 2 million by 2020. But in early 2021, Derrick began to withdraw from her family, per The Cut, and did not tell them when she married a fellow 7M dancer, James “BDash” Derrick.

What's going on with the 7M lawsuit?

In March of 2023, three dancers who had previously worked with 7M sued the company, in a filing which named Shinn, 7M and Shekinah, along with 17 other entities and individuals. The dancers joined four other previous complainants in making the filing, per Rolling Stone.

“Shekinah is a cult operating under the guise of a religious institution,” the court documents read. “Robert refers to himself as ‘the Man of God’ and preaches to Shekinah members and that [sic] without submitting to him and without Shekinah, their lives will be cursed. Robert required full physical and economic and control [sic] over Shekinah members.” The complaint alleges that Shinn exercised control over every aspect of the church members’ lives, including their finances, their living situations and their healthcare.

The dancers’ complaint was technically part of a cross-complaint (i.e. a counter-claim) filed in a pre-existing lawsuit, which began when Shinn sued a former member of the church in October of 2022. In that original complaint, Shinn accused the individual of extortion and defamation, which the defendant has denied, per Rolling Stone. That defendant is now counter-suing Shinn in this suit.

What are some of the claims against 7M?

The dancers’ complaint claims that 7M is a “cult,” which aims to isolate clients from their families and friends and financially manipulate them. It states that Shinn used “deputies” to collect money from members, direct them on where to live, and instruct them on “how to spend nearly every waking moment of their time.”

They also allege that Shinn instructed church members to apply for Covid-19 relief funds and then transfer that money to the church, which they allege he then funneled into his various corporations. “Robert Shinn lives a life of luxury from the tithes he collects from Shekinah’s members,” court documents state, according to Rolling Stone. “Most of Robert’s wealth was built on the backs of the free labor or excessive fees from Shekinah members.”

Kylie Douglas, one of the plaintiffs, told Rolling Stone that Shinn and his 7M deputies had engaged in “brainwashing…manipulating…running people down” and persuading people to sacrifice their time, energy and money for “something that is a false hope.”

Which TikTok personalities are involved in the 7M lawsuit?

The three TikTok dancers who joined the lawsuit in March of 2023 are Aubrey Fisher-Greene, Kylie Douglas and Kevin “Konkrete” Davis. The four other complainants, who filed the original counter-suit, have not been publicly named. Miranda Derrick is probably the best-known TikTok personality who has been linked with 7M, but she has not been named as a plaintiff in the lawsuit.

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