Hi and welcome back! The world of multi-level marketing schemes (MLMs) interests me greatly. How could it not? We find so very many traits in common with MLMs and toxic Christianity! And here’s one of them: it’s of vital importance for people escaping a dysfunctional group to learn why they were vulnerable to that group’s predation. If they don’t learn that crucial lesson, they are at risk of getting sucked right back in again to a similarly-toxic group. And that’s exactly what happened to once-popular anti-MLM YouTuber and social-media influencer Kimbyrleigha. Today, let me show you someone who didn’t learn the lessons she needed to learn — and how that crucial mistake led her right back into another MLM.
(MLM lingo: Often, one sees an enthusiastic MLM participant called a “hun” or “hunbot.” The nickname derives both from MLM participants’ aggressive recruiting and robotic imitation and copy-paste tactics as well as their habitual use of false endearments like “hey hun!” Huns call their recruiter — and their recruiter’s recruiters — their “upline.” They call anybody they recruit — and anyone their recruits recruit — their “downline.” As for any non-predatory MLMs, I know of none whatsoever that actually avoid all of the red flags listed by the FTC — much less fit their criteria for a decent one.)
Everyone, Meet the Anti-MLM Community.
People who oppose the business model of MLMs call themselves anti-MLM or anti-MLMers. They feel strongly enough about this model to identify as someone seeking to raise awareness of the predatory nature of these very-barely-legal pyramid schemes. Anti-MLMers may critically analyze the many, many false claims of MLM victims and predators. Or they may analyze the exact nature of the business and why participants are all but guaranteed to lose money on them. Their work may take on humorous elements or may be very numbers-oriented. But they’re all seeking the same goal — at least in theory.
Over the past few years, anti-MLM sentiment has spilled into popular awareness. That awareness has led to a huge anti-MLM backlash against the entire MLM business model. The pioneering group on Facebook, Sounds like MLM but ok, now has 200k members. (They’ve privated temporarily to deal with new Facebook rules, but they’re still quite active). The subreddit r/antiMLM boasts 683k members, with 4,500 actively browsing the sub as I write this post.
People in the anti-MLM community become close-knit due to their shared sense of purpose and their often-equally-shared suffering from these schemes.
As one might expect of any such large community, a number of content creators have arisen to feed the community’s desire for anti-MLM material. Many of these boast huge followings of their own. A number of them seem to make a decent living this way.
And Now, Meet Kimbyrleigha.
Perhaps that feeling of community solidarity explains anti-MLMers’ recent reaction to one of their big-name content creators, Kimbyrleigha. It’s pronounced kim-burr-LAY-uh. She inconsistently insists by turns that it is or isn’t her real name. IDFC which version of events is the truth, only that she inconsistently discusses it.
And in recent days the anti-MLM community’s members have been talking quite a lot about her recent entry into Monat, a notorious hair-care MLM.
Then out of nowhere she whomped down an hour-long video about MLMs.
As we follow this story, be thinking about how dysfunctional people find new groups — and try to repeat their mental errors again and again.
Finding Her Stride.
“What’s an MLM? Are MLMS BAD? Legal Professional Explains – MLM DEEP DIVE!” Uploaded March 31, 2020.
This anti-MLM video has garnered 42k views so far. Her views dropped considerably for her “haul” videos to follow, and then hit 49k views for a video criticizing hunbots for spreading outright-illegal pyramid schemes like “Gifting Circle.” I’m sure she noticed those numbers, because she began doing critical makeup videos involving MLM brands like Younique and Mary Kay.
Myself, I find Kimbyrleigha an acquired taste at best. She’s a piss-poor presenter who is disorganized in both thinking and preparation. She also relies heavily on arguments from authority, notably her legal education. She’s a lawyer, y’all, so she can’t possibly be wrong.
(I’m saying all this so you know: I’ve suffered for you today. Suffered! She is painfully bad at presenting her ideas.)
But fine, okay. A lot of people liked Kimbyrleigha. In her more recent years, some of her videos even achieved six-figure views, though 3k-5k views were way more common on non-MLM topics.
Did you notice the past tense “liked” back there?
Signs of Problems with Kimbyrleigha.
Kimbyrleigha frequently mentioned, in those days, her previous history with MLMs. I’ve heard her testimony myself. It runs thusly:
An Amway hun unsuccessfully attempted to recruit her in her teens. But it was a boyfriend’s hunbot mother who finally bagged her a few years later. It sounded to me like she did poorly at the MLM and washed out, as almost every single hun does.
In the video linked below (39:50ish), she says she was in Arbonne at some point. I’m sure there were others, since most hunbots join a bunch. They have a lot of trouble understanding that the business model itself is the cause of their endless failures in various MLMs. (Sound familiar?)
At 40:00ish, someone sends Kimbyrleigha a Monat horror story. It sounds exactly like a soulwinning attempt. At 46:00, Kimbyrleigha mentions very close association with a Monat recruiter and that she likes the owner of WEN, a similarly-awful haircare product line. She then launches into this weird apologetics routine about how women who experience adverse effects from Monat are using it incorrectly. That’s a standard-issue hand-waving routine from Monat huns. Hmm!
However, Kimbyrleigha’s videos reveal some other very troubling gaps in self-awareness.
An Example of Behavior Not Conforming With Beliefs.
Remember that video I just linked above, the one from March 2020 doing the “deep dive” into MLMs? Two months later, she recorded a video about an MLM aimed at kids, ROCK YOUR HAIR (RYH). RYH was a legitimate retail brand that went MLM. The anti-MLM community got upset at her and understandably so, and she deleted it. In its place, she recorded a new video, “WHY I DELETED MY RECENT MLM VIDEO & MLM HORROR STORIES Ep. 4.”
Uploaded May 31, 2020. (Episodes 1-3 appear to have been deleted by now.)
In the video, she reads various messages she received from women burned by MLMs. Eventually, I mean.
It’s hard to tell exactly why she felt compelled to remove the video. It seems like she’d been unaware — or didn’t care — that RYH had become an MLM. She liked the MLM owner who talked to her, right? So that obviously meant it was okay for her to promote an MLM aimed at children, right?
But back in March, she’d already decided that MLMs were really awful. Right?
Despite this strange gap in awareness, Kimbyrleigha turns up on a May 9 list of “favorite Anti-MLM YouTubers” as a new entry to the community.
In August, we find her drilling down on using an ethnic slur — and getting some pushback for it from the r/antiMLM subreddit. But overall, she still had supporters.
Alas, by October 8 she was on the outs for good.
The Beginning of the Very End of an Unhappy Marriage.
Kimbyrleigha uploaded a 2.5-hour livestream around October 2, 2020. She very wisely deleted it at some point. Unfortunately for her, the internet is forever. Over on r/antiMLM, user ultravioletrayy very kindly wrote a brief synopsis of it. The community there then discussed it at length.
I think this video may have been the beginning of the very end of her brief foray into the anti-MLM community.
In her video, Kimbyrleigha apparently confessed to doing anti-MLM videos for the money more than anything else, then accused the anti-MLM community of being “toxic and cult like.” She talked up her deep friendship with a Monat hun. In addition, she expressed her admiration of various huns’ “drive and motivation for life.”
Most of all, she claimed that MLMs were just businesses like any other. Gosh, who was she to criticize?
The r/antiMLM subreddit revolted at this point.
One commenter wrote,
I hope I’m wrong about this weird feeling in my gut that this is some elaborate, long-game set up for becoming a boss babe.
“Hey look! I was anti MLM and now I love (blank)!” [source]
And I think that’s exactly what it was. I cheered when u/ultravioletrayy replied to her, “When I was watching her video I was like just come out and say it girl, you’re joining an MLM.”
I’m guessing that Kimbyrleigha turned off her “deep dive” video’s comments around this time.
Echo Chambers for Me, Not for Thee.
Kimbyrleigha wasn’t ready quite to declare herself completely turned to the dark side. Not yet. (And not to the fun dark side, the one where we have cookies. No MLM has metaphorical cookies.)
By November 3, Kimbyrleigha was producing cryptic drama videos about how awful “cancel culture” totally is. Her like/dislike ratios are notably turned off in this video.
Uploaded November 3, 2020.
The video chiefly concerns exactly how Kimbyrleigha actually creates an echo chamber for herself while decrying all the other awful echo chambers that people get caught up in. One of the top comments on that video asks if she thinks striking critics’ videos about her constitutes a good example of cancel culture:
Would have liked to see you give urself as an example. Like when u struck Tiana’s video on you. Would you say striking her video was putting urself in an echo chamber? (Hostile Honeybun)
Her reply absolutely gobsmacked me with how poor her understanding really is. But it also more explicitly spells out exactly which ickie evil echo chamber she disliked:
I fail to see the comparison. You can’t be in an echo chamber with yourself. The echo chamber I found myself in was the anti-MLM community. (Kimbyrleigha)
I hate to be the AKshully person here, but yes, someone can absolutely create an individual echo chamber. She just explained how to do it in her video, at great length in fact. Her inability to correlate her behavior with her beliefs, and for that matter her beliefs with reality, had finally ended her relationship with the anti-MLM community.
So Here’s What Happened.
Kimbyrleigha wanted desperately to be an influencer. She wanted to be a professional YouTuber/Instagrammer. But she was having a lot of trouble finding a market for her personality and limited skillset.
When the anti-MLM community became a big deal, she tested the waters with a video out of nowhere about how awful MLMs are. It did well, while her regular content tanked. So she did more anti-MLM videos. And more. They did very well.
However, she did these videos for the money and influence she’d gain with them, not because she really felt that same common cause with the community, and certainly not because she understood why this business model is so bad for participants. So her reasoning was really odd-sounding. She’d been primed for MLM arguments already in her youth, and had never really learned why those arguments fail. My personal theory is that when she failed at her earlier MLM(s), she blamed herself for those failures.
All along, a few anti-MLMers expressed that they’d always had some problems with her and her content. They had some reservations. But she wasn’t acting out yet, so they didn’t feel comfortable saying anything yet. They just watched other content creators.
So when she began doing dives into specific MLMs, Kimbyrleigha was like a gazelle wandering into a pride of lionesses with an iPhone in hand to do interviews. All it took was one really savvy hun to bag her. And once that happened, huns have a wealth of terrible arguments for rationalizing their behavior and their business model.
Where Kimbyrleigha Landed.
Kimbyrleigha released an Instagram video on January 3rd, 2021. It runs 26 minutes and contains perhaps five minutes of material. She loses her place frequently in the book she’s quoting from, goes off-track constantly, babbles nonstop, and her staging makes her look like she’s wearing a Jesus-style crown made of dead yard weeds.
Her actual sales pitch in that video — for that is exactly what it is — consists of nonsense about the power of positive thinking, as channeled through a book of Steve Jobs quotes.
Her dysfunction became more obvious when she posted a written Instagram rant on January 18. It begins:
$6,541.86 that’s how much money I made off YouTube videos humiliating, hurting, judging, bullying, & belittling women & showcasing @monatofficial in a negative way & that’s how much money I intend on paying back.
I wish I could simply write a check to Monat for that amount but as they say “my money is all tied up.” Worse yet, once I stopped creating that type of content I had to start from the bottom again so I can’t afford it. Therefore, I decided I’ll work it off being a Market Partner.
Ohh, my. That is some wacky logic there.
(Interestingly, her rant also contains the assertion that she’d never been involved with an MLM before this one. Which was the lie, one wonders? Her oft-repeated testimony? Or the recent revision?)
Learning Necessary Lessons.
Thankfully, for most of us our painful lessons get learned off-camera and without so many observers. Depending on our age, social media might not even have existed at the time (for which I say: thank goodness). But that’s not the case here. From the get-go, Kimbyrleigha wanted to be an influencer.
Unfortunately, she never learned how to adequately, accurately assess claims. No, not even in law school!
In her January 18 rant, she repeatedly asserts that she totally conducted honest-to-goodness RESEARCH, Y’ALL on MLMs in general and Monat in particular. If this research was shoddy or came from biased or inaccurate sources, I’m not convinced of her ability to tell it wasn’t credible. After all, in that deleted ROCK YOUR HAIR video, she decided to feature an especially-predatory MLM because of her affection for a particular RYH leader.
And her decision to shill Monat came from a similarly-misplaced affection. This time, the influencing friendship was with a Monat hun. Man alive, that hun saw her coming! That hun figured out how to recruit this influencer, and then caught her at a time when she was feeling especially hard-done-by from the meaniepie anti-MLM community.
The Circle of Life of Mistakes.
It’s impossible to read Kimbyrleigha’s account of how she got sucked into Monat without thinking of Christian evangelism.
Do ex-Christians sometimes end up back in Christianity, or sucked into competing religious groups through similar mental mistakes? Yes, absolutely they do. That is why it’s critically important for someone leaving a toxic group to figure out what about that group was so bad. Toxic groups are a lot more alike than they are different, after all.
And do people sometimes commit the same “sins” across groups they join after leaving a bad one? Yes, I’m afraid so. I’ve seen people in the ex-Christian community repeat mental errors with pseudoscience, regressive ideologies, and conspiracy theories, as well as people who unfortunately cycle through dishonest behavior, tearful apologies, then more dishonest behavior.
For that matter, I’ve seen game admins leap out of one dysfunctional game, only to recreate that exact same dysfunction in other games one after the next. They always think their new game will be a fresh start. It never is.
That’s how things go, especially if someone doesn’t take the time to learn the lessons they need to learn.
Dysfunctional vs. Functional Groups.
One of the things that marks the anti-MLM community as well as the ex-Christian community, in my opinion, is that people who can’t learn their needed lessons don’t tend to last very long there. Very quickly, the group figures out that they’re dishonest, or drama-llamas, or unfortunately vulnerable to pie-in-the-sky promises, or whatever else.
Indeed, a functional group operating under a functional system has ways of self-policing those folks right out the door. A real echo chamber would have shined her on. Issendai details one doing exactly this (and again, here) with obviously-dysfunctional members.
That’s not what happened with the ex-Christian groups I’ve known, and it’s not what happened here with the anti-MLM community and Kimbyrleigha. They challenge dysfunctional people who try to keep being dysfunctional. In this case, Kimbyrleigha’s confused subscribers challenged her immediately when she began spouting stuff that sounded suspiciously okay with predatory business models. They also challenged an incorrect narrative she and her friends tried to spin about their rejection.
Then, they began rejecting her more solidly once she became more open about having those views. By January, she was decidedly out of favor and had pivoted to MLM-friendly content — and criticisms of the anti-MLM community.
It wasn’t the “echo chamber” that did Kimbyrleigha in. It was her own friendliness to a particular predatory business model. A functional group is what did her in. A dysfunctional one would have allowed her to infest the group with her poor reasoning skills and illogical thinking processes.
Translating Mistakes into Lessons.
I guess what I’m saying here is:
Learn the lessons. Do the work. Accept and repair the dysfunction that led you into these groups, and build upon that understanding afterward with useful, credible, trustworthy information from reliable sources. Deconverting from especially dysfunctional groups, like evangelical Christianity or MLMs, might involve re-learning everything we thought we knew about testing claims. And that’s okay.
When we don’t do that, we just end up in one dysfunctional group after another.
Also: MLMs are still really bad.
NEXT UP: The new hotness in the MLM industry — and the one Kimbyrleigha is trying to get into now: selling “business tools” to frustrated huns. It’s a cottage industry we expect to see in a failing one. I’ll show you what I mean tomorrow — see you then!
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