The Stunning Transformation Of Leah Remini

Leah Remini has lived quite the life. The Emmy-winning comedic actor has lived all over the country, traveled across the world, fraternized with some of the most famous people on the planet, and made millions of people laugh through her work. Remini grew to fame through her work in the hit 2000s sitcom "The King of Queens," but since 2013, her biggest claim to fame has been her work to educate others about what she says is criminal activity of the Church of Scientology.

According to its website, "Scientology is a religion that offers a precise path leading to a complete and certain understanding of one's true spiritual nature and one's relationship to self, family, groups, Mankind, all life forms, the material universe, the spiritual universe, and the Supreme Being." 

For multiple decades of her life, Remini wholeheartedly believed in the teachings of Scientology, and she even recruited other people to join the church. However, multiple events led Remini to leave, and her entire life has transformed because of it. Though Scientology has played a large role in Remini's life, many other factors have also affected her, including her career, family, friendships, and more. From childhood to adulthood, Remini's life has been particularly interesting. Here's a closer look at the stunning transformation of Leah Remini.

Leah Remini was born in New York

Leah Remini was born on June 15, 1970, in Brooklyn, New York to Vicki Marshall and George Remini. Remini was baptized Catholic but did not attend church regularly, just when visiting her grandmother and on holidays. Her parents split when Remini was young, and her mother soon began dating someone new. 

Remini stayed in Brooklyn for about the first decade of her life, growing up in what she described as a middle-class home, and the actor attended elementary school at PS 200 in Brooklyn. The comedian has multiple siblings, including a sister named Nicole.

Even as a child, Remini was intrigued by acting. "I grew up on television watching 'I Love Lucy,'" she said in an interview with CBS Mornings. "I remember hearing the laughs from the audience, and I was like, 'Wow, to be able to do that.'" Remini's ultimate dream as a child, however, was to star as Annie on Broadway.

She joined the Church of Scientology as a kid

After her parents separated, Leah Remini's mother started dating who would eventually become Remini's stepfather. Remini's mother's new boyfriend was a practicing Scientologist, and he introduced the religion to his girlfriend, who joined the church with her children. As Remini shared in an interview with People, Scientology was positive in her life when she first joined. "Almost immediately my mother became a little more open and less the mother who was always yelling at you," Remini said. "She told my sister and me that we were spiritual beings and we were going to start learning to communicate and not attack each other. As a kid, it's very empowering." Remini was not yet 10 when she joined the church.

Remini immersed herself in the world of Scientology, learning its teachings and the church's ultimate goals. Her mother then enrolled Remini and her sister at Sea Organization, a community of the church's most devout members. To be part of Sea Organization, Remini's family had to move to Clearwater, Florida, and it was there that Remini worked and signed a billion-year contract committing herself to the Church of Scientology. 

Remini complained about the living and working conditions in Florida, and eventually, according to her family, they exited the Sea Organization. The Church of Scientology, however, claims Remini was removed from Sea Organization due to behavior of which the church did not approve.

Leah Remini moved to Los Angeles as a teenager

Like most children, much of Leah Remini's upbringing was because of her mother's influence. When Remini was 13, her mother moved Remini and her family to Los Angeles, California. "My mother wanted us to have a new life," Remini said in an interview with Parade

While in Los Angeles, despite having left Sea Organization, Remini and her family continued practicing Scientology. Remini was not, however, in school. "Scientology does not value a traditional education. They value your education of Scientology," Remini said on "The Joe Rogan Experience." Remini dropped out of school in the eighth grade and took Scientology courses. When questioned about her education, Remini said she and her mother lied that Remini was receiving a private education. Remini later went on to earn her GED.

Being in Los Angeles positioned Remini to eventually realize her dream of breaking into the entertainment industry, as did some of the teachings of Scientology. "There's tools that are very, very helpful to you in your life," Remini said in an interview with ABC News. "As an actor, I walked into a room, where some people might cower in front of a casting director, I wasn't."

She started her career in the entertainment industry working on sitcoms

While still a teenager, Leah Remini found an agent, and she auditioned for John Levey, a casting agent who would later be responsible for the start of Remini's career. 

"I was being a total smart ass and John's laughing, so I'm thinking, 'This guy loves me and I'd be showing up on a set the next day,'" Remini said to BuzzFeed of her initial audition with Levey. The casting agent later told Remini that he was anything but impressed with her audition, but he thought Remini had a special quality, and therefore he continued asking her to return for auditions. Remini's acting career began in earnest when she was on the brink of adulthood, and her first credited role was in the show "Head of the Class," which was cast by Levey.

Remini found a home in sitcoms. After "Head of the Class," Remini was cast in "Who's the Boss?" and then she got a starring role on the sitcom "Living Dolls" alongside Halle Berry. "I really thought that was it. I thought I was done. I thought I'd made it. You don't realize there's going to be trials and tribulations in the ebb and flow of this business," Remini said of her role in "Living Dolls," which was canceled after 12 episodes. The actor would go on to find guest appearances and recurring roles in shows like "Cheers," "Friends," and "Fired Up" before hitting it big.

Leah Remini landed a starring role on a hit TV show

In the late '90s, Leah Remini was cast in the show that made her famous — "The King of Queens." Like many actors, Remini had already been cast in another show, "Fired Up," but because it was canceled, she was available to audition. 

As Remini shared in an interview with Today, some initial good-natured ribbing from her eventual co-star Kevin James is what made her want to be part of the show. "Immediately I was like, I don't even care what the script is, I just love this guy so much, and I was like yes," Remini said. "The King of Queens" ran for nine seasons, earned one Primetime Emmy nomination, and started long-standing careers for Remini, James, and Patton Oswald.

Amid Remini's success in "The King of Queens," the comedic actor found herself in some of the most elite circles in Scientology, and she was introduced to Tom Cruise, a notable member of the church. As she spent more time with Cruise, Remini began questioning some of the church's policies and teachings. Her questioning, she says, particularly about Cruise, was met with resistance from church officials, which led her to question more. "Being critical of Tom Cruise is being critical of Scientology itself," Remini said in an interview with ABC News. "You are a person who is anti the aims and goals of Scientology. You are evil."

She got married and started a family

Before being cast in "The King of Queens," Leah Remini met Angelo Pagán, an actor and musician, at a nightclub. Remini said it was love at first sight, and the two began dating. In July 2003, Remini and Pagán got married in Las Vegas, and just a year later they welcomed their first child together, a daughter named Sofia (Pagán also has three children from a prior relationship). 

Pagán and Remini both practiced Scientology at the beginning of their marriage, and for Remini, the year she got married was also a year of great flourishing within Scientology. Remini told ABC News of the church, "I feel like this is my home away from home," and she achieved Operating Thetan 3, a high level in Scientology that shares esoteric knowledge about the church with appropriate members.

Just a few years later, Remini attended Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes' wedding in Italy. The festivities were eye-opening to Remini, and when she returned to the United States, she filed formal reports to the church claiming Tom Cruise and Scientology leader David Miscavige "were bringing Scientology down," as she said in an interview with ABC News. "I now see where the cracks are in our church," Remini said of her state of mind at the time.

Leah Remini left Scientology

Tom Cruise's 2006 wedding set in motion what ultimately resulted in Leah Remini leaving the Church of Scientology. While Remini filed reports against Cruise and David Miscavige, many other Scientology members who were at Cruise's wedding, including Katie Holmes, filed complaints about Remini. 

Following the reports, Remini claims she was sent to Clearwater, Florida, the spiritual headquarters of the Church of Scientology, and spent three months with church officials who were aiming to get Remini to say she made up her reports. Remini was not yet ready to leave after that, and she spent several more years as a member of the church.

In 2012, however, after years of questioning her church's practices and beliefs, Remini, inspired by Holmes' decision to divorce Cruise, took steps toward leaving Scientology. She began researching outsiders' opinions of the church, and she discovered that other former members shared many of her misgivings about Scientology's practices and procedures. Finally, in 2013, Remini and her family left the Church of Scientology. "I wish to share my sincere and heartfelt appreciation for the overwhelming positive response I have received from the media, my colleagues, and from fans around the world. I am truly grateful and thankful for all your support," Remini stated after her departure, per CBS News.

She took a turn on Dancing with the Stars

After leaving the Church of Scientology, Leah Remini continued with her career, and she took her work even more seriously than before. 

"The church is looking for me to fail so they can say to their parishioners, 'You see what happens when you leave the church?' Like, they're waiting for me to fail,'" Remini said to her dance partner on "Dancing With the Stars" during Season 17 in which she was a contestant, as reported by CBS News. Remini was eliminated just before the four finalists.

"Dancing with the Stars" was by no means the end of Remini's career. The former Scientologist, who had co-hosted "The Talk" before leaving the church, found more work co-hosting and guest-hosting TV shows. She and her family also starred in their own reality show for two years, "Leah Remini: It's All Relative." On the show, Remini opened up further about her decision to leave Scientology. "I just didn't want her to be raised that way, because let's say in 10 years if I don't want to be connected to the church anymore, my own daughter would be taught to disconnect from me," Remini said on the show, via Entertainment Weekly.

Leah Remini joined forces with Kevin James for a second time

While Leah Remini kept herself busy hosting shows and competing on reality TV, she continued her true passion — acting. Remini was cast in single-episode appearances and multiple-episode arcs on various TV shows throughout the 2010s, like "Phineas and Ferb," "The Exes," and "The Clapper." 

Fans of Remini and of "The King of Queens" were especially excited in 2017 when Remini reunited with her old co-star, Kevin James, on his new show, "Kevin Can Wait."

Remini started by appearing in the Season 1 finale of the show, and she joined the cast full-time for Season 2. Some fans of the show were disappointed in the casting change as the addition of Remini meant the end of Erinn Hayes' run on the show, but James was very happy to act again with his former co-star. "To have Leah Remini back on is fantastic. It's amazing because we worked together for nine years and then we're offered 10, and to be able to have that opportunity to work together again is a blessing," James said to CBS News.

She focused her efforts on taking down Scientology

Leah Remini's life changed after leaving the Church of Scientology, a religion she practiced for over 30 years. After her public departure, Remini didn't just want to stop practicing Scientology, she wanted to expose the organization and its officials for what she saw as misbehavior and abuse. To do so, Remini spoke about her experience on her reality show "Leah Remini: It's All Relative," completed interviews about her time as a Scientologist, and created the documentary series "Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath." 

"I'm gonna tell these stories in hopes that people wake up and go, 'Okay, somebody needs to do something about this,'" Remini said of her reason for creating "Scientology and the Aftermath" in an interview with ABC News in 2016. She added, "I'm not going to be intimidated. The church will get exposed, and I'm not gonna stop."

"Scientology and the Aftermath" was a huge hit. The show ran for three seasons, and it won Remini two Primetime Emmy Awards, one for Outstanding Informational Series or Special and Outstanding Hosted Nonfiction Series or Special. After the docuseries ended, Remini continued her quest by hosting a podcast called "Scientology: Fair Game," which ran from 2020 to 2022.

Leah Remini returned to hosting television

Leah Remini has always maintained a strong work ethic, finding a way to make time for multiple projects. While hosting her podcast "Scientology: Fair Game," Remini returned to hosting television. In 2021, the actor was hired to host a new game show, People Puzzler, in which contestants solve a variety of pop culture-themed crossword puzzles. 

"[I was] dealing with the aftermath of producing and hosting my A&E documentary series on Scientology, on top of it being a very dark time in our country. So when something like this comes along, I feel like it's a blessing. I just love connecting with people," Remini said to People about her decision to host the Game Show Network series.

Amid her continued success, Remini has not stopped her mission to take down the Church of Scientology. In 2023, Remini took legal action against the church. The former Scientologist filed a lawsuit claiming harassment, intimidation, and more by the church, seeking damages for what she says she has suffered. The church denied any wrongdoing and suggested Remini move to Russia, claiming she does not like free speech. "With this lawsuit, I hope to protect the rights afforded to them and me by the Constitution of the United States to speak the truth and report the facts about Scientology without fear of vicious and vindictive retribution, of which most have no way to fight back," Remi said, as reported by CBS News.