Proposal Title

Livestreaming the American Dream: LuLaRich (2021), Momtrepreneurs, and Neoliberal Technologies of the Nation

Start Date

June 2022

End Date

June 2022

Abstract

LuLaRich (Jenner Furst & Julia Willoughby, 2021) chronicles the rise and fall of the clothing empire and alleged multi-level-marketing (“MLM”) scheme LuLaRoe. Throughout the docuseries, women, known to the company as “retailers,” share their experiences of starting their own businesses selling the brand’s now-infamous super soft leggings. Their testimonies detail the large start-up costs associated with “buying into the business,” while showcasing efforts of retailers to promote sales of their fashion on social media through livestreaming. This presentation analyzes LuLaRich (2021) within the context of the growing commodification of social media platforms during the period associated with LuLaRoe’s rise which included the release of Facebook Live and the business extension to Instagram. Reading the docuseries, promoted videos on the clothier’s YouTube account, and user-generated videos of its retailers, I situate LuLaRoe’s MLM-style labor practices within the broader situation of the post-recession economy that featured a growing emphasis on branded selfhood by social media companies in the new modes of flexible labor that became central to the national economy. Where critics have routinely decried how the neoliberal economy has displaced social responsibility from the state onto private individuals, this docuseries and its related constellation of social media branding videos by self-styled “momtrepreneurs” embody the everyday intimacies and strategies of adjustment to corroding futures within this economy. In charting this landscape, I argue for a reading of how digital practices of microcelebrity, promotional labor, and self-branding fit within national myths that mark the new technological landscape in the U.S., particularly as LuLaRoe’s promises of fulfilling the American Dream through entrepreneurship are echoed by broader ideologies of consumer participation with social media platforms.

Bio

Michael Reinhard is a Lecturer at the University of California, Los Angeles. His work has appeared in Velvet Light Trap, Intersectional Feminist Readings of Comics (Routledge, 2021), and Feminist Media Studies. Dr. Reinhard’s upcoming research will be featured in edited collections as The Films of Susan Seidelman, The Oxford Handbook of American Documentary, and Viva Las Vegas: Music and Myth in America’s City of Second Chances. Currently, he is developing his research monograph The Diva’s Public: Celebrity, Media Activism, and the New Cultural Citizenship to explore new logics of mediated citizenship and social activism in contemporary media production.

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Jun 25th, 3:00 PM Jun 25th, 4:30 PM

Livestreaming the American Dream: LuLaRich (2021), Momtrepreneurs, and Neoliberal Technologies of the Nation

LuLaRich (Jenner Furst & Julia Willoughby, 2021) chronicles the rise and fall of the clothing empire and alleged multi-level-marketing (“MLM”) scheme LuLaRoe. Throughout the docuseries, women, known to the company as “retailers,” share their experiences of starting their own businesses selling the brand’s now-infamous super soft leggings. Their testimonies detail the large start-up costs associated with “buying into the business,” while showcasing efforts of retailers to promote sales of their fashion on social media through livestreaming. This presentation analyzes LuLaRich (2021) within the context of the growing commodification of social media platforms during the period associated with LuLaRoe’s rise which included the release of Facebook Live and the business extension to Instagram. Reading the docuseries, promoted videos on the clothier’s YouTube account, and user-generated videos of its retailers, I situate LuLaRoe’s MLM-style labor practices within the broader situation of the post-recession economy that featured a growing emphasis on branded selfhood by social media companies in the new modes of flexible labor that became central to the national economy. Where critics have routinely decried how the neoliberal economy has displaced social responsibility from the state onto private individuals, this docuseries and its related constellation of social media branding videos by self-styled “momtrepreneurs” embody the everyday intimacies and strategies of adjustment to corroding futures within this economy. In charting this landscape, I argue for a reading of how digital practices of microcelebrity, promotional labor, and self-branding fit within national myths that mark the new technological landscape in the U.S., particularly as LuLaRoe’s promises of fulfilling the American Dream through entrepreneurship are echoed by broader ideologies of consumer participation with social media platforms.