LuLaRich and Corporate Cults 😵

LuLaRich and Corporate Cults 😵

Last December, I recorded an episode called “Cult-Like Tactics Used in Corporate America & Why Self-Help Often Doesn’t Help” after watching the Starz documentary on NXIVM. Now here we are about a year later with the LuLaRich documentary on Amazon Prime recounting the turmoil of LuLaRoe.

Key topics:

✔️ Yes, MLMs and pyramid schemes utilize the same tactics as religious and sex cults. So does Corporate America. The more the culture tells you, “You must be one of us… one of us… one of us…” the more you’re in a freakin’ cult.
✔️ Be careful of environments where you get love-bombed and people are required to talk about how the place is “like a family.” Those love-bombs can turn into a lot of malice if you step out of line.
✔️ Know your own rights. If you suspect that your employer is engaging in discrimination and/or placing requirements on you that go against the EEOC or Civil Rights Act, consult with a legal professional for help.
✔️ When we are in the thick of something, we may not always understand just how dire the situation is. Trust your gut and use good judgment. If something sounds too good to be true…

Special intro music: “How to Be a Millionaire” by ABC.

Links I discuss in this episode:

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Transcription by  Please forgive any typos!

Welcome to the Causey Consulting Podcast. You can find us online any time at And now, here’s your host Sara Causey. Hello. Hello, and thanks for tuning in. I played you in today with How to Be a Millionaire by ABC. I cannot believe that that song is like 36 or 37 years old at this point that seems unfathomable to me. But anyway, it is relevant to today’s episode because I will finally drumroll please will be talking about the documentary Lularich and how corporate America very much does rely on the same types of tactics and manipulations that we see in cults. So if you have not yet watched the documentary, but you plan to maybe you’re worried about spoilers, come back to this episode later after you’ve watched it. If you haven’t watched it, maybe you’re thinking I am not really familiar with that company. I don’t know that I would get anything out of it. If you care about corporate America, or maybe you’ve been in a toxic work environment yourself. Let’s face it, many of us have been where you’re just curious about pulling the curtain back and really examining the sinister plots and machinations that happen in corporate America. This is definitely an episode for you. I’m going to read the little blurb about the series that you can find on Amazon Prime. And I quote, LulaRich is a four part Docuseries that chronicles the unraveling of LuLaRoe. Known for their buttery soft leggings. The infamous multi level marketing company went viral, promising young mothers a work from home salvation. Lula rolls, eccentric founders recruited an astonishing army of independent retailers to peddle its increasingly bizarre and defective clothing products until it all went wrong and quote, Now I’ll be honest, and say, I was vaguely aware of LuLaRoe as a company, like I had heard the name before. And at various times, I would see people that I was connected to on Facebook or on Instagram peddling clothes, like they would be in their living room or in a closet somewhere peddle peddling clothes. Oh, look at this shirt. Oh, look at these leggings. Who’s gonna buy this? Oh, yeah. Jane Doe in Arizona is buying this legging with tacos all over it. I was like, What the hell is this? Disconnect. Delete. I just never got into it. And okay, don’t send me hate mail. And I wouldn’t get a bunch of of rude responses from people. I’m, I’m not in the leggings. Man. They’re not practical for me as a farmer and rancher, like, can you imagine how bad your flesh would get cut up by a barbed wire fence. If you were out in a T shirt and leggings Hello. Like I have to wear some actual clothing with structure to it. Like I have some of my work jeans my going outside and getting in the pastor jeans that feel like I don’t know some type of armor like, like it would take a Bonesaw to get through them. So practically speaking, I’m not into leggings. I also just don’t really get as a fashion statement. I don’t I don’t get the idea of putting on stretch pants and a T shirt. Now I do. Okay, it’s appropriate again. And I played you in with ABC from the 80s. Because like I remember in the 80s we did that. I remember getting the the oversized T shirts and putting it in a T shirt clip and having stretch pants and stirrup pants or getting like a big oversized sweater chunky sweater and putting it over some leggings. Yes, I did it. I can’t say that. I’ve never experienced that fashion aesthetic in my life before. But maybe because I did it in the 80s I just have no desire to ever do it again. And it’s also not practical for me. Nor have I ever gotten into the let’s all get matching pajamas. Let’s all get matching pajamas and make a Thanksgiving or Christmas portrait. I’m used portrait loosely because I just like I don’t I don’t get it. It’s not for me, Johnny and I make fun of people that do that. No offense. Okay, look, I know I’m sorry, are putting so many targets on my back here. But like we do. In fact, one time Johnny was telling you about this horrible job interview that he had. This has been many years ago. This is definitely during the prime time when the hiring company was God and the candidate was a peon. Like he really had to go in and do a song and dance and you better kiss that brass ring if you wanted the job. So Johnny was there and like a three piece business suit, and he said that the man interviewing him was actually like, maybe only five to 10 years older than Johnny but at the same time he kept one wanting to refer to Johnny’s like son or sonny boy. And he said, like the whole thing was just really uncomfortable is very stuffy. It was very stodgy. And this man was like trying to make sure that he asserted dominance by continuing to refer to Johnny as son or Sonny Boy, even though there wasn’t nearly enough age separating them for that to have been justified. So we it for us, like we just don’t get like the corporate America crap that they want to dole out in the same way that we don’t get leggings and matching pajama party photos. Okay, it’s just not our stick. So I was loosely aware of the company’s existence. But it wasn’t anything that I paid much attention to, until there started to be whispers of this place is like a cult, this place is milking all of this money out of the people who are involved in it, and then my antennae went up. Because as I’ve said before, certainly an argument can be made that it’s confirmation bias for me, because I already believe I already know from my own experiences in corporate America and in toxic work environments that they do use the same types of techniques and manipulations that we find in cults. There was an article that appeared in the Huffington Post on November 24, of 2012. I’m going to say that again, November 24, of 2012, not last year, or the year before, but going all the way back to 2012. And the title of it is how corporate America is turning into a cult and why it’s harming the American employee. And the byline is over the last decade or so a growing disconnect has developed between the bizarre and almost cult like rhetoric and practices that companies use with their staff, and the increasingly grim reality of being an employee in modern day corporate America, and quote, boy, is that a mouthful? There’s an article on mandatory comm from earlier this year from April of 2021. Called 17 signs you’re in a cult or just working for corporate America. And the picture above the headline is taken from that super creepy movie midsummer. Now if you have not seen that you’re on my Halloween slash sound episode, I talked about horror movies that you could definitely watch if you want to get creeped out. Midsummer is disturbing. I don’t know that. I would say that it’s scary. It’s certainly not like, Oh, you’re going to expect a ghost to come out from under the bed or something. It’s definitely unnerving. It’s disturbing, and it’s unnerving. So you could put that on the list if you ever just want to get creeped out severely. But some of the things on this list of the 17 signs are you get love bombed, everyone is making you feel special and they’re stroking your ego. The leader is charming, narcissistic and authoritarian. The leader has all the answers. But yet the leader answers to no one, the rules are suffocating. And that can be a rigid dress code or timing, your bathroom breaks and so on. The group is obsessed with rituals. It’s an intimidating hierarchy, your press to recruit others to come on board, you have to produce collateral, you get isolated and you feel distanced from your former life, the group identity trumps the individual identity, you’re expected to represent the brand at all times. You feel like there’s something freaky going on. Whether it’s having inappropriate discussions about sex, or people being touchy feely, you can just tell that there’s something wrong. Leadership insists that it’s not a cult, any kind of deviation or non conformance is trash talked or punished. People that leave the company are trash talk or punished. And last but not least, you start to suspect that you’re in a cult. You know, I remember a company that I worked for where the minute that somebody left the amount of trash talking and terrible comments. I mean, it was it was instantaneous and be like, Okay, well, we’re gonna take Peggy Sue and Billy balled out for drinks. Yay, this has been great, really appreciate your PR Sciascia all your hard work is just wonderful. You’re definitely going to be Miss and doors open if you ever want to come back and then the minute that the door closed behind them was like, What a bitch. She’s making the biggest mistake of her life. Well, I guess he just couldn’t handle it here. He just wasn’t strong enough to do what we do. And it’s like, just so much vomit. So one of the things that caught my attention before I watched the Docu series and what actually led me to watching it was the article about it in the Rolling Stone. And the headline for that article reads oh my god, we’re in a cult new Docu series shows the dark side of clothing brand LuLaRoe The byline reads Lula rich exposes how company founders recruit members into their mid level marketing scheme through mind control lies and manipulation and quote. So I’m looking at this article one afternoon and I’m like, ooh, stroking my imaginary devil beard going. You had my curiosity. Now you have my attention. So I’m going to read from this Rolling Stone article again. At first glance, it’s unclear whether the auditorium filled with rows of theater style seating broken up by wide aisles that lead to what appears to be either a stage or an altar is a place of worship, or the largest available conference room at the local Marriott. With the exception of a baby. The audience is a sea of white women wearing brightly colored and in some cases, heavily patterned articles of clothing. Some are standing up at their seats, others have moved into the aisles. Quite a few have made it up onto the stage. Most are dancing to instincts I want you back. But this isn’t some type of religious ceremony, or all the chaperones of a junior high mixer enthusiastically shaking it to a song they actually recognize. It’s an event for sales reps working for Lula row, a multi level marketing mlm apparel company. That’s the focus of Lula rich, a new Docu series currently streaming on Amazon Prime and quote, now I’m saying some of these things with laughter in my voice. Obviously, it’s not funny, if you’re in the thick of it, if you’re working for a company, and you have concluded, oh, my God, I’m in a cult, this place is toxic, this place is disgusting. The things that they allow to happen to employees is heinous. There’s nothing funny about it. And I want to draw an important point here. When we’re in the thick of something, we may not always recognize exactly how toxic it is, or we may not realize exactly how hyped up and ridiculous that it is. That’s one of the reasons why these people have to try to isolate you, because your family members, your friends, or even your neighbors, people that are just merely acquaintances might go, you know that sounds weird. It sounds very unrealistic and bizarre that they’re expecting you to do X, Y and Z. Yeah, I don’t understand why they’re telling you what kind of nails you need to have or your hairstyle or they’re telling you that you have to be a certain way or the things that they’re saying back there are completely and totally illegal, someone needs to call and make a report some it’s this is against EEOC, you know, people can’t be behaving this way. They know that if you get out of the cult, if you get away from the one of us, one of us mentality, somebody might actually talk some reason and to you and they might say, you know, this is totally and completely bizarre. So it’s easy for me to sit here now as a self employed entrepreneur, solopreneur and be like, yeah, no, just God. No, not for a million dollars when I go and sit in an auditorium full of people and dance around to in sync and pretend that the owners of some company are like gods and goddesses like I just know, just absolute freaking No, but yet, these people were mired in the midst of that insanity. So I’m going to go back and read from the article again. When it comes to MLMs, there’s so much to unpack from business models designed to just to be just different enough from pyramid schemes, that they’re legally able to operate to the strain they place on relationships with family and friends, whose inboxes become flooded with invitations to Facebook Live parties, where their product pimping loved ones reveal the latest item that’s changed their life. For anyone who gets sucked into these schemes, says Assan. It’s clear there’s some element of mind control involved. One former LuLaRoe member goes further in the series, recalling the moment a realization hit her, Oh my god, we’re in a cult. The other person they mentioned in that article, or in that snippet that I read to you is Steven Hassan, PhD who’s the founder of freedom of mind Resource Center, and he helps people that are current and former members of Colts. I’m going to continue to read, though the Docu Series offers countless illustrations of the students engaging in extreme and narcissistic behavior to in particular stand out. The first occurs when Mark is addressing the crowd at a company event and in the process of describing his own struggles, compares himself to Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, noting that they were similarly misunderstood. Then there’s the fact that mark and Deanne agreed to participate in the Docu series at all sitting for hours of interviews confident that they would come out the other side smelling like roses, as Mark tells the interviewers roughly six minutes into the first episode, that they are there to set the record straight. And now the article itself quotes Mark stedham We are storytellers. That’s how the business grew. And it’s so exciting to have somebody here that’s interested in the whole story and an opportunity to share that which in says, quote, the systems appear to be thoroughly convinced that their contribution to the narrative could only result in them emerging as heroes and to many members of their LuLaRoe. Family they are and quote, now, okay, statement of the obvious alert, you want to be very careful about companies that are trying to push any kind of religion on you, they’re trying to force you to be of a particular faith, or if the leader of the company is standing up and comparing himself to some kind of religious figure or a martyr of some time. You know, there’s just red flags all over that it’s almost like where do the red flags start? And where do the red flags stop? It’s, it’s difficult to even count them all. And it’s really important here to know your rights. Title Seven of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, prohibit many employers from engaging in religious discrimination in the workplace. So if you go into a situation and you are an atheist, a Jew, a Muslim, whatever, and you have someone telling you like, No, you better believe the way that we believe or else you need to pray the way that we pray. You need to respect me as some kind of demagogue, you need to know what your rights are in that situation, legally speaking. I myself am not an anti discrimination attorney. But I would encourage you if you feel like someone has been pressuring you about religion or trying to force a religion on you in the workplace, or making you be part of scenarios that you’re not comfortable with because of religious beliefs, then it’s worth it to talk to a professional. I mean, even if you just have to call Legal Aid to get free advice and say, Is this legal, I don’t even know. It’s worth it to make that phone call because these things should not be happening in the workplace in 2021. I’m going to return to the Rolling Stone article and read again, onboarding costs ranging from 5000 to $10,000. We’re financially out of reach for many prospective LuLaRoe consultants, but that was spun as a small price to pay for the independence and prestige of owning your own business and being able to do it while staying at home with your kids. According to several former sales reps and full time employees interviewed in the series, company leadership encouraged women to do whatever it took to get the money they needed to turn their dreams into a reality, including opening new credit cards, taking out loans, even selling their breast milk. When a Lula rich producer asks the stems about that last allegation, Mark calls the claim under Lee ridiculous with a snicker while Deanne assumes the role of a vaudeville sidekick, pointing at her husband to ensure his wit is on display. Not only does LuLaRoe sell the dream of having at all, it does so under the guise of women empowering women. But harnessing girl power in the context of an MLM where recruiting new members is the fastest and often only way to keep your head above water financially, constantly perpetuating a predatory cycle is downright sinister. When times get tough as they inevitably will. LuLaRoe reminds its consultants that they have the support of a fun, vibrant community of women who have faced the same obstacles and unbreakable sisterhood. This is also part of the company’s recruitment strategy. LuLaRoe social media posts encourage women who want to change their lives to quote join the movement and quote from my reading of the this portion of the Rolling Stone article. Again, like I just got I’m just I’m like rubbing my forehead and like temples. I feel like Gordon Ramsay when he goes into a restaurant that’s a complete shithole. It’s like where, where do we even begin? There’s so much just in those two paragraphs to try to unpack i the onboarding costs being financially out of reach. You know, I remember in watching the documentary, this idea of we just do whatever it takes, you borrow money, you get credit cards, you go to your credit union, you sell your your boobie milk, whatever it is that you need to do to get that money, you do it. And I remember some of the things that I was taught by, I think people who probably meant well, but who were crappy coaches, whenever I was in my first iteration of self employment, because they had that same mentality where you just do whatever you don’t think about the consequences. You think about the success you just you do whatever it takes, you don’t give up when you’re two feet away from striking gold or striking oil hitting that Pader you keep going and it’s like no, you don’t. You still have To be rational, you still have to think things through. And you need to know when it’s time to strategically quit. Not every idea is a good idea. Not every potential business idea is going to pan out and pay off. Sometimes we can get into a business model that sucks, and it’s not worth it, Heller. That’s what happened to me. It sucked me dry. So the idea of just pouring more and more and more money into a hole and hoping that it pays off it, that’s not a viable business strategy. So if you’re tuning in today, and you don’t really care that much about a crappy, crappy leggings, or you’re not all that much into the cult mentality, I really want you to hear me on this, it is so important to know how to strategically quit. And it’s important to know that not every idea is going to pan out and be a gold mine. And that’s okay, you need to know when to say when I remember when my business was going down the tubes, and I got hooked up with this person who was something of a spin golly, now I’m going to be necessarily vague here, I want to be really careful. But just suffice it to say, that person was like the Hail Mary pass, they were either going to be the thing, they were going to help me and get the business turned around, or I was going to close the doors. Well, you know, spoiler alert, I had to close the doors. But that person was of the same mentality as the LuLaRoe people who just whatever means necessary to pay my fee, you need to do it. So I had a credit card that I had not touched because it had a really high interest rate. And I put his fee on that credit card and took me forever to get it paid off because of the high interest rate. And I had absolutely nothing to show for it. So life lesson alert here, don’t be don’t be like that. Don’t be like I was don’t get into this mentality of well, even though I don’t need to touch this credit card, I’m going to do this, this person is going to be my savior, this person’s going to bail me out. That’s not the way to go into things. We also start to get into this girl boss and hustle culture mentality, you know, having having women recruit other women, and that having it all look at all of this prestige, look at all of this money. And there were women in the documentary who talked about the pressure that they were under to look a certain way to always have their hair blown out to always have a manicure and a pedicure to carry certain types of purses and accessories. Obviously, they were expected to model the clothing that they were selling. But the other accessories that they carry needed to be high dollar, top shelf designer labels so that you could recruit other people, you could project an image of success, even if you were broke. Even if your bank account balance was zero, you needed to have the designer handbag and the fluffed out hair and all of that to project an image becomes easier to recruit other people. If they look at you and go, Oh, damn, she must be doing something, right. So it’s a mirage. It’s this phony image. And if some of this is feeling familiar to you, if you either watched the documentary on stars called seduced inside the Nexium cult, or if you tuned in to my episode from December of last year, entitled cult like tactics used in corporate America and why self help often doesn’t help. Some of these techniques may be sounding familiar to you. And in the Rolling Stone article, they do draw a parallel to the Nexium cult. So I’m going to go back and read again, if this faux feminism strategy sounds familiar, he adds it’s because we’ve seen another version of it recently, in the recruitment methods of Nexium a cult that engaged in human trafficking while posing as a self help MLM. The rap was that being used on the rap that was being used on the women was that they’re in this women’s empowerment group. And in the meantime, they’re saying they’re slaves and will do whatever they’re told Hassan says, for me, that’s a really dramatic example of this thing where you’re labeling it one thing that is very positive and attractive, but the behavior is doing the opposite, which in the Nexium case was enslaving people. And the Rolling Stone article goes on to say, during the rapid growth of Lula row the Steadicams Deanna in particular presented themselves as the benevolent parents of a constantly growing family, and didn’t hesitate to give their member children helpful pointers for success According to multiple former reps in featured in Lula rich. These included weighing in on what the consultants should wear exclusively LuLaRoe obviously, how they should do their hair and makeup Trick question they shouldn’t That’s a job for professionals, how much they should weigh Fuck off, and what their marriage should look like. Sorry, ladies, hope you weren’t fans of autonomy, even as the advice became increasingly extreme, like recommending gastric Sleep surgery performed in Tijuana. Members continued to follow it dutifully, you were so immersed that if Dan said to jump off a cliff, I probably would have a former LuLaRoe consultant says in the series, and quote, wow, yet again, wow. I remember when they got to the part about the owners giving people marital advice, telling them how wives and husbands ought and ought not to behave, telling women about their physical appearance, even telling women after you get your business built up, and you need to turn it over to your husband so that he can quit his full time job outside the home. And then you can just go back, I’m using air quotes here, go back to being a housewife. And then your husband can run the business full time and have an income and you guys can just both be at home. And it’s like, what? How is that anything that’s empowering a woman to have her own thing going on, if you’re just going to build up the business and then hand it to your husband and say, quit your full time job and sell leggings with, you know, increasingly weird or patterns on them? What even is that? I’m not sure what I would label it as, but I certainly wouldn’t call it women’s empowerment or feminism. Now, again, I’m going to be necessarily vague here. But I remember when I first got into staffing, and recruiting, I had this strange experience. And it was like, what these ladies are talking about being told how you’re supposed to dress how you’re supposed to present yourself. And I remember being told, and ironically, this was not a joke. And it was not some kind of satire I was told on ironically, by someone, you need to go and watch the movie boiler room, you need to pay attention to the way that Ben Affleck talks to the rookies. That’s what this business is like, you need to get business suits that are high end, you need to spend money whether you’ve got it now or you don’t you can put it on a credit card and then wait till you make some big fat commissions. But you need to dress like you have a lot of money, don’t walk around dress like shit, or nobody’s gonna want to do business with you. So if somebody is telling you that you need to go spend money that you don’t have screw it put on a credit card, hope you can pay it off later, or they’re recommending a movie like boiler room to you on ironically, like that’s how you should speak to people. That’s how you should behave. You definitely want to be very careful. Once the products started to come in defective, wet, moldy, smelly holes were ripping in them. The owners were like, engaged in some type of gaslighting saying no, that’s not true, we still maintain really great quality control standards. I mean, really, you I remember watching the Nexium documentary on stars. And my favorite person in the whole documentary was Princess Elizabeth of Yugoslavia, who is India’s grandmother, she was talking about being in the room hearing some of these people from Nexium talk. And she said something like, I didn’t want to seem angry, but I thought the whole thing was bullshit. And I was like, yes, yes, yes, that’s some keep it real energy. So it’s important to trust yourself and to cultivate a high level of self esteem. So that if somebody is coming along trying to gaslight you by telling you the sky is green, when you see that it’s blue, or they’re telling you, oh, these leggings are made to the highest possible standard, and they’ve got holes all in them, or someone’s telling you, you need to behave like Ben Affleck in boiler room and go spend, you know, two or $3,000 on suits, if that to you is like, oh, no, that makes literally no sense at all. Or I’m, I’m looking at it. And I’m seeing objectively for myself that what you’re saying to me is not true. You’re better equipped to push back. You also want to know what your options are. I mean, here we are. We’re in the midst of the Great resignation. And I need to do an episode specifically about that I’m behind on some of my content. But it’s like so many people are leaving BS situations. They’re refusing to be treated poorly. They’re just saying no, I will stay at home and live off of my savings rather than be abused. I just will not tolerate it. Now again, that you want to know your worth and you want to take an appraisal of the market and how things have changed. You no longer have to sit in a cube farm working for a butthole boss. Now he’s like you have more options than ever before. In that spirit of having a good BS detector. I want to read a few things to you. One is from the Federal Trade Commission’s own article. It’s all advice about warning signs of a pyramid scheme. Promoters make extravagant promises about your earning potential. Promoters emphasize recruiting new distributors for your sales network as the real way to make money. Promoters play on your emotions or use high pressure sales tactics may be saying you’ll lose the opportunity if you don’t act now. And discouraging you from taking time to study the company. Distributors buy more products than they want to use or can resell just to stay active in the company or to qualify for bonuses or other rewards and quote, I’m also going to read from an article in Huffington Post called Nine signs that exciting new job opportunity is really an MLM scam. And I think this is important too. Because you may go to a job, you may be in an office or you may be working from home thinking okay, I’ve joined a legitimate company that everything is legit. This is a j ob NOT an MLM. So what are some signs that you can look for that maybe that’s not quite the case, I’m going to read these nine signs to you. Number one, it starts with a pitch. Number two, certain buzzwords are used and this could be things like girl Boss Boss BAME income beyond your wildest dreams, etc. You know, if it seems too good to be true, you just want to have your antenna up for that. Three, you get love bombed. Love bombing is a form of manipulation used by toxic romantic partners, narcissist cults, and you guessed it MLMs it might not be obvious that it’s happening at first, but love bombing is an effective way to control another person. Number four, the business model is unclear. Number five, there are no qualifications to join. Number six, the training and compensation are minimal. I would also add to that sort of a my interjection and rule six and a half. There is training but you have to pay for it, you have to pay out of your own pocket to go off to some training somewhere. Number seven, you have to buy your own inventory. Number eight, there’s a cult like culture. Number nine, moving up the ranks requires recruiting. So if you see any of those signs now I’m not gonna sit here and say that’s a 100% guarantee you’re in an MLM and you need to quit your job today. It’s just a sign to you that you need to be judicious. You need to ask good questions. If something seems too good to be true, it quite probably is. Not everything that glitters is gold. You know we have these cliches for a reason. So you want to be really careful about your time, your energy, your resources. At the end of the day, it’s your responsibility to look out for yourself. These cults and MLMs and pyramid schemes certainly will not. We hope you enjoyed today’s episode. If you haven’t already. Please take a quick second to subscribe to this podcast and share it with your friends. Thanks for tuning in. We’ll see you next time.

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