Inside Hollywood's Search for Spirituality

Oprah Winfrey, Justin Bieber, Tom Cruise and more celebs have spoken openly about their faith

By Ken Baker Sep 21, 2017 4:00 PMTags
Religion in HollywoodGetty/E! Illustration

If you're anything like me, you're more likely to try something if a celebrity already does it. They eat an energy bar, you might try it. A star Instagrams they can't live without that ginseng-infused tea, you pinch your nose and sip it up to get abs like them.

Whether we admit it or not, celebrities wield influence over our lives. But one of the latest trends they're embracing, and inspiring many also to try, involves something you can't buy on a website: God.

Oprah Winfrey has teamed with spiritualist Deepak Chopra to teach the masses meditation.

Justin Bieber canceled his concert tour so he could focus on his spiritual life with pastors Judah Smith and Carl Lentz.

Celebs Outspoken About Their Religion

Tom Cruise and other stars have famously embraced Scientology.

Hordes of celebs such as Tori Spelling, Kendra Wilkinson, Snooki and Carmen Electra have had psychic medium Tyler Henry channel dead people for them on his hit reality series.

Gwyneth Paltrow has long touted the spiritual benefits of yoga.

Kris Jenner and Mel Gibson have helped found churches.

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Inspired by this spirit quest occurring in and around my place of work for the last twenty years as a Hollywood journalist, I recently dedicated myself to exploring celebrity spirituality.

And my conclusion is that amid all the apparent narcissistic worship of self, the rich and famous and beautiful who appear daily on E! News are soul-seeking in a way that not only runs deeper than the headlines suggest, but that also reveals that, despite their materialistic spoils, they are spiritually hungry human beings just like many of us—but with a high-profile twist.

One of my first stops on my search for God brought me to one of the pre-eminent gurus to the stars, Deepak Chopra, who taught me a form of mantra meditation that he has also taught Kim Kardashian, Michael Jackson, 50 Cent, Jim Carrey, Demi Moore, Madonna and Oprah.

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Courtesy of Ken Baker

Deepak offers his theory as to why so many celebs are "tortured souls" and what drives many to seek spiritual peace:

"In general, I find celebrities insecure and narcissistic," Deepak told me in an interview at his center in Carlsbad, California. "As someone said, the ultimate selfie-taker was Narcissus. And now technology has made this level of narcissism possible for everyone—and celebrities may be at the top of the list. But at the same time, I think that if they weren't narcissistic and insecure they wouldn't be successful. But the problem is that their insecurity drives them—until they burn out. And inevitably, they do. And that leads to addictions and all kinds of things and problems. They begin to believe in their own press. They take themselves too seriously, and if they don't get the same attention they're used to getting they start feeling insecure and use all these escapes because they literally burn themselves out. So it's a kind of a contradiction and a paradox. The more successful they are, the more insecure they get because they are only as good as their last movie, last show, their last song, and if the next one doesn't do as well, they think they are a failure. It's their whole identity. So, frankly, I feel sorry for them."

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Deepak, who earlier this year released his eighty-sixth book, You Are the Universe, shares with E! News his observations on some of his star students:

Madonna: "Not only does she meditate, but she's a very good yogi and a disciplined practitioner of yoga. She exercises. She watches her diet. She's unusual. She's very disciplined. "

50 Cent: "He's off and on. But he did have a profound experience so..."

Oprah: "I've known Oprah for over twenty years. Originally, I was introduced to her by Michael Jackson of all people and she's traveled with me in India and we've done a lot of shows together. She has the ability to reach the everyday person and she's very authentic and doesn't pretend to be what she's not."

Kim and Kanye: "They were here, in my office. They are really visionaries."

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Convergent Books

Kim and Kanye's spiritual exploration has also taken them to the Christian house of worship Kris Jenner founded nine years ago, with Pastor Brad Johnson, near her home called California Community Church.

"She has a passion for God," Johnson tells E! News. "What people presume about Kris sometimes doesn't include that, but to those of us who know her, she has this precious spiritual side and certainly she has a passion for the church and passion for her faith as well."

Johnson, who officiated Khloe Kardashian and Lamar Odom's 2009 wedding, says that faith is something very real to all the family members and most attend regularly.

"All the kids they were raised with a sense of spirituality and God in their life," he says. "[The late] Robert Kardashian was a very devoted man of faith and I know that had a lot of influence on the older girls and Kris' faith does carry through the entire family."

As a minister to some of the most famous people on the planet, Johnson has had a front-row seat to the unique challenges celebrities face.

"Hollywood gets this slam of being so secular and God's not a part of it," Johnson tells E! News. "And in your own journey in your own book you found out that's absolutely not true and God is very present in this place and he's very present in the journey of celebrities as well. I think it's a very exciting place to be a minister. I think it's a very exciting place to explore faith and I think celebrities absolutely are some of the keenest spiritual seekers I know."

For more on my journey, pick up my new book, The Ken Commandments: My Search for God in Hollywood.