I recently lapped up the documentary LuLaRich on Amazon Prime. I’ll listen to, watch and read anything about so-called multi-level marketing programs (pyramid schemes) and the once wildly popular clothing brand LuLaRoe was one of great interest to me.
A confession: I’ve been to a number of party plan gatherings over the years. I enjoy them. Tupperware, Intimo, Postie fashions, Thermomix. Take my money.
On the whole, the products are great quality and I enjoyed supporting people I know to find a way of making income that worked for their lives.
I even almost became a Tupperware consultant years ago but I soon realised that I just couldn’t make it work to do the required parties (and it was an impulse decision to say “yeah I want to do that!”). I swear it’s the colourful plastic and promise of having an organised kitchen that gets me every time with Tupperware (just check out my container drawer!).
LuLaRoe never landed in Australia but plenty of people are aware of it from Instagram and Facebook. It’s a party plan made for the social media age. The colourful leggings are a dream for the ‘gram.
LuLaRoe became famous for selling garishly fun leggings that are beloved for their “buttery soft” feel. I can confirm that the leggings are comfortable. I picked up a pair at an op shop last year and wear them around the house (pictured). The pattern is ugly but wow, they are comfy. I bought them because they were LuLaRoe and I had been intrigued by the hype (I have no idea how they came to be in an Aussie op shop).
If you’re not aware of what an MLM is, there's a great explanation on the US Government’s Federal Trade Commission website).
The documentary LuLaRich tells the story of the company founded by Mark and Deanne Stidham (interviewed in the series) - its rise and fall - and the ultimate futility of the business model for many of the consultants who signed up hoping to make good income for themselves and their families. The motto of the company is “creating freedom through fashion” and for the early adopters of the company, this was certainly true. They were making big bucks but as you discover from the documentary, scratch the surface of the social media hype and it’s smoke and mirrors.
There’s some former consultants who feature in the documentary, who also talk about their experiences on TikTok. For a while, many of these “independent fashion consultants” experienced great success but it looked gruelling to build the business and sustain it, with many sharing online that they are now stuck with thousands of dollars of worthless inventory of the leggings. Some consultants also went into serious financial debt to get started by buying the products on credit card (they say the company encouraged them to do whatever it took to find the start-up money). Some have even declared bankruptcy.
There’s bigger questions at play when you watch LuLaRich - the societal and emotional drivers that attract women to a company like LuLaRoe and how hard it is to raise a family and work and pay the bills.
We’d love to hear from you if you watch the documentary. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Dream - a podcast exploring MLMs and the wellness industry. (The latest season is about Britney Spears.)
‘These leggings may ruin your life’ - The Cut
Reddit has a subreddit that’s fascinating called AntiMLM