We’ve been talking a lot lately about all the dangerous bills and bans that extremists have been pushing. And like we always say, one of the best ways we can fight these things is by having honest conversations. Our friends or family or neighbors might be on the fence about some of these issues, and by talking to them, we just might change some hearts and minds.
We’re joined by Crystal Lett, a mom in Ohio who’s gone on an amazing journey from growing up in an ultra-conservative religious community to a career in progressive politics. Crystal and the hosts chat about what that journey was like, what prompted her to change her mind, and strategies for talking to the people in our lives about politics. It’s all about compassion, listening, and realizing that we have more in common than what divides us.
Then Rachel sits down with Roberta Blevins, a mom who became an anti-MLM advocate after joining – and then getting out of – LuLaRoe. Roberta shares the vulnerabilities that led her to join a multi-level marketing company in the first place and how a supportive community helped her escape. She also discusses how we can change the minds of people in our lives; like Crystal, Roberta says that listening with compassion is the best way to meet people where they are.
Finally, Amanda, Rachel and Jasmine raise a glass to brand-new bikes and kids excelling in their sports and recitals in this episode’s “Toast to Joy.”
On Thursday March 30th, Red Wine and Blue is hosting a virtual event with a guest who knows all about the power of changing your mind. Dr. Ellen Gaddy is the granddaughter of the late Republican Senator Jesse Helms and she’ll share her journey of freeing herself from a family legacy that doesn't reflect her values. You can learn more and sign up for this exciting event here.
For a transcript of this episode, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can learn more about us at www.redwine.blue or follow us on social media!
Twitter: @TheSWPpod and @RedWineBlueUSA
The Suburban Women Problem - Season 3, Episode 10
Rachel Vindman: and. Hi everyone. Thanks for joining us. I'm Rachel Vindman.
Jasmine Clark: I'm Jasmine Clark.
Amanda Weinstein: I'm Amanda Weinstein.
Rachel: And you're listening to the Suburban Women Problem.
I do wanna point out that Jasmine is joining us from the Georgia House floor. She is in a phone booth complete with a real phone. And she is doing this so she can vote if she needs to quickly and she can also record the pod. So Jasmine, hey, thanks for making that work. We are very thankful and grateful to have you.
Jasmine: I am dedicated. I am dedicated to both my job as a legislator and my job as a podcast host because both of them are very, very important to me.
Rachel: And hey, it doesn't scare you cuz you're a busy working mom and you could do all the things. So I love your willingness.
Jasmine: Yeah. Multitasking is definitely my middle name. So my middle initial is actually M and although my parents meant it to be Michelle, it's definitely multitasking .
Rachel: That's so funny. So we're recording a little bit of a, a weird time because of Jasmine's schedule today and to be, to be clear, I don't know, this might be a big news week, so we should just say we are recording this on Monday. And so anything that happens after like, you know, three o'clock on Monday will not be discussed on this week's pod episode, but we'll discuss it next week if it's big news.
Well we've been talking a lot lately about all the dangerous bills and bans that extremists have been pushing. All of those things are so important to talk about. They're having tangible effects on real people. But like we always say, one of the best ways we can defeat these things is by having conversations with our friends and family who might be on the fence about some of these issues. And by talking about them, we might just change their mind.
Maybe you're a listener and you might even be in the process of changing your mind about an issue, and that's okay. I changed my mind on so many things. We've all done it. So today we'll be joined by Crystal Lett, who is amazing. She's a mom in Ohio who's gone on just an incredible journey from growing up in a conservative religious community to a career in progressive politics. And after that, I'll talk to Roberta Blevins about LuLaRoe and what gave her the courage to change her mind and get out.
But before we get to all that, how are you guys? What's, what have we been talking about in our group chat?
Amanda: I feel like we have so much going on in Ohio right now, and always. We right now are starting to get signatures to get reproductive freedom on the ballot, and I already got to sign it. So I am very excited about that.
Amanda: I know. Yay. I signed. Done. So ladies in Ohio, if you haven't signed already, get on it. But also the people who are getting the signatures were trained by red wine and blue, and they Yes, were prepared. Love it. They came and were like, “I have an iPad here. If you're not registered to vote, you can use the iPad to register yourself to vote and then you can sign the petition.” And I was like, oh yes, you are ready for this. And I was so excited.
Jasmine: So, you know, I wanna say this because I am, you know, broadcasting live from Georgia where we do not have the opportunity to do this. We do not have ballot access laws.
Amanda: I know. I feel bad every time I say it.
Rachel: And they're trying to take him away in other states as well.
Amanda: Oh, they're trying to take him away here in Ohio.
Jasmine: Yeah, I know in Mississippi and in a bunch of places, especially here in the South, now they're seeing this as, “oh no, the people have too much power to do things that they wanna do,” and so they're trying to make it harder to do this. But in Georgia, we don't even have the option. So the only way to get something on the ballot in Georgia is if the legislature votes and it requires two thirds majority to get anything on the ballot. But outside of that, we don't have a process. And I really wish we did.
But there are people that are just so afraid of what could possibly happen. And there are people that are afraid, including people that I would agree with politically and ideologically, because they're afraid that the voters might disappoint them and make our laws even more draconian. But I don't think, from what I've seen across the country, I don't think that's the case. But I think there's just this general fear that if we give too much power to the people, that people might disappoint us. But I think that we've seen across the country, even in red states, that when it comes to things like reproductive rights, medicaid expansion, restoring rights to those who have lost their right to vote because of incarceration, we're seeing that people actually agree on these and it's literally the politicians that are making it a wedge issue when it's really, really not.
Amanda: But to be clear, the GOP will absolutely be disappointed by how people vote on the ballot. We have seen it over and over and like, there's a recent analysis between Michigan and Ohio, and if you look at Michigan, Ohio are actually very similar, but the midterms were very different for Michigan, Ohio, and part of the reason why is… well, Michigan had ballot initiatives and we didn’t. And we can use a ballot initiative, which is why the GOP doesn't like it, we can use it to register more voters and get people more engaged. Which is another issue between Michigan and Ohio. It's easier to register to vote in Michigan than it is in Ohio. So those are both things that we'll see the GOP do is try and try and prevent ballot measures and try to make it harder to vote because it works in their favor.
Rachel: Do you guys ever stop competing with Michigan?
Amanda: No, we don't.
Rachel: Okay, just curious.
Jasmine: I love it.
Rachel: But you know, I mean, we, there's been a lot of other ballot initiatives. Look at all the marijuana slash medical marijuana initiatives. That's something that's brought a lot of people out and I guess, it, it hasn't trended conservative, even in conservative areas. And remember the case also in Colorado about lunch free lunches for all students and, and that that passed resoundingly. I think you find that when the people get to vote, they really are quite reasonable on issues. It's somehow choosing people, it gets a little sticky, right? But on issues, people are more in agreement than you think.
And that goes back to our thing about having conversations with people. I think it's really important to have these conversations. Let's take the personalities out of it. It is not a reality competition. We're not gonna have the most dramatic rose ceremony ever, and choose the president. But when it comes to issues, people are reasonable. So don't be afraid to talk to people about the issues.
Amanda: And they also help other states. So you mentioned the Colorado ballot initiative where they put free lunches. And now Minnesota has enacted that they have free lunches. And part of the reason the GOP I think is okay with this is that if they can get free lunches out and it doesn't go on the ballot, that helps them. And I'm fine with that. However we get free lunches, I'm fine. Don’t care.
Rachel: I know, I agree.
Amanda: I got plenty of ballot initiatives. You need more ballot initiatives. I got more to do. Like It's fine.
Jasmine: I struggle with this a lot as a legislator because a lot of times in my beautiful red trifecta of a state. A person like me who is in one of only five competitive seats in the entire state, after redistricting was done, they only drew five competitive seats. I'm one of them. So, you know, to them it's very difficult to give me a quote win. And so even if I have great policy, a lot of times the conversation is, “Hey, this is a great bill. We really love it. Can so-and-so carry it instead?”
And I'm like you. I don't necessarily care about getting the credit, although the truth is, in order to get reelected, a lot of times people do wanna hear, well, what did you do?
Rachel: Sure. Yeah.
Jasmine: But at the same time, if it's the policy, I really do wanna see it go forward. And so, you know, these are the types of things that happen and sometimes they're courteous enough to ask you first. Other times you find out when there's someone standing in the well presenting the bill that you drafted, like, like literally copied and pasted your bill. And you're like, “wait a minute, I've heard this before. Oh, that's right. That's the bill that I literally drafted, went, got made, got signatures turned in, and somehow some other person is presenting my bill.”
But to y'alls point, like for me, I just really care about good policy getting passed. I also really care about bad policy not getting passed. And I'm gonna be really honest, in Georgia, we are really, really doing a great job of passing bad crap.
Amanda: Oh, speaking of crap, what's going on in Florida with DeSantis and all of the fun that he's having with you know, all the extremism in schools and everything else?
Jasmine: Is he like trying to lose the presidential? I'm sorry.
Rachel: It sure feels like it today. I mean, it's so hard to know with him if he believes this stuff or if he thinks that it's the, you know, kind of politically expedient thing to do. But last week I, I don't know if you guys saw, he said that China was the most important national security issue that we have and Russia and Ukraine was not an issue at all. He walked those words back in less than 24 hours because Republican donors didn't like it. Not the base, but the people who give the money. And I think that's a really important distinction. The extremist stuff, I think, plays well with a certain segment in Florida. I'm just not sure how other people, how much they're going to embrace it.
And one of the things that was being floated was that you couldn't discuss girls' menstrual cycles and school. And so–
Amanda: Because they don't exist? What is this, “don't say period”? You're not mature enough to say period or gay, but you are mature enough to raise a child as a 15 year old.
Rachel: It's a blessing, Amanda. It's a blessing.
Amanda: Haha. It's an interesting contradiction.
Jasmine: It's borderline creepy at this point. I'm sorry.
Rachel: Oh, absolutely. And I actually think this is a really good time to bring in our troublemaker of the day. Crystal is a mom in Ohio who's been on quite a journey from growing up in a very conservative religious community to getting involved in progressive politics and even running for Ohio State Senate. Hi Crystal. Thanks for joining us!
Crystal Lett: Thanks for having me.
Rachel: So today we're talking about how it's okay to change your mind. And you grew up in a very conservative and controlling church, so much so that at one point they were actually considered a cult. Could you tell us more about your upbringing and how you went from that to running for office as a Democrat?
Crystal: Yeah. Yeah, it was a wild ride. Still on it in a lot of ways. So yeah, I grew up in a church that's part of the Southern Baptist Convention. Very, very, very, very conservative, enough so that I got bullied a lot because I went to public school and most of my friends were homeschooled and they thought that public schools were where everybody went when you know they are being tempted by the devil and things like, things of that nature. It was a very wild coming of age experience, I was like, of all the things you can be bullied for, this is a weird, this is a weird thing.
Amanda: Wait, bullied at church?
Crystal: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. Definitely.
Amanda: For going to public school.
Amanda: Oh, wow.
Crystal: And so it was just this very politically controlling environment, although that's like, you know, it's kind of innocuous to kids. You don't really get that. You just get like, “oh, these are the bad people and these are the good people. We are the good people. We are right, they are wrong.” That's what, you know, at least for me as a child, that's how that message came across.
And it wasn't until I graduated from high school and left home and actually started interning at City Hall my sophomore year of college where I met and interacted with my first Democrats. And it was a big deal. I was like, “oh, this is a great internship opportunity, but I don't know if I should do it cause it's only Democrats that are working in this office at City Hall,” where I was going to be interning at. And I did it anyway. I was like, “But this would be a great opportunity to potentially save their souls.” And what I found was that… some of those folks had religious values.
Crystal: I know! But it's like, I saw this entire different way of life for the very first time.And I think what was so impactful for me, I was working in the Community Relations Commission, was the name of the office under at the time Mayor Michael Coleman. And what I saw was, you know, people talking about policy, people talking about their neighbors and neighborhoods in these really amazing and caring ways. But not only did that happen, but they did such an amazing job of mentoring me as an intern. They took me all over the city with them, gave me responsibilities, taught me how to do conflict resolution in neighborhoods. Let me lead some of those trainings.
And so I not only heard them talking about it, watched them doing it, but then I got to participate in some of that like policy implementation, if you will, and watched it work. And I was like, “Oh, these people are not terrible. They're definitely not mean. They are doing what they say they're going to do and they're working really hard to build up their neighborhoods and it's working. So what the heck?” And that kind of just, that was like the Pandora's Box moment for me where the lid kind of blew wide open.
Amanda: I love that community development brought you down this path and kind of like this is kind of your evolution here. So I was wondering if you have any advice for listeners about how they can help change the minds of folks in their life. Because it sounds like the people in your life didn't sit down and have a conversation with you and tell you everything you think is wrong. And let me show you the way. So how can we change minds?
Crystal: Yeah, I think being brave enough to have those honest conversations with people, you know, especially family members, in a loving and respectful way, really does a lot. My conversations, like I'm thinking specifically conversations I've had with my grandparents, when they're not so emotionally charged and you can really just meet people where they're at and respect where they're at in that process. You might not like it. You might not agree with it. That's certainly been true for me. With every conversation I have, I'm not walking in there saying like, “Oh, I really like the way things are going and the way you're processing that.” It is quite the opposite. But I just kind of made this decision that I wanted to demonstrate or I want to demonstrate to people that I do respect them and that I want to truly hear them and I wanna meet them where they're at.
Because I think when you come into that emotionally charged, combative space, that's what you get in return. So you give what you get and you've gotta show up like you truly care and that you're interested in truly understanding why someone feels that way so that you can offer alternatives and they can hear you. Because it's really just all about listening and being able to process what you hear.
Amanda: I love that. No one's gonna follow you and want to join your cause if they think you don't respect them. And I think Ruth Bader Ginsburg has a quote and I can't remember it, but of like, fight in a way where people want to join your fight.
Crystal: Yes. I have seen that quote too, Amanda. And it, definitely, I was like, yes. It has to feel like you're approaching them in a way that makes them feel valued and heard. And not judged.
Jasmine: You know, a lot of the times when I'm working with my colleagues here, and also when I'm talking to constituents that may or may not have voted for me, the way that I try to approach this is by trying to find, you know, the values that we share. If you start with, “Hey, as parents, we all love our kids,” or you know, “hey, as a community we all wanna be safe,” we actually have a lot in common with people. And we actually have more in common than the things that divide us. It's just that the things that divide us get the most attention.
And so I'm just curious, Crystal, for you, are there some issues that you think are good opportunities to connect? over those values that we can share.
Crystal: Yeah, I think, I mean, I think you touched on a big one when you said like, you know, as parents, we all love our kids. For me, I have a child with disabilities, that's my oldest child, who has a rare genetic disorder that leads to multiple and global developmental disabilities and delays. And I, I often will kind of use that to say like, you know, “I want my kid to learn as much as you want your kid to learn.” Like we all want our kids to learn. We all want our kids to feel safe in school. We all want our kids to feel like their identity is valued and cherished and, and needed in the world. And I do find, you know, no one's gonna disagree. No one's gonna be like, “Well, I don't know about that.” You know, like, they're not gonna weigh in a negative way.
So you're right. Like it's, it truly is about finding where there's a convergence and really drilling into that. And you're right, Jasmine, like when you say that, the walls kind of come down like people breathe for once. They take a deep breath, meet each other where they're at, it becomes less hostile from go.
As much as you can tell your story and how you weave into those experiences, I think people identify with that and they won't challenge it. They can't take your story away from you. Your story is yours.
Amanda: Oh, yes.
Rachel: That's so important. That's so important.
Jasmine: I like that. Your story is yours and lead with that. They can't take that away. Oh, I love that.
Rachel: Thank you Crystal. Yeah, that's, that's, that's really the most important part of telling your story, is that it's yours. And I think that's a really good thing to remind people.
Crystal, thank you so much for joining us. It's a pleasure to have you on the pod. And thanks for sharing with us today.
Crystal: Good to see you guys. We’ll see ya.
Rachel: So this weekend I read Beth Moore's memoir All My Knotted Up Life. And for those of you who don't know, Beth was like the women's teacher, icon really, of the Southern Baptist Convention. And then through kind of a series of events that culminated with the Access Hollywood tape, the infamous Access Hollywood tape, she just reexamined her affiliation with the Southern Baptist Convention.
She didn't change her mind on her relationship with God. She didn't change her mind about her beliefs. She changed her mind about the people that she was entering into corporate worship with. And I, I just think that's a really important distinction to make. If, if you grew up in a church, if you grew up and I grew up a Southern Baptist, I mean, it's a hard thing to read, but I also think it's freeing when, when you realize that maybe changing your mind isn't, doesn't really mean changing your mind. It means that other people have changed their belief on things as well.
Amanda: Well, I added it to my audible wishlist. Put it in my to-do reads. But I love that cause I am also from an evangelical church where I think that people now, just getting a snapshot of who I am now versus the information that I was in an evangelical church, pro-life, all the things you associate with that… I was all of that. And they think there's some epiphany I had where someone sat me down and said, you know, “Everything you think is stupid.” And I'm like, “Oh, you're right. Everything I think is stupid.” And that's not it at all. And a lot of my values, I personally consider to be the same. I have just broadened my experiences and realized that there are policies and things that get at the values I hold.
Even something as controversial as abortion, I still view myself as pro-life. I also know the best way to do that is to give women complete access to free birth control, to give them comprehensive, medically accurate sexual education information, right? These are things we are not doing right now that we could do. To give them access to childcare, to give them access to paid leave. All of these things we aren't doing right now, proven to lower abortion rates. Right?
So when I have more information, I didn't change my values, but I did change my mind on how to get done what I wanna get done that aligns with my values. And that those were kind of the conversations… I love what Crystal was saying about having conversations with family. Like when I talk to my family who feels very strongly about being pro-life, I'm not trying to change their mind. I'm trying to share experiences I've had and how I connect with it. I love how she says, you know, make that personal connection, cause no one can take your story away from you. And oh, I'm gonna take that with me forever.
But I love, when I talk with my mom or my brother or anyone, I don't call them stupid because I know they're not stupid. And this is how we change minds, is by recognizing that person's humanity and that, that having that empathy to understand where they're from and to value it and say, “given those values, let me show you this pathway that fits your values.” And there are a lot of pathways that fit, I think, evangelical values that we don't see as a viable pathway.
Jasmine: I love that y'all are talking about this because just last week we voted on Georgia's version of the anti-trans bills. And this one would basically ban gender affirming care. And the truth of the matter is you know, every Democrat voted against it, but prior to the vote, every Democrat was not going to vote yes. You know, there were some either more conservative Democrats or just some that really just didn't see the issue the same way others did.
And I'll never forget, one of the people got in the well, he's a dad, and he goes into the well and he basically says, “You know, I'm a dad, I'm a new dad, and I can't imagine anything on this earth I wouldn't do to protect my son.” And the person who sat next to him, who was planning on voting yes on the bill, he turned to him and he was like, “I get it now. You, you made the connection for me. I'm a dad too, and you're right. No one's explained it to me that way.” As a parent, you love your kids, and that's probably the easiest part of our jobs, but also the hardest part of our jobs. I mean, you love our kids no matter what, and sometimes that means we are gonna go through some things. Any person in that chamber that has ever been a parent knows that. And so the unconditional love of a parent is what was able to get through to my colleague and get him to vote for that.
And so when I was listening to Crystal speak and just listened to you all, I think about that. Ultimately the bill, did pass, unfortunately, out of our chamber. Barely, but it did pass out of our chamber. But there were a lot of people who walked away from that bill. They couldn't bring themselves to vote yes, but they weren't bold enough to vote no. But just walking away from it was enough. I think that some minds were changed because parents got in the well and said, “I love my kid. And I'm sorry, I'm gonna do anything I can to keep them here, keep them alive, keep them from taking their own life. Keep them healthy. Just whatever I can like that is what I will do.”
Amanda: I love that. I think that's important. Like losing a vote, I get that and that's disappointing, but like to me, changing even just one mind, just one, to me, I'm like that's a win for the day.
Jasmine: It really is.
Amanda: That is a win, where we can be more loving. Cause it doesn't stop there. When you have someone who now is more empathetic towards people in general and more loving in general, that continues on. And it snowballs. It's like, you know, a little bit like that butterfly effect, but having this very positive effect and it came from like this very simple thing, right? We love our kids.
Rachel: Oh, absolutely. All right, well now we are going to take a quick break and when we come back we'll have my interview with Roberta Blevins.
Rachel: Our guest today is a mom who became an outspoken anti-MLM advocate. After leaving LuLaRoe, she appeared on the amazing Amazon Prime series LuLaRich, and she hosts her own pod called Life After MLM. Roberta Blevins, thank you so much for joining me on the Suburban Women Problem.
Roberta: I am so happy to be here.
Rachel: Well, it's very exciting for us. I watched LuLaRich and it was one of the most fascinating docu-series I've watched in years. The way they manipulated women and moms in particular was horrible. But let's back up a bit. What is LuLaRoe and what drew you to it in the first place?
Roberta: So LuLaRoe is a multi-level marketing company or an MLM, which is, you know, you guys have heard about it. You join, you sell something, and you get other people to join and sell something with you. Uh, and they just focused on mostly women's clothing, uh, in the mid… like, I would say like mid 2015, 2017 time is when it was really popular. You might have seen it on social media. Lots of brightly patterned leggings and shirts and all kinds of stuff.
Rachel: Butter soft, I think. Isn't that it?
Roberta Buttery soft!
Rachel: Right, buttery soft! I actually have a couple of pairs, I'm not gonna lie. I don't really wear them outside of the house, but they’re very comfortable.
Roberta: Yeah! It got me in, you know, I was like, “hey, these are pretty nice.” I was a stay-at-home mom at the time and I wasn't really going out that much. I was a hairstylist and I worked between my now ex-husband's schedule and my children's schedule and so it just, it worked and it, and it fit. And I fell into the bells and whistles and I was like, yeah, let's do this. And so I joined in, um, 2016.
Rachel: What made you realize that it was an MLM and what was it like to get out of it?
Roberta: So, like, to be perfectly honest, I really did not understand what an MLM was. I didn't know the structure. I had heard of a pyramid scheme before and I had heard jokes about other companies that were similar where you join and you get this business in a box kind of thing. But it had always been presented to me like owning your own business, it being done for you. Business in a box. And so again, not really having a ton of business experience, I was a hairstylist, I sort of did my own thing, but it's different, I didn't understand that it wasn't really like a business.
But I had enough business knowledge that when weird things started happening, I was like, okay, well this isn't how you would run a business. And so many weird red flags. There were literally red flags from the beginning, but when you're wearing rose colored glasses, you just, they just looked like regular flags, so. And that's how it was. I missed a lot of things and I wasn't really paying attention because I was getting benefits. I was, I was very successful. I had, uh, a team, a large team of women underneath me. I never really had to actually recruit. Everybody sort of wanted to jump on this bandwagon. I got in at the right time, which is a lot of times one of the reasons that people are successful.
And, um, those red flags that I started to see, like, it was just like LuLaRoe wouldn't do…. It was like a weird thing would happen then you would expect LuLaRoe as a business to do something and zig and instead they would zag. And you're just like, whoa. That's the exact opposite of what, like a, what a business would do. Maybe this isn't a business.
And so, yeah, I joined a Facebook group that I was told shouldn't exist and I shouldn't be a part of. And in that group, everything sort of came to a head and everybody was like, “oh yeah, that happened to me too.” And I sort of just sat in there for like a week crying, realizing that I wasn't alone, that I wasn't crazy. That, um, there was a lot of validation of like, “yeah, that happened to me too,” even though they said you were the only one. That happened to me too.
That I think is when things started opening my eyes, but I still didn't realize what an MLM or a pyramid scheme was. It wasn't until I stumbled upon someone else on Reddit talking about something that was similar in another MLM that I was like, “oh my gosh, like this is just like LuLaRoe.” And someone was like, “yeah, they're all the same.”
And that's when I found the anti-MLM community. And that sort of opened my eyes at this point. I had only been like, “it's kind of culty, like it's kind of weird, something's going on.” But it took like probably about six months for everything to sort of click and I was like, oh. And I woke up and I was like, “Oh, okay. This is a thing.”
Rachel: Could you tell us a little bit about some of the red flags? Just two or three. Not being able to talk to other people also seems pretty cultish.
Roberta: Yeah. So pretty much all the red flags were culty red flags too. It was like, “Don't talk to that person. Block them. Don't, don't listen to what they have to say. They're a hater.” Those were a lot of red flags that I was like, “She's not a hater. Like she's a good friend of mine, like I know her personally in real life.” So it was those sort of things where I was like, this does not compute. With someone else I didn't know, it was very easy for me to be like, they're just a jealous hater. But for someone I had like an actual personal connection with, I was like, that's not true.
And so I had this weird feeling, which I now have language for, which is called cognitive dissonance, and I didn't have it back then, so I didn't know what it was. But it's that uncomfortable feeling you get when you have two opposing things that you both believe in and, and they're battling for, like, what's true. And so I, I'm just like, “She's not a hater. I know her.”
That sort of stuff was happening, and again, those were filed away as like, “that was weird. Why would you, why would you go so hard on telling me not to read that or not follow this person or not be a part of this?” And the more that I learned outside of that high demand and control group, when I was doing education and going down these rabbit holes late at night, I learned so much about the systemic nature of multi-level marketing and cults and how they sort of have to work together for them to be profitable.
And then I had to, you know, of course scream it from every single rooftop. Like, you know, “the call is coming from inside the house you guys!” Like, this is a problem.
Rachel: Well, you, you know, I mean, I just watched it, the documentary. I was a little late to the game, I think I watched it last year when my daughter was at camp. And um, I was really struck, you know, when watching it by all the women who were turning to LuLaRoe as a way to “have it all.” They could be home with their children while making income and feeling empowered. But you know, I can’t help but think how different things would be if we had better childcare options in our country. Do you think that better support for you as a mom would've kept you from joining LuLaRoe?
Roberta: Absolutely. Well, and here's the other thing. Therapy would've helped me from joining LuLaRoe too. Being able to talk to somebody about my vulnerabilities would've helped me having a group of friends, a community that I was missing, that I was looking for when I joined LuLaRoe. Like if I had any of the things that I like felt lacking, I would've never gone looking. I had a young daughter who was not in school yet. I think we were doing like one or two days of preschool because there was not a ton of money to spend on childcare.
Rachel: Yeah. And that's like one or two days for like two hours. It's like enough to go to the grocery store.
Roberta: And luckily it was right down the street so I could walk her to school and I could walk home. So there wasn't a ton of like commute and it was for a couple hours. And yeah, like I could go home and get a couple things done. I would clean the house.
So, when I started doing LulaRoe, she was going to daycare a little bit more cause I could afford it. Cause I had a little bit more money coming in. But it's paycheck to paycheck, right? Everything's paycheck to paycheck. You make a hundred dollars more and you find another place to spend a hundred dollars. And so that's sort of what was happening. And, um, I was making good money in the salon, but it was taking me away from my family. I worked in LA. I had, I had worked in LA for a really long time, and so I was commuting once a month back and forth to LA. I was there for a couple days. I would do as many clients as I could and that I would come back so that I could be that really flexible, stay-at-home mom. Sure. And I just knew that the older my daughter got and the closer she got into being full-time school, I wanted to be a part of the PTA. I wanted to be a part of the room moms. I wanted to be involved. And so being in LA every other weekend, There was a lot of times where I was like, oh, I can't make it cuz I've already booked this trip.
So I wanted to bring everything closer to home. So that I could have it all, but I didn't have anything because I was so busy juggling all of these things. I'm dropping plates and cups and dishes and, and everything. I'm dropping everything that I'm juggling.
Rachel: I think, you know, it's really important to talk about what draws people into this idea, they're also manipulating people with the idea of the American Dream, right? Working hard, you know, being the poor single mom that can't feed their children to being a multimillionaire. And that anyone can succeed at anything if they just work hard enough. And if you fail, it's because something is wrong with you. It's so ingrained in us. How did you let go of that feeling enough to get out? Because you were successful.
Roberta: I was, and I think like once you've been in a high demand situation, when someone is demanding ridiculous things of you, your time, your energy, the hours you should be sleeping, the moments you should be with your children, like they're demanding everything of you. And again, like this is where therapy or like having someone to talk to, I had to do this on my own. I had to use Google and Reddit and once I could put a name to the feelings and the things I was experiencing, I was able to give them a name and take their power away. And then I was able to see it, and then I could see it everywhere.
That opens up a whole other can of worms where you can see that everywhere. You see that in relationships. You see that in jobs. You see that in organizations and friend groups and things like that. And you're like, uhoh, like, I am so deep, I didn't even know it. And so being in something like LuLaRoe where it was almost like a mental… it really felt like a mental explosion. Like, or implosion, like massive PTSD. When leaving, I had anxiety attacks, my ADHD really came out. It was really bad. My executive dysfunction was at probably an all time low my entire life. It was, I compare it to the feeling and the rollercoaster of emotions that I felt when my father was dying of cancer. It was so traumatic and it didn't need to be, and I didn't want it to be.
But in unpacking all of these things and seeing all of these things, it was very, very easy for me to walk away from it. And with each step away, I got better clarity and better perspective to see other things that I hadn't seen. And I'm telling you, this happens still to this day. I take a step back from it and I go, oh, there's that. And that happened and it's, it's an ever going evolving process. I've been healing for six years now.
Rachel: Well, thankfully you were able to do that because a lot of people are not, I mean, they just live in this place of cognitive dissonance, where they cannot think about it because doing so, than is like, basically creates an existential crisis, right? And they have to decide… who do they wanna be? You know? And they're walking away from maybe, you know, their whole community. We see it a lot with politics, you know, I mean, we see that if you, if you disagree with everyone in your small town or everyone, or at your church, like, then who are you? This is your community, right? And so kudos to you because a lot of people never think about it. They don't allow themselves to think about it. Because doing so just opens up Pandora's box and they're not able to process it. But I mean, it's like you said, it's a, it's a long, it's a very long process and probably forever, you know?
Roberta: Absolutely. I have people on my show that will email me and say, oh my gosh, I listened to this episode and this was the episode that unlocked it for me. I was in an MLM 20 years. and I just sort of shut the door, packed the closet, locked the door and said, you know “we're not gonna talk about that. I was a bad salesperson. It was my fault.” And, and then they listen to the episode and they go, “Oh my God. It wasn't me.”
Rachel: Yeah. You, you touched on something I thought was important. So you mentioned that what gave you the courage to leave was meeting other people through Facebook and Reddit. And, you know, sharing your experiences. And we have a very active and powerful Facebook group called SWEEP, where suburban women, you know, found each other after Trump's election to vent and share feelings.
So there are positive ways to channel this desire to connect and be part of something bigger than ourselves. This community, like you mentioned, which I think a lot of moms are looking for. How do you see the differences between being part of an MLM and being part of a positive movement?
Roberta: Here's the thing, again, it goes back to high demand. When I was in an MLM, every moment of my life was controlled by someone else's opinion. If I was taking time off, “Well, you could be watching this webinar. You could be hopping on this zoom. You could be doing inventory, you could be counting, you know, you could be doing shipping, you could be having an extra sale.” And I never had any free time. I would tell my children like, “we'll go swimming as soon as I'm done doing this thing,” you know? And it would take me hours upon hours. And by the time that I was done, the kids were like, “we don't even care about swimming anymore.” And I just was like, constantly just being so disappointed all the time.
And I control myself now, I guess. I guess that's the best way to explain it. Like, since leaving MLM, I have changed my career, I have changed my marital status, I have changed my outlook on a lot of things and for me, honestly, like I control myself now. If I wanna work, I work. If I want a powerhouse through a week that I don't have my daughter and I just wanna record and do tons of recordings and tons of editing and work, work, work, work, work, so I can take the next week off to go on hikes and do fun stuff with my daughter, I can. I'm literally my own boss. I pay my own bills. And that wasn't how it was in MLM. And I think because I've seen the black and the white and I'm able to discern that. And I'm able to live in a shade of gray that makes me very comfortable and that I'm able to set boundaries that are respectful to me, but not disrespectful to others. And say like, “this is what I'm gonna do.” It's just, it's just different. It's just a complete 180.
Rachel: Well, it's more collaborative.
Roberta: It is incredibly collaborative. Absolutely. Yeah. I live in a very collaborative space. I want everybody to work together for the greater good. Like in the anti-MLM movement, we have the same enemy and that is these MLM companies and the way that they are regulated and the way that they treat people. And so I come from a very collaborative space because I think it's very important. There's so many voices that need to be heard.
For me, being able to be in this space and being able to control how my life is, you know, it was a lot of work, but it was worth it. I'm not saying, you know, only people that work hard will be able to live the life that they want cuz that's super toxic and the exact opposite of what I'm about.
Rachel: It's also not true. I mean, you know, it's like it's not true. You could work hard.
Roberta: Absolutely. There’s no true meritocracy. Many people work very hard. Which is one of my main concerns about MLM and how they say, “well she just didn't work.” I have so much proof to the contrary of that. I talked to these women and these men constantly and the things they tell me they did, I was like, “you are working so hard. This is wild that you're doing this.” So I think yeah, having those examples and, and being able to, it's again, it's being able to see it. And thus when I can see it, I can say, no thank you.
Rachel: You know, I think this might be a sensitive subject for some of our listeners. They might already be a seller for something like LuLaRoe or Mary Kay or Tupperware. So what are some warning signs that we can look out for in ourselves or our friends to figure out if what we're involved in is an MLM and, and how can we have that hard conversation?
Roberta: Yeah, it is kind of a tough conversation, right? I try to lead with as much empathy and compassion in my content as possible. Cause I've, I was there, I did it. I did all the things that you've done too.
Rachel: I've listened to your podcast. You definitely lead with empathy.
Roberta: I like, I created fake sales to be able to hit quotas. I bought things I didn't need. I frontloaded boxes of inventory because it gave me dopamine, it fueled me. You know, I did things. I told people that they should buy more little. Like I did the things that I educate about. And I come from that place of empathy and compassion because I've been there and I did it. And I, I want people to be able to approach me and not feel scared like ever. You don't have to feel guilty. I'm giving you permission to say, “Ooh, I think I did some of these things.” And it's okay. We're gonna learn and be better every day.
These companies are systematically designed for people to lose money. In fact, the statistic is that 99.7% of people, when all is said and done, and that includes sunk cost fallacy, which is spending a ton of money and feeling like you have to maintain that investment because you're, you're too far in and it's too big of a loss. So including that and including opportunity cost, which is basically while you're trying to sell nail stickers on the internet, you're not getting a nine to five that could actually be paying the bills. So those two things, when all is said and done and you compare, 99.7% of people will lose money in an MLM.
But if you were to look from the outside, you don't see that. Right? You see women in big brim hats with beautiful hair in this autumn filter bouncing through the beach on a paid vacation, driving in their paid car, living this beautiful lifestyle and saying, “You can do it too. Girl, I was on food stamps two years ago just like you were, and I can do this too, girl. We can do this together. Join my team.” And you think to yourself, “yeah,” and you even, you can look at these stats, because I looked at some of the stats too, and I was like, “Well, the average person makes $23 a year, but I'm not average. I'm gonna make way more than $23 a year. That's ridiculous. Like, I'm not average.”
And really just being like, I'm gonna destroy anything that gets in my way. I remember doing that. I remember losing friends. Friends were like, “I can't, this is too much. You have too many leggings. I can't do this.” And being like, “Oh, well that's what you think. You know, like, I'll show you cuz I've got so many leggings, I'm amazing.” Like I was brainwashed. I was in a space that I do not recognize. And looking back, I do see there was a lot of mental instability with me. I lost my father and I was a new mother, and there's a lot of things that I was just not dealing with on the surface that led me to being vulnerable enough to get susceptible into this.
So I think the first thing we have to understand is anyone is susceptible, even if you're super smart. Lawyers and doctors and really super smart people join MLMs all the time. It's wild. So it does not matter. Your income, your race, your gender, your sex, your where you live, it's everywhere. And everyone is susceptible. All you need to be is vulnerable.
Rachel: You know, Roberta, this has been fascinating. I do encourage anyone who has not watched LuLaRich to do so immediately. Now we do like to end with a few rapid fire questions tat are sort of unrelated. Are you ready?
Rachel: Okay. Well you had a birthday this week. What is your favorite way to celebrate your birthday?
Roberta: Ooh, doing nothing. Like doing what I wanna do.
Rachel: Oh my God, I love it.
Roberta: Yeah, I did nothing on my birthday. Well, in fact, I took my daughter to the father-daughter dance. It was a masquerade and we danced in the gym and then we got McDonald's on the way home and sat in bed like it was so good. Like, I was like, “I don't wanna do anything.” And this is what we did.
Rachel: Danced in the gym and ate McDonald's in bed. I mean, what a life. Yeah.
Roberta: Woohoo. 42. That's what I did.
Rachel: What song do you listen to when you need a little inspiration for your day?
Roberta: Oh my God. Um, heavy rotation, Lizzo, Harry Styles, and Taylor Swift.
Rachel: Perfect. So what's been the best part about hosting a podcast?
Roberta: Being able to live a dream I didn't know I had. I didn't know that I wanted to be a podcaster. That was not a thing growing up.
Rachel: Yeah, me too!
Roberta: I did have a fake radio show as a kid. That was kinda fun. So it’s kinda like full circle. I had a little transistor radio that like, connected to some headphones and like, um, had fun that way. But, you know, I just, I love podcasting cuz it's like a one-on-one conversation and you can have really real conversations where you don't feel judged. I love connecting with people and validating their experience and saying, “you're not alone and there is healing and success on the other side of this, but taking the first step is gonna be the hardest and the most difficult one to do.”
Rachel: Absolutely. But I think it's very special to share other people's stories. And give them a voice and then hopefully reach others. All right. Well that is the end of our rapid fire questions. Where can people go to find out more about you and your work?
Roberta: So you can go to my website, robertablevins.com is gonna be the easiest place. Everything is there. You can find me anywhere you listen to podcasts, Life After MLM, and I'm on social media as either The Real Roberta Blevins or Berta Like Whoa. Depends on where you're at. But i you search my name, you'll be able to find me.
Rachel: Well, this has been so great. Thank you for joining me on the Suburban Women Problem.
Roberta: Yeah, thank you so much. It was so great.
Amanda: Welcome back everyone. Rachel, I really loved your interview with Roberta. So one of my favorite things you guys talked about was that these types of MLMs really target moms in particular. They also particularly target military veterans and military women as well. And to me when I see this is because there are a lot of moms out there that can't find jobs that are, that have the flexibility that they want, that use their skills, where they don't have the commute, where they can be both a mom and a worker and they don't have to pretend not to be a mom at work.
And we just don't have those type of businesses with the type of policies that they need. We have many businesses without paid leave, without access to universal childcare. All of these things make especially moms ripe for it. Let me give you an easier answer to “here's a job,” potentially. And I think we have these big cracks in our economy and society that just open it up perfectly for MLMs to come get moms.
Rachel: Absolutely. No, I mean, completely. And I, I mean, I, I do know some people who, who are able to do it, but you know, maybe they only do it for a season or for a time, and then they pull back because it can be extremely time consuming or it's just not what they wanna do all the time. Because I mean, that's just kind of the nature of it.
The whole point of this, of this episode, and, you know, and really the point of so much of what we talk about on this podcast is you don't have to stay in something that's holding you almost like a form of bondage. That's a pretty evangelical term there that I threw out there. But you, you don't have to stay in that if you're feeling that it's not for you.
And it's really sad. I see women doing that so much more than men. Whether, you know, the way we were raised or what's, you know, the messages society gives us, you know, all, all this stuff. I mean, even with my daughter choosing electives for next year, I'm like, “You do what you wanna do. If you wanna try something, try it. It's a semester of middle school. Like you can decide what's best for you.” And I think that's really empowering.
Amanda: That’s a good point. But women are taught not to complain.
Rachel: They are!
Amanda: So you're taught to accept what you're given, right? You're, you're taught like, you might not agree with everything… you know, for me, right, you might not agree with everything in your church, but you know, don't complain or just accept it or you deal with it, right? And you keep going.
But like we have a society of like, I think of like, this is kind of stupid, but I think of like the cereal aisle. We have a choice. So many choices. And if you don't like Fruit Loops, right, there's Lucky Charms. Everything in our society is really like that. We really do have choice. We have choice with churches, we have choice with work… although, you know, some of our choices with work are lacking, as I just mentioned.
Rachel: But yeah, you have to be able to say, “this is not for me,” or “my friend had this experience and this is not my experience.” And you know, MLMs are really good at that, of like putting the pressure on someone. This idea of “you're just not trying hard enough.” And you know, Roberta had a real journey with that.
And I’m also just like, reminding everyone to watch the LuLaRoe documentary.
Amanda: I have not seen it, but I have also added that to my list.
Rachel: Yes, it's on Amazon. Everyone should watch it. It's great. And then you can come back and tell me that your favorite person on it is the Kelly Clarkson whistleblower. And you'll know what I'm talking about, if you've seen it. That's all I'm gonna say.
So I think it's time to do our toast to Joy. Jasmine, what's your toast to Joy this week?
Jasmine: So my Toast to Joy this week is to… Jada played in a basketball showcase. She got to play in front of college coaches. And she got to be coached by a college coach, and it was like, super duper cute. Super fun. My kids are really starting to blossom in their sports. Jada does basketball, my son does baseball, and I just love watching them just really lean into it. It's such a proud mama moment for me. And so I'm shouting out toasting to Jada continuing to become better and better at her sport and continuing to hone on her skills and also shouting out my son who made the baseball team on his school baseball team. And I get to go see a game soon. So I'm really excited about that. I'll be in Maryland to go cheer him on very, very soon.
Rachel: Awesome. Just listening to you makes me tired. I'm gonna go take a nap after I, I don't, I dunno how you do all of it, but I'm so glad that you do. You're much younger than me. That's probably why.
Rachel: And Amanda?
Amanda: So my Toast to Joy is… my daughters had a piano recital this weekend. It was actually my youngest daughter Amelia's very first piano recital. It was so cute. I really enjoy piano recitals. I know Jasmine goes to lots of basketball games. I don't enjoy those as much personally, but I do really enjoy piano recitals. They're less than an hour. And when you get to see some of the kids that are in high school play, my brain really can't tell much of a difference between the piece that they just played me and going to see the symphony. I know there are those out there like, “oh my gosh, I can totally tell.” I can't! They're playing Brahams in a recital that I just listened to. I loved it. All the kids are amazing and to see their faces when they get done playing, oh my God, it's almost like there is something similar with every kid about the way they smile, of like this humble pride thing.I don't know, I just absolutely loved it and just bottled those smiles up. It was so cute. I love it.
Rachel, what is your Toast to Joy?
Rachel: My Toast to Joy this week is I got the bicycle that I've wanted forever. It is a cruiser bicycle with the brakes on the pedals, like my first bike when I was like, what, four, five? I just love it. It's so easy to ride. We live in a very flat place and I can ride around the neighborhood. So my Toast to Joy is my new bike.
Amanda: Your bicycle! That's exciting! Okay, can I say I was equally excited when I got my bike just a few years ago? Because I was like, I don't know if I'm going to use it. We, I mean, Casey and I didn't have bikes for like a decade and we're like, are we really gonna use this? We use it all the time. We ride our little bikes with our family downtown and we, we even like, we'll take our little bikes to go have brunch and take our little bikes to go to coffee and to like go have drinks downtown. Oh, I love it.
Rachel: Yeah. And we're gonna, we're gonna go ride on the beach this weekend and maybe go somewhere else. It's gonna be absolutely great, and we're, we're really excited.
So thank you to everyone for joining us today. If you're enjoying the show, we encourage you to join our Facebook group SWEEP. If you start a discussion or ask a question there, we might just talk about it on the show. Thanks again for listening and we'll see you next week on another episode of The Suburban Women Problem.