business, disasters, religion

I just watched LuLaRich on Amazon Prime… what a nutroll!

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.

The trailer for LuLaRich.

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.

Another trailer…

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.

Another trailer…

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.

Wooo!

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.”

Eew… and:

“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.

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business, careers, law, LDS, YouTube

I discovered a fascinating new YouTube channel…

Based on the recent topics I’ve been covering on this blog, some people might come away with the idea that all I care about is abortion, Trump, and COVID-19. But, the truth is, I have a wide array of interests. I am really interested in cults, and before the mess of the pandemic and Trump’s disastrous presidency, I wrote a lot about toxic organizations.

Before I revised my commenting policy, I heard from someone who had read the story of how I almost got sucked into a multi-level marketing business. Well, actually, that’s probably overstating things. The truth is, there was never any real possibility that I would ever get involved with an MLM. I did, however, get roped into seeing a presentation by people involved with the now defunct group, Equinox. It was a bizarre experience that was also surprisingly educational. I’m glad I went, although I am even more glad that I didn’t get sucked into the business.

As I discovered yesterday, when I found NOT THE GOOD GIRL’s YouTube channel, some people are not so fortunate. I found her channel yesterday, when YouTube suggested a video she made, interviewing a former Mary Kay director. It was late afternoon and I had time to kill, so I watched the whole thing, which ran for over two hours. I have to give her props. I very rarely have the patience to sit through a two hour video that wasn’t made by TV producers or movie makers. But I did watch the whole thing… and I found it thought provoking on many levels.

I watched this entire video… Elle could have been me, although she’s a lot bubblier than I am.

What I really thought was interesting about this video is how the two women talk about the culty tactics used to keep people in the business. At one point, they both mention that they used to be religious. Elle says she went to a Bible college. And Josie, the woman making these videos, also mentions that the tactics reminded her of being in church. I don’t know which religious bent either of these ladies followed, but I definitely could see the parallels.

I was raised mainstream Presbyterian, which was pretty benign. But Bill was involved in the LDS church, thanks to his ex wife. I have been studying Mormonism for years, and I recognized a lot of the signs and symptoms of “cult abuse” in this video that I’ve also seen in Mormonism. In fairness, those same signs and symptoms exist in other religious organizations. Mormonism is just the organization that directly affected me. They aren’t the only ones, nor are they necessarily the worst offenders. Actually, Elle mentions that being in Mary Kay reminded her of Scientology. I could definitely see that, having seen some of the videos showing members rallying, with Tom Cruise and his ilk at the helm.

Reminds me of some of the video footage of MLM rallies I’ve seen.

In the below video, Josie talks about her own experiences with MLMs, and how she got indoctrinated by multi-level marking companies. So many of the techniques used by culty religions and abusive people are used by MLMs. Josie talks about being “lovebombed” and groomed, sucked into the business model that so often preys on people’s hopes and dreams of prosperity and being their own bosses.

Josie explains how she got hooked by MLMs…

I noticed in both Josie’s and Elle’s stories, both women joined the MLMs when they were feeling desperate and/or trying to escape a bad situation. In Elle’s case, she was a new college graduate who had a degree in English. She was look for a “real job” and was not having much success. Mary Kay made it seem like she could be a legitimate business owner and build “experience” that might make her attractive to employers. She didn’t realize that a lot of people don’t like people who are involved in MLMs, because they are always looking for sales leads– either people to buy their products, or people they can recruit. Because recruiting new distributors is how people in MLMs make money, and most people are not successful.

In Josie’s case, the decision to be involved in MLMs followed a divorce when she was in her early 20s. She thought the MLM would help her change her life. But what it really led to was the loss of friendships and the loss of herself. She and Elle both describe incredible toxicity that occurs within these types of organizations. I can’t help but notice that a lot of people who join demanding religions also tend to lose friends and family members as they get more indoctrinated within the group. Maybe that’s less true with a religion like the LDS church, as many people identify as “cultural Mormons” and associate with non-LDS people. However, people who initially join and radically change their lifestyles often do lose contact with people who don’t want to join the religion.

Now, I know that some people join MLMs, not because they want to make money, but because they like the products and want discounts. I guess there’s nothing wrong with that. What Josie and Elle are talking about are people who think they’re going to make a lot of money in MLMs. Some people do make money, but the vast majority of people never make so much as minimum wage. And they often end up exploiting people in the process of trying to succeed.

Josie also points out that some MLMs do offer good products. I remember that even Equinox had some good products that people wanted to buy, even after the company fell apart. I know a lot of people swear by Avon and Mary Kay. The issue isn’t necessarily the quality of the products. It’s the fact that the products aren’t where the money comes from. The money comes from getting people to basically join a cult, where toxic measures are used to keep people slaving away. The toxicity includes being told you’re not good enough; you don’t work hard enough; you aren’t positive enough, or sharing the company’s image in the best light.

I have visited this topic before. In my original incarnation of The Overeducated Housewife, I wrote several posts about LuLaRoe. I know a few people who were involved in that company, and some swore by how comfortable their leggings are. Deanne Brady Stidham and Mark Stidham are the founders of LuLaRoe, and they are LDS. People in the business referred to Brady as “Aunt Deanne”. I’m sure that was by design, as I pointed out in one of my posts that on the surface, it sounds good to be calling her “aunt”.

If you’re family, you’re supposed to be “loved” and cared for, in a sense.  Family members are supposed to have your back.  We love our family members and don’t want to disappoint them.  That’s what makes it easier to trust family members, and more devastating when family screws you over.  Lots of people think of a business that treats people like “family” as a good thing.  But there is a downside to being a figurative “brother”, “sister”, “aunt” or “cousin”.  Sometimes when you think of someone as “family”, you let your guard down when you really shouldn’t. And, in fact, some of the worst abuse and most toxic relationships happen at the hands of “family” members.

Family members have that advantage of being in the group… they have access to you that other people generally don’t.  They know you better than most people do.  And when something unpleasant needs to be done, family members feel okay about asking other family members for help.  If you go against the grain, you run the risk of being cast out… lovingly, of course, because you need to see the error of your ways.  While I don’t know for sure, I get the sense that LuLaRoe and some other multi-level marketing businesses are kind of culty like that.  You toe the line so you won’t be towed outside of the group. 

If you watch the video with Elle, the Mary Kay director, you’ll hear her talk about the $400 suits she felt compelled to buy for the sake of her business. She talks about how, as a Mary Kay consultant, she was expected to wear panty hose, even when she was on a plane going to a convention. She talks about all of the gear and merchandise she was pressured to buy, all in the name of promoting the business. Below is a screenshot I took of a now defunct blog post about a woman who got burned by LuLaRoe. You can see how appearance and dressing for success is very heavily promoted. But it also has the effect of creating a “uniform”, which psychologically gets people to think they’re part of a larger, more powerful group. While there may not be anything wrong with being in a group, I do think it’s important to understand how being conditioned to look, think, and dress a certain way is a conduit toward being a part of a cult.

LuLaRoe dress rules.

I loved this lady’s hilarious anti-LuLaRoe video. It bears another share!

She gets it… and is spilling the truth.

I’ll probably spend some more time watching Josie’s videos today… or maybe even a few by other people who have learned the truth about being involved with MLMs. I know some people think MLMs are great. In fact, I remember one acquaintance got very defensive when I shared a negative news article about LuLaRoe. However, I could not help but notice that less than a year later, she was trying to unload her entire inventory after LuLaRoe got very publicly sued. Amazon even has a new docuseries going on about LuLaRoe.

I don’t like MLMs, and it’s sad to hear and read stories of people who get caught up in them. On the other hand, I find that topic less depressing than COVID-19, Trump worship, and abortion… So, since it’s Friday, I’ll probably explore some more. Josie’s channel on its own has hours of content! I could totally fall down a rabbit hole. I’m watching the below video now.

High drama!

I notice that Josie’s early videos get very few views. But now that she’s exposing MLMs, she’s probably making some legitimate bank on YouTube!

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book reviews, business

Repost: Mary Kay Ash’s story…

Here’s a repost of a review I wrote for Epinions.com in 2007, when I was living on a military installation. I also reposted it on the original OH blog in 2015. It appears here as/is.

Comments from 2015

I am inspired to repost this book review because someone on the Recovery from Mormonism Web site compared the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to being a “Red Jacket” for Mary Kay cosmetics…  If the thought of that intrigues you, I encourage clicking the link and having a look at the thread.  It’s very interesting. 

Incidentally, Bill’s TBM ex wife used to sell Mary Kay.  She bought a shitload of products and started off like gangbusters, but then lost interest at a time when they were seriously low on cash.  They ended up taking a loss, which probably contributed heavily to the sorry financial state Bill was in when we first met.  Not surprisingly, Mary Kay cosmetics, while often decent products, is sort of a cult-like organization.  I have often found multi-level marketing schemes interesting.  Perhaps I will repost a few more book reviews on the subject. 

I wasn’t all that fond of Mary Kay’s writing, but figured I might as well repost the review anyway…

Original review from 2007

Mary Kay cosmetics are everywhere when you live on a military installation. As I drive around Fort Belvoir, I frequently see cars with bumper stickers advertising Mary Kay. Sometimes, I see a home with a sign that indicates that the resident sells the stuff. I’ve never used Mary Kay cosmetics myself, but I have heard about the company from former colleagues and my husband, whose ex wife used to sell Mary Kay. I had heard interesting things about the way the company is run and, I have to admit, I’m fascinated by businesses that use the multi-level marketing model. I also like biographies. All of those factors, plus the fact that Mary Kay Ash’s autobiography, Mary Kay, was priced at a dollar at the thrift shop, led me to read about the lady who started Mary Kay cosmetics and put countless women to work for themselves.

On my copy of Mary Kay, there’s a picture of Mary Kay on the cover. She looks disturbingly like Dolly Parton with perfectly coiffed, big hair, a flawlessly painted face, a beaded gown and rhinestone earrings, and a serene countenance. This book was originally published in 1981, but I have a copy from the third printing in 1994. The picture must be from that time. Mary Kay Ash is no spring chicken, but she looks very pretty and confident in the picture. That makes perfect sense, given the book’s subject matter. Mary Kay Ash has made a big name for herself by promoting a good self-image, high self-esteem, an enthusiastic attitude, and dogged persistence. That’s why the picture on the cover should matter to those who will read this book. In this case, you can judge this book, at least in part, by its cover. 

I suspect that Ash’s audience mostly consists of Mary Kay consultants. Ash’s writing pretty much boils over with bubbly enthusiasm for her company and the products it offers. She starts at the beginning, explaining how she went from being a housewife to an extremely successful businessperson. She explains some of her business practices and how some of her more popular products were developed. All the while, she keeps her message overwhelmingly positive and inspirational. Her message to her readers seems to be that they can accomplish anything. Judging by Mary Kay’s success, lots of beauty consultants have gotten that message loud and clear.

To be totally honest, though, I found this book a bit irritating. Maybe it’s because I’m a pessimist. I just found the high energy, overly effervescent, extremely positive tone in this book hard to take after awhile. I appreciate the fact that Mary Kay Ash made her dream a reality and I agree that a good attitude can carry a person far in life. However, while I think dreams are a wonderful thing, I also think they should be grounded in reality. The truth is, not everyone can cut it in sales. Not everyone has the appropriate personality to deal with people and deliver good customer service all the time. Despite Mary Kay’s overwhelmingly positive message, not everyone who tries to sell her products will be a great success… in fact, not everyone has it in them to be a great success in life. If everyone in life were a great success, people like Mary Kay Ash would be just average folks. 

I don’t know how available this book is nowadays. I would guess that the most likely place to find it is from a Mary Kay consultant or a used book outlet. Mary Kay Ash’s story is inspirational and reasonably well written, but the tone was a bit too chirpy for my taste. I recommend it to people who like very positive stories… otherwise, skip it. 

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