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