Who is Natureboy? 'Cult' leader says Kayla Reid can leave at any time
Eligio Bishop gives interview from Costa Rica, says Newfoundland woman is safe
Eligio Bishop is a former model, stripper, prostitute and barber. These days, he's a self-professed cult leader.
His exact location in the Costa Rican jungle is unknown, and so is the number of followers living with him.
What is known, however, are details of a checkered past and criminal record.
It's also clear he has the full support and devotion of 21-year-old Kayla Reid, who recently left her home in Newfoundland and moved to Costa Rica to be with Bishop and his followers.
"I've made myself clear that nothing is going on with Kayla, nothing is wrong with Kayla," Bishop told CBC News in an interview on Monday.
"Kayla is just fine."
From stripper to cult leader
Before he left for Costa Rica, 34-year-old Bishop held previous addresses in Atlanta and New Jersey.
In 2009, he was arrested for forcible entry in Georgia. Two years later, he faced charges of theft and was arrested for aggravated battery. No charges were laid in the latter incident, he said.
He was a model and an exotic entertainer, confessing in a Facebook video to having sex for money.
Attempting to avoid furthering a life of crime, Bishop attended school to become a barber. He filed for a business licence in 2014, opening his own shop in Georgia.
He also claims to have worked on the Mo'Nique Show — a talk show hosted by the Atlanta comedian of the same name.
In a Facebook post from June 2016, Bishop posed with a backpack, writing "the Ascension journey has begun." He was heading for Honduras, urging commenters on the post to let him be their "guide out of the hell realm."
His following grew over time. Now, he has more than 17,000 on Facebook.
Eligio Bishop answered a video call on Monday from CBC News on Monday with a bright smile, sitting in a vehicle, with three male friends crowded into the backseat behind him.
He agreed to speak with a CBC reporter who contacted him through a third-party international texting app. Bishop objected to being called by his given name, asking instead to be referred to as "Natureboy."
When asked about Reid, he assured she was safe and happy in Costa Rica and she could leave on her own accord.
He had urged Reid to make contact with Canadian police and her mother, Bishop said.
"I'm a black man and she's a white girl," he said. "It might seem to the world that I'm holding her hostage…I wanted to make it clear, 'Call your people and let them know you're OK.'"
Throughout the interview, his jovial attitude turned to frustration when pressed on his background and details about exactly how many devout followers he has.
"You asking how many people are in my family is irrelevant," he said. "How many people are in your family? It's just irrelevant to this conversation. Let's move on to something that matters. Next question."
'I am a cult'
Since Reid's story broke, accusations have arisen that Bishop is leading a cult.
Rick Alan Ross, a self-proclaimed cult expert who was consulted by the FBI following the Branch Davidian siege at Waco, Texas, takes a firm stance on Bishop.
"He exhibits the signs of a dangerous leader," Ross said.
From watching videos posted to Bishop's Facebook page, he believes the actions displayed by the leader and followers fit a textbook definition of cult — "a system of religious veneration and devotion directed toward a particular figure or object."
The followers are not buying into the beliefs set forth as much as they are buying into the man preaching them, he said.
When asked his opinion, Bishop challenged the definition but did say, "I am a cult," before accusing Canada, the United States of America and CBC of also being cults.
Documents are legit, leader says
A representative from Global Affairs Canada said the department is aware of the situation and has spoken with Costa Rican authorities.
However, if the group's travel documents are legitimate, there is not much the authorities can do.
Any travellers from Canada or the United States can enter Costa Rica without a visa for 90 days. After that, they must apply for a temporary resident permit.
According to Bishop, his group is living legally in the country and do not intend to break immigration laws.
Ross said the best way to end the situation and bring Reid back to Canada is for local authorities to find a way in which she is violating those laws.
If possible, Reid can be deported back to Canada against her will.
"Then her family can take it from there," Ross said.