True Confession: I Was In An MLM
My experience in the fitness industry is not something I talk about much on here. (Although, if we ever have a virtual coffee date, I’ll probably bring it up, and I’ll also tell you “nutrition school” gave me an eating disorder called orthorexia, which I am currently in recovery from.)
But that’s not why I came here today.
I came here today to tell you that I, Samantha Pollack, who is deeply into culty docuseries and MLM takedowns, joined an MLM once.
I did it for the same reasons most people do it—I needed the money, and I really thought it could help some people.
This particular company hasn’t shown up in any Amazon Prime exposés, and most people seem not to have heard of it, but it exhibited all the typical traits of MLMs that everyone’s been talking about lately—
✅ Blaming your ‘mindset’ for your lack of results
✅ Pushing a hard sell over and over again
✅ Steep monthly minimum spending requirements
✅ Fat shaming / fat phobia as a selling tactic
✅ Weird mega-Christian energy
✅ Blindness to the extreme white & socioeconomic privilege at play
✅ Deeply problematic founders… but you have to dig real deep to find the dirt, which means there’s also probably a nasty NDA involved
I had red flags about someone in my “up line,” but I dismissed them because I thought the products could be a cool thing for us to be able to offer at the gym / PT clinic where I worked.
We (my gym) participated in a weight loss challenge with this company—lots of before & after pics and restrictive nutrition advice and unrealistic expectations around the potential results. We TRIED to make it less about weight and more about other metrics…
… but it doesn’t matter. The whole thing was founded on the idea that a smaller body = a healthier body, and used body shame to sell supplements.
The whole experience was harmful—both to me, and to the clients & patients I exposed to this company and their practices.
I’m sharing to push back on the dismissive notion that all people who get sucked into MLMs are desperate & dim… and to remind everyone that the harm done extends far beyond just the people in the pyramid itself.
got an MLM story? Let’s dish.
Samantha Pollack writes creative copy (mostly emails) for feminist companies and/or thought leaders who are working to build a fairer, more connected culture. She’s also the founder of The Highly Sensitive Entrepreneur, a 6-week course that helps HSP business owners create healthier, more sustainable systems in their work.
She publishes frequent essays on feminism, privilege, pop culture, entrepreneurship, the creative process, and more on her website, cultofpersonality.co. She currently lives in Asheville, NC, and while she can *technically* work from anywhere, she prefers her adventures laptop-free.
Emails for cult thought leaders.
Want to learn how to craft emails that inspire action and engagement WITHOUT the “tried and true” (cough: patriarchal) norms we’ve all been taught?
I’m doing it, and I can show you how to do it, too.
(But sometimes, I also like to write about the books I’m reading, or the creative process, or the entrepreneurial experience, or why I hate Steve Jobs, or how I met my BFF. I’ll send you emails like that, too.)
*Just kidding. It’s only an email list.
Books. Cats. Rants. Drawrings.
(and every couple months or so, an unexplained absence 🤷🏻)