This is Please Like Me, BuzzFeed News’ newsletter about how influencers are battling for your attention. You can sign up here.
I spent seven hours with Caroline Calloway. Here are the outtakes.
I exhausted the past 24-ish hours unhealthily reading responses to my feature on Caroline Calloway. There were two types that stood out.
First, people ragged on me for not “fact-checking” all of the claims Caroline made. I got messages asking if I interrogated her on whether she actually kicked her Adderall addiction, why I didn’t make her answer for every micro-scandal, and even if I verified whether her father was actually dead. People also said Caroline is lying about not doing sponcon.
For what it’s worth, Caroline DM’d me after I brought this up in a Q&A on Instagram:
The second type of response I saw was that I had either been too weak, or gaslighted, or bamboozled by Caroline to write the hit piece she truly deserved. As one person said, “the reporter seemed very nervous to write the piece, almost like caro guilted her into going easy on her.”
To the first point: This was a day-in-the-life feature about how Caroline is responding to her infamy. And to the second point, there’s a quote from Brené Brown I’ve been thinking a lot about since meeting Caroline and reflecting on what I had read about her online: “People are hard to hate close up.”
OK, enough of that. I promised I’d include some things in the newsletter I didn’t get to in the piece. Here’s five points with Caroline’s responses:
1. I asked her about rumors that she bought Cambridge sweatshirts online and resold them as “vintage sweatshirts from her closet”:
“I can tell you for certain I did not fucking online order a bunch of sweatshirts...I’ve never in my life bought a sweatshirt from Cambridge online, I’ve only bought them on impluse when I was in the city.”
2. Caroline says she has heard herself compared to Lauren Duca — but she doesn’t “see it”:
“I think the very reason that Lauren Duca is so incendiary is that she is sometimes willfully white feminist in what she says, and I think I’m really actively trying to own up to the ways that my life benefits from those fucked-up symptoms of oppression. ... The only thing that we share is Twitter hates us.”
3. I asked her about Natalie’s claim in the Cut piece that Caroline had kicked her out of her apartment because “something about the value of gold having dropped and her family being low on money”:
Caroline said her father’s mental illness had been getting worse, and he had abruptly stopped paying her Cambridge tuition her senior year. This was why she rushed to throw together a book proposal and had asked Natalie to help, because she was scrambling to come up with the money. She said the “price of gold” was something her father often “ranted” about when he was in a “withholding mood,” and she repeated it.
4. The article that bothers her the most isn’t Natalie’s, or New York magazine’s. It’s one from Vice.
She hates it because the reporter went undercover at her “scam” workshop, and she felt lied to. In seven hours, she probably brought it up at least seven times.
5. Some people wanted a photo of my bb from Caroline. Here it is, with the mason jar plant:
The body is a temple, but also a bank.
A fitness guru with over 1.8 million followers on Instagram is expanding her brand by hiring five fellow fitness gurus to be coaches on her team. This would be exciting for anyone who’s growing and expanding their business! She’s a social media capitalist! We love it.
However, some of Katy Hearn’s fans weren’t too happy about her announcement this week. They pointed out that her team of five new “hand selected” fitness coaches all kind of look the same: tall, white, and thin.
Hearn has a huge following — people of all sizes and ethnic and social backgrounds. So, they were upset by the lack of diversity and the fact that she had picked brand representatives who all kind of looked...like her.
“Diversity is needed,” one commented. “Beautiful people ... I just wish there was an ounce of diversity. They look related. Fitness comes in all sizes, heights, races and apparently hair colors,” another added.
The fitness influencer responded to these criticisms with something I thought to be both comedically practical and sadly unsatisfying to her critics.
What Hearn did is to be expected of any individual who’s successfully capitalized on their online likeness. She could have spent more effort in reaching into the vast, diverse network of The Internet, but I believe it’s a lot more convenient for her to instead recruit directly from her personal network. This is why I think she’s so “at a loss for words” about having to defend the fact that she’s hired people who all look like her and share her same hobbies and values. Why wouldn’t she hire people who are identical to her — when her entire business is...her?
Hearn did not return a request for comment from BuzzFeed News.
For her concerned fans: I hear you. We live in a time when these issues should be thoughtfully considered. Representation, especially among the online fitness and body image movements, does matter. What and who you see in media does affect your relationship with yourself and others.
I think what will always matter first to influencers who are hustling to build their ventures is capital. In this case, they’re the coach and you’re the capital — I mean, the client, hehe. However, followers fuel the business. Hearn can keep her brand image uniform, but her followers have power too: They can hit the unfollow button.
Some unsolicited advice: If you don’t believe your identity and body are being represented by your guru, take your capital power elsewhere.
Until next time,
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