Rachel Hollis told followers ‘I own you,’ said she could retire, but got a million in PPP money

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The NY Times has a new profile of Rachel Hollis, the self help influencer who canceled herself by derisively referring to her cleaning person as the woman “who cleans my toilets” and then comparing herself to Malala Yousafzai and Harriet Tubman when she was called privileged for that. You can read my post on it if you’d like. It was textbook white woman bullshit – the inability to recognize her privilege, the immense entitlement, and the faux victimization afterwards. It took Hollis over five days to remove her rant and her initial response was just to say she’s not perfect and that she’s moving on. She eventually issued a sort-of apology, but in the mean time a lot of her past behavior came to light.

The NY Times has a profile with more background on Hollis which I wasn’t aware of and didn’t particularly care about. The Times mentions Hollis’s divorce from her husband, a former Disney executive who left Disney to work with Hollis, as a disappointment to some of her followers. Apparently they’d bundled their marriage and partnership into her branding. The most interesting part were quotes from her followers and from attendees at her conferences. She said things that hinted at how big her ego was getting, and how much she was taking advantage of people. Plus she got a million dollar PPP loan! She surely had plenty in the bank to keep her company afloat, she bragged that she had enough to retire, but she took that government money.

The gulf between Rachel Hollis, online persona, and Rachel Hollis, boss, grew increasingly wide, employees said. The bubbly woman who appeared weekday mornings on “Start Today” was not the one who arrived at the HoCo office just hours later. “She would go from being silly and talking about peeing in her pants to walking into the office in sunglasses, not saying hello to anyone,” said Ms. Crooks, who has written a novel, “My Life With the Mogul,” about a young woman whose idealism is crushed by the experience of working for a personal-development celebrity.

By 2020, Ms. Hollis had crossed over from Instagram influencer to something more. In this community composed largely of white suburban mothers, thousands of whom were showing up for her Rise women’s conferences, she was a Tony Robbins-level star.

At the company leadership summit in early 2020, former employees say, she addressed her staff to say, “I am so rich, I could just retire to Hawaii and never work a day again, that’s how wealthy I am.” (Her point, they said, was that she loves her job.)

At the Rise Business conference in Charleston, two attendees said that Ms. Hollis gave a speech extolling her own influence over her followers. “I own you,” two people recalled her saying, in explaining that her endorsement meant so much to her followers, she could compel them to buy anything…

Money and fame couldn’t protect HoCo from the havoc brought by the coronavirus. The company, which in April 2020 received a P.P.P. loan of $998,700, was reorganized to accommodate new goals of introducing a Rise fitness app, selling off the existing inventory of physical products and pumping out podcasts to guide followers through the pandemic.

[From The NY Times]

Early in the pandemic I attended an online podcasting conference. A “health” influencer said just about the same thing as Hollis, that she could get her followers to buy anything, and I found that so arrogant. Why would you do that to people? (Yes we have Amazon posts, but I really try to be transparent about that, to feature affordable things and be honest about them. It’s a fine line and I do not want to step over it.) I also looked at that woman from the conference’s Instagram and she had crap about shoring up your immune system to not be vulnerable to coronavirus! I was astonished, but that is how a lot of these people operate. I get that this is how capitalism works, but it’s still gross on many levels. I’m not surprised that Hollis bragged about it, or that she got a PPP loan worth over a million. Isn’t that what influencing culture is all about, treating people as products and taking advantage wherever possible?




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69 Responses to “Rachel Hollis told followers ‘I own you,’ said she could retire, but got a million in PPP money”

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  1. goofpuff says:

    I’m tired of all these wealthy privileged influencers being worshipped by the suburban mommy crowd for doing nothing. I just don’t get it. There are so many more women out there to emulate that are doing great things and they pick these useless people.

    I am a suburban mommy who works full time and I just really don’t get their appeal, any of their appeal. These mommy aka selfhelp aka lifestyle influencers are so insanely fake to me.

    • Snappyfish says:

      Tom Brady took PPP money & bought a yacht. There is no shame or grift too far w/these people

      • Heather says:

        You can’t technically take PPP money to buy a yacht – if that was what you intended to say. My small company took at PPP loan and there are very specific things that it can be spent on and you must provide proof the money was spent only on that – employee salaries, etc. I think Tom has enough money to buy a yacht regardless. That being said, a lot of businesses who got PPP loans probably didn’t “need” it. My company – and any who got one- had to show a certain percentage of a decrease in income due to the pandemic. I think it was 25% but I was not the one handling it. So, TB12 or whatever his company name is would have to do the same thing.

      • CariBean says:

        Here to say the first PPP loan we received, we had to show proof of wages for our staff. Since our loan was under $50K, asking for loan forgiveness was fairly easy. I saved every single document as if my life depended on it. The second PPP loan is where you had to show proof of 25% decrease in income from the same quarter last year. That PPP loan saved our small company from going belly up. People who took the loans and didn’t need it? I hope karma hits them hard.

      • ThatgirlThere says:

        When getting a PPP loan you have to show for what used said loan for. That’s why a lot of folks who bought luxury cars, jewelry etc. got caught and are in hot water now. Tom May have used his own money for that yacht.

    • Betsy says:

      I’m a White suburban SAHM and am arguably the target market for these grifters, but I find them and their whole shtick to be completely and totally off putting, but I’m in my 40s so I’m not really looking for “inspo” anymore, and certainly not any one person to emulate.

      • Emm says:

        I agree, I have never been a fan girl of anyone really though. I just can’t ever bring myself to getting hyped up and giddy about a celebrity or one of these influencers or anyone and treating them like they are so much more special than everyone. I would/will fan girl Kamala though.

        I remember a few years ago a sort of friend of mine posted about her “friend’s” new book that was coming out and she got an advanced copy of, it was Rachel. I was like, girl she is not your friend, maybe you spoke with her for a minute at a conference but that’s about it. She would also post about the Rise conferences and going with her mom and sisters and how amazing they were. I just don’t get this level of adoration for people like this.

      • D says:

        Same. I’m now in my late 40s and non of it is appealing, especially all the bloggers who have to photograph themselves all day long and post about the most mundane things. There are a few successful ones who live around here and all I can think about is how stressful it would be to try and come up with content all the time. It is also creepy how they use their kids to sell the lifestyle. That will come back to haunt them.

    • Andrea says:

      I think there are a lot of lost women out there. No friends, no religion, moved far away from family due to work, etc. They believe that having money and being a stay at home parent will be the be all and end all. Anyone who is a stay at home mom knows it’s not that great. I live in an urban area with a ton to do, which helps with the monotony of the job, but can imagine being a stay at home parent in the ‘burbs or a rural area must be even more awful. Look at the MLM industry. It thrives on filling this hole, it’s the same with the Rachel Hollis’ of the world. Being a stay at home parents can be the pits. I’m super extraverted, have lots of friends and good self esteem, but I see it in a lot of women I’ve met while being at home.

      • Emm says:

        @amanda, I am one of those suburban stay at home moms and while it’s not glamorous or exciting most of the time I also don’t think it’s awful lol. This last year has been an outlier and sucked for sure but before Covid it wasn’t awful. We went to a lot of places and did a lot things for fun and saw a lot of friends. Things we haven’t been able to do since last spring but all my friends are almost all vaccinated so we will be seeing them again soon. I don’t live near family, I’ve made a few good friends around here and know plenty of moms in my neighborhood and none of them are the people you describe and maybe that’s just because they aren’t the type of people I make friends with/have interests with. I believe there are woman like this for sure and maybe being in a bigger city you are exposed to more of these people. I just want to assure you that a lot of us suburban sahm are not absolutely miserable. Also, the person I was talking about in my first comment had a boyfriend, career, and was childless when she was all about Rachel. I think anyone can fall for these people no matter where they are in life.

      • Lucy says:

        Andrea, that’s so true. I stay at home (for now), and pre covid it was hard, even in a big city with lots to do. Now it’s even more gray.

        A friend from my construction days stayed home with her girls for a few months after a move (we’re the same age with girls the same age) and she ended up a little shell shocked at how much harder it was than working with a bunch of a**hole contractors. Pre-kids, she’d really wanted to stay home.
        I think so many people end up vulnerable and lonely, especially if it’s something they thought they wanted and then the reality doesn’t match at all.

  2. Lori says:

    The Be There In Five podcast has a 3-part dee dive on RH that is fascinating. It goes into the Venn diagram of cults, conservative religions, multi-level marketing schemes, and large-scale self-help gurus that hold conferences like Rachel Hollis.

    • Emily_C says:

      Thanks for the rec! I’m fascinated by this topic.

    • cassandra says:

      That sounds excellent!

    • Cidee says:

      One of my FAVE podcasts! And the RH episodes are some of the best she’s done so far.

    • megs283 says:

      Lori, I’m on the final episode of this series! It’s SO LONG but also good!

    • Veronica S. says:

      It’s not shocking when you think about the shared characteristics of who gets sucked into those three groups: gullibility, lack of critical thinking, and sensitivity to group think. I’m sure they get a lot of lonely people who want to belong to something or people with trauma, too, but there’s a certain kind of person they suck in very easily.

  3. Case says:

    I listened to the audiobook of “Girl, Wash Your Face” a year ago. She was a good audiobook narrator but beyond that…wow. She came across as a shockingly awful, condescending hypocritical person who offered no practical, motivational advice. I’ve found YouTubers with tiny followings who give more genuinely valuable “self help” advice than this woman. How she had such a great career up to this point, I don’t understand.

  4. Emily_C says:

    She’s a total narcissist.

    She didn’t just use her marriage in her branding. She and her husband put on a very expensive conference on how to have a good marriage. Then got divorced. A lot of people feel bad for her in their early relationship, since she was much younger than him and she claims he didn’t treat her well (I don’t believe anything she says), but it’s clear to me she was out for money in marriage from the start. She found a man who was socially awkward but rich, and latched on. She’s always said that her goal in life was to be rich. Well, she’s got it — and nothing else.

    • ThatgirlThere says:

      Ugh. She is so grimey.

    • Sayrah says:

      Disgusting. I was advised to read girl wash your face by a couple of friends who raved about it. I stopped listening after chapter 5. It was awful. And those two friends would do 90 day elimination fasts because she said so. I’d ask, what the point was. To prove they can? Uhm ok? They were upset when she announced her divorce after hosting healthy marriage conferences for tons of money while theirs was clearly falling apart. I also predicted the next book about uncoupling but staying a family and I believe she released it within a month of the divorce. It’s called something like “what now?” Lmao.

  5. ThatgirlThere says:

    I tried to listen to that Wash Your Face book and couldn’t get through it. She is a privileged well off woman who got luck with her message and is now being exposed as a fraud. She’s basic in the same vein as Kate Keen and I hope people stop wasting money on her nonsense.

    • Betsy says:

      Basic is the word. She is new build architecture. She is fast fashion. She is an all white house with pops of color. She is huge lashes and no lipstick. She is prosperity gospel instead of following Jesus’s teachings. She is an acquaintance who has no friends.

      And people follow her? This saddens me.

    • BothSidesNow says:

      We need to cancel her immediately and save women from her snake oil business! Anyone that falls for her schtick should also be given their money back. What a narcissist and an all around awful person!!

  6. Anners says:

    Not sure of this helps, but I love the Amazon posts and have never once felt pressured to buy something. They always come across as trusted recommendations from friends – and I love the tips in the comments. I’ve overhauled my skincare regimen because of Celebitchy, and I’m grateful. Just saying. :)

    • ShazBot says:

      Yes! I also love the amazon posts. I bought one or two things, but mostly find them pretty informative for the kinds of things out there. I’ve also bought a few things that other influencers have posted, but never because they had them or said they were good – it’s more “oh that’s useful, thank you for showing me it exists!”.

      I’ve had a vague, peripheral awareness of Rachel Hollis and she just reminds me of a “grown up” version of The Betches, who are also just narcissistic idiots.

    • anniefannie says:

      I love me some Celebitchy amazon
      rec posts!!! Like all of us, being holed up and unable to chat with stores salespeople and bounce ideas it’s been the perfect solution. I’m an extremely lazy researcher when buying things so the posts are a godsend. I’ve been happy with everything I’ve bought so please keep them coming!

  7. lucy2 says:

    Ugh. Sometimes the wrong people get lucky and have a big success.
    The right ones are grateful, and usually bring others up along with them. The wrong ones act like that.

  8. Aang says:

    I’m middle gen x and think the insta influencer
    is more for the younger crowd? It seems to have passed me by. What could this lady possibly have to offer me in way of advice? All I need to know about self help I learn from my cats. They are always impeccably groomed, consistently well rested, unbothered, uninterested, and know their worth.

    • Susan says:

      Omg this comment MADE MY DAY. thank you Aang!

    • L84Tea says:

      There is nothing more savagely self confident than a cat.

      • Arralethe says:

        Apart from my cats, who whinge and paw at me if I’m not actively stroking them. They need to know they are loved and worshipped!

    • Emily_C says:

      I’m a younger gen Xer and I agree. Also in the cat self help book: Happiness is a full belly, a safe home with lots of love, and a ray of sunshine to bask in (which my own two cats are doing now.)

    • GGRosebud says:

      Yes 100%!

    • Deering24 says:


    • Christine says:

      I adore everything about your comment, Aang! I don’t know who this woman is, and I am still trying to figure out what PPP means. So…definitely upper middle Gen X here.

  9. Mcmmom says:

    I don’t fault her for getting the PPP loan – there is a line between personal and professional finances and I don’t expect every business owner to fund their businesses with their own checkbook (though certainly many do – including me, when I was married to a small business owner).

    I do, however, give her a side-eye for her immense lack of self awareness. Her comments were tacky and gross. I am a practicing Christian and I don’t understand how so many of the people who claim to follow the same religion that I have studied seem to miss the basic tenets of servant leadership and humility.

    • Susan says:

      I’m glad to hear you say that. I grew up in a southern christian environment and the teachings of Jesus, if it is really your belief, are that of servitude, working with the destitute to lift them up and a lack of judging others. How that transitioned to pearl clutching judge suburban conservatives like this wretched woman is BEYOND my comprehension.

    • Betsy says:

      Because humans take the easy way out almost whenever they can, and it’s a lot easier to be prosperity gospel than it is to be a real Christian.

    • Deering24 says:

      These people are Faux-Christians.

  10. Commonwealthy sounded witty at first says:

    We all know how influencers/influencing works, but why the need to say “I own you, I can make you buy anything?” Doesn’t that break the spell and turn people off? It would turn me off. Also, related: Beyonce, who does own the Beyhive and can make us buy anything (if we’re lucky enough to be able to give her our money, stuff runs out quick), has never said “I own you, I can make you buy anything.” If anything she thanks us for our support and coins! So, just saying.

  11. Stacy Dresden says:

    Someone on CB linked to the Munecat (LOVE her!!) YouTube expose on Rachel Hollis…highly recommend

  12. Midge says:

    I will never understand why people flock to influencers. I’m always shocked when one of these awful narcissists (who I’ve never heard of) like Hollis pops up in the news, and then I go to their IG and see my friends following. Why? I just wish more people would meditate, do meditative activities, and connect with close friends to discover that everything we need is already within ourselves. I find that these influencers are showing us what we need to chase or buy in order to be fulfilled, or happy, or successful when really these tools are already within us. We intrinsically know the answers – moderation and human connection, including connecting within – but these figures in popular society just pull us further away from that. Time and again, they are exposed for being miserable or toxic, yet we fall for them over and over.

    PS There’s nothing original in Hollis’s recipe for success. She applied the age-old “marry a rich older guy starter marriage” to get ahead. Money makes money and she didn’t need to take out a loan to start her business.

    • Lemon says:

      I think that people become really vulnerable at certain points in their lives. When in a crisis (or series of crises) our defenses are down. It’s very very easy to turn to bad self help and get lost in it, or turn to a toxic relationship, alcohol, all kinds of stuff.

      From my personal experience it’s very hard to meditate like, say, the year my day had one stroke after another. It just felt like something that made me even more upset, and agitated. The normal “self care” that worked in my life wasn’t enough.

      Steve Hassan talks about this in The Cult of Trump. Hassan was in a cult himself for many years and had to be rescued. He went into detail about persuasive techniques leaders use to influence people, and they’re very deceptive and sneaky. (The Trump stuff is really fascinating, he used to go to norman vincent peale’s church, the guy that wrote The Power of Positive Thinking).

      • Deering24 says:

        Hitting rock bottom is very much like that Chinatown quote that at the right time and place, people are capable of anything. The pain, loss, and sense of utter failure are enough to make you consider “help” you normally would go miles to avoid. When I crashed ages ago, I started going to a local uber-hip megachurch. Up until that point, I regarded those as scams at best. But I was so low, I I felt I couldn’t trust my judgement on anything—much less on what I’d prioritized in life. To make a long story short, I soon found the church restrictive underneath the progressive image. (I think it was someone’s shocked comment about me listening to rap music that finally did it. I may be kinds nuts, but my music choices are hella off-limits. Always. 🤬🤬🤬) I quit going, rededicated myself to therapy, and rebuilt things a step at a time. It’s not a flashy-successful life, but it makes me happy. 😎

  13. Sunday says:

    If someone as hollow and superficial as this “influences” your decisions in life and your perception of your self worth, you need to delete Instagram.

  14. Teebee says:

    I have a “friend” that calls herself an “intuitive counselor”. She thinks she’s an empath and therefore qualified to read people (auras, tea leaves) and tell them how to fix their lives. She actually is well educated, a super normal job, super white middle class upbringing, but I think she is a bonafide narcissist. She loves drama, attention, her life is very messy. In fact it’s so messy that the biggest problem with her is that she can’t fix her own life, makes all the worst mistakes, over and over, yet feels compelled to tell others what’s wrong with themselves. But isn’t that usually the way?

    She hopes to parlay her gifts into a paying career. And there is the punchline. She wants to be able to quit her job, move to some beautiful island paradise and counsel people for money using her empathic intuition. She’s been at it for over a year, on Facebook, Instagram, but few follow and few pay attention. It’s a sad joke amongst her acquaintances that she is so blind to her hypocrisy, and though once I had hoped she would snap out of it, it looks like she’s still all in. I am sure she looks to success stories of women like RH, and by success I mean financial, as goals. But she’s a little older, not as attractive, and a little too gypsy I am thinking for mainstream tastes. Either way, it ain’t working, but every person who succeeds at this grift just inspires more people to go for it. And we all have the choice and freedom to follow or expose these people. I choose ignore, but I do wonder how so many women fall under their spell…

    • Lucy says:

      She wants to be Lady Cleo over zoom? Sorry, first thought 😂
      This lady is a mess and I’m glad I never read her book. Everyone I knew personally who recommended it was in an mlm, which made me say hmmm. And then an acquaintance who was in an mlm but also pretty fundie posted the “Godly” reasons to stay away from her. There were enough things that were 😒, but not the reasons the article thought.

  15. Watson says:

    Between Rachel Hollis, and Sharon Osborn…I don’t understand how these women exist without understanding how privileged and insane they sound. Zero perspective.

  16. Leah says:

    I had been of the understanding that influencers had been passé since the disastrous Fyre festival. Regular internet folk had a laugh at their whining (fun times) about wilted lettuce and the world carried on.

    So she got a million dollars in pandemic loans while the people got basic zip from an out of touch congress would thought that people could get by for six months on $1200? Okie dokey. Maybe they should investigate her as well.

  17. emu says:

    meanwhile I work with not-for-profits who got much less than this woman in PPP funds and some even paid back because they were responsible and cutting down hours. And discussed whether they should even take funds if smaller more deserving orgs needed it more. I understand that rich ppl grab whatever they can, and per the rules it was legal, but seriously it has such bad optics – like Tom Brady. Eat the rich.

  18. SurvivalIsTheGame says:

    The comments on this article are just gold.

    I saw/heard rachel for the first time on another much more reputable business development podcast/webshow and she was just crowing and bragging nonstop about how she built her business for 10 years or something and never took home a single dollar and how impressive that was. As if that was somehow motivation for all the other people in the world that don’t have the option of just not earning any income for 10 years while they become a world class grifter.

    It makes me sad, because self-help and personal development are great things to to try and enhance your life in all its facets. But if you really need some outside guidance and some new and better knowledge, I really suggest Tony Robbins. There was a 100+ year old mother and 80+ year old disabled daughter who were being evicted from their rental near my home a few years ago. As soon as the story hit the regional news, Mr. Robbins stepped up and took care of these women who were days away from homelessness. Besides that his advice is so consistent and elemental about the human experience, I don’t think it ever loses its relevance.

    • SurvivalIsTheGame says:

      Also just wanted to add, you don’t need to go to any silly seminars or retreats, just read some Tony Robbins books and watch/listen to some of his interviews. The retreats/seminars are where things cross the line for me…

    • Emily_C says:

      Tony Robbins is massively misogynistic. He blames abuse victims for their own abuse, is for incredibly strict gender roles, and is himself a sexual harasser.

      If you want to improve yourself, learn some science, some history. Read a wide array of fiction. Take an art class. Do something to get yourself outside of yourself. These self-help gurus are all poison.

      • SurvivalIsTheGame says:

        Wow! I had no idea. I am definitely going to follow up with that. Your advice is really great, being a knowledgeable, well rounded person is a better self improvement than any of these personality cult figures can offer anyway. Especially the advice of getting outside of yourself, and I always think helping others is the most immediate and rewarding way to do that.

  19. Faye G says:

    This woman gave me the creeps years ago, I could never explain it but she just seems so greedy and soulless. I’m not surprised to learn that she’s actually racist and looks down on people who help her make money.

  20. HeatherC says:

    Her company sounds like a front for a brothel. Ho Company.

  21. Deering24 says:

    1) Rule #3 for a sane life: Never ever ever trust anyone who swears by that frickin’ “bootstraps” philosophy—or lives to shove it in your face.

    2) Play narcissitic dishonest games—win karmic disgrace as a prize. 🤣

  22. Justjj says:

    She’s always been a Karen. I tried to listen to her podcast years ago and get into Girl Wash Your Face and I had to stop because of her noxious, loaded, privileged, racist, classist, ableist, thinking.

  23. Mollie says:

    I’ve gotten a lot of cool stuff from your Amazon posts.

    • Sigmund says:

      Yeah, I like and appreciate genuine Amazon recs. I used to stalk those buzzfeed lists of Amazon products, but I like knowing that the recs are real and I know the people getting credit for me following their Amazon links or whatever.

  24. Isa says:

    I don’t dislike influencers. I think a lot of them are very talented at decorating and have a great sense of style. And as someone who has neither, I appreciate it. There are influencers out there with your body type, hair type, your age, your decorating style, and all you gotta do is click a link and purchase. I see a kitchen I like and boom, there’s a dozen links on how to get my dream kitchen.

    Now influencers that don’t really care about the products they’re pushing? Why would anyone trust them? They’re willing to sell you a product that doesn’t work just to make a buck.

    I never bought what she was selling, and I’m so glad, because all this woman has ever sold was bullcrap.