Film Corner: LuLaRich (Ep 3)


Today we're watching LuLaRich documentary series, Episode 3. They talk about how Mark and DeAnne felt like celebrities and that proximity to them made you feel special within the community. You see this a lot in cults: that when the leader approves of you, others approve of you. Contrast to a more secular school- or office-environment where leadership favorites may be viewed with suspicion or people may just not care. In a healthy working environment, I shouldn't need to curry favor with my boss' mentee, because that favor shouldn't grant me special access or prizes or community recognition.

A retailer discusses how Mark would read passages from The Book of Mormon at leadership events. Becca Peter is interviewed (love her!) and she points out that the LLR retailers were charging sales tax in a very...strange manner. Somehow the retailers had gotten the impression that state sales tax applied on the retailer's end and not the buyer's end.

The fact that LLR was having mandatory "training" events and NOT covering basic things like sales tax is huge. I very much doubt that the person-to-person sales (I.e., non-internet) were even collecting state sales tax. And I do question whether all retailers were correctly tracking their income for income taxes. These things are not intuitive. For those mandatory 2-day training events to NOT cover things like "how to own a business without breaking tax law" and instead were just focused on "how to bring in more people" is very telling.

Becca impeccably breaks down how the LLR message parrots the empowering message of feminism but doesn't actually challenge patriarchy. A retailer explains that LLR would bring women in with a message of empowerment, but then would be taught to submit to their husbands. The fact that a *wholesale supplier* is counseling retailers on their marriage lives is just a basket of red flags.

In a cult, nothing is ever really private, at least not for the unprivileged members. Your personal business is the business of the leaders, and the leaders absolutely will step in and tell you how to manage your relationships with others. Moreover, cults are VERY concerned about hierarchy. You can't go letting people think they're all equals, or they might question the leadership. So it's important that there be these rules about who has to submit to whom.

For LLR, it's interesting and a huge red flag that the retailers were supposed to submit to people who were basically "silent partners" in the business--I.e., the husbands. Because, yes, that mirrors patriarchy and the church structure Mark and DeAnne favor. But. It also means that if the person with the most information about the business (the retailer wife) starts having concerns about LLR, she's supposed to submit to the person with the least information (the "business partner" husband).

If LLR has been steadily making them money for 12 months and then makes a change that concerns the wife--the one who knows her customers and the minutia of her business--who will the husband side with? Some husbands will trust the wife's judgment. But many of them will have been indoctrinated by capitalism to assume that a billion-dollar company staffed by hundreds will know better than his individual wife does. We're steeped in that stuff from childhood in America!

So we have a situation where LLR has taken a familiar structure that most of their retailers know already--wifely submission--and tailored it to suit the needs of the organization leadership. We will see later that when the husband *doesn't* back LLR, then DeAnne would tell women to leave their marriages. Again, this is very common in cults: you must submit to middling-power (parent, spouse) UNLESS they conflict with higher-power (leader).

We learn that DeAnne's mother wrote a book which she endorses about the "care and feeding" of husbands. It's very typical wish-fulfillment ideas that women can be the secret power in the home by sexily manipulating the man with her feminine wiles. This sort of thing always pains me because I was raised up in it and I believed in it. I stayed in an abusive marriage because of these messages. If he hurt me, it was because I wasn't clever enough, sexy enough, smart enough. And that's bullshit.

The idea that women can just lead men around by the penis is so toxic, insulting, and fundamentally wrong. Men aren't mindless cave dwellers at the mercy of their libido. And abusers can, and do, manipulate the system to get away with harm. DeAnne tells the retailers to "get on your knees and please your husband for five minutes a day" and then he'll let you buy whatever you want. This is toxic, but it's also fascinating because this is supposed to be *business advice* but it's treating LLR like it's a hobby at the same time. "He'll let you buy whatever you want" as a strategy for *inventory* completely ignores whether there's a *market* for the product. Again, we see that LLR valued purchases from retailers and didn't care whether the product moved from that point.

Oh my god. So it's not merely that LLR was failing to train its "retailers" correctly, they were actually training them to do it the wrong way. That's profoundly upsetting!

@DefectiveBecca. The retailers were required to use LuLaRoe point of sale system to sell to their customers. LLR set it up wrong and sent a “white paper” to the consultants explaining why they were doing sales tax correctly and everyone else in the world was doing it wrong.

LLR pushed a goal of "retiring" husbands: of earning so much that the husband could quit his job and support their wives at their LLR jobs. Husbands were actually pressured to quit their jobs, which is another big cult red flag: it makes the family completely financially dependent on a single business, and it ensures that both members of the marriage have "bought in" to the message. The wife doesn't have an outsider who can encourage or support her if she wants to leave LLR.

It is utterly irresponsible for a supplier to insist that a retailer's husband *quit his job*, and in many cases removing the insurance safety nets the family has available. One of the retailers was even encouraged by DeAnne to divorce her husband because he didn't want to quit his job. Again we see the hypocrisy: You're supposed to submit to your husband, unless his wishes conflict with those of the leader.

The MLM (multi-level marketing, not men-loving-men; context changes acronyms) expert explains how easy it is to be ensnared by these systems. It's very hard, psychologically!, to believe that you're right and all these other successful, good, likable people are wrong.

We see one of DeAnne's motivational videos where she tells the retailers not to question themselves and to act on instinct, trusting their gut. But this is essentially training people to listen to hyped LLR peer pressure and to make business decisions rashly. Businesses are not run on "gut". They are run on careful thought and numbers and research. Of tracking what sells and what doesn't, and adjusting accordingly. Do you think Wal-Mart orders a gross of jumpers because they're new and hot and going fast and ACT NOW!!? No!

The cult, and the MLM scheme both, ask you to believe that your instincts are good and solid, and that you are immune to peer pressure and propaganda. That your failures come from "questioning" yourself. One reason this works in MLM is that it's *almost* true, once: if the retailer had gotten in early as one of the founding members, they would be more successful than they are currently. So that one key moment of hesitation is used to ensure they never hesitate again.

LLR has people get up in front of the audience and share their success stories, and drum up the rags-to-riches narratives. It reminds me a LOT of testimonial nights at church where we were supposed to talk up how God/church had helped us that week through trials. This is, again, not how legitimate business works. Wal-Mart execs are not getting up in front of a crowd of execs and testifying about how Hanes changed their lives and put food in their childrens' mouths.

The retailers are now being pressured to expand their aspirational image from not just wealthy displays of possessions, but wealthy displays of bodies. DeAnne starts pressuring retailers to get dangerous weight loss surgery at a clinic they refer retailers to. We see a video in which DeAnne tells retailers to "get your nanny to do the other things that aren't bringing in money for you. You work on the things that bring you money". The retailers were having to hire babysitters, nannies, and cooks just to have hustle time.

This is VERY fascinating, of course, because the whole allure of LLR was initially that it was "part time work for full time wages" so that mothers could spend more time with their families, cooking for them and mothering them. Now they can't. A destructive aspect of a lot of cults is that they're built around the idea of family (biological or otherwise) but end up tearing families apart because a truly solid and supportive family represents a threat to the leadership. (You might feel empowered to leave!)

So, for example, in some cults you have situations where the leadership reassigns family members to different families. Bob was your husband yesterday but today you're married to Frank. Or children are moved around, either logistically or physically. This keeps you discombobulated and always trying to adjust to a frantic frenetic situation. Here, hiring a cook might save a retailer SOME time, but it introduces stress: you have to adjust to a new menu, teach your preferences to the cook, argue with your husband.

DeAnne's advice is not really helpful for growing your business and brand (outsourcing everything in your life that doesn't have dollar value to the bottom line isn't necessarily good for the person or the business!) but it's GREAT for keeping the retailers anxious. "Part-time work that ✨somehow✨ directly interferes with the home life, pressure on the spouse to quit, and increasing efforts to drain the income dry." YES!!

@after_inks. And of course, all these people have to be paid, which means that's even less money each retailer gets to keep. Part-time work that ✨somehow✨ directly interferes with the home life, pressure on the spouse to quit, and increasing efforts to drain the income dry. 🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩

And notice how these exhortations to *constantly* be growing your brand means that you no longer have time for socialization? You are being urged to evangelize to all your friends and family, ensuring they either join with you or distance themselves from you. It is well understood by the exvangelical community that the constant push to "witness" to others is maintained NOT because it's a useful way to bring in new members (it's not) but because it's a GREAT way to isolate young christians and make them lonely and sad.

So you have this multi-tiered approach where literally everyone you know (husband, family, friends) is supposed to be recruited into the Family or cut off as "unsupportive" of your business. This means you won't hear criticism from them about the Family, and that if you try to leave the Family you won't have financial or emotional support from them, because they're just as roped in and dependent on the Family as you are. I think it's very noteworthy that of the 3 retailers we see who "got out", they all had husbands who refused to quit their own jobs / side-hustles and remained skeptical about LLR being the family's sole income source forever and ever.

Predictably, Mark just insists that everyone got the same box of opportunity and that some people were brave enough to make something of themselves and others were "scared of the box" and stuck it in a closet. Very Biblical parable about burying the talent.

We have reached the part of the saga when LLR begins to send out damaged products. One of the retailers receives shipments of moldy, wet, and damaged product. Retailers are told to "put them in the freezer" to kill the smell, but that will not make the mold safe. The clothes were being stored outside in bins in the parking lot and were being damaged by sun, water, mold, and vermin. Home office responds to complaints by gaslighting and attacking the retailers.

They were told to sell the goods at half price as nighties, asking the retailers to take a hit that LLR would not experience. This is, again, very common in a cult: if you criticize the leadership, YOU are the one who is the problem. YOU need to be more flexible. This is, again, why most retailers don't just use a single supplier! If Wal-Mart suddenly needs to send all its Hanes stock because of a bad batch, they can still stock and sell Fruit Of The Loom while Hanes sorts out its shit. The LLR retailers can't.

The documentary doesn't stress this nearly enough in my opinion, but it's stated at one point that retailers have to put in an order every month to remain in good standing as a retailer. They can't just "sit out" a month while stock gets better! You have this situation where people have waited 3 months just to get into business, just to get "permission" to order from the sole-supplier, and they don't want to get suspended and start over again! So they keep ordering monthly and hope for the best!

Because what else can they do? This is their business! They've budgeted their life around the expectation that, say, August will bring $3,000 in sales. They can't just whiff that money and wait until December to see if product improved. Because the retailers are dependent on the supplier, the supplier isn't under pressure to quickly fix the issues. Refunds? When we feel like it. Bring the stock in from the rain? Eh, maybe tomorrow. If Hanes had a warehouse full of goods go bad, that would be a burn-the-midnight-oil crisis. But for LLR, there is no rush to solve these issues. It isn't affecting their bottom line because the retailers have to keep buying stock, good or bad.

The retailers who complain are isolated and made invisible. Their public comments are deleted and they're told to go private and not "bad mouth" the brand--that it wasn't "the culture" of LLR to talk shit. But this means people with concerns feel alone. Skipping ahead a little, a consultant will be brought in to lecture everyone about not having a "victim mentality". So everyone is being made to feel like their bad feelings are THEIR fault, and not that of the leadership--and that everyone ELSE is fine with things.

Mark pontificates that he wants to lobby congress to pass a bill that every maternity ward has to display a sign that says "Welcome to life, your experience may vary." I hate this adage in particular--and again, he talks in stories and parables like a preacher--because it's predicated on the white patriarchy ideal that we're all born with equal opportunity and that failure comes down to individual fault (or, MAYBE, bad luck).

Experiences in life DO vary, in large part because we're born into a bigoted society that cares about things like "what color is your skin" and "what does the flesh between your legs look like", but that's of course not what he means. This is pre-emptive blame. He insists "we have equal opportunity; we do not promise equal outcome" which of course is what white people say when they want to explain that differences in white vs BIPOC wealth and incomes is that white people are just smarter, better, harder workers, etc.

Mark insists that they did not have a "huge problem" with wet leggings or damaged product, but that it was an issue with social media. So we're seeing a gaslighting effect wherein retailers are being told that they aren't experiencing the things they're experiencing. This is when the motivational speaker is brought in to talk about "victim mentality" and "the drama triangle". "Other people are experiencing your same problem, and they're not whining about it. What's wrong with YOU?"

(It breaks my heart that they brought in a fat woman to give this speech. Remember that being marginalized doesn't mean someone is an automatic ally! This is gaslighting bullshit, telling everyone to just quiet down and stop complaining.)

Long-time readers and first-time followers may notice a similar rhetoric about bigoted books: the idea that if you don't like it, just don't read it. If you read it anyway? Just don't TALK about it. Why do you need to COMPLAIN? The other trans people don't. Etc. The (de-)motivational speaker: "When victims are telling their story repeatedly, they are seeking validation. [...] And usually it comes with a lot of exaggeration."

Again, this is bullshit! I can promise you that when serious, high-level business execs talk among themselves about vendor problems, they aren't shaming Todd for his exaggeration about problems with Vendor Y. They are *grateful* for the heads-up. The misogyny here is palpable. These are supposed to be empowered businesswomen, but when they try to be competent (let alone cutthroat!) and talk about insufficiencies in the product, they're lectured to as if they're a bunch of gossipy goodwives.

"Do not let negativity fester. One person having a bad day can sour the enthusiasm of the other hundreds of people in your group. Do not let that happen." This is a particularly insidious tactic that cults use because the leadership, who has the most influence over people's moods, is saying that THEY have no power, no responsibility. They are placing that burden on the member, who has the LEAST influence over the rest of the group. The leader is supposedly weak, the member strong.

The member, who does actually care about the other members, is told that the success/salvation of the other members is something THEY have power over. That their questions, concerns, and "negativity" could doom/damn the others. Ultimately it doesn't really matter whether the goal is to save your soul or to save up for a car. Both are in danger, supposedly, because "negativity" is catching and that's why you have to be all-in all the time.

But! If "negativity" is so dangerous then wouldn't it be better to NOT send out moldy leggings? But of course you're not supposed to ask that question. You're demanding too much of the leaders! They're only human! Supply issues happen to the best of us! Etc. Note that leaders are allowed to be "only human" when it comes to growing too fast and leaving leggings out in the rain to grow mold, but retailers are not allowed to be "only human" when they need to vent about their livelihood being fucked with.

Mark and DeAnne lecture the camera, telling them that the retailers are "stale", not the stock, and that "you're obviously in the wrong business!" The verbal abuse is a very important part of the cult strategy; it punishes the members for speaking up. One of the most prolific/powerful retailers claimed she was suspended for bringing up too many concerns to LLR. The event director was served with a cease-and-desist telling him not to discuss the company, while the rumor mill (falsely?) accused him of bad behavior.

It is a common cult tactic for people who leave to be slandered to those who remain as bad sheep who weren't a good fit for the flock. Whether those stories are true is complicated, but the leadership will often then engage in the same bad behavior without reproach. The only ways the retailers are able to see that they aren't alone is when they organized online in a Facebook group where their stories weren't being moderated and deleted by LLR.

This is a major reason why a lot of cults will curtail who you're allowed to talk to outside of the group. And it's why we see this rise of people screaming "FAKE NEWS" at anything that challenges their rightwing viewpoints. Like, that's really the ultimate stage that leadership longs for: getting members who are so bought-in that even if they DO talk to outsiders, they won't BELIEVE them.

While I watch this documentary, I'm not surprised that LLR engaged in cult-like grooming tactics. I'm just kind of judgmental that they were so BAD at these tactics. They seem to have thought so little of these women--seeing them as bored housewives with a hobby--that they underestimated how many of these women would NOT be the meek submissive women they apparently believed them to be. Episode 3 ends with a little sweet chocolate bonbon of a retailer getting a class action lawyer.

You can really only bully people for so long before they reach a tipping point and push back. And LLR pushed people to that point too hard and too fast. THAT was the "unprecedented growth" they couldn't handle, not too many retailers. Growth in done-with-this-shit metrics. Anyway. That was a long one, I'm sorry! We'll do Episode 4 tomorrow, I hope.


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