Ainsley Sevier

Ainsley Sevier is 6 feet tall, the oldest of 7 kids, and definitely an extrovert. Her passions are for the performing arts, alleviating suffering through self-awareness and education, and creating spaces where young people are heard. Ainsley is a classically-trained musician on the piano and as a singer, and has taught piano lessons for many years. She’s performed in theatre since childhood, and began working in film in 2011, on screen and behind the scenes. Ainsley has produced and co-hosted 3 talk radio shows. After being censored and banned from her local radio station, she now manages an interactive livestream conversation on current events and critical thinking with her husband, Dark Sevier.

In the grander scheme of things, Ainsley grew up in an extremely conservative fundamentalist religious group: The Confederation of Reformed Evangelical Christians. For the first 27 years of her life, all decisions, morals, and perspectives on reality were filtered through that belief system, as the only right way for anyone to exist or think. Many factors contributed to her stepping beyond that worldview, and now she explores realities, questions belief systems, studies her own mind, and shares what she’s learning with friends along the way.

Ainsley’s Current Superpowers:

  • Not Getting Offended
  • Always Knowing When You’ve Forgotten a Hyphen

Connect with Ainsley


Yes, But, How Did We Get Here?

I was a tub-a-lub for sure . . .

Here We Are

You’re reading this because of some kind of curiosity, professional or psychoemotional, and I celebrate! I’ve been told that my story is weird – and I have to waft in and out of the weirdness to tell it. I’m still putting it all together myself. Writing about my life helps me understand myself and the world better, and hopefully reading it will be encouraging or enlightening to someone else out there. This is a story about mixed signals, conservative religion, learning to make your own choices, purity culture, tribal loyalties, and not saying “fuck” until you’re 27. I’m excited for my memories to evolve and perceptions to change as I learn more about myself and my loved one’s perspectives.

Surveying that first sibling.

Continental US Ping-Pong

I was born in Washington state, to John and Robynne. I’ve moved nearly every 2 years my whole life, and I got a new sibling in nearly every state! No, we weren’t in the military. It all started for me in Washington state (where I was born) > Virginia (where my 1st sister Coco was born when I was nearly 6) > Oregon (Sarah) > Illinois (Daniel) > Arizona (Andrew) > Illinois (Elizabeth) > North Carolina (Margaret) > Illinois (we really liked that church) > Virginia (I attended Liberty University for a year, and met my wusband) > North Carolina (wusband and I lived in Greensboro for 5 years) > Missouri (we were moving to L.A. so I could become a movie star, but we ran out of money on the way . . .) > Georgia (when that marriage ran its course, I decided to try the less-competitive film market in Atlanta) > Montana (traveled to Butte to help a friend with a film, and ended up falling in love with the town-and with my current husband!)

Homeschooling is all about denim. (L-R: Coco, Dad, Sarah, Daniel, Mom, me)


My parents became Christians when I was little and gradually progressed from non-denominational praise’n’worship churches to Reformed Evangelicalism. This caused some big shifts in our relationship! They decided to have a bunch more kids, they decided to homeschool us, and their parenting style changed drastically to reflect the strict values of the churches they were joining. For the first 6ish years of my life, I was regarded and included like a little future adult, with lots of one-on-one interactions and education, and I was encouraged to participate in the performing arts to my heart’s content.

Homeschooling is all about denim.

My grandma and other family and friends remember me as a spoiled (subjective!) and opinionated (objective!) youngster. As my parents’ values shifted to match the church, I could no longer be allowed to be my mother’s best friend, and they began to groom us girls for the only correct future a woman should prepare for: being a wife and mother. Whatever opinions people have about the liberated and exploratory parenting style I was initially raised in, I had no way of understanding the shift as a youngster. I think I’ve always been subconsciously struggling to get back to that kind of relationship with my mother, where I felt seen and celebrated.

Garment construction is a cool skill to know. (L-R: Andrew, me, Sarah, Dad, Ellie, Coco, Mom, Daniel)

Gen Ed

Some of my favorite subjects growing up were logic and critical thinking, foreign languages, historical fiction literature, and travelling- something that homeschooling allowed us to do a lot! My mom did a great job of balancing typical school subjects with art, culture, music, and interesting physical activities. Nearly all of my school books were written by Christian educators, and that lens informed and shaped every topic. My 6 younger siblings have had a much different experience of the world than I did growing up. I wrote emails to my dad on MS-DOS when I was 10. I remember making my first Google searches when I was 13. My family got our first (flip) cellphone when I was 16, and I got my first smartphone when I was 22. It’s an interesting challenge to describe to my peers what it was like to grow up in the 90’s and 00’s without an experience of the world outside our Christian home and church.


I was born with a good set of pipes, and I loved singing in choirs and solo- if the opportunity presented itself in a church-approved environment. I have always had a hankering to act, and been enamored of movie magic and the passion and investment of stage actors. Since my mother’s religion-informed position on acting, theatres, and movies was disapproving and skeptical, my best friends and I produced a few kid-friendly plays at home. This is how I remember it! It’s possible my mother remembers it differently, and I hope someday she and I can be close enough again to compare stories.

Bollig Family Musicians c.2006

The Hills Are Alive

On top of being trained to help to run my mother’s household, being trained to help homeschool the other kids, being trained in cooking, cleaning, and Biblical disciplines, I was also given piano lessons. I had so many wonderful piano teachers, and I’ll be forever grateful to Delpha Riedbolt, Kara Benyas, Elaine Dyches, Reiko Schoen, Jordan Doolittle, and Dr. Heidi Williams. I started teaching piano to others when I was 16. As a teacher, my goal was always to give the student tools to continue educating themselves, and to use music training as a gateway to self-awareness and physical wellbeing.

Ellie is probably fussing because my graduation speech was embarrassing, 2005

Toes in the Water

For my first steps outside 24/7 homeschool life, I tried nursing school at John A. Logan College in Southern Illinois – a sensible choice for a future wife and mother. I was dual-enrollment for my last year of homeschool highschool, when I was 16. I quickly realized that as much as I really wanted to help people feel better, I really didn’t want to learn the names of all the bones to do it! I switched to music.

Me and Ellie practicing piano, 2006

This was also a sensible choice, as I could always use those skills to educate my own children, contribute to my household income by teaching piano from my future home, and contribute to the church by playing piano for services. It was always understood that studying the performing arts for the sake of performance were self-serving at best, and idolatry at worst. I’ve since learned that theatre, opera, dance, and other performance styles continue to survive because they bring people joy and catharsis! I’m also learning that my own joy and catharsis has value, and the happier and healthier I am, the better I can show up for my community.

The babiest college student ever

Take Two

After I graduated homeschool and turned 17, I switched to Southern Illinois University Carbondale for the Bachelor’s of Music: Piano Performance program. My parents pulled me out after the first year when they found out I had developed a secret crush on a grad student. The problem wasn’t that he was a grad student (lots of girls in Evangelicalism marry much older men), it was that he wasn’t a Christian. Plus, I didn’t have permission to be in a relationship yet. In Evangelical Christianity/Purity Culture, the man must approach the girl’s father for permission to court her, and only when both young people are “ready for marriage.” No casual dating!

The most depressing years of my life were soothed by friendship with my childhood best friends (L-R: Hannah, Emily, me, Chloe, Katy, Sarah)

Treading Water

After being taken out of college, I lived at home for a few years, feeling bitter about not being married with my own children yet. We moved to Bryson City, NC, where I continued to help homeschool and cover housework. Because of my crush on the grad student, my parents put me in my own room for the first time (I was 18/19), so I wouldn’t be a bad influence on the two sisters I’d always shared a room with. This heartbreaking separation had a silver lining for me: the combination of having my own room and a laptop for the first time gave me the freedom to begin developing personal interests and learn things on my own. I started watching anime in Japanese, reading fanfiction, following artists online, and got a Facebook account.

Contradancing is a cross between Pride & Prejudice, and 7 Brides for 7 Brothers

I experienced social life outside Christian circles for the first time when my friends took me contradancing at The Old Farmer’s Ball in Asheville, North Carolina. Those nights were full of all the things that Evangelical Christianity didn’t have: dancing, sweating, hippies, live music, touching other humans, being yourself, and being accepted that way.

Surveying the last sibling


When my mother became pregnant with my final sibling, I was angry. It was my turn! I’d been waiting and waiting for a husband, looking forward to having my own children to nurture, and here she got to have another one. However, the day my dad put Margaret in my arms, fresh and wriggling, I fell in love. It seemed like my soul had come round again without me having to die and reincarnate.

All 7 of us kiddos

Since I was done with high school, and not in college, and home 24/7, I became Margaret’s primary caregiver, while my mother was focused on the 5 kids’ homeschooling in the middle. Separating from Margaret to attend Liberty University was the most painful day of my life to that point.

Saying goodbye to Marg when they dropped me off at Liberty

Take Three

All the same, at 21, I was dying to start making my own choices. I’d messed up the first go at college by having a crush on a “heathen”. Christian college was the only appropriate option, but I was worried I wouldn’t be allowed to attend because it would mean moving out on my own. When I suggested Liberty University to my parents, they said it was probably a good idea for me to leave. This was weird and painful to hear, since Evangelical girls are supposed to stay in their father’s home until they move to their husband’s home. My mother and I had been struggling with each other most of my life, and I’d been flopping around at home for 2 years since they pulled me out of SIU. I think they felt like they didn’t know how else to influence me at home.

What’s a good photo for “college”?

Within a month of studying Piano Performance at Liberty University, I met my future wusband. I had never dated or even kissed anyone, but I had been in love with a kid from our church since I was 9, and had some serious crushes on other boys that weren’t allowed to go anywhere. The wusband was the first guy that liked me, that I liked back, that my parents approved of. I didn’t realize all the motivations coming together at the time, but since (according to our beliefs) getting married was the only way for me to move out of my parents house, make my own decisions, or have sex, I was ready to lock that boy down fast. We met in September and were married the next August. For his privacy, I’m not naming names or showing pics. Of course, I dropped out of college again to be a wife and (eventual) mother – my highest calling and only appropriate life goal.

The weird part about being a married homemaker was that it wasn’t weird. The biggest difference was suddenly not having 6 kids to care for.

First Comes Love, Then Comes Marriage . . .

We moved to Greensboro, NC so he could get his Master’s in Music at UNCG. This was the first time I’d ever been alone, and I really didn’t know how to be alone – suddenly moving far away from my 6 younger siblings, parents, friends/church, and everything. I had a lot of (what I now recognize is) anxiety, and ate a lot of ramen.

Holy heck, we’re growing up (New Zealand, 2012)

A year into our marriage, my family suddenly moved to New Zealand for 15 months. It was the longest I had ever been without seeing my siblings, and the first Christmas I ever spent without my family. After a lot of depression and some panic attacks, halfway through their time in NZed, wusband and I opened a credit card to buy a plane ticket we couldn’t afford so that I could go see my family.

Jim Hawkins, far right, was the best foster cat dad.

I began hosting Pancake Breakfasts every Saturday morning, where any of the students we knew could show up and have coffee and a cooked breakfast in a home environment. I fostered a couple hundred kittens for the local animal shelter, adopting just one I named Jim Hawkins. My sister-in-law moved in with us for a while, which made the house feel more home-like for me, and she introduced me to the wonders of xbox and other geek communities online.

UNC-Greensboro, 2012

Take Four

After a couple years, I went back to college yet again, as it was the only way I could think of to make friends. We didn’t go to bars on principle. It took a lot of time to start being included by the churches we attended. I taught piano from home (so I didn’t have co-workers). I started realizing that for an extrovert, I sure didn’t know how to find friends on my own. Going to UNC-Greensboro provided a group to start with. Having spent a good portion of my life already practicing the piano for hours each day, and knowing I still wasn’t going to Julliard for that skill, I switched to Voice Performance training. I’ve had a few voice teachers throughout my life, and they each had a unique influence: Pastor Tommy Taylor, Judy Norbut, Dr. David Dillard, Dr. Adelaide Trombetta, and Dr. Nancy Walker. I’ve sung in church plays, summer camp musicals, all kinds of choirs, premiered new music compositions, community theatre, opera and light opera, and headlined big band and small jazz shows. I love all genres of musical performance, and especially dig working with groups, such as choir and musical theatre.

I love the smell of that theatre the way you love the smell of your favorite book.

Eventually I realized that the arbitrary college coursework (political science?!) was taking time away from me pursuing the very opportunities for performance provided by going to college. Even though I had more than enough credits for a Bachelor’s, I was still many hours and thousands of dollars away from completing UNCG’s particular requirements. I dropped out for a 3rd time, and continued supporting my wusband through the end of his Master’s degree, by teaching piano and working at the regional professional theatre box office. Swimming in Triad Stage’s vibe several days a week began to fan the embers of my love of acting, and I began to imagine the possibility of finally pursuing what I actually wanted to do all along.

So many people were encouraging and supportive of my decision to finally pursue my dream, including this random lady who came to our moving garage sale.

And They’re Off!

My highest dream as an artist has always been acting. I started pursuing film and theatre gigs, as far away as Atlanta, GA, the LA of the East. When my wusband graduated with his Master’s Degree, we decided that we would move to Hollywood so that Ainsley could have a turn. We sold a grand piano and a car and drove west, somehow only making it to Cape Girardeau, MO before the money ran out. Still a bit of a mystery, honestly.

placeholder caption

The wusband did music gigs and worked in restaurants, and I took up piano teaching once more, as well as my first coffee shop job. It suited my personality, but it was definitely not the career I wanted. (Just a reminder, I wasn’t supposed to want any career, and pursuing something other than wife/motherhood was an act of rebellion). Certain aspects of our marriage had been struggling since the beginning, and being waylaid in the midwest for no reason brought the struggle to my attention in sharp ways. A few months after our 5th anniversary, I asked the wusband if we could take a break to sort some things out. This quickly evolved into definitely getting a divorce, and around the same time, I moved to Georgia to live on my own and pursue my film career.

Apples of my eye

Leaving Evangelicalism

Being older than my first sibling by nearly 6 years, and being a naturally super nurturing person, and then adding the life-long Evangelical training to be wifely and motherly, and THEN adding that we were with each other 24/7 in the home with my mother homeschooling us, and only going out of the house as a group to church once a week, or maybe to another Christian homeschooling family’s house, I think it’s understandable that my 6 younger siblings are the most precious beings in the world to me. I helped raise them for the first 20 years of my life, and I would do anything for them! Unfortunately, I could not stay married for them.

All packed and driving away from our home- alone.

The learning and growing that I’ve pursued since letting go of my wusband and leaving Evangelicalism caused my parents, and by attachment, my youngers, to distance themselves from me for a while. It broke my heart to not be included in their lives! Since I grew up in the same religion, I understand that they had to see me moving beyond that church as me becoming sinful and untrustworthy. It’s also clear for me that I could not continue to live the way that Evangelical Christianity says is the only right way to live. Thankfully, with a lot of support, therapy, weeping, processing, and hard work, my siblings and I are starting to communicate and visit each other. Even though I grieve the lost years, I am so happy to be getting to know them all over again!

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. This photo I captured on my drive away from my marriage summed up the conflicting experience: disheartening storm behind, exhilarating sunshine ahead.

On My Own

What a transition! Because of the kind of Christianity we were raised in, I assumed heartbrokenly that if I was admitting defeat in my marriage, my faith must be failing, and so I stopped attending church. At the same time, by age 27, I had read the whole Bible nearly 100 times, memorized several books of the Bible, studied countless Christian religion texts, and attended well over 2,000 church services and Christian conferences. I had a lot to go on for a break from organized religion. I knew that choosing to divorce my wusband was going to break my family’s hearts, and separate me from them and my church family (and nearly everyone I had ever known), and I chose it anyway – a testament to how miserable I was in my marriage. Since I was about to lose everything I held dear in order to try to be happy, I was entering into a phase of my life where all bets were off, I could finally try anything I wanted to try.

In Which We Find Ourselves Unexpectedly By A River With Friends, Well-fed and Well-loved In Spite Of It All.

I experienced a lot of true grace during that move. I traversed through so many pivotal worlds from my pre-marriage life. Old friends affirmed their unconditional love, and new strangers offered me hospitality, a listening ear, work, and housing. I began to let go of the stranglehold of control that Evangelicalism put in my worldview, and began to let the river take me wherever it was going. I found that the more calm and present I was, the more possibilities opened up for me.

Ainsley Painsley, puddin’ & pie, kissed herself and made her fly.

Working in restaurants outside Atlanta taught me how to swear for the first time ever. I watched R-rated movies. I slept in and stayed up late. I learned to flirt and how to date. I engaged in philosophical conversations from my own point of view, not only from a point of view I was supposed to have. I realized that I am super adventurous, not easily offended, and naturally open-minded in ways I had been unable to express for the 20 years my parents pursued conservative Christianity. I had a couple of boyfriends and girlfriends. I learned a lot about myself. I struggled to stay a part of my family, as my parents felt that I had abandoned them and become untrustworthy.

How could I choose one photo to represent such a rich and transformative time in my life? Instead, here’s me at Pinewood Studios GA, looking through the camera that Star Wars: A New Hope was filmed on.

I Want To See Mountains Again, Gandalf

So much happened in those 18 months I lived on my own in Georgia. Every day was a new first, a new lesson, a little bit of my heart breaking and a little bit of my heart healing. I’ll be revisiting that pivotal chapter for the rest of my life- but as they say, if nothing ever changed, there would be no butterflies. It’s a well-known story: a person trying to get into showbiz, but also has to pay bills, and those survival jobs keep them from being available to take film jobs. When the opportunity arose to make the full leap (I thought) into film on a room and board contract in Montana, I took it. Once again I packed everything into my car and drove across the country. A deep peaceful love washed over me as my car climbed into the foothills of the Rocky Mountains once again.

Montana really is this pretty, all the time.

I’d never experienced winter like the winters in Butte, Montana! I was still attached to the quest to be a part of the family I helped raise, and was determined to get out of Butte as soon as the movie I was working on was over. However, being the person who connected the film crew to local businesses and locations, I met much of Uptown Butte in swift order, and became hopelessly enamored. I had never felt like I had a hometown before! I had gone to a few sports bars in Georgia with my restaurant crews, but Butte was the first place I realized what it meant to have a favorite bar – some divey joint with a fireplace and a couch and Jeopardy on the TV on cold nights after a long day.

It’s closing time, and love’s on sale tonight at the Silver Dollar.

Even though I technically met my current partner at the last annual Evel Knievel days in Uptown Butte, The Silver Dollar Saloon is where we romanced each other, and the first place we went for drinks and cheers after we got engaged. Dark Sevier and I work together on nearly everything and have a deep psychological intimacy from having both grown up in extreme fundamentalist religious groups. He’s everything I ever fantasized about in a partner: taller than me, older than me, confident, honest, kind, a bit jaded, and good with kids – I’ve always had crushes on all the older men in films and books.

movie movie movie movie

Butte has afforded me some really amazing experiences in the arts. Acting in the Children’s Theatre, learning to be a radio DJ, singing with the Butte Big Band, dancing at music festivals. I’ve worked crew on a lot of film projects in Montana too, Kia and Subaru commercials, independent films, short films, professional photoshoots, and even done some acting for Wim Wenders’ ​Two or Three Things I Know About Edward Hopper.

I was so proud to be a KBMF DJ

I have produced 3 long-running radio shows on our local community radio station, KBMF 102.5 FM: ​The Jolly Roger ​ (kid co-hosted talk radio), ​Copacetic Conversations ​ (productive conversations about difficult subjects), and now my main project, ​Post-Orthodoxy, ​a show about changing our minds. Post-Orthodoxy is largely inspired by my and Dark’s experiences in reclaiming our own minds from the indoctrinations of our childhoods. It is an interactive global livestream, built around long-form conversations about current events, trauma-awareness, and critical thinking. How do we have a better time, with more people, more often?

The Seh-vee-yays

Dark and I live in a historic building, with our elderly gentleman friend, Tulsa Dog, and his emotional support Heeler/Shepherd, Billie Jean. We are surrounded by plants, strange trinkets we’ve found for each other, and new music. We keep a flexible schedule so we can be spontaneous with friends, old and new. We finally started going to the gym. Our home also hosts our livestream studio, some fish that refuse to die, tantalizing aromas, and airbnb guests from around the world. Come visit sometime.