Hey, girl! I hope all is well with you. I know this is totally random, and we don’t know each other that well yet, but I was just looking at your page and knew I HAD to reach out about this exciting opportunity! Would you be open to learning more about LuLaRich? Don’t worry, it’s not a pyramid scheme. It’s just an insane documentary about this alleged pyramid scheme (and borderline cult) that I watched on Amazon Prime this weekend and need to talk to someone about it immediately.
If you’ve never had the pleasure of a girl named Ashleigh (whom you you vaguely know because she graduated from your high school three years before you) sliding into your DMs to explain how you can make a “full-time income” working part-time from your home, here’s a little bit of context: LuLaRoe is a multilevel marketing clothing company that has ruined the lives of thousands of women, and not just because it convinced them to wear fugly floral maxi skirts to all of their family gatherings between 2012 and 2017. Women blew thousands on buy-in fees with the hopes of becoming business-owning boss babes, but at the end of the day, many were stuck with an inventory of fugly leggings that they couldn’t sell. LuLaRich is a four episode series that unpacks the cultish behavior of the company, and while it’s definitely worth the watch, I understand if you’ve received too many “hey girl!” messages to stomach the whole series. If nothing else, it’s enough to make anyone stop buying those hideous leggings. Here are a few of the most fucked-up revelations.
1. The LuLaRoe Family Dynamic Could Not Be More Ridiculous
Move over, families who run 5ks on Thanksgiving; the people that founded LuLaRoe are making you all look incredibly normal. At the top of the first episode, it’s casually mentioned that LuLaRoe’s president and founder, DeAnne Stidham, has a twin sister named Dianne. Obviously, this is not her fault, but it’s a clear indication that the remaining four hours of the docuseries will be packed with absolute chaos. DeAnne was raised by a mother who once threw a bunch of cash all over her children to inspire them to “visualize” wealth. As an adult, DeAnne went on to resell designer kids’ dresses in retail parties at peoples’ homes for 27 years before she sewed the first fateful maxi skirt that would become the catalyst for one of history’s tackiest MLM companies. (At some point in this timeline, she “tried” to do Amway, which is *check notes* the OG MLM.) It’s never mentioned in the docuseries, but her sister Dianne also is the founder of her own MLM clothing company that was once sued by LuLaRoe. Twinsies!
DeAnne’s husband, Mark Stidham, is a man who claims he knew he would be an entrepreneur from the time he was a child. (I’m calling bullshit on that tidbit on account of the fact that if I, a 27-year-old, cannot spell “entrepreneur,” there’s no way this man was throwing that word around in grade school.) This may or may not have anything to do with the fact that his parents were also Amway distributors. I guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the upline. Together, DeAnne and Mark have 14 children, two of whom are married to each other. They do about as good of a job explaining that it’s not weird (because one of them was adopted) as pyramid scheme girlies do of explaining that they’re not in a pyramid scheme because that would be illegal. Obviously, LuLaRoe’s executive team is packed with Stidham relatives, because this company really does not understand the meaning of “you don’t mix business and family”.
2. The Clothes Are Offensively Heinous
I am in no position to judge anyone for getting a little too excited about a retail drop. I would do some questionable shit to get my hands on a small lavender Telfar shopping bag. But I simply do not understand what LuLaRoe could have possibly been lacing their stretchy fabric with to make grown women lose their minds over leggings and T-shirts with abstract prints. Ugly ones, at that! Sure, the company said that each print was created in limited quantities, but judging by the looks of some of them, that sounds more like a public service than a marketing tactic. There have been multiple occasions where LuLaRoe created leggings covered in patterns that looked like genitals. And yet, women across America were hopping on Facebook live to instruct their followers how to style this shit. (Spoiler: it was always with a button-down chambray shirt and knotting the shapeless, oversized tops and dresses.) I wonder when the Senate will have a hearing to hold Mark Zuckerberg responsible for the damage Facebook has done in allowing LuLaRoe retailers to sell phallic, copyright-infringed leggings on its platform.
— Bailey (@baileyberd) September 11, 2021
3. There’s a Whole “Travel to Tijuana for Weight Loss Surgery” Subplot
A good cult is nothing without a well-enforced dress code, but LuLaRoe positioned itself above the amateurs of Rajneeshpuram by stepping things up a notch. After losing 72 pounds as a result of a gastric sleeve surgery she underwent in Tijuana, Mexico, DeAnne allegedly started pushing weight loss procedures on LuLaRoe’s employees. (Though, are they even considered “employees” if they’re paying to be a part of the company?) At one point, DeAnne admits in the documentary that at least 18 women went to her surgeon, but she maintains that she didn’t force anyone to do it. She was basically just like, “It’s not my fault everyone kept talking bout how cute and skinny I am!” However, screenshots from a group chat called “Tijuana Skinnies” suggest otherwise.
Aside from that sketchy peer pressure, retailers/mentors/whatever we’re calling them also claim they were urged to maintain an aspirational appearance by making sure their hair and makeup was always done. They were apparently also encouraged to spend their bonus checks on designer handbags that DEFINITELY didn’t clash with a skater-style dress covered in hamburger illustrations.
4. Even Kelly Clarkson and Katy Perry Secured LuLaRoe Checks
It’s not uncommon for MLMs to throw extravagant ticketed events that retailers have to pay to attend, leaving them stuck between a FOMO rock or a maxed-out credit card hard place. So, the accounts of LuLaRoe cruises and catered lunches weren’t entirely shocking to me. What is absolutely wild, however, is the fact that LuLaRoe put on not one, but two concerts that were basically Super Bowl Halftime shows. The company literally blew millions on renting stadiums and booking Katy Perry and Kelly Clarkson for company events. I guess it’s officially time for me to stop bragging about the time my college hosted a free Chainsmokers concert.
5. It’s Potentially the Most Troubling Girlboss Narrative of All Time
Listen, I work in women’s media. I’ve seen plenty of boss babes fly too close to the sun in the pursuit of shattering a glass ceiling. And still, with confidence, I can say that the specific brand of “female empowerment” that LuLaRoe created is some of the most toxic shit of all time. The LuLaRoe culture targeted stay-at-home mothers, and some consultants who participated in the documentary shared that their uplines suggested they sell breast milk to cover startup costs. Retailers shared stories of times DeAnne provided them with suggestions for being good wives, which essentially boiled down to: let’s hope the cheap fabric of these leggings can hold up while you spend a considerable amount of time down on your knees. Yes, seriously! At one point, DeAnne even said in her interview, “Women can be strong, but there’s a time to let [your husband] be your hero.” And if DeAnne’s guidelines weren’t messy enough on their own, her husband Mark stepped in to sprinkle a few Mormon learnings while publicly comparing himself to Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism.
Although it’s nowhere near as profitable as it once was, LuLaRoe is still up and running today, and there’s even a woman in the doc who said she plans to keep hustling with the company until she dies. LuLaRoe’s minions are also flooding Amazon with bad reviews for LuLaRich, so there are definitely still tons of women out there who will ride for this company until the end. Unfortunately, with the exception of reputation-destroying documentaries, it seems like there really aren’t any consequences for the creators of MLM companies. In my opinion, we can choose to look at this through one of two lenses. On one hand, it means that DMs remain an incredibly vulnerable space in which all of us are at risk of being recruited for a life-ruining pyramid scheme at any given moment. On the other hand, it means that we will inevitably get a Monat exposé very soon.
Images: Courtesy of Amazon Prime Video