Inside Elizabeth Holmes’ TikTok fan club

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When Elizabeth Holmes’ biotech empire began to collapse in 2015, hundreds of Theranos employees were laid off without warning. A former clinician was fired so suddenly that she came out still wearing her lab coat. This employee, speaking to HER under the pseudonym Syreni S. Terram (Latin for “mermaid on earth”), says she collected dust in her closet for six years before she began to see dollar signs in the relic of the first self-made and self-destroyed – billionaire woman.

Terram posted the coat on Poshmark, where she received an influx of messages ranging from “Will I speak in a lower voice if I wear it?” “To” it would look good with my enron shirt! The ad sparked such interest that she decided to sell her Columbia half-zip fleece with the Theranos logo embossed.

At $ 17,010 (a nod to Palo Alto Theranos’ former headquarters at 1701 Page Mill Road), the price for owning a piece of clothing of biotech infamy is steep, but there is a niche group of women who might be willing to pay. They call themselves the “Holmies”.

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On TikTok, Holmies come together using the hashtag #GirlBoss to congratulate their “Leader” and “Queen” Elizabeth Holmes. They see her as an inspiration who, as one TikTok user put it, “made billions for a complete lie.” While many Holmies actually recognize the inaccuracy to celebrate a fraud that has endangered the health of tens of thousands of people, they remain unabashed in their support for the besieged techpreneur, who currently faces a dozen criminal fraud charges.

With the spirit of a true #GirlBoss, Terram takes advantage of the standom. “Most people seem to want Elizabeth missing,” she tells ELLE. “However, there is a group of women who are true fans … and who support the strong leader that she really is. In this regard, I am all for celebrating the empowerment of women and women. strong and ambitious. ”

Ask Holmie, and they can figure out exactly when they went from hateful to stan. Some have cited Holmes’ now infamous black turtleneck, Steve Jobs. Others say it was his luxurious lifestyle after the charge. For 21-year-old influencer Serena Shahidi, the obsession began after discovering that Holmes allegedly used a deep, fake voice to sound more bossy.

“The idea of ​​a woman claiming to have a very masculine quality in order to gain trust and attract investors is very much a reflection of female entrepreneurship,” Shahidi told ELLE.com. “I was fascinated by her story and the way it showed a woman’s greed and immorality. It is a very taboo subject.

In a now viral TikTok video, Shahidi explores the idea that a controversial woman can be a famous figure. Villains become cultural icons all the time, like Jordan Belfort, Pablo Escobar or Martin Shkreli, for example. So why not the women too? “Like any human being, women are neither good nor bad by nature,” she explains. “Women need villains too, just like we need heroes.”

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Shahidi’s TikTok comments section has turned into a sort of digital gathering place for Holmies, who hashtag her #GirlBoss videos. The term, coined in 2010 by former Nasty Gal CEO Sophia Amoruso, was to be seen as a form of true celebration of entrepreneurship and women’s empowerment. Since then, it has become an ironic critique of that exact culture.

“[The term] has entered a sort of post-ironic zone in which female evil is celebrated, which, like everything else, is both a joke and not, ”says Shahidi. book, she is a woman who gains power by being ruthless and unfriendly. It is a negative term in that it refers to a dark side of humanity, but it also sheds light on the fact that we have simultaneously been taught that women should be passive and serve men, and that women should contribute to capitalism as much as possible and sacrifice themselves to do so.

Elizabeth Holmes in a gray suit at a California court hearing

Holmes at a 2019 court hearing in San Jose, California.

NurPhotoGetty Images

You can ride with the Holmies on TikTok by wearing loot from Etsy’s BigFunShop, which sells Holmes-themed gear. The woman behind the product is 24-year-old Rania Blaik, who discovered Theranos through a TedTalk Holmes donated in 2014. At the time, Blaik thought the blood testing company sounded “legitimately cool.” But when HBO is The inventor: in search of blood in Silicon Valley released in 2019, she realized that she had also fallen under the spell of the mythology of the founder of the tech prodigy. “I’ve never been sympathetic,” she says. “I was more engrossed in the scope of this one and the way his image was always the focus of it.”

Blaik started his Etsy business at the start of the pandemic. Within months, she had sold over 1,200 masks, t-shirts and mugs. “A lot of people don’t realize that Elizabeth Holmes’ fandom, if you can even call it that, is mired in irony,” she says. “I get a lot of people asking me why I support her if she is a fraud. I think it’s funny to act silly in response and say things like ‘bosses support bosses’ followed by a series of pink emojis. ”

Holmes’ future is no joke; She faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted. While some former Theranos employees want to see her serve time, there is no disagreement between Terram and her former boss, as long as she can continue to monetize her cult of personality. Because what more #GirlBoss than that?

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