'Survivor 45' Contestant Katurah Topps Escaped a Religious Cult in Her Teenage Years

Jamie Lerner - Author

Dec. 7 2023, Published 10:12 a.m. ET

Katurah wearing a green shirt on 'Survivor 45'
Source: CBS

The Gist:

  • Survivor 45 contestant Katurah Topps revealed she was in a religious cult as a teenager.
  • Pulled out of school after 5th grade by her parents, Katurah barely received an education and was told she would be a cult leader's wife at 13 or 14.
  • Despite her challenging past, Katurah, now a lawyer, helps others in similar situations, showcasing a story of redemption on Survivor.
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Many Survivor fans don’t love the backstory edit of the new era, but every so often, it’s totally worth it, such as in Katurah Topps's case. Season 45 has done an excellent job of adding in the contestants’ backstories, only doing so when it’s relevant to the story in that episode. Jake’s backstory of binge eating was an important one to tell, and now Katurah’s backstory is taking over the hearts and minds of fans.

Throughout Survivor 45, Katurah’s story has mostly been about her rivalry with and disdain for Bruce Perrault. Now that he’s out of the game, we’ve gotten a much deeper understanding of Katurah’s complexity. As Jake O’Kane shared his story of going from a poorly performing student into a lawyer, Katurah shares her own backstory, which included joining and escaping a religious cult.

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Katurah and Emily hugging each other on 'Survivor 45'
Source: CBS

Katurah Topps from ‘Survivor 45’ was in a religious cult as a teenager.

When Katurah starts telling her story, no one expects to learn that she was in a religious cult. In Episode 10, Katurah receives her letters from home, one of which is from her estranged mother. While Katurah doesn’t go into detail about why she no longer talks to her mother, fans are shocked that production allowed her to get this specific letter.

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However, past players and production members have pointed out that a point person in the family provides the letters, so production didn’t really have a say in who wrote Katurah’s letters. Even still, we knew there would be more to her story, and luckily, Katurah has stayed in the game long enough to tell us the rest of it.

Julie hugging Katurah as she cries on 'Survivor'
Source: CBS
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As Jake shares his unlikely story of becoming a lawyer, Katurah shares the same. She begins by saying that her parents pulled her out of school after she graduated 5th grade, which was already jaw-dropping enough. But the reason was because her parents joined a religious cult likely near St. Louis, Mo., where she’s from.

Katurah explains that they were part of the cult for about three years. During that time, she barely got any education. The cult specified that the children should be homeschooled, but she was forced to work instead. But at just 13 or 14 years old, the leader of the cult said that Katurah would have to be one of his wives.

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Katurah smiling on 'Survivor 45'
Source: CBS

Her mother took Katurah and two trash bags full of their belongings, and they left the cult in the middle of the night. After that, Katurah was enrolled in high school after three years without education. Not only that, but this was her first time interacting with the real world. She said, “I went back to school and learned I was black. And poor. And a woman. And gay."

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Katurah may have been in a cult, but her story is one of redemption.

Despite her challenging upbringing, Katurah has gone on to help people who are in situations just like she was. She didn’t elaborate on which cult she was in, but Redditors suspect that it was likely run by a Black middle-aged man. This could explain her extreme vitriol towards Bruce, who was just slightly controlling but may have triggered something from Katurah’s childhood.

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One Redditor suggested Joshua Media Ministries was the cult, but it was based in Michigan, not Missouri. Other St. Louis-based cults include Jehovah's Witnesses offshoots, a compound in Fenton, a “Third Coming” temple, and more. However, there are many small unknown cults that we never hear about, so it’s possible that she was in one that's now off the grid.

Regardless, many of us have been inspired by Katurah's story. She became a lawyer and is living in her dream location in Brooklyn, N.Y. It makes sense that she has a complicated relationship with her family after her childhood, but she’s doing everything she can to make the world a better place for people like her. So we definitely won’t be mad if Katurah wins the million.

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