Self-help author, self-described media mogul, and self-proclaimed Christian Rachel Hollis is in a bit of a PR mess this week after wading into some bad social media optics and then doubling down, but contrary to what the race-baiters and even Hollis herself think, racial insensitivity isn’t her biggest problem.
Things went south when the New York Times stepped in to smear her as a privileged racist and say, “Girl, Wash Your Timeline,” a twist on the title of Hollis’s best-selling book “Girl, Wash Your Face.” Specifically, the Times highlighted a TikTok the 38-year-old writer had posted. In the video, Hollis conveyed how, in a recent live stream, she had mentioned her housekeeper who comes twice a week and “cleans the toilets,” which resulted in one commenter saying Hollis was “unrelatable” and “privileged AF.”
“You’re right. I’m super freaking privileged, but also, I worked my ass off to have the money to have someone come twice a week and clean my toilets,” Hollis said to her TikTok followers. “What is it about me that made you think I want to be relatable? No, sis, literally everything I do in my life is to live a life that most people can’t relate to. … Literally, every woman I admire in history was unrelatable,” she continued, invoking the names of Harriet Tubman, Oprah Winfrey, and others in her caption. “If my life is relatable to most people, I’m doing it wrong.”
Critics described the video as a “disgusting capitalistic, privileged flex” and called Hollis a “tone-deaf, disillusioned mean girl” and a narcissistic racist. The race point became the thrust of the New York Times article as well.
“I should pull myself up by my bootstraps?” the Times quoted Vivian Kaye’s response. Kaye, who owns KinkyCurlyYaki, which sells hair extensions for black women, was once given a free ticket by Hollis’s company to attend one of the author’s women’s conferences. “Do you not know the system is rigged against me? That’s not feminism. That’s just putting lipstick on the patriarchy,” said Kaye, who had a problem with Hollis even before the TikTok fiasco for ostensibly appropriating “black vernacular” words such as “sis” and “girl.”
For her allegedly racist rant, Hollis has lost about 100,000 Instagram followers, according to the Times. And she’s had to rethink and reschedule some of her upcoming events, even issuing an apology online after first reportedly blaming her “team” for taking so long to address the issue.
“I’m so deeply sorry for the things I said in my recent posts and the hurt I have caused in the past few days,” Hollis announced in her self-flogging Instagram post, confessing her racism and privilege. But while Hollis tries to recover from the charges of co-opting black terms, when is she going to apologize for co-opting Christianity?
‘You Are In Control’
Here is the biggest problem with Rachel Hollis: Her entire brand, from her self-help books emphasizing self-care and self-love, to her merchandise, to her videos, to her public speeches, is built on self-congratulatory screeds with the message “you control your life” mingled with a Joel Osteen-eque prosperity gospel.
“I absolutely refuse to watch you wallow,” Hollis writes at the beginning of “Girl, Wash Your Face.” “I want to shout at the top of my lungs until you know this one great truth: you are in control of your own life.”
Parts of Hollis’s advice seem to have worked out for her so far. In never giving up on her own dreams, she’s achieved quite a measure of fame and fortune. Her goal is to build a “media empire,” and she desires so badly to be powerful and important that she even has the word “mogul” tattooed on her wrist.
Hollis frequently boasts about her work ethic and achievements, saying, “I work 10 times harder today than I have ever in my life, I just sit in a better seat on the plane,” and this pursuit of material success and a luxurious lifestyle is a pattern. In addition to working her “ass off” to have a woman come clean her toilets, Hollis writes in her book about her craving for a thousand-dollar Louis Vuitton bag and brags about driving to the Beverly Hills Louis Vuitton store to buy one of the purses the day she made her first $10,000 consulting.
Rachel Hollis Co-Opts Christianity
The writer, whose dad is a Pentecostal minister, also loves to play the part of theologian, and her book “Girl, Wash Your Face” was published under HarperCollins’ Christian label Thomas Nelson.
“I love Jesus,” Hollis said in a Facebook post, adding, “and I cuss a little. I love Jesus, and I drink alcohol. I love Jesus, and some of my best friends are gay. I love Jesus, and I adore hip hop music. I love Jesus, and I totally read romance novels where vampires fall in love with librarians or school teachers or female detectives with a tortured backstory.”
Don’t miss Hollis’s message there. It isn’t, “I love Jesus, and my life isn’t squeaky clean.” It’s “I love Jesus, and I do what I want,” which is made clear by the author’s other messaging: “You should be the very first of your priorities.”
The first chapter of “Girl, Wash Your Face” features that and similar messages: “You, and only you, are ultimately responsible for who you become and how happy you are,” and “You are meant to be the hero of your own story.”
Really? Where in the Bible, the book in which Jesus is the suffering servant but also the true hero, does he ever advise that our worlds should revolve around ourselves? What about the command to consider other people as more important than ourselves? What about the truth that unless God builds the house, all our labors are in vain? Rebecca Hastings pinpointed the issue when she wrote in Relevant Magazine, “In Rachel Hollis’ Self-Help Empire, God Is Just an Accessory.”
While Hollis’s entire brand is “you control your life” and her doctrine is “Girl, you got this,” the whole message of the gospel is “Girl, nope, you haven’t got this.” She seems to have rejected every part of the Christian message: You’re naturally God’s enemy, you can’t help yourself — only a perfect Jesus can — and because he came and died and rose, you can have peace and victory in your life through faith in the only One who does have control — because you don’t. Hollis, it seems, doesn’t buy it.
The Rachel Hollis Gospel Isn’t the True Gospel
The veil has slipped for the author, not only because she’s lost hundreds of thousands of followers, or because her former employees have exposed some of her nasty business practices, or because ironically, this woman who wrote “Girl, Stop Apologizing” is now on an anti-racist apology tour, but because her personal life is also crumbling. In June, Hollis and her husband, another highly successful person she met while he was one of the head honchos at Disney, announced they were getting a divorce, leaving their four children with fractured co-parents.
Even the strongest of Christians have imperfect lives and require abundant grace. But pseudo-Christians who project ultimate prosperity while peddling a false message are of particular consequence when their facade falls apart. Rachel Hollis is joining the ranks of Joshua Harris, the ex-mega-church pastor and disgraced author of the massively popular book “I Kissed Dating Goodbye,” who later divorced his wife and denounced his faith. They want to tell you how to pull your life together, even though they can’t do it themselves.
“Reading ‘Girl, Wash Your Face’ exhausted me,” Alisa Childers wrote at The Gospel Coalition. “It’s all about what I can be doing better and what I’m not doing well enough. How to be better at work, parenting, and writing. How to be less bad at cardio, sex, and, you know, changing the world.”
If telling people how to be less bad at cardio and sex are Hollis’s utmost aims, she should sling that Louis Vuitton bag over her arm and keep working her butt off while someone else does her chores. There’s no law against that. As long as “mogul” remains her mantra and motivation, however, she should drop the Christian facade, no matter how many MLM mommy bloggers it attracts. The “you’re in control” gospel is no gospel at all.