Just a few days ago, I wrote a post about a YouTube channel I discovered last week. The creator, Josie, of NOTTHEGOODGIRL, does videos on the evils of multi-level marketing schemes. She’s interviewed people who got heavily involved in businesses like LuLaRoe, Mary Kay, Amway, and others. In the course of researching for that post, I learned about “LuLaRich”, a new four part docuseries on Amazon Prime.
I don’t often watch shows on Amazon.com, mainly because I have to use a VPN to see any programming in English that was not produced by Amazon. Because I live in Europe, I get European content via Amazon.de, and my German still sucks. But it was possible to binge watch “LuLaRich” on Amazon.de, so that’s what I did yesterday after my housewife duties were done.
I was somewhat prepared for the crazy. A few years ago, I wrote a couple of posts about LuLaRoe and some of the craziness I discovered by reading about it. At that time, LuLaRoe was merely controversial. I had several Facebook friends who were peddling the brand’s leggings and maxi skirts. They would add me to their groups, which I would promptly ignore.
Prior to the research I did for my blog, I never paid much attention to LuLaRoe for several reasons. First off, I don’t like MLMs, so I would never buy anything from anyone selling products through that business model. I don’t care how “buttery soft” the leggings are. Secondly, I don’t wear leggings or maxi skirts, nor do I like loud prints. From what I’ve seen, LuLaRoe’s stuff is mostly loud prints, leggings, and maxi skirts. And thirdly, I don’t knowingly support cults. LuLaRoe is a very culty company, with heavy LDS overtones. Nothing personal against people who are LDS… I’ve just seen the damage the church does to people, to include my husband.
Not that I don’t find cults fascinating, of course. The “culty” aspect of LuLaRoe, exposed by “LuLaRich”, is what makes the docuseries so compelling. The series was directed and produced by Jenner Furst and Julia Willoughby Nason, and they’ve done a great job getting the scoop about how LuLaRoe rose so fast, and then fell apart. I would say the main issue behind LuLaRoe’s mighty fall from grace has much to do with greed, but also nepotism and incompetence. It’s pretty clear that Deanne and Mark Stidham got way in over their heads on some aspects of running a huge business. And that incompetence and greed has led to many lawsuits.
I really enjoyed most of the people who were interviewed for this series. The creators interviewed former LuLaRoe stars who made five figures a month. One lady bought two Chevy Tahoes, which were later repossessed after LuLaRoe changed their bonus structure. One month, a “consultant” made over $3000 in bonuses. The next month, after the restructuring, she made $800. That huge drop in income, especially after someone has bought big ticket items like cars or houses or run up a $10,000 credit card bill for dinner, can be devastating to a person’s finances. One woman sold breast milk so she could get into the LuLaRoe business.
Also consider that many of the people who were selling LuLaRoe were moms who wanted to stay at home with their kids. Just to start in the business, those moms, many of whom had no money, had to pony up at least $5000. I’m not saying that some of the women didn’t make money. When LuLaRoe was hot, the products were selling themselves. But then the bubble burst, and many women were stuck with items they couldn’t sell… or defective items. And LuLaRoe broke promises, too. Consultants were told they could return their merchandise and get a refund. But that policy was also broken, leaving a lot of consultants in the lurch.
Some of the other people who were interviewed for this series were employees. One office worker who wore Chanel to work was chastised by Deanne Stidham for not wearing LuLaRoe. This same worker, who is Black, later became a consultant and turned down a cruise because she didn’t want to be stuck out in the middle of the ocean with a bunch of White women. Another employee, a guy who worked in customer service, hilariously spoke of a Chipotle catered event that was catered by the Stidhams. He said he and some of the other employees referred to it as “Chip-poo-poo” for reasons he didn’t want to discuss on camera. Then he talked about some of the heartwrenching issues he had to deal with when consultants would email or call in a panic. He realized very quickly that many of the higher-ups didn’t know what they were doing.
And, of course, there’s also that Mormon connection. I don’t think LuLaRoe is officially affiliated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but Mark Stidham is said to spout off passages from the Book of Mormon during LuLaRoe events. While a lot of consultants may have been LDS, not everyone was. Imagine how weird it was for the non-Mormons to hear Mark Stidham compare himself to Joseph Smith, claiming he’s being “persecuted”. It must have been very bizarre for them.
In spite of my comments so far, I didn’t come away with totally negative impressions of LuLaRoe. I do admire Deanne Stidham for having the courage to build a business. I don’t think she necessarily got started with the notion to rip off thousands of women. She was a go getter who needed money, and as you can see in the series, she’s a very extraverted, enthusiastic, energetic person. I got the sense that she really did want to help women on some level, at least at first. I think later on, she became greedy.
I was much less impressed by Deanne’s husband, Mark, who came off as toxic and controlling. Deanne just had energy and enthusiasm– she’s a natural at sales. Perhaps if she and Mark had brought in people who were very experienced from the get go, and they weren’t so fixated on sudden wealth, the outcome would have been different. Maybe there wouldn’t have been so many people suddenly getting rich, but they also wouldn’t have had this colossal fall from grace.
Anyway… I was mostly dimly aware of LuLaRoe when it was the latest thing. The company started in 2012, but I think I became aware of it in maybe 2015 or 2016. It was never my thing. It never would have been my thing. But I do find the story very compelling on many levels. And if you go on YouTube, you will find many videos made by disgruntled former consultants. Those videos existed way before this docuseries came into existence. Of course, you’ll also find some snarky videos that rebut the negative press. LuLaRoe is still in business, despite the lawsuits and bad news that is rapidly spreading about the company. I guess it’s still pretty controversial.
If your interest is piqued about “LuLaRich” and you have Amazon Prime, I would recommend watching the series. I found it entertaining and interesting, and once again, was thanking God MLMs have never been anything that interested me!
Oh… and before I forget. I am glad I watched the series if only so I could learn about Deanne Stidham’s maiden name, “Startup”, and the wacko sexist book her parents wrote. Check out this quote from a 1972 article that appeared in the New York Times about the book:
“Stand before a mirror in the privacy of your room and say to yourself, ‘I am just a helpless woman at the mercy of you big, strong men.’ . . . Stand before the mirror and say to yourself, ‘I expect you to pamper and humor me.’ With this thought in mind, try a pretty pout, stick out your lower lip as much as to say, ‘I thought you liked me.’ Or stamp your feet daintily, saucily, and shake your curls as much as to say, ‘I am furious, but what can a little girl like me do with a big, strong man like you?’ After perfecting this before the mirror, practice this exercise upon practice this exercise upon man you meet.”
I might want to read that book just so I could write an outraged opinion about it. Looks like it’s not widely available anymore, though… and for very good reason! The book is called The Secret Power of Femininity, and it was written by Maurine and Elbert Startup. Here’s one more beaut that was quoted in the article:
“You must drop every suggestion in speech, apparel and manner that you are able to kill your own snakes or to take care of your own affairs or to spurn the guidance and care of man.”
“The air of being able to kill their own snakes is just what destroys the charm of so many school teachers and competent business, career and professional women.”
Evidently, the elder Stidmans used to charge young women $300 a pop to take part in their “Femininity Forums”, which consisted of twelve 3 hour sessions in Los Angeles, designed to teach them how to be “feminine” and attract big, strong, men. There, they learned:
“Shaking hands is an art for the feminine woman. She will begin eagerly and confidingly, then suddenly seem to realize it is a man’s hand she is holding, and begin shyly drawing her own hand away.”
“Nothing can be better designed to remind the man immediately of the contrast of her feminine shyness with his manly thoughtlessness and indifference. It cries out loudly to him, ‘Watch your step; here is a dainty and tender woman.’”
“Another device is to be come so interested in what you are saying, or in what is happening, that you put your arm, ever so lightly, upon the man’s coat sleeve, and then, when you see that he has noticed it, to draw your hand away with an air of confusion and self‐conscious modesty. This serves to bring out the confiding trustfulness of your nature and then to emphasize your timorousness.”
Somehow, I doubt I would be able to pull off this technique very convincingly. It makes me cringe… especially considering these courses were being taught when I was a baby. Even in 1972, this is pretty shockingly sexist and, frankly, wrong-headed. What a shame.