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Streamer: Amazon Prime Video
Length: 4 x episodes (45-55 minutes each)
You’ve got to feel for the Ancient Egyptians. They spent decades planning and building the pyramids, those iconic wonders of the world, and five thousand or so years later modern humanity uses their great invention to describe one of the dodgiest cons around.
The pyramid scheme has been used to fleece people out of their dosh for yonks now, but the most brazen recent example has to be American company LuLaRoe, the whole sorry saga of which is beautifully told in the fascinating, compulsive LuLaRich.
What is LuLaRoe?
For those who don’t yet know, LuLaRoe is a multi-level marketing company that deals in women’s clothes, with a stated emphasis on family values and "empowering women" to flog tonnes of their cheaply-made clobber.
The company was created by DeAnne Brady and her husband Mark Stidham, who chat quite openly throughout the four-part documentary, blissfully unaware of how badly they come off and how incriminating their recollections are.
The saddest thing about LuLaRoe, other than the thousands of people who lost a bundle of their hard-earned money, is that originally it seemed to have its heart in the right place.
DeAnne Brady was, by all accounts, a hard-working woman who saw an untapped niche in the marketplace: stay-at-home mums who were bored out of their minds.
She began selling quality clothes cheaply, which was great for cash-strapped families, but there came a point where DeAnne simply couldn’t keep up with demand. So, why not give these ladies the chance to join in on the action and become sellers themselves?
There’s nothing wrong with a cheeky side hustle, right? What could possibly go wrong?
The slow transformation from semi-altruism to exploitative con game forms the dramatic arc of LuLaRich, which is retold from numerous sources in semi-chronological order. What’s clear is that Mark Stidham helped take DeAnne’s company to the big time.
What’s also clear is that they were in no way ready to do that.
What's LuLaRich about?
LuLaRich is from filmmakers Jenner Furst and Julia Willoughby Nason. If those names aren’t familiar, they’re the creators of Fyre Fraud, the non-Netflix doco about that staggeringly inept festival for the rich and clueless.
As with Fyre Fraud, LuLaRich does a great job of stepping back and letting the real-life participants tell the tale.
DeAnne Brady and Mark Stidham do not come off well, with Mark, in particular, veering between smug and disingenuous, but some of the women involved in becoming LuLaRoe sellers will break your heart.
See, with MLM or pyramid schemes, it’s less about flogging leggings and more about having a whole team of people underneath you to themselves recruit more vendors to work under them. Exponential growth seems like a great idea, but resources aren’t infinite and eventually, you’ll run out of customers.
In 2016, LuLaRoe declared an eye-watering $1.8 billion (with a ‘B’!) in sales and over 80,000 independent retailers. Soon afterwards, however, the party was over. Demand had caused the supply to be cheaply produced and poorly handled, and the company’s greed simply became too much.
LuLaRich is a fascinating, addictive documentary series. It deftly weaves personal narratives around the larger policy issues of the company, juxtaposing Mark and DeAnne’s words with objective reality.
Some of the people who fall for the con you’ll feel sorry for. Others, you’ll wonder how they sleep at night. But ultimately it’s an all-too-typical tale of greed and hubris delivered in a fascinating fashion that will have you binging late into the night.
Don’t believe that stinky leggings could bring down a financial empire? LuLaRich will show you how it was done.
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