Book review — Hey Hun: Sales, Sisterhood, Supremacy, and the Other Lies Behind Multilevel Marketing

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Author: Emily Lynn Paulson
Row House Publishing, 2023
345 pages

Hey Hun book cover

In this excellent book, Paulson candidly tells her own story as a high earner in an MLM, interweaving it with the latest research and commentary on how MLMs operate. It is a very engaging book, easy to read and witty, as well as illuminating. Paulson doesn’t shy away from talking about, and owning responsibility for, her own behaviour and thoughts when she was in deep. She openly discusses the impact her involvement had on her marriage, family life, and friendships, and her struggles with alcohol and how ‘bossbabe’ life impacted on all of them.

She does not name the MLM she was a part of, as it’s basically beside the point. She has coined the MLM name ‘Rejuvinat’ as a catch-all for all MLMs. She’s not pointing the finger at just this one company, but at all MLMs.

Paulson’s sense of humour makes what can be a heavy subject very accessible. The chapter headings (and these are just a few of the 14 chapters) give you a good idea of the tone of this book:

  • I’m Positive That You Suck
  • That Time of the Month
  • ‘Licking’ Things to Claim Them as Your Own
  • You Can Check Out, but You Can Never Leave

This book covers the language used in MLMs, recruitment techniques, toxic positivity, the gradual eroding of one’s intuition, the false sisterhood MLMs promote (and fail to deliver), the reality of ‘free’ cars and trips, what attending conventions is like, how female empowerment is co-opted to the MLMs’ benefit, the rampant racism, white privilege, Steve Hassan’s BITE model of cultic control, income disclosure statements (and why they are so useless), religion in MLM, the Paycheck Protection Program fraud during the pandemic, market and distributor saturation, social media and so much more.

A few (of many!) favourite quotes: (And honestly, we’d like to include the whole book here, but apart from being a teensy bit against copyright, it would make a rather long post 😜):

MLMs are built on the belief that if it works for me, it will work for you, despite any differences in resources, backgrounds, skill sets, or networks. MLMs believe everyone is truly equal, in the most abusive way possible. (pg 41)

According to research, the typical MLM member is a married, forty-three-year-old white woman who has completed some college courses, has no temporary or permanent disabilities, and speaks English at home. Not exactly a wide umbrella of diversity, even internationally. (pg 69)

Another factor that isn’t included in an IDS [income disclosure statement] is churn, which is huge in MLM. It’s common for more than half of MLM indoctrinates to quit with a year. For those who don’t stay a year, their income is not included in these figures. Imagine how much worse it would be. (pg 82)

In MLM parlance, growth does not mean enlargement of a customer base, but rather, replacement of a customer base. (pg 143)

When you join an MLM, you are a contractor, not a superhero. You’re not brave. But you are a victim – a victim of financial exploitation, a victim of toxic positivity, and for many of us, victims of our own white supremacy. Because this constant push for personal development is actually just a symptom of a world that requires perfection to be in community – perfection in this context is defined by White, Christian, upper-middle-class women. (pp 224–225)

When you’re deep in an MLM, you’re exempt from being an accurate judge of what is actually good for someone. (pg 257)

There is a detailed bibliography, and a list of factual, evidence-based resources. We are honoured to have had this website listed in the resources section — thank you, Emily.

If you wish to get the inside story from someone who rose through the ranks of an MLM, and had the scales fall from her eyes, you will enjoy this book. Paulson writes very well, and her factual information about MLMs is clearly presented, up-to-date and easy to understand. It is a substantial addition to literature about the world of business cults. We highly recommend it.

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