In a docuseries that features stepsibling marriage, moldy leggings, and Katy Perry, it’s hard to steal the show. Yet somehow, without even trying, LaShae Kimbrough managed to become the breakout star of LulaRich, the four-part Amazon docuseries detailing the rise and fall of the multilevel marketing company LuLaRoe.
Kimbrough, a former employee of LuLaRoe founders Mark and DeAnne Stidham turned LuLaRoe consultant, became an internet star for her candid moments on camera, from recounting a story where she informed DeAnne that her first day outfit was Chanel, not LuLaRoe, to her explanation for why she refused to take part in the company’s annual cruise for top-selling consultants. (The resulting catchphrase was so popular that she’s selling merchandise.)
Slate caught up with Kimbrough over the phone to talk about what it’s like to go viral overnight, her experience within the LuLaRoe trenches, and the untold stories she’d like to see in a LuLaRich sequel.
This conversation has been condensed and edited for clarity.
Rachelle Hampton: Your experience with LuLaRoe seemed, to put it mildly, pretty wild. What was it like to sit down and watch the docuseries after going through that?
LaShae Kimbrough: I want to say Amazon did a pretty good job. I would say I would like for them to get more into depth behind the scenes, because you guys saw what it was like with the glitz and glamor and it took a lot behind the scenes. They just touched the bases, but it gave you enough to where it interested you and you wanted more.
A lot of people don’t know this is not my first documentary. This is my second. I was also featured in the Vice documentary as well. So I didn’t think this was going to be this big of a deal. When I was first approached, I was like, no. I had just moved on. I had completely forgot about it. All my extra stuff that I had, it was in the garage and then I was selling it on the internet. I was selling my leggings for $5 a pair. But I didn’t have a lot left because whenever I got my inventory, I would immediately get on Facebook, sell it, and get rid of it. I just don’t want nothing to do with them.
What convinced you to change your mind and do the documentary?
Roberta Blevins [an ex–LuLaRoe consultant]. I onboarded Roberta when she first joined LuLaRoe. And I watched her climb to the top of her game, and I watched her fall. And she was my friend and a good person.
And so Roberta convinced you to do the documentary?
Yeah, she did.
What’s it like to see the internet’s reaction to LuLaRich?
It’s a lot. When I say it’s a lot, it’s a lot. I live in Orange County, right? And I walk into the nail shop to go get my nails done. They went crazy. My nail tech, he was like, “What the hell’s going on?” And the lady was like, “This is her.” He was like, “You could have given me a head’s up.” Well, I mean, it just happened yesterday. I made this nail appointment four days ago. He was like, “I was wondering why everybody’s looking outside.” So yeah, that for me was a game changer.
Then my sister called me and she was like, “Bitch. You’re famous.” Mind you, at five o’clock in the morning. And I was like, what? She was like, “Yeah, get up.” And I go on the internet and I’m all over the place.
Then I get a text from her. She’s going to the doctor’s office. She just texted me. She said, “Everyone at my doctor’s office loves you, answer your phone.” And as soon as I got to the phone part, boom, video chat. I have my rag on my head and I hit the thing and it’s a doctor’s office full of ladies and screaming and all and they love me and stuff. I’m sending them some free T-shirts, and my sister was like, “Thank you so much. They love you. And I got to the doctor’s office and they were talking about you. And I was like, I’m going to one-up everybody in here. So I called you.”
Were you surprised by anything in the documentary when you watched it?
Not really. The deposition [in which LuLaRoe’s management testified that they didn’t know the address of their own company] for me, I was just like, you guys, really? That is not the energy [Mark and DeAnne Stidham] would have at work, but OK. I was just—for me, if I had a billion-dollar company, I’d know the address of it. I mean, I know there’s some people who don’t want to be put out there like that and they want to stay behind the scenes and I get that. But I can bet you, bottom dollar, they know that address of that million-dollar company that they have if somebody asks.
Was there any moment while watching it that your jaw kind of just dropped?
Just her. Just their whole thing. Just them. I’m like, you two have the nerve. What did you guys think this was? I really thought maybe, did somebody trick y’all to tell y’all to get on camera? For me, I was like, this is crazy. And they really don’t think they’ve done anything. That’s the crazy part, and they’re still in business. That’s what blows my mind. Like, they have just enough people with them to drink the Kool-Aid where they’re staying above float.
You said that they had a completely different energy in the deposition than they brought into the office. How were they different in the office?
They would be all up and beat; they knew everything. You could hear her heels a mile away, clicking. Click-clocking down and up the marble hallway or the wood floor. They just seemed so lethargic during the interview. I’d never seen her talk like that. Never, ever. Yes, I haven’t been in LuLaRoe in quite some time, but when she started talking, all slow and stuff … she’s usually upbeat, chattier Kathy. Like she’s been on 10 Red Bulls.
Since the documentary, they have people go out and troll and scroll our social media. And the fact that they try so hard to discredit us it’s just, I’m just wowed by it. Really?
You said they have people troll your social media?
Yeah. People say, “Oh my gosh, you’re a racist. How dare you?” “Well, you worked for LuLaRoe and you stayed and you became a consultant.” And I kindly reply to them, “Yeah, I never said I didn’t.” I said that, yes, I did stay. Even after I left home office. I did. It’s the money. I never said what I didn’t do, but I don’t understand what’s your issue because I didn’t want to get on the boat. I don’t want to be on the boat with all of y’all. I don’t even like being at the home office with y’all. But it was my job.
When people are truly genuine, they see you for who you are. You don’t even have to say anything because everybody else will. I don’t even have to say anything. People are like, “How dare you come on her page.” So it’s just, really? You wasn’t there. You don’t know what I saw. You can’t tell me what I didn’t see. I don’t care what you say about me. I don’t care who you send to troll my page. You can’t tell me what I didn’t see. And you can’t tell me it didn’t happen. And I wish you guys would try to tell me it didn’t happen. They should be ashamed of themselves. I hope they get in a lot of trouble. Screw you guys.
Speaking of those comments, we have to talk about the infamous LuLaRoe consultant cruise for top sellers. You decided not to go on the cruise. What was it like seeing the footage of the cruise of people partying with Mark and DeAnne Stidham?
I didn’t expect it to be like that. I’m not racist. It was just what I felt at the time. And that wasn’t my first cruise. I was invited twice. And I was just, no. And I know everybody was like, “Oh, why wouldn’t you go?” That just wasn’t my thing and I didn’t want to go. And then you would hear the stuff that’s happening on the ship. And I’m like, yeah, no. And I declined to go. I didn’t know people were going to take offense to it, but it’s whatever. I still stand by it.
You said you heard what kind of stuff was going on the ship. What was going on?
All crazy stuff. The parties, the drinking. The allegedly drugs, the allegedly fornicating. That’s crazy. And it’s just like, everybody’s OK with it. It’s just one big happy family. And that’s just something I didn’t want to be a part of. I’m not sleeping with nobody. I’m damn sure not changing my religion. So the only thing left here is the money and that’s two out of three. And usually when you get two out of three, you going to roll with the bigger number.
So it’s time for me to go. I won’t lie, at first I was OK, one more month… OK one more month… And I did that for two, three months. It’s like an addiction when you really want to just do something. I don’t know. I’ve never had an addiction, so let me be clear about that. But from reading and seeing: You like something, and you want to do it; even though you know it’s bad, you still do it.
We also have to talk about the scene where you’re explaining why you didn’t want to go on the cruise. You start off by saying, “I love white people to death” before elaborating on why you didn’t want to be in the middle of the ocean with a bunch of white people. There’s this moment in your interview where I noticed that you paused before you decided to just go ahead and say it. I’m curious what was going through your mind.
If I would’ve just said, “Oh, I didn’t want to go on the cruise.” People would’ve been like, well, why didn’t you want to, you know what I’m saying? So to clear all that up and get straight to the point, that is why I said what I said. And it was just how it was. If you look on the pictures and you go back and if you follow me on my Facebook, scroll back to 2015. You’ll see all of my pictures are with white people and I didn’t have a problem with it. It never was a problem, but I just didn’t want to be on a boat in the middle of nowhere with them. That’s just how I felt. It’s cool, we on land and when I’m ready to go, I can go. On a boat, if I’m uncomfortable, I don’t like something, I don’t have nobody there but these people that I came with.
When I watched it, I was like, yeah, I would not want to be on a boat with a bunch of white people either.
Right. Historically speaking, that’s just not our thing.
I’m curious what you think of the internet reaction to that line. I saw most people being like, girl, yes, she is correct.
They were just like, “Oh my God, she’s a queen.” That’s a lot to take in when you wake up and people all over the world are calling you iconic and a queen and it’s like, your heart is full. You don’t know what to say. You’re grateful. But it’s just, wow, really, because I said how I felt? Hell, I should have been saying how I felt 20 years ago.
I’m still Shae. I still have to do everything else. My friends are like, “Don’t come around here, you all over here like you Queen Elizabeth and stuff just because you got that little show on.” They keep me grounded, but it’s just wow. For somebody to call you a queen and iconic, it’s pretty dope. And I haven’t really even done anything yet.
You say “yet.” Do you have a plan? I saw you have a merchandise line and are selling the “I love white people to death” shirt.
I do have a T-shirt line coming out. I will be putting it out there. I’m going to be doing a preorder because people are inboxing me and the numbers are astronomical and I don’t do numbers.
I don’t want to be known as LuLaRich. LuLaRich is not who I am. It’s just what I felt at the time. And I was just glad that they even thought of me to even tell my story. And people were like, if it was that bad … I never said it was that bad. I just said the shit that they were doing is bad. It wasn’t that they were racist to me. They didn’t have a lot of Black people there. Not where I was, in the position where I was there. There just wasn’t.
I was grateful for the opportunity, but I also busted my ass too. I worked very hard. So don’t think that it was just, oh she got lucky. No, I was at work all the time. Day and night. Sometimes on Saturdays. They knew not to say anything to me on Sundays because I’m a football girl. A Raiders fan. And I don’t care what you say. I’m going to watch my football. I’ll turn on the football game at work if I have to. But other than that, I did my job and it was a lot. My job was hard. Everybody just saw all the glitz, the glamor, and all the gifts and all of that stuff. But behind the scenes … I remember when I left, I thought about doing a tell-all and I remember when I was approached by the attorneys and they were like, [negative] uh-uh.
You said you felt like the documentary focused on the glitz and the glamor. Do you think there’s anything that it should have focused on more?
No. What it did, it did what it was supposed to. I still give it a five star. It gave you enough to where you’re asking for more. And if enough people ask for more, what are they going to do? They’re going to give it to you. And everybody’s intrigued. We were just a few of the people. What about the people that really got screwed over? You know what I’m saying? That kind of stuff. For me, it was pretty cool because I worked in home office, then I was a consultant. So for me it’s just OK. Yeah, I do know some of the juicy stuff.
If they were to do a follow-up series, what do you think they should focus on this time around?
Get into the juicy stuff and then break it down to different consultants and see what they experienced. Just because I experienced what I experienced doesn’t mean somebody else experienced it. Just, like, you have the people that are still at LuLaRoe. “Yeah, and I love it and nobody makes me do anything.” At the end of the day, you still in a pyramid scheme, no matter what you said you’re experiencing, you’re in a MLM and that’s bottom line, whether you doing good or not. So stop with all the “Yeah, I’m so happy and yada yada yada.” Girl, I was there, been there, and did that. Get down to the juicy stuff. Why you guys try to act like your family is all “Kumbaya”? Girl, bye.