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Aubrey: Welcome to Maintenance Phase, the podcast that isn't going to tell you anything about your skincare routine.
Mike: Girl, leave your face dirty.
Aubrey: I am Aubrey Gordon.
Mike: I am Michael Hobbes.
Aubrey: If you would like to support the show, you can do that at patreon.com/maintenancephase. You will get some bonus episodes with that and our next bonus episode is going to be Mike and I wailing and gnashing our teeth about fat suits.
Mike: Fat suit spectacular.
Aubrey: Yeah, so come on down. If you would like to support the show, you are more than welcome to. And if you don't, just keep listening, we're so happy to have you.
Mike: Also, don't, stay with us.
Aubrey: Also, don't, stay with this.
Mike: Aubrey Gordon, what are we talking about today?
Aubrey: My understanding is that we're talking about Rachel Hollis who is a person's name that I know. I know the title format of Rachel Hollis’ books that is, like, “Girl, wash your face.” Or, “Girl--" I don't even know what that, but they all start with, “Girl,” yes.
Mike: Pronoun, comma directive. Yes.
Mike: Girl, wash your face, and girl, stop apologizing.
Aubrey: I don't really know more than that. I feel there was this point in time where I was like, “Are you going to pay attention to Rachel Hollis or are you going to pay attention to Caroline Calloway?”
Mike: [laughs] You chose your path.
Aubrey: And I chose my path and I stuck to it.
Mike: One of the things that I learned during the research for this episode is that there are two kinds of people in the world. People who have never heard of Rachel Hollis and people who are obsessed with Rachel.
Mike: I went from one category to the other, and I am extremely excited about taking you along with me and describing to you why people cannot stop thinking about this person as soon as they learn anything about her.
Aubrey: Yeah, let's dive in.
Mike: I should say before we get going, this episode involves some suicide stuff.
Aubrey: Oh, shit.
Mike: So, if that's going to suck for you, I would recommend skipping like the first 15 minutes probably.
Aubrey: Got it.
Mike: We are going to start with a freeze frame, needle scratch, I'll bet you're wondering how I got into this situation montage. In 2021, Rachel Hollis is a motivational guru, lifestyle influencer, choose your term. She has 1.6 million followers on Instagram. Her book, Girl, Wash Your Face was the second most popular book of 2018 on Amazon.
Mike: Yeah, it was a massive sensation. She has a line of products on QVC. She does sponsorships for Target. She was, of course, a speaker on Oprah's 2020 Vision: Your Life in Focus tour. The show is basically just us going through like the lineup of that event and talking about it like one by one at this point. She has a conference tour called a RISE that goes around the country and it often sells out in minutes, and these are like large stadiums. Some of the tickets for these events cost $1800 each.
Aubrey: This also sounds like it feels it's swimming in the same kind of waters as like megachurch stuff.
Mike: This is actually what got me interested in doing this episode. Her core audience is Christian women. Her book mostly sold through word of mouth, which is itself interesting that it becomes that big of a bestseller, and it's mostly selling in the South in the Midwest. The Washington Post called her books, “Goop for red-state women.”
Aubrey: As you're describing this, it feels like a really unique amalgam of this 90s self-help guru plus 2000s The Secret, plus, 2010s and 2020s, like social media, influencer culture. Without really knowing where we're going with this, I'm just like, “Oh, those are three factors that I dislike individually.”
Mike: Her core message, we're actually not going to dwell on it that much, just because it's such standard motivational guru language. It's basically, "You are the one holding yourself back, you've got to have more belief in yourself." The only point in her book where she actually mentions the phrase, “Girl, wash your face," is in the final paragraph. It says, “Girl, get ahold of your life. Stop medicating, stop hiding out, stop being afraid, stop giving away pieces of yourself. Stop saying you can't do it. Stop the negative self-talk. Stop abusing your body. Stop putting it off for tomorrow or Monday or next year. Rise up from where you've been, scrub away the tears and the pain of yesterday and start again. Girl, wash your face,” in the book.
Aubrey: Ugh. It's really interesting to hear this in the framework of goop for red-state women because it's feeding a couple of things here. One is you're the master of your own destiny, but the flip side of that is anybody who's not doing that isn't taking charge of their own life and they really only have themselves to blame. It leads to this critique of “victim culture” that is leveled at anybody who wants to talk about racism or poverty or larger forces than just like, “Hey, pick yourself up, dust yourself off, bootstraps.”
Mike: We're going to get into the deep [unintelligible 00:05:18] of everything that she's ever done but for our purposes now, I'm going to send you a clip. In April 2021, she uploads a TikTok that implodes the entire thing. I'm going to send you the TikTok.
Rachel: During a live stream, and I mentioned that there's a sweet woman who comes to my house twice a week and cleans. She's my house cleaner. She cleans the toilets. Someone commented and said, “You are privileged AF.” And I was like, “You're right. I'm super freaking privilege, but also, worked my ass off to have the money, to have someone come twice a week and clean my toilets.” And I told her that and then she said, “Well, you're unrelatable.” Hah. What is it about me that made you think I want to be relatable? I said, “Literally everything I do in my life is to live a life that most people can't relate to." Most people won't work this hard. Most people won't get up at 4:00 AM. Most people won't fail publicly again and again just to reach the top of the mountain. Literally, every woman I admire in history was unrelatable. If my life is relatable to most people, I'm doing it wrong.
Aubrey: Oh, no.
Mike: Even by the standards of lifestyle influencer, it's like of the most tone-deaf things I've ever heard in my life.
Aubrey: Boy, fucking boy. It is a unique opportunity to just watch someone take a fucking swan dive.
Mike: I showed it to my boyfriend and he's like, “Is this a deepfake? Why would anyone put this on the internet themselves?” Tell me about the content. What are your reactions to what she actually said?
Aubrey: Okay. When we used to do debriefs of canvases, we would do worst, weirdest, and best. Worst thing about that fucking video is all of this shit about like, “I worked for it.” Hate it.
Mike: I know.
Aubrey: Weirdest is cleaning your toilets twice a week seems like a lot of toilet cleaning.
Mike: I know. Also, I'm not wild about describing somebody who cleans your house as, like, “She cleans my toilets.” I have had various jobs where I've had to clean toilets. And if somebody reduced the job to like, “This is Mikey, cleans the toilets.” It's such a belittling way to talk about somebody else.
Aubrey: Yeah, you literally found the one part of their job that's related to human excrement.
Aubrey: Cool. What a respectful and wonderful way to talk about someone who's in your home is spending a bunch of time with your kids, with your family, doing a bunch of work to take care of you.
Mike: It's also one of the things that many of the women of color in the replies point out, is that she's juxtaposing her very open contempt of the woman who cleans her house with this rise and grind thing of, “I get up at 4:00 AM.” Do you know who gets up at 4:00 AM in America? It's low wage workers, many of them clean your house and clean hotel rooms. You might get up at 4:00 in the morning to do Pilates or something. But a lot of people get up early because they can't afford a car and they are priced out of big cities, and they have a three-hour commute.
Aubrey: Or, they were the fucking swing shift, and that's when they're at work.
Mike: It's like you're glorifying like, “I get up at 4:00,” while you're also denigrating people who probably get up at 4:00. Like, fuck you.
Aubrey: The other thing that I wondered about is she said something about like, “All the women I've admired throughout history are unrelatable,” and I would be fascinated by which I mean probably a little bit horrified to see a list of like, who are the women that Rachel Hollis admires throughout history.
Mike: Oh my God. I cannot believe you are saying this. Okay, I was deliberately keeping an aspect of this clip from you.
Aubrey: Oh, no. What?
Mike: When you post things on TikTok, you also put a caption, so when she says, “All of the women I've admired in history are unrelatable,” think of who are the most offensive people who she could compare herself to in the caption of this TikTok?
Aubrey: It's going to be Sojourner Truth or something, or Harriet Tubman.
Mike: [laughs] Oh, my God. It's literally Harriet Tubman.
Aubrey: God-fucking-damn it.
Mike: She mentioned like Frida Kahlo and Amelia Earhart, and Malala.
Mike: It's a parade of people who have no business being in the caption of a video like this posted by a woman like this.
Aubrey: Malala. How did I miss Malala?
Mike: I know, dude.
Aubrey: Of fucking course.
Mike: I was going to save this for twist, but you totally sussed it out. It's the worst thing you can imagine.
Aubrey: Look, if you're talking about someone who's like, “I worked for everything I have,” to me, that often indicates someone who has not done much or any reflecting on the role of race and racism. Much less poverty, much less anything else. If she had not specifically said women, I would have been like, “Dr. King?”
Mike: Yeah, I know.
Aubrey: She going to say Dr. King?
Mike: We're going to sort of hit pause on this particular TikTok and we're going to return to it.
Aubrey: This is the “you might be wondering how I got here”?
Mike: Yes, we're putting the TikTok in a little Jurassic Park piece of amber. We're going to we're going to unpause it when we circle back to it, after we get all of the backstory.
Aubrey: Great. I'm in.
Mike: I'm rewinding us to January 9th, 1983. When Rachel Hollis is born in a place called a Weedpatch, California, which is a suburb of Bakersfield, California. It's like 90 minutes outside of LA. This is the part of the story where Rachel is the most sympathetic, especially to me, because I am also a preacher's kid. She has a big family. She has three sisters and a brother. She describes growing up in an extremely sheltered childhood, which again, totally reminded me of mine.
She says, “My father was a Pentecostal minister. And if any of you were raised Pentecostal, you have some idea of what that means. Suffice it to say, Halloween was considered the devil's holiday, and we couldn't take any part in it. We also weren't allowed to listen to secular music, which means anything other than Christian radio, or be cheerleaders. I'm still deeply upset because I would have made one heck of a cheering section, or watch any movies above PG.” It seems she really absorbed these rules. She talks about going to a friend's house for a sleepover, and they watched the Bodyguard, which is the first R-rated movie she's ever watched. I think she's 13 or 14 at this point. She feels when she comes home that her mom can tell that she's broken this rule. So, she immediately confesses. Her mom's like, “How was it?” She's like, “I watched a movie I shouldn’t have.”
Aubrey: It sounds like someone who's genuinely trying to do right by her parents and her parents’ expectations.
Mike: Yeah, she seems like a well-behaved kid. She also admits to her credit that she grew up in a really sheltered environment. When she's in eighth grade, she goes to Disneyland. She talks about seeing other races for the first time and interracial families. She sees two guys kissing each other and holding hands in line for the Matterhorn. And she says, at the time, she was looking at people like she was in a zoo, like she had never seen this before.
Aubrey: As you're talking about these places, my dad grew up in Banning, California, which is similarly like, an hour, hour and a half outside of LA, economically depressed small town. It would take some work not to see people of color. That is an impressive feat.
Mike: This is also something that resonated with me, because she's very vague about the details of growing up. So, I'm not sure if she went to a religious school or something. But being part of a church, especially when your dad is the minister, that is your entire social life.
Aubrey: There you go.
Mike: The famous cliché is that the most segregated hour in America is Sunday morning at 10:00 AM. It's actually quite easy, even in diverse communities. If so much of your life revolves around the church, and the church has those demographics, you're going to be seeing those people, but you're not going to be meaningfully interacting with other groups.
Aubrey: Yeah, that's interesting. I grew up hard agnostic.
Mike: Oh, yeah.
Aubrey: We don't know, and there's no way to know, and we're leaving it at that.
Mike: Your dad is Bill Nye.
Mike: She also talks about how her parents are fighting all the time. They eventually end up getting divorced. There's four kids, and the parents aren't getting along very well. She says this in a speech later, but I think this encapsulates so much of what will emerge later in her personality. She says, “You're growing up in a home where you're fighting to get attention.” Later, she says, “What this does to a little girl is it teaches her that the only way she can be loved is if she keeps producing. If she wants to get noticed by her parents, she has to win the science fair, she has to be the best singer in choir, she has to be the best at sports.” It's really only these external markers of achievement that her parents know how to notice as something that she has done well.
Aubrey: Oh, that's rough.
Mike: The big event that happens in her childhood is when she's 14, her brother kills himself.
Aubrey: Oh, God.
Mike: And Rachel discovers his body.
Aubrey: Oh, my gosh.
Mike: I know. She's 14, he's 16. This is from her first book. She says, “My parents never parented me again. I have had more conversations with my 11-year-old about Fortnite than either of my parents have ever had with me about anything I saw that day or the grief I felt or how scared I was in the 23 years since.” It sounds like from that time on her house is just this silent, ghoulish nightmare. Everyone's dealing with the grief in their own way and acting out in these really understandably unproductive ways, but not really processing or talking about what actually happened.
Aubrey: That seems really awful, and like a lot for everybody to hold.
Mike: We could do a whole episode on toxic positivity in organized religion. This is something that I have seen. This is something that many other people can speak to. It's a thing of, if you're acknowledging what happened, it's like you're dwelling on it, and you're thinking about the past, and the whole thing is you're supposed to move past it. But the problem is that doesn't actually allow you to feel anything. It doesn't allow you to form intimacy with other people. The only people in the world who understand what you're going through, you can't actually find communion with them.
Aubrey: Yeah, that's so tough.
Mike: She responds to this by essentially counting the days until she can leave. She talks in her book of like, “I knew I had to get through three more birthdays and four more Christmases, and then I was out of there.”
Aubrey: Wow. Yikes.
Mike: She says as soon as this happens, she gets on some sort of fast track in high school so she can graduate a year early. And she graduates at 17, and she fucking leaves. She's done.
Aubrey: Honestly, good for her.
Mike: Oh, yeah.
Aubrey: Is she someone who ever talks about availing herself of any kind of mental health support or treatment?
Mike: It's interesting, she talks a lot about that, actually.
Aubrey: Oh, good.
Mike: One of the parts of her platform that I wholeheartedly get behind, is she's like, “We need to normalize going to therapy. There's nothing wrong with going to therapy. I've been in therapy for years. It helped me deal with my trauma and helped me deal with my upbringing. If you're feeling stuff, you should probably consider therapy.”
Aubrey: That's great.
Mike: Yes. I want to pause here, because we're going to talk and maybe we already have about Rachel at her worst. But I also think that this is Rachel at her best. I should say before we get into the problematic content of her books, etc., that she's an extremely gifted writer, and an unbelievably good public speaker. She's really charismatic. You watch one of her talks, and you're like, “I totally get why people listen to every single thing that this woman has to say.” I want to send you an excerpt from one of her early blog posts where she's talking about her brother and processing grief. This really encapsulates why she's a compelling and likeable writer and speaker.
Aubrey: Okay, am I reading?
Mike: Let's do it, go for it.
Aubrey: “As I write this, it strikes me that he's been gone for 17 years, which means that he's been gone for as long as he was here with us. You never truly recover from the loss of someone you love. But time passes and stretches out, and it doesn't hurt as badly as it used to. You can manage a minute than an hour, and then whole days without remembering what's missing. And then, you realize how long it's been. You realize that next year, he’ll have been gone longer than he was here. That thought slams into you. And just like the day he died, you lose your breath, and you're not sure how you'll catch it again.”
Mike: She's a good writer.
Aubrey: She's a really good writer, and all of that is really real and true about grief.
Mike: Really real and true.
Aubrey: Really, really real and true.
Mike: She's writing this in this early 2010s on her blog, and this is before she becomes a motivational guru. What she does is oftentimes when she tells stories in her books, she'll tell an anecdote like this, and then she'll immediately switch and turn it into universal advice, like, “And that's why you should always remember who you love,” or, “That's why we should always keep close the people close to us,” or something.
Aubrey: I'm just imagining the guy from Arrested Development. “And that's why you always leave a note.”
Mike: Her career has a very “that's why you always leave a note,” kind of vibe, these little pat lessons at the ends of these stories, sometimes even when they don't really fit all that well. I think what makes this passage strong, is that she's not trying to make it relatable. She's not trying to relate it to me, and like, I can't relate to something like this. I really can't imagine what it's like to go through what she went through, and that's fine. She's just telling a story, and she's expressing what it feels like to her, and that's it. This is where I wish that she had stayed. There's a real nugget of truth and some insight in here but she just ends up burying it under all these platitudes.
Aubrey: Yeah. Well, I mean, the question with all of this stuff is, once you've got a platform, what do you do with that platform?
Aubrey: It sounds like part of the way that she built that platform is through these real, genuine, gut-wrenching kind of moments. And then, once she sort of built out that platform, she took a turn and was prescriptive.
Mike: Exactly. And then, it just boring refrigerator magnet stuff. In 2000, she moves to LA. She originally enrolls in acting school, but she ends up getting an internship at Miramax and dropping out immediately.
Aubrey: Oh, no.
Mike: The Miramax thing is not going where you think it is.
Aubrey: No, I know, it's just a cursed allegiance. That's what feels like it's happening.
Mike: This is where she meets Dave. Dave will eventually become her husband. She is an executive assistant at the time, he is-- I had to go to his LinkedIn profile because both of them are so vague about what jobs they actually had at any given time. At the time, he was the assistant brand manager for Miramax Home Video, and you can tell from his LinkedIn profile that Dave Hollis was one of these guys that was just management fast track. He graduates from Pepperdine in the late 1990s. And then, his LinkedIn is like, yearlong stints in higher and higher level positions. It's like assistant director, then regional director, then director, then VP. He starts out at Columbia Records, and then he ends up managing Destiny's Child.
Mike: I guess when they toured with their first album, they were not that big, he managed the entire US tour.
Mike: We're already two degrees of separation for Beyoncé at this point in the episode. He gets this job at Miramax. He's there for a year and a half, and then he ends up working the rest of his career at Disney. So, he pretty quickly becomes a reasonably high-level Disney executive. Interestingly, this is such a weird trajectory. He now also is a fucking self-help guru, so he also has a book.
Aubrey: You've got to get your best life lessons from a Pepperdine grad who was fast tracked in management.
Mike: And who regularly describes his job as the easiest job in the world.
Aubrey: Oh, no. [laughs]
Mike: He's like, “I was head of distributions for Disney while they were producing Marvel movies and Star Wars movies." He's like, “I didn't have to do anything. I was just like, "Hello, China. We'd like to show our movie in your country,”’ and they're like, “Okay.” “Why am I taking advice from you again?”
Aubrey: Is it okay if I look up a picture of Dave Hollis?
Mike: Oh, yeah. Wait, let's google together. Here we go.
Aubrey: You know what some of these pictures look like as he looks like a little bit of like Clark Kent?
Mike: Yeah, he's got the glasses.
Aubrey: All-American white dude. He's got the glasses. Lot of chambray shirts, and a lot of, “My wife is big on Instagram, so these photos are washed out in this particular way.”
Mike: [laughs] What does she look like?
Aubrey: She has a blowout in every single one of these pictures. She looks to be very petite. Many of these photos include her throwing her head back and laughing or she looks to be giggling or smiling at him or whatever. It's the kind of vibe of Instagram photos that is when they try and sort of capture the same kinds of moments as like engagement photos. “Look how much fun we have together.”
Mike: And they're all very clearly posed, but they're all also pretending not to be posed. Like, “You just happened to have caught us like this.”
Aubrey: You could see her having she would have like a live laugh love sign, but it would be like hand made by somebody.
Mike: Yeah. And it'd be one of her own quotes.
Mike: When they meet he's like a “lowly,” mid-level executive at Miramax. He is 26 and she is 18. There's a fascinating Rashomon thing, where they both in their respective books describe their courtship periods. She describes herself, I think, extremely accurately, as the most sheltered person in America. She grew up in this extremely religious household. She then has this traumatic event, she alludes to some boys that she's maybe kissed kinda sorta in high school, but she's never had a boyfriend before. He is 26 years old. He's been touring with Destiny's Child. He understands the industry. He's on the fast track to success. In his book, this is so telling, he describes her as “18 going on 29.”
Mike: And it's like he tries to do this whole thing that she's wise beyond her years. She's clearly intelligent, but this is one of the most naive people on planet earth in the year 2000.
Aubrey: I also think that that thing of 18 going on 29 feels reminiscent of the stuff that's like, “She might have been 16 but she was all woman.” It just gets really creepy. That's not totally what he's doing here. I don't know, man. It just feels like a red flag.
Mike: There's a huge power differential here. He's not her direct boss but he's in the management layer of a company that she works at and she's at the lowest rung of the ladder. I guess he had spoken to Rachel a couple times on the phone because she's answering the phones for this guy that she's the executive assistant to. He finally shows up at the office and she describes it as love at first sight.
Mike: He walks in wearing like a business suit and like a leather carrier bag, and she says it like, “Our eyes met and it was so cool that he's a business suit guy. But he also has like a leather carrier bag.” Which is like, I don't know, a lot of people have those but fine.
Aubrey: He's wearing a suit but also, he had a Kenneth Cole reaction bag.
Mike: [laughs] I smelled the Axe body spray as soon as he walked in. It seems like after they have this kind of meet-cute when she sees them for the first time, they start flirting. At one point in some interview, she says that they were emailing rap lyrics back and forth. Like, “We used to email rap lyrics back and forth, LOL,” I'm like, “Wait, details.”
Aubrey: For some reason with these two, I imagine it's not going to be like Wu Tang.
Mike: I know. [laughs]
Aubrey: It's going to be like Young MC's Bust A Move.
Mike: It's Tickled Toon Typhoon, I think [crosstalk] that’s right. The whole rest of this chapter, which is describing the portrait is just flapping red flags in the breeze. He asked her out on their first date, she shows up at the date, and she's dressed to the nines. And he's just like, in a sweatshirt and jeans.
Mike: And then listen to this fucking nightmare. She says, “We were seated at a table. He ordered a bottle of wine. I hope you're not one of those girls who's afraid to eat on a date, he laughed.” [crosstalk]
Mike: I know.
Aubrey: It annoyed me too, Rachel.
Mike: "I didn't like the comparison to anyone else, didn't like the reminder that this wasn't his very first date too. I responded by eating more than half the pizza we were sharing. He talked about himself for two hours straight. I didn't mind, I was fascinated."
Aubrey: Oh, Rachel.
Mike: I know. Run for the hills.
Aubrey: I know where this story goes, and still I want better for her.
Mike: I know. It just only gets worse. Then, of course, they go on one date, and she immediately starts like thinking like, “Well, now we're dating. He's my boyfriend.” They go on a second date to a hip soup place. I don’t understand how that works. I guess they go on the second date, and they're emailing back and forth. And he asks her, “Where do you go to college?” And this is the moment where she has to like disclose that like, “I'm actually 19. I just got out of high school.” She says in her book, she's like, “I broke it to him.” And then, she says, “He responded like a champ. He told me I was Doogie Howser. And did I feel like some sort of child prodigy because not only did I have this job, but I was also in a real relationship with a grownup?”
Mike: Nope. [laughs] She describes this as she's revealing something embarrassing to him, like, “I'm only 19.” And then, she's like, “He responded great. He took it great.” What is there to take? He's in a relationship with a really naive, hot, 19-year-old who's very easy to manipulate.
Aubrey: Also, unless you're dating a member of the Wiggles, I don't necessarily want to date someone who describes themselves as like a grownup in a way that's a prize.
Mike: Can you imagine?
Aubrey: No, thank you. No, thank you.
Mike: It seems like he tries to break up with her at this point, but she really lobbies to stay together. She says very quickly after this conversation, she's spending almost every night at his apartment. I don't think she realizes at the time, but she realizes now that she was a booty call. They didn't really do anything together. Whenever they went out with his friends, his friends would refer to her as “the 19-year-old.”
Mike: He would invite her over late at night. They're not having like sex-sex at this point, but they're fooling around.
Aubrey: Right. They're doing the “My dad is a Pentecostal minister” version.
Mike: Exactly. There was thing where they go to a house party together and she introduces him like, “This is my boyfriend, Dave.” And then he gets so mad at her for introducing him as her boyfriend that he doesn't talk to her for two weeks.
Mike: He just sucks ass. And this goes on for a year.
Aubrey: Jesus Christ.
Mike: His explanation of all of this. Of course, in his book, he's like, super vague. He's like, “I didn't know. I always treat Rachel so great during that time,” but he doesn't get into specifics. And then, he has this whole thing that I guess he had just gotten out of a long-term relationship with somebody else, and he's like, “I was afraid to trust. I realized immediately when I met Rachel, that she was something special. And I was afraid of how strong my feelings were. So, I pushed her away”. It just made me realize how many dudes have told me that shit, and that's just a way of covering up for their miserable behavior.
Aubrey: Yeah, that's right. Or for being like, “I wasn't actually that into this person.” Or, “I didn't think they were deserving of my respect.” I sort of clench up when people talk about pushing someone away because I'm like, “Ah, maybe that's what's happening.”
Mike: The next chapter of the story. He gets transferred to Minneapolis for one of these moving his way up the corporate ladder Disney things, and she says that she loses her virginity to him as a way of keeping him.
Aubrey: Oh, no.
Mike: He moves to Minneapolis. They try it long distance. It seems it only lasts a couple weeks. He basically calls to break up with her. And he's like, “I can't do this.” She's devastated. She's crying. She's just completely destroyed by this. And then, I guess a couple days go by, he calls her to be like, “How are you? Just checking in," and this in her book, she says, “Calmly and without any dramatics, I told him, I am done with this. I am done with you. Don't ever call me again.”
Mike: “Why, he choked out,” “Because I don't deserve to be treated like this, because I can't go back and forth because I don't like what I've become. But mostly because you said we were friends. I don't want to be friends if this is how you treat someone you care about.”
Mike: She hangs up and goes to sleep, bone dry eyes, just at peace.
Mike: The most fucking disappointing twist to this entire story, she goes to sleep, everything's fine, Dave's out of her life. And then, very next paragraph, you're going to scream. “I woke up to someone banging on my front door.”
Aubrey: Michael? No.
Mike: [laughs] It's like the worst twist. It's the thing that they do in movies. And you're like, "This is rapey and bad." This would never work in real life. But it appears to have worked in real life. And then, I guess he shows up to like, declare his love for her. And then, this is atrocious. She doesn't get into details. But she says, “This is the great part of the story. This is the moment that feels like a movie or a romance novel. This is where I tell you that I woke up and found my husband on the other side of the front step, the man who treated me badly, who had strung me along and who couldn't make up his mind was lost somewhere between his parents’ house and my apartment that night. I know it seems dramatic, but that's really what happened.”
Aubrey: The thing that's like hard about this is she's right, that is a lot of romance stories. We have a lot of things that are pitched as romantic narratives that are pretty profoundly manipulative or abusive. So, I'm like, “She's right. It does sound like a movie or something.” But I'm like, “Don't. The movies are bad too.”
Mike: The movies are very bad.
Mike: And then, this is the thing that she always does, is she takes this story, and then she turns it into this universal bumper sticker advice rule. She says in the next couple paragraphs, “People will treat you with as much or as little respect as you allow them to, and our dysfunctional relationship started the first time he treated me badly and I accepted it.”
In Unison: Ugh.
Mike: This is the problem with this entire approach, is it's not clear from this story that you can draw a universal lesson.
Aubrey: That's right.
Mike: She seems to have won some sort of weird lottery where the guy who treated her like shit, seemed like he did turn out to be a pretty good husband, but most people don't win that lottery. In 99 out of 100 of these cases where somebody treats you like this, the ending is he knocks on the door and you take him back, and then he treats you like shit again.
Aubrey: Yeah. Ugh. Sorry, I'm having a hard time gathering my thoughts because it's so shitty because part of what she's trying to do is remind people in relationships, and predominantly women in relationships, that they have agency, but also part of what that does is it falls back on this old shitty rhetoric about, it's on women to be gatekeepers to access to themselves in relationships with men. I don't know, man. It just feels bad and icky.
Mike: The next thing that happens in the story is Rachel begins the on-ramp to becoming a nationally famous influencer. This begins in 2004 when she starts her own high-end events company. It's called Chic Events. One of the things that made me go down a huge rabbit hole on this, she's been the subject of a million sort of People Magazine glossy profiles, like “Meet Rachel Hollis.” There's all this weird vague phrasing, where they'll just be like, “After she worked at Miramax, she struck out on her own and started an events company.” In her book. She says, “I went from production company to another production company and had the opportunity to do event planning.” In another profile, they say like, “Chic Events started in her garage.”
Aubrey: There's no origin story?
Mike: Yeah, it's conspicuous to me that she has written three books, her husband has also written a book, and in none of these books is just a chronological account of how she went from being like a very low-level executive assistant at Miramax, to running her own company at age 21. She needs to actually explain how this happened and how she was able to do it.
Aubrey: Right. This is the, “I started this business with $5 in my pocket,” sort of thing, where you're like, “What? No, you didn't.”
Mike: You absolutely did not. So, I had to go to her fucking LinkedIn profile to get a timeline. She's at Miramax for 18 months. Then, she goes to Ogilvy and Mather, which is this huge PR firm, where she's an account coordinator for Mattel and Motorola. And then, for another like eight months, she's a brand coordinator for something called DIC Entertainment. I think that this is where she gets experience in event planning. She mentions offhand that she got laid off at Miramax or they downsized or something, and somebody was like, “Hey, there's a premiere tonight. Do you want to help organize it?”
We learn from her husband's book, he's very explicit about this, that he supported her financially, and extremely importantly, neither of them say how she got her first couple clients. Planning high-end parties is like really high stakes and really difficult. We've all watched My Super Sweet 16. The things that rich people want at these events are completely deranged.
Aubrey: Yeah, they're wild.
Mike: I found this weird, 2013 interview with her, where she says her first party that she ever organized, her first event was some rich family who was celebrating their son becoming an Eagle Scout. And she said, “Their budget is the size of some small island nations.” So, how is a 21-year-old getting a five-figure event gig with basically six, eight months of experience as presumably a low-level employee for an event planning company?
Aubrey: That's bananas. That's a Madlib.
Mike: Reading between the lines, she has to be using Dave's connections at Disney to be getting these clients. She eventually does events for Bradley Cooper. She does Al Gore, something, something [crosstalk] she does. You can find old People Magazine articles, if you go back into Google, there's old articles about some sitcom actress on some CW show that I've never heard of, is planning her wedding to this pop star, and it's being planned by Rachel Hollis. She's a very successful celebrity event planner for a decade.
Aubrey: I do like that we get really lovely feedback and compliments from people being like, “It's so wonderful to hear a show that so deeply researched and reported." And I'm like, “Yeah, we're fucking around in the People Magazine archives.”
Mike: [crosstalk] -archive.org every day.
Aubrey: Primary sources.
Mike: I have talked about a million times about how I don't even really believe that the concept of a gold digger exists. I feel really weird seeming like I'm criticizing somebody for using her husband's money and connection. Use your husband's money, I don't care. I have financially supported people I've dated. I've gotten financial support from people I've dated. All this is totally fine.
Aubrey: And normal and lovely even.
Mike: It's super lovely.
Aubrey: If these are husband connections, that's a good move from a husband who's not always been the king of good moves.
Mike: Exactly. It's this is your dream, I'm going to help you achieve your dream. This seems a nice thing to do. But then it's just very conspicuous for someone who's a lifestyle influencer, a motivational influencer, who is giving advice to other people on how to make it, on how to be successful. And her whole thing is like, wake up early, and get rid of self-doubt, and all of this, you have the power within you, if your career is the result of your husband being a high-level Disney executive who knows a billion celebrities, then fucking own it.
Aubrey: This is someone who's giving advice, but it's not just someone who's giving advice. It's someone who's saying everything is in your own control. Yeah, man. Of course, you can do it on your own if you've got a husband with extreme connections in LA, and you've got startup capital, presumably, his salary is presumably pretty generous. The vagueness of it feels like it points to some stuff she doesn't want to talk about.
Mike: Well, it renders all of her advice moot. She's very explicit about this. She's like, “This will work for anyone. Anyone can do it if you just work hard enough.” Get up at 4:00 AM. Make time for yourself.” And it's like, “Rachel, you didn't get here by making time for yourself or by getting up at 4:00 AM.”
Aubrey: Work harder, immigrants. [laughs]
Mike: Exactly. She's a hard-working person, and she's clearly intelligent, but there's a huge difference between building a skyscraper from the ground up and building a skyscraper from like a 99-story building.
We're now in 2008. She has this successful events planning company, but it's very obvious that Rachel wants more. I want to be very careful here because I think women are criticized for having ambition in a way that men aren't. Rachel was very openly ambitious. She talks in her book about wanting to be wealthy and wanting to have a vacation home in Hawaii. And honestly, fine. Men talk about this shit all the time, like, “I wanted to be a billionaire when I was five years old.” And we're like, “Wow, what an ambitious kid," and it's cool. It was clear that Rachel wanted to have a larger platform.
Even when she has this events planning company, she starts showing up on daytime TV, like she shows up on like the Rachael Ray show, and on the Steve Harvey show, as a sort of cooking lifestyle events guru, like how to make the perfect Martini and stuff like that. She's deleted these archives, but in 2008, she became kind of like a mommy blogger. It's hard to imagine this because it's not that long ago, but Instagram is not invented until 2010. The word 'influencer' is not in the dictionary until 2019. And it's only like 2015-2016 when people even kind of start using it in the parlance that we do today. In 2008-2012, the internet is sort of starting to catapult these people with recipe blogs, advice blogs. These people are kind of becoming celebrities in their own right. The whole influencer thing is basically a marketing innovation. It's basically brands realizing that word of mouth is a much more effective form of marketing than advertisements. If you see an advertisement with Michael Jordan, and he's like, “Wear this cologne,” you understand that you're being advertised to, so that's going to exert less of an influence. But if your friend is like, “I just tried this cologne, it's really nice. You should try it,” you trust them as a trusted source.
Aubrey: Yeah, or someone who you don't know, but speaks to you like you are a friend, which really seems to be the Rachel Hollis' whole thing.
Mike: Well, exactly. This is the whole influencer segment of the market, is that these are people who are public figures but people have relationships to them that are much more like a friend. And marketers start to notice this, and they're like, "Wait a minute, people are really taking seriously what this recipe blogger lady says." If she says, "You should buy this brand of pickles, "People will go out and buy that brand of pickles. So, the pickle people are like, “Hmm, maybe we can just pay her to talk about our pickles.” And that's how we get the economy that we have now.
Rachel's very lucky in that she got in on this early. Around this period around 2008 to 2015, it's very obvious that she wants to catapult herself to some sort of influencer status, even though that term doesn't exist yet. This is very clearly what she's going for, and she tries three different approaches to getting there. The first is she launches in 2013, a website called The Chic Site. It's a lifestyle website. It's basically like marthastewart.com.
Aubrey: I imagine tablescapes being part of that.
Mike: A lot of tables. A lot of nice photography. It's clear that she's hired people to write for it. She's hired people to present it really professionally. The archives are still up, this is where I got the blog post about her brother. With this website, I think she was trying to make herself into a Rachael Ray, or like an Ina Garten kind of figure. This was also a time when like, I feel like the Food Network was a bigger deal than too. She published two cookbooks during this time.
Aubrey: Whoa. It also feels worth lifting up the level that you have to be at both in terms of exposure and in terms of dollars in the door, to be able to do a project like this.
Mike: Dude, this is another privilege thing. This is not a mommy blog. This is a professional operation with professional photographs and web developers. We're talking about a team of numerous people professionally working on this.
Aubrey: Yes. Just take a minute, everybody, and think about how much more money you would need to be making than you are right now to support either multiple contracts, or multiple full-time staff, or part-time staff. There is mo-ney happening.
Mike: Exactly. Her other play for influencer status, do you remember chick lit?
Aubrey: The concept of chick lit?
Mike: Yeah, do you remember this?
Aubrey: Yeah, absolutely.
Mike: It was like books, Devil Wears Prada was one of them.
Aubrey: Le Divorce was one of them.
Aubrey: Yes, totally.
Mike: This was just a thing in book publishing. There were a lot of books written kind of by women, for women. Bridget Jones's Diary was one of the original ones. It's like women like dealing with stuff. I feel the entertainment industries are constantly rediscovering that women spend money on things, and they're like, “Women buy books.”
Aubrey: It was the utter shock that Bridesmaids both was good and made money.
Mike: Hollywood is a goldfish. This is fucking wild, between 2014 and 2016, she publishes three novels.
Mike: Yes. This is wild, I found quite a few reviews of them, I guess they're good. Everyone who has read them say that they're well written and well plotted decent fiction.” At the same time, somehow, as she's running this website and mommy blogging, she also finds time to write a novel based on her experiences as an event planner. It's called Party Girl. It's like, “A kid from the sticks moves to the big city, LA and these are her adventures in the wacky world of event planning.”
Aubrey: Sure. It's a little roman à clef.
Mike: This is also to her credit, I guess she pitches it to a bunch of New York publishers, again, which you have to have connections to get those meetings, but fine. These are all secular publishers. And they all say that there's not enough sex in the book. And Rachel is a Christian. Rachel's like, “No, I want it to be about a Christian girl from the sticks,” and her wacky adventures don't necessarily involve sex, they involve romance and other things. All of these publishers pass, and she says, she cried for an hour. And then, she stood up and she googled “how to self-publish a novel.” And so, she self-published this book. I guess, word of mouth, it started selling like five copies a week, 10 copies a week, 100 copies a week and just became this rolling snowball. And then, as it started get more attention, a Christian publisher sort of found it and found that it was becoming this deal on the internet and offered to give her a real publishing deal. And then, she publishes two sequels over the next two years.
Aubrey: That is good work.
Mike: Yeah, it's actually a nice story.
Aubrey: Yeah, she didn't compromise her creative vision or her values or her worldview or any of that kind of stuff. I get that.
Mike: This is wild. Okay, the third play for influencer status, as she's becoming Martha Stewart and she's also becoming Bridget Jones's Diary, she also tries to become a YouTuber.
Aubrey: Oh, what?
Mike: This is also peak clickbait YouTube videos. This is when a YouTube was becoming a thing.
Aubrey: Is this the era of YouTube, that's like, “You won't believe what happens two minutes in.”
Mike: "This one weird trick," yes. One of her videos is called “American tries Filipino food.” This was a genre of YouTube videos, like viral YouTube videos, white people trying non-American food. It's one of the cringiest things I've ever seen. She's like, “Oh, it tastes like fish.” It's just like mocking this cuisine.
Aubrey: So gross.
Mike: I'm sending you this Rachel's play for viral fame. Here we go.
Aubrey: Oh, my God.
Rachel: Momfessions, I get up every day at 5:00 AM. And every time the alarm goes off, I want to cry because it's still dark outside, and I don't have to get up that early. But I really wanted to write a book, and I really wanted to get in shape, and I really wanted to make sure that my kids ate something healthy before they left for school. And the truth is that we all get the same 24 hours. Oprah has the same 24 hours and Beyoncé, and Paralympians and that mom you know that has six pack abs, even though she has four kids, we all get those same hours. But you have to decide how to use them. And I hate with a passion of thousand suns waking up that early, but it's the only time that I have for my dreams. So, you have to decide if your dreams are worth losing some sleep.”
Aubrey: I keep going back to thinking about those charts that are like, how many hours you have to work a minimum wage job to afford a one-bedroom apartment.
Mike: Oh, my God, I know.
Aubrey: And it'll be like, “In California, you have to work 120 hours of minimum wage to afford a market rate one bedroom,” and all that sort of stuff. I'm like, “Yeah, man, I guess we all get the same 24 hours. Not all of us are married to somebody who works for Disney or run event sites.” The other thing that I am noticing about this video is, as you say, very of that moment of YouTube. And today, as we watch this in 2021, this video published in 2014, it has 10,598 views, which is not a lot of views.
Mike: It didn't go viral the way that she wanted to.
Aubrey: It did not go viral, Rachel.
Mike: My favorite thing is, I am primed to notice this because she does this throughout her career, she pretends to be telling you something embarrassing. This is called Momfessions.
Aubrey: Yeah. I'm about to admit to something which is that I work all the time and you better work harder. Like, what?
Mike: And then, I wake up early and I hate waking up early, but anyway, I work harder than you. I mean, like, Rachel, what part of this is a confession?
Aubrey: I do appreciate that you and I just instinctually descended into Christian Bale Batman voice.
Mike: This is one of the funniest fucking things I've ever seen. She also has one called, “I'm married...and I'm dating someone.”
Aubrey: Come on, it isn’t like I date my husband, I take my husband on dates, so that's how we keep it alive? Fuck off.
Mike: [laughs] It's the most obvious thing, because I saw the title, I was like, “She's not really going to do this. There must be a twist.” "I'm dating someone. I'm dating my husband." Rachel.
Aubrey: I'm having an affair with my best friend. Just kidding.
Aubrey: Okay, Rachel.
Mike: She talks in here about what she hates getting up early. I don't believe her. Once you watch an hour of her videos, you realize she just gives you the same advice over and over again. And it's always get up early. That's one of the only pieces of advice she actually has, actionable advice. I will say as a morning person myself, fellow morning people, shut the fuck up about getting up early. It doesn't make you a better person. I have been a morning person since I was 13 years old. I would be getting up at like 5:00 in the morning, so I would do homework before school.
Aubrey: Oh, buddy.
Mike: It doesn't make me virtuous. It doesn't make me productive. It's just genetically upbringing-- I don't know what it is. I did not choose to be this way. I have my best most creative hours are in the morning. And other people have their best, most creative hours from like 8:00 PM to 2:00 AM. There's no moral difference between those two things.
Aubrey: Yes. And you and I both know there will sometimes be days at a time where you don't get shit done on the project that you're most excited about.
Mike: Weeks, Aubrey, there will be weeks.
Aubrey: But that's not a saleable perspective and it's not one that gets people excited and feeling like, “I could do it too.” Ugh.
Mike: Exactly. Well, I think we should make a Maintenance Phase self-help book that is just long questions and really complex ethical dilemmas from people, and our answer is always just, “It depends.”
Mike: I don’t know, I would need more information. It depends on what your situation is. I don't know.
Aubrey: [laughs] I was thinking we should do Maintenance Phase self-help book and advice book that's just aggressively honest about your schedule and mine. Oh, every time I get stuck on something, I take the dog for a walk. So, the dog gets between five and seven walks a day. If I don't want to get started on something, then I get real big into meal prep.
Mike: Dude, I basically didn't do any writing for three months of summer because I was playing Stardew Valley.
Mike: Do you want to see the thing that finally catapults Rachel into national attention?
Aubrey: Yes, I do.
Mike: This is it. She has been trying to go viral for seven years now, since roughly 2008. And in 2015, this happens, I'm sending you a clip where she's describing what she does and how she goes viral for the first time.
Aubrey: I really enjoy a clip show.
Rachel: Will you show the picture? Yeah, that one? Did anyone see that?
Rachel: Couple people. When this post went crazy, the question that I got over and over from press was, “What was your intention?” And the truth is, I theme my Instagram every month to a color and March was orange. And so, I had the super cute bikini top, and I'm Southern, so I love a monogram. And so, it had the monogram and it was orange and I was like, “Oh my gosh, my Instagram followers are going to dig this. I'm going to post this picture.” My husband had to speak at something down in Cancun, oh, such a hardship, and I went with him. We got a weekend away from the boys. So, I said, “Hey, Dave, will you go down to the beach with me and will you take picture?” Dave took this picture. The first thing I see is my stretch marks. As I was looking at it, I thought, “Gosh, I've never seen a woman that I know post a picture of herself with stretch marks from a place of pride.” I was like, “I'm just going to leave it in. A lot of my followers are moms. I have a lot of girlfriends who follow me. So, I'm going to just leave it in and they're totally going to get a kick out of this."
So, this is what I wrote under the picture. “I have stretch marks and I wear a bikini. I have a belly that's permanently flabby from carrying three giant babies and I wear a bikini. My belly button is saggy... (which is something I didn't even know was possible before kids!!) and I wear a bikini. I wear a bikini because I'm proud of this body and every mark on it. Those marks prove that I was blessed enough to carry my babies and that flabby tummy means I worked hard to lose what weight I could. I wear a bikini because the only man whose opinion matters knows what I went through to look this way. That same man says he's never seen anything sexier than my body, marks and all. They aren't scars, ladies, they're stripes and you've earned them. Flaunt that body with pride!”
Mike: We got to the health and wellness section of the episode.
Aubrey: Fucking Jesus. I totally get that this is a real and empowering and meaningful thing to people. Also, I understand that those same people will be like, “Get it, those are tiger stripes. You did earn your stripes. You earned that belly.” I'm like, “What about people who didn't fucking earn the belly? What about people who didn't do the things that you think make it okay?” I have a really strong visceral and negative reaction to this kind of stuff because it's all the shit that's like, “You should love your body, but not if it looks like that.”
Mike: This post gets 10 million hits.
Aubrey: Oh, God.
Mike: It's a sensation, it's a massive deal. We understand that this kind of rhetoric coming from this kind of person on that platform, 99 times out of 100 comes with, “But other women shouldn't be doing this,” or just immediate shift to judgment of other people.
Aubrey: Yes, it's the, “I'm body positive as long as you're happy and healthy.” And I'm like, “Well, depressed people should be able to be body positive too. And people who are not perceived as being healthy, should be able to have good feelings about their bodies.”
Mike: The reason I wanted to include a clip from this talk because it's like a 30-minute-long talk, she opens with describing this picture and how it went viral and it was the source of like huge pride. She got these thousands of messages from other women talking about how meaningful it was. And then, she immediately without any acknowledge that this is what she's doing, she shifts into weight loss advice. She's just like, “The things that I was putting into my body were really gross, and then I saw a nutritionist and the nutritionist was like, ‘Would you feed your kids like this?’ And I realized, I shouldn't be eating like that either.” And it's like, "Wait a minute, two minutes ago, you were saying, your body doesn't matter, people should have pride. But then, you're also now telling me how I can lose 10 pounds to look different."
Aubrey: That's how it always all shows up.
Aubrey: It is this thing where I'm like, “Are you not going to acknowledge that, “I'm going to lose 10 pounds post baby, or even 20 or 30 pounds post baby,” is like, maybe not the entire world of weight loss and like, “Are you not going to acknowledge that this kind of weird facile logic also very directly feeds into deep judgments of fat people?” It's so frustrating because I don't want to take away anybody's ability to work through their own body stuff. But also, people overwhelmingly do that in a way that deeply, deeply reinforces and relies on their own biases against fatness and fat people. I don't know, man, it's a real mess.
Mike: I don't like to take things away from people. But the minute I saw this, I could feel myself pulling out a bucket labeled "that's problematic." Filling it up with juice.
Mike: It's also telling in the caption of that photo because, of course, you're training people how to react to the photo with the caption that you post, she says like, “I lost as much weight as I can.”
Aubrey: Oh, God.
Mike: We're not trained to see photos without all that context and have the same reaction.
Aubrey: Also, she has this photo, that's her with, again, some loose skin from pregnancy and weight loss and whatever else, she also has a visible fucking thigh gap. I don't know, man. I just feel like such a dick when I talk about this stuff.
Mike: Both of us are tensed up, we're like, “A thin white woman is doing body positivity.”
Mike: Like, oh, here it comes.
Aubrey: It's like where you can feel the ramp up to fight or flight, but you're not all the way there yet. That is the response that I'm having. It's just like, I know this person is going to say horrific fucking shit about people who look like me. And then, if I say anything about it, they'll go, “You just don't want me to love my body and you're not jealous.” Fucking. I know how this conversation goes.
Mike: What about the Dove ads? Ah, get the fuck out.
Aubrey: What about the [laughs] Dove ads. [laughs]
Mike: Okay, the other thing that I really want to talk about in this clip and I don't know if you noticed this, is the baffling fucking lies that she tells.
Aubrey: Oh, I did not notice this.
Mike: Did you notice in the beginning she says like, “I'm Southern and we love a monogram.”
Aubrey: Oh yes, I did hear that and I was like, she said, “I'm Southern,” and she keeps going, “y'all.”
Mike: You're from Bakersfield, California.
Aubrey: You're from where my dad is from.
Mike: If you listened to the whole talk, she does this numerous times where she says later she's like, “I'm Southern and you know we live a fake lash.”
Aubrey: Is there anything about her living in the South ever?
Mike: Again, this is why you get obsessed with this person is because you're like, "She's telling weird fucking lies," and then I spend hours on the internet being like “Rachel Hollis the south,” like “Rachel Hollis Texas,” “Rachel Hollis Louisiana.” [crosstalk] I could find Is that I think her dad might be from Texas because she talks when she was growing up, her dad had some sort of corporate job where they had offices in California and offices in West Texas. And I guess a couple times it seems, two, three, four times as a kid, she and her dad would drive to West Texas together and have a road trip and a road trip back. That indicates to me that maybe they had family there. Also, my dad is from Ohio, I don't go around being like, “I'm a Midwestern, you know us Midwesterners.” I straightforwardly grew up in Seattle.
This is a pattern that shows up in throughout her books. In this presentation, she talks about how her and Dave after they get married, she says like, “We didn't have much money, but we scraped together enough savings to travel to Europe for the first time.”
Mike: It's like, “Rachel, he was an executive at Disney. You didn't scrimp and save.” Again, I don't care. Go to Europe, but it's weird to build this mythology around yourself of like, “We were two hardscrabble young people and somehow, we made it to Europe.” It's like he was making seven figures.
Aubrey: There's like a little bit of Hilaria Baldwin happening here.
Mike: Dude, I know, I kept thinking about that.
Aubrey: [unintelligible 00:59:41] say cucumber?
Mike: [blows raspberry]
Aubrey: Little bit of that.
Mike: This photo goes like mega super-duper viral. This catapults her into another level of fame. I believe, again, she hasn't really said this, but I think this is how she gets publishers sniffing around to publish Girl, Wash Your Face. She's selling empowerment to a conservative Christian audience, which is also really interesting thing. There had been body positivity and stuff, this was bubbling under the surface, but it was mostly a left-wing thing at that point. There's this movement on the left, but all of a sudden, you have this person who's the perfect avatar and vessel for that, who's speaking to right-wing women. And when that post goes like super-duper viral, they realize that there's money in them thar hills. She can sell an empowerment message to conservatives. So, before we get to the content of Rachel's books, I cannot help myself and I want to talk about her podcast.
Mike: Which she launches in 2017. I was trying to absorb a representative sample. One of the first episodes that I went to, is a podcast episode called, “How to start a podcast?” We are going to watch another clip. You are going to die.
Rachel: I was like, “I just want a 12-episode season.” So, then I needed to find 12 people who would let me interview them, and I did not have any of the connections that I have now. I had no idea who to ask. Really, I had like five followers, nobody really cared about what I was doing. And like, “Oh, hi, I'm over here trying to start a podcast. Will you let me interview you?” People were like, “No,” or, they wouldn't respond at all. I had to get really creative. And that first season, to be honest, it's a bit of a miracle that people said yes, because I don't think that I really had earned the right to ask them. I honestly think so much in life is having the courage to try, is having the audacity to just ask, because you really never know. And I just asked, and just to give you a little insight there, I asked in a really concise and professional way. So, I would get contact information, in those days, it was an email, and I would say, “I have this podcast. Here's what I'm doing, and here's the why. Here's how many followers I have on social media. I'll make myself available to your schedule. Please let me know if you can do it.” I think that the reason that a handful of people said yes is that I was concise, I was quick. I told them I would make myself available to their schedule, because people are always super busy. And I had some stats. So, it was like, "Here's how many followers I have on Facebook, or here's what I'm doing on Instagram." I had something that was like, there's not-- like people will listen to this.
Aubrey: Yeah, I'm going to say similar thing to what I said in our Shallow Hal bonus episode, which is this is a rich text full of bad points.
Mike: I know.
Aubrey: I guess my question for you is like, does it get to be something you can actually operationalize?
Mike: No, all she's doing is repackaging her own experience, but being vague about it, because she doesn't want to admit how many connections and how much privilege she has. She's talking around the fact that like, “My husband is a Disney executive at the time I started my podcast in 2017. I had more than 100,000 Instagram followers. I had a mega viral photo. I had written three novels,” so what she actually did to launch her podcast is she called up her connections. One of her first podcast guests is Joy Cho, also a lifestyle influencer. Joy Cho years before had given a blurb to Rachel for her cookbook. If you look at her cookbook, it's like, “I like cooking these recipes,” Joy Cho on the back or whatever.
Aubrey: So, they already had some level of contact.
Mike: She obviously called somebody who she knew on some level, but for her to give that as advice would require her to admit that she has connections.
Aubrey: This would be like Phineas making a video being like, “How I landed a guest spot on a Billie Eilish record.” And you're like, “Well, you're her brother. That's how you did it.”
Mike: That's actually reasonable advice.
Mike: Use your connections. "I had already been in the industry. I had been planning celebrity weddings for 12 years at this point. So, I was lucky to know a lot of high-status people who I could write emails to." Just say that, Rachel, it's fine. But then, she does this whole rigmarole about like, “Make sure you write a concise email. I wrote a really business-like email.” It's like, Rachel, they didn't reply because your email was good. They replied, because it's like who's Rachel Hollis? Yeah, I know her. I think somewhere in her brain, she actually thinks that she got guests on the first season of her podcast because her emails were good.
Aubrey: Well, a very bad email is a good way to get a quick no, but it's not the answer to getting a yes.
Mike: The other genre of information in this clip, other than just weird lies is just useless advice. It's like, “Yeah, when you reach out to people in a business email, you should probably write it in a businesslike concise way.”
Aubrey: Right. You shouldn't just write an email that's like a voice memo attached of you being, "Podcast?"
Mike: Exactly. Don't send nudes. Write a normal adult email. Great, Rachel. Other points in this podcast episode about how start a podcast, she talks about how like, “You should have a consistent release schedule. If you have a podcast that's easy to record, it might be better for time management, if you record like three episodes at once on the same day, and then release them every week.” This is all fine advice. Yeah, but if you googled “how to start a podcast,” those would be the first three things that came up.
Aubrey: Yeah. It would be like if she was like, “Come to me for my exclusive list of what's coming to Netflix this month.” But I'm like, “There are hundreds of those on the internet, Rachel."
Mike: We already know that. Yes.
Aubrey: We can find from so many places, Rachel.
Mike: This is something that I actually find really fascinating and weird. I have watched hours of Rachel Hollis, I have read hundreds of pages of Rachel Hollis' stuff. There's nothing actionable. She has this fascinating chapter in her book, I didn't see that coming, which is about, “How to overcome challenges” where she talks about like, during the recession, all of a sudden, all of her like high end, weddings and stuff get canceled. She says, “I looked at where we really were, I got rid of any expenses that were non-essential. I figured out every way I could think of to make extra revenue for my business without spending money.” Okay, you cut expenditures and you raised revenues.
Aubrey: If you want to make more money, what you should do is make some more money, Mike.
Mike: I'm not taking this out of context. There is nothing specific.
Aubrey: This also plays into a logic about employment and success and all of this sort of stuff, which is just like, "You've just got to pound the pavement, you've just got to get out there and do the work," and you're like, “Okay, so what's the work? And they're like, “You've just got to go do it.” And it's like, “Okay.”
Mike: Her weird approach to this also leads her to give bad advice. She has just this ludicrous advice on getting advertisers. She talks about local podcast, she's like, “You might want to start a local podcast first.” Local/national distinction doesn't really make sense in podcast because all the distribution is international. Then, she says, “One of the things you should do is if there's a restaurant that you like, what you should do is you should insert an ad in your show for Joe's Pizzeria. And then send the pizzeria your show and be like, ‘if you pay me, I'll keep doing this.’”
Mike: It's the worst advice. You're supposed to just give free ads to random businesses?
Aubrey: Mike, at this point in the show, I'd like to just say, “Thanks to our good friends at Macallan Scotch. Macallan, it's the only scotch I drink.” What are we fucking doing here?
Mike: I have listened to this infernal episode about how to start a podcast twice. It's also incredible to me, how it includes no research. She has a team of 22 people working in her company now.
Mike: Yeah, it's like a media empire. She easily could have assigned somebody like, “Hey, spend a day. Call around a couple podcast agents. Ask them what's going on in the podcast industry these days." True crime podcasts are up, and conversational podcasts are down. Movie podcasts are in. Get some intelligence on the industry and give us some insight.
Aubrey: Also, just things like how do you pick a format? What kind of growth can you actually reasonably expect? This whole clip was just-- I was listening to it and I was like, “We have a podcast, and we don't really tend to have guests, but then what?”
Mike: Exactly. She also does this thing, she's like, "You need to make sure like be very deliberate with the format that you choose. You might want to do a solo podcast like this one where you're just talking to microphone, you might want to have guests, or you might want to do something more in depth like Serial." Rachel, those are completely different levels of expertise required, technology required. You can't just tell people, like, "You might want to do something like Serial," which takes months of work.
Aubrey: Maybe you want to have an investigative journalism podcast from someone who's been in the industry for 15 to 30 years.
Mike: How would anybody do that?
Aubrey: Here's what it reminds me of, there is a great Maria Bamford bit where she talks about going on a date with some dude. And he's like, “What do you do?” And she's like, “I'm a comedian.” And he goes, “Yeah, you know what I would do if I was a comedian?” And she goes, “What?” And he goes, “I just come up with something totally original that nobody's ever thought of before, like Seinfeld. And I just put that out into the world and then I just fucking coast.”
Aubrey: This is really a hop skip and a jump away from that kind of “advice.” That's like, “Yeah, ma'am, sure.” “You know what I would do if I were a YouTuber, I'd make a video and then I'd like have it go viral and I’ll just fucking coast.
Mike: I do think that a huge percentage of “life advice” is just people telling you what they did, and not realizing that they're just describing a study with an N of 1. It's actually fine to just describe your own experience, but what's so weird about Rachel Hollis, she's not doing either one. She's not getting useful advice, and she's not just telling her own story because she's so fucking vague about her own story.
Aubrey: Well, and she'll toss in little gems like, “I'm Southern and you know we love a monogram.” Wait a minute, are you even telling your story?
Mike: It's buried under the layers of her lack of self-awareness about what she's actually doing.
Aubrey: Yeah, that's right.
Mike: We've never done this before, but we are exactly halfway through my notes.
Mike: We've been recording for three hours.
Aubrey: Should we make this a two-parter?
Mike: Yeah, should we just cut here? This is kind of in the middle of everything, but next week we are going to focus in on the content of Rachel's books, and we're going to talk about the downfall which is actually like a weird six-step process. And then we're going, of course, to circle back to the infamous freezeframe TikTok.
Aubrey: Look, we've all underestimated Mike's passion for both Rachel Hollis and face washing.
Mike: How is this the one that I have to split into two?
Mike: How was it not the one about international development, which I did as a career? I wasn’t the fucking influencer. [laughs]
Aubrey: Yeah, you're like, “Well, Dr. Oz, done and dusted.” [laughs] But Rachel Hollis, now we've got to focus in.