New RHONY star Rebecca Minkoff is a hardcore Scientologist who rubbed shoulders with Danny Masterson and has donated MILLIONS to the church - while her doctor dad was implicated in horrifying wrongful death lawsuit of Lisa McPherson

Daily Mail, UK/April 18, 2024

By J. Peterson

The Real Housewives of New York City may have found its most controversial cast member yet in fashion designer and avowed Scientologist Rebecca Minkoff.

The 43-year-old's entry into the franchise is a shock considering Bravo's recent efforts to sanitize the series by axing some of its most polarizing Housewives - including Ramona Singer, Eboni K Williams, and Leah McSweeney.

Minkoff, along with her entrepreneur brother Uri, their father Dr. David Minkoff, and mother Sue are one of the most powerful families in The Church of Scientology.

According to Scientology blog The Underground Bunker, the Minkoff clan have shelled out millions to the church and were even awarded 'Diamond Meritorious' status for hitting $5million in donations.

Minkoff grew up in the church and has even credited fellow celebrity Scientologist Jenna Elfman for catapulting her self-titled brand into the spotlight.

In 2001, the Dharma and Greg actress wore an 'I Love New York' T-shirt designed by Minkoff on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno just days after the September 11 attacks, which sent sales soaring and put Minkoff on the fashion map.

Minkoff was friends with actor Danny Masterson - who is currently serving a 30-year prison sentence for rape.

Photos of a beaming Minkoff happily posing with the disgraced sitcom star in 2015 at an event for her fashion label are still up on her official Facebook page.

The pair's friendship goes back decades and they've been pictured together as early as 2004.

The designer's ties to Scientology go back decades and involve one of the most shocking scandals in the church's history.

Her father Dr. David Minkoff had to pay $100,000 as part of a wrongful death lawsuit of Scientologist Lisa McPherson, who died in 1995.

McPherson was just 36 when she died, with the cause of death initially being declared a pulmonary embolism brought on by 'bed rest and severe dehydration.'

Her death came a little over two weeks after she was found naked and dazed on a Clearwater street following a minor traffic accident by law enforcement and EMS, who took her to a nearby hospital for treatment and a psychiatric evaluation.

An officer on the scene said that McPherson was babbling about 'having a hard time at the church' and that she had to be asked questions multiple times to give a coherent response.

Despite staff at the Morton Plant Hospital in Clearwater informing McPherson that it was in her 'best medical interest' to stay and receive further treatment, she insisted on leaving with three other Scientologists who had arrived to see her.  

The Church of Scientology opposes most modern psychiatric methods, instead believing that spiritual healing is the proper treatment for mental illness.

McPherson spent the next 17 days kept in a room at a hotel, where she was watched round-the-clock by Scientology staff, including one teenager, who were not permitted to speak to her as she recovered from the crash.

An indictment filed against the Church of Scientology in 1998 by the state of Florida detailed McPherson's alleged state during those 17 days.

'After the first week, she routinely urinated and defecated on herself and rarely slept,' stated the indictment.

'She had conversations with people who were not there, claimed to be people she was not, sang and danced around the room as if giving a performance, crawled around on the floor, stood on the toilet, got in the shower fully clothed, tried to walk out of the room in a state of undress, and on at least one occasion drank her own urine.'

McPherson refused to eat and drink anything and had to be force fed.

She was also given herbal sleeping supplements including valerian root capsules and magnesium, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

On the 17th day of this confinement, McPherson went into a catatonic state, so church staffers phoned Dr. Minkoff to try and get a prescription for an antibiotic to use on her.

Dr. Minkoff had previously prescribed McPherson Valium and the muscle relaxant chloral hydrate at the behest of unlicensed Church of Scientology staffers - despite never having personally examined her.

This time around, a concerned Dr. Minkoff refused to prescribe anything to McPherson and urged that she be taken to hospital for treatment first.

The church staffers refused to take McPherson back to the nearby Morton Plant Hospital - which was just two minutes away - out of fears that she would be put in the psychiatric ward.

Dr. Minkoff eventually agreed to treat her in person, so the staffers traveled 45 minutes to see him, passing four different hospitals on the way as McPherson gasped for breath in the backseat.

She had no vital signs by the time she arrived to see Dr. Minkoff, who pronounced her dead.

Former Scientologist Quailynn McDaniel, who was a patient of Dr. Minkoff's and a friend of Rebecca's, spoke to about the aftermath of McPherson's death and the unwavering support he received from his children.

'When David [Minkoff] went through all that with the church, the things with Lisa McPherson, he doubled down and basically the whole family got behind him and said, "David Minkoff, whatever you want we're gonna do for you."

'And they've been doing that for decades now,' she added.

McDaniel escaped the church in 2009 and now manages a successful skincare clinic in Washington.

She spent 20 years as a Scientologist and knew Rebecca for a decade, and described the Minkoffs as one of the most powerful families in the church.

'Uri Minkoff is her business partner and he's extremely devout. The whole family are very devout Scientologists, so she's surrounded,' McDaniel explained.

'The Minkoffs have a very rich and deep connection to Scientology that in many cases is unmatched due to the challenges that David faced after the incident with Lisa McPherson.'

She also said that she hopes that the spotlight that will come with Minkoff joining a reality TV juggernaut like RHONY will help to bring attention to the dark side of Scientology.

'Highlighting the church's abuses and its mental control is really good,' McDaniel said.

'That's what's gonna cause change. If you draw attention to it and other people see and understand that their practices are not mentally healthy or socially acceptable or normal, and we need to draw attention to these abuses.'

When contacted about McDaniel's claims, a representative for the Church of Scientology accused of, 'maligning the religion of millions of people by quoting someone who was expelled from the Church years ago due to her gutter ethics'.

Minkoff addressed her faith during a gushing New York Times profile in 2021.

'I'm totally open, but it's not my job to proselytize,' she told the publication.

'I think there’s a lot of confusion when people hear the word "religion" — immediately you hear that I pray to L. Ron Hubbard,' she continued.

'I study it, I take classes and that’s the extent of it, and it’s helped me stay centered. I don’t have all the answers. When I needed someone, it was a place for me to go get some answers.'

Minkoff also took a swipe at critics of the church, calling it 'horrific misinformation'.

McDaniel hit back at Minkoff's comments, telling 'I saw the quote where she said she doesn't proselytize Scientology.

'But when you go into the Scientology doctrine and you go through the entire [Minkoff] family, that's a false narrative.'

She added, '[Rebecca's] gonna try and bob and weave, but at the end of the day it is what it is.'

Her father's lawsuit isn't the only legal scandal that Minkoff is connected to.

Last year, Minkoff was named as an arbitrator in a lawsuit by former Scientologist Valerie Haney, who claims she escaped the church in 2016 by hiding in the trunk of somebody's car to sneak out of the infamous Gold Base compound.

Haney filed a lawsuit against Scientology in June 2019 alleging kidnapping, stalking, and libel, according to Rolling Stone.

A number of Scientology's celebrity members were named as arbitrators in the suit, including actor Giovanni Ribisi, motivational speaker Grant Cardone, and Minkoff, who was a former classmate of Haney's. has contacted NBC, Rebecca Minkoff, David Minkoff, and The Church of Scientology for comment.

Minkoff's connection to Scientology doesn't appear to be a problem for Bravo so far, with Andy Cohen and his co-host John Hill dancing around the topic on their SiriusXM radio show this week.

'Rebecca Minkoff is gonna join The Real Housewives of New York City! Is that correct?' Hill asked.

'I can't say anything,' Cohen said cryptically, before Hill commented, 'I didn't realize she's a Scientologist. That's fun.'

Cohen said nothing, before shifting the topic of conversation to The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.

Minkoff has already started filming with her new castmates for the show's upcoming 15th season, which is currently in production.

She will be joining all of the returning stars from season 14, which includes Sai De Silva, Ubah Hassan, Erin Lichy, Jenna Lyons, Jessel Taank and Brynn Whitfield, as first reported by Deadline on Tuesday.

Bravo has not yet confirmed if she will be holding an apple alongside the rest of the cast or be making appearances in a 'friend of' role.

Previously, Bravo introduced a whole new cast after viewership continued to decrease following the show's controversial 13th season, which was bogged down by polarizing political discussions about the 2020 presidential election and Black Lives Matter.

It was the first-ever reboot in Real Housewives history.

At the time, Cohen said they wanted to bring in 'a multicultural group of friends who really best reflect the most exciting city in the country.'

During BravoCon 2022, the Watch What Happens Live host said: 'We were looking for a group of friends who were actually connected — women with interesting jobs.

'We have Brooklyn, Tribeca, all over town,' he added. 'Really cool jobs, fashion, PR, model, influencer, all different types. Their energy and humor is great.'

The entrepreneur, who co-founded her namesake fashion brand with her brother Uri in 2005, is no stranger to reality TV as she previously appeared on Project Runway as well as the Project Runway All Stars spin-off as a guest judge.

She also made appearances on Project Runway: Fashion Startup and So Cosmo.

She launched the Female Founder Collective — an ecosystem designed to help female founders around the globe to grow their business through community, resources, and education — in 2018.

Recently, Minkoff welcomed her fourth child with her husband Gavin Bellour in January 2023.

She also shares sons Luca, 12, Nico, five, and daughter Bowie, nine, with the commercial director — whom she married in June 2009.

Minkoff will be joining another fashion icon, former J.Crew executive Jenna Lyons — who confirmed she would be returning for the new season.

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