When Elizabeth Holmes’ biotech empire started to collapse in 2015, a whole bunch of Theranos workers had been laid off with out warning. One former clinician was fired so instantly that she walked out nonetheless carrying her lab coat. That worker, chatting with ELLE utilizing the pseudonym Syreni S. Terram (Latin for “mermaid on land”), says it collected mud in her closet for six years earlier than she began to see greenback indicators within the relic of the primary self-made—and self-destroyed—feminine billionaire.
Terram posted the coat on Poshmark, the place she’s obtained an inflow of messages starting from “Will I converse in a decrease voice if I put on it?” to “This might look good with my enron shirt!” The itemizing garnered a lot curiosity that she determined to promote her half-zip Columbia fleece embossed with the Theranos emblem.
At $17,010 (a nod to the previous Palo Alto Theranos headquarters at 1701 Web page Mill Street), the value to personal a sartorial piece of biotech infamy is steep—however there is a area of interest group of girls who simply is perhaps prepared to pay. They name themselves the “Holmies.”
On TikTok, the Holmies congregate utilizing the hashtag #GirlBoss to reward their “chief” and “queen” Elizabeth Holmes. They give the impression of being as much as her as an inspiration who, as one TikTok-er put it, “made billions over a whole lie.” Whereas many Holmies do, in reality, acknowledge the inherent wrongness of celebrating a fraud who endangered the well being of tens of 1000’s of individuals, they continue to be unapologetic of their assist for the embattled techpreneur, who presently faces a dozen felony fraud fees.
With the spirit of a real #GirlBoss, Terram is making the most of the standom. “Most individuals appear to be rooting for Elizabeth’s demise,” she tells ELLE. “Nonetheless there’s a group of girls who’re true followers… and are supportive of the sturdy feminine chief that she actually is. On this regard, I’m all for the celebration of feminine empowerment and robust, bold ladies.”
Ask a Holmie, they usually can pinpoint the precise second they went from hater to stan. Some cited Holmes’ now notorious Steve Jobs-esque black turtleneck. Others say it was her luxurious lifestyle post-indictment. For 21-year-old influencer Serena Shahidi, the obsession began after discovering out Holmes allegedly used a pretend deep voice to sound extra authoritative.
“The thought of a girl pretending to have a really masculine high quality with a purpose to acquire belief and appeal to traders is kind of the reflection of feminine entrepreneurship,” Shahidi tells ELLE.com. “I used to be fascinated by her story and the way in which it confirmed the greed and immorality of a girl. That is a really taboo topic.”
In a now-viral TikTok video, Shahidi explores the concept that a contentious girl is usually a celebrated determine. Unhealthy males turn into cultural icons on a regular basis—take Jordan Belfort, Pablo Escobar, or Martin Shkreli, for instance. So why not ladies, too? “Like each human, ladies are neither inherently good nor unhealthy,” she explains. “Ladies want villains too, similar to we’d like heroes.”
The remark part of Shahidi’s TikTok has morphed into one thing of a digital gathering floor for Holmies, who hashtag their movies #GirlBoss. The time period, coined in 2010 by former Nasty Gal CEO Sophia Amoruso, was meant to be seen as a type of real celebration of feminine entrepreneurship and empowerment. Since then it is turn into an ironic critique of that actual tradition.
“[The term] has entered a form of post-ironic space through which feminine evil is widely known, which, like all things, is each a joke and never,” says Shahidi. “It’s deeply gendered regardless of through which method it’s used, however in my e book, it’s a girl who gains energy by being ruthless and unsympathetic. It is a adverse time period insofar that it refers to a darkish facet of humanity, however it additionally makes mild of the truth that we have been concurrently taught that girls ought to be passive and serve males, and that girls ought to contribute to capitalism as a lot as attainable and sacrifice ourselves so as to take action.”
You may roll with the Holmies on TikTok carrying swag from Etsy’s BigFunShop, which sells Holmes-themed gear. The girl behind the merch is 24-year-old Rania Blaik, who discovered about Theranos from a TedTalk Holmes gave in 2014. On the time, Blaik thought the blood-testing firm appeared “legitimately cool.” However when HBO’s The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley got here out in 2019, she realized she had additionally fallen for the mythology of the prodigy tech founder. “I used to be by no means sympathetic,” she says. “I used to be extra engrossed with the scope of it, and the way her picture was all the time squarely on the middle of it.”
Blaik began her Etsy enterprise at the start of the pandemic. In only a few months, she had bought greater than 1,200 masks, t-shirts, and mugs. “Lots of people don’t notice that the Elizabeth Holmes ‘fandom,’ if you happen to may even name it that, is mired in irony,” she says. “I get quantity of people that ask why I assist her if she is a fraud. I feel it’s humorous to behave daft in response and say things like ‘woman bosses assist woman bosses’ adopted by a string of pink emojis.”
Holmes’ future stays no laughing matter; She faces as much as 20 years in jail if convicted. Whereas some former Theranos workers need to see her serve time, there’s no unhealthy blood between Terram and her former boss—so long as she will be able to proceed to monetize off of her cult of character. As a result of what’s extra #GirlBoss than that?
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