Cover Image: Hey, Hun

Hey, Hun

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

(2.5 stars, rounded up to 3)

Emily Lynn Paulson's "Hey Hun" reads like a blend of the "LuLaRich" documentary and the nonfiction book "Cultish: The Language of Fanaticism," offering a unique perspective from someone who rose to the top of the pyramid scheme. While Paulson's narrative is engaging and her authorial voice shines through, the book falls short in certain areas. Despite highlighting the racism inherent in MLMs and expressing guilt for profiting from her downline, Paulson's departure from the MLM world feels out of touch, especially as she transitions to a new venture in life coaching. This final sales pitch leaves a hollow impression, raising questions about the sincerity of her departure from the MLM industry.

Was this review helpful?

I love a good exploration of the predatory nature and social dynamics of MLMs and other various schemes and scams. I think that MLMs are a particularly insidious and interesting phenomenon because of the way they intentionally target women and use their social vulnerability. It was really great to read this book from the perspective of someone who had been on the inside of the scheme, versus most other exposes that are from a an outsiders lens. It was a bit meandering and repetative but overall a great look at the world of MLMs.

Was this review helpful?

I have mixed feelings about this book. As someone who has been in the MLM industry for over a decade, I wanted to see what Ms. Paulson had to say about it. I decided to go into it totally open-minded and hear what she had to say.

She makes some good points about MLMs and how the business model can be predatory. While I cannot deny that is often the case, I can say it's not ALWAYS the case. For my first MLM experience, I reached out to the company to be paired with a rep. No one coerced, goaded, or convinced me to join. I wanted to join all on my own and was paired with an incredible sponsor. While she certainly did celebrate my successes, I was never pushed to make sales, recruit people, or reach a goal to pad her bottom line. She cared about me as a person and now years later, after that company has been closed for several years, she is still a great friend. We still stay in regular contact and get together often. She is one of the greatest people I've met and I thank that business for bringing her into my life.

That said, I've also been on the other end of things (with other companies and sponsors) in which I eventually realized that I was just a number. My mother also fell victim to a very convincing woman who talked my mom into signing up for a business and ordering a big product kit, and after that kit was purchased, she literally NEVER contacted my mom again.

So I have no doubt that the examples given and points made in this book are accurate. That said, absolutely nothing in this book was groundbreaking or shocking to me. Perhaps it's because I've been in the industry long enough to have seen or heard about the things she mentions, but I think I expected a much darker story or bigger expose than what was presented.

I also thought it strange that the author repeatedly mentioned how MLMs really push white supremacy and racism, but never really delved into it or explained her stance much further than that. There were little snippets here and there, but she made a very broad, sweeping, yet serious statement multiple times without backing it up with much (if any) research.

And while I respect that the author was open and honest about her own involvement with the MLM industry and the poor choices she made, I was honestly left feeling sort of disgusted by the end of the book. She repeatedly mentioned the guilt she felt and how she realized it was such a predatory industry, yet continued to collect a huge check every month that was fully earned by the hard work her team was doing, while she literally sat back and didn't work her business at all (Side note: I have a hard time understanding how that was even possible, because one of the ways MLM businesses avoid being considered "pyramid schemes" is by setting quotas for people with downlines to meet in order to earn their commission checks. The entire compensation plan is predicated on leadership having to work their personal business in order to earn a commission check, so unless the MLM she was involved in was truly a pyramid scheme, I don't understand how she was able to do that.).

Anyway, though she didn't have to admit that about herself, it just felt disingenuous when she claimed to have felt really gross about the industry and her part in it, but continued to collect the check for a few years after that. She also claimed to feel bad about all the people on her team that were working so hard for so little, but in the next breath talked about having to let go of her au pair. It just left a really bad taste in my mouth, but I go back and forth on whether that's a reason not to like the book. I am glad she was honest and certainly prefer an honest account to one that just makes the author look good, whether or not it's the truth. So although it left me feeling unsettled, I do still appreciate her candor. And I suppose in a way, it's meant to make you feel unsettled. The whole book is to expose an industry that she no longer wants to be a part of, so if it left you feeling warm and fuzzy, that would sort of defeat the purpose.

If you've worked in the MLM industry for a long time, if you've heard the stories about MLMs, or if you've watched the Lula-Rich documentary, you probably won't glean any new information from this book. But for someone that doesn't know much about the MLM industry, I'd imagine this book would be eye opening.

Thank you to NetGalley and RowHouse publishing for the e-arc in exchange for my honest review.

Was this review helpful?

in general, I really loved this. it was a perfect road trip read and, for someone who has already read SO MUCH about MLMs, it provided a fresh take. Emily Lynn Paulson is someone who was in an MLM and, by all accounts, was someone who did really well in it. She pulls back the curtain on the free cars, trips, and conventions to really expose the innerworkings of these exploitative businesses. I also think she did a great job of humanizing those who get sucked in, highlighting the motivations that might draw someone to join a wellness cult.
my only complaint, weirdly, is that she also tried to address white supremacy. normally I am so pro addressing the larger, systemic inequities at play, but Emily didn't seem very well-equipped to do so. It honestly read as if she turned in an entire finished manuscript and an editor suggested she also address pervasive racism. So at the end of each chapter she was like, also! white supremacy!
I think there's definitely something to be said about how MLMs are so white and not inclusive, but this book didn't do a good job of tackling a nuanced topic.

Was this review helpful?

First off: If you're an "entrepreneur" in a business that's an MLM, or it just seems like one and you're questioning it – trust your intuition, take the L, do whatever it takes to get out and dissociate yourself ASAP... then move on with the lesson learned and try to let go of any regrets or shame around it.

This book is a captivating and eye-opening account of the deceptive world of multilevel marketing. The author's lively and raw storytelling shares her experience with the dark side of MLMs, from broken friendships to questionable marketing tactics.

It offers a refreshing and much-needed perspective on the dangers of these types of "businesses", and their impact on individuals and society. I couldn't help but pick up on the same "trust me, girlfriend" influencer voice in the writing, only now working to market her new ventures. But I'm glad she was able to get out of the MLM, which is no small feat, and make an impact toward helping others avoid the pitfalls of being targeted by these grifter businesses.

Was this review helpful?

Finally, a girlfriend spills the truth behind the top ranks of a MLM and what MLMs do to hook potential customers and recruits. An engaging look that confirms the worst and reveals an even more insidious and sinister world of the 1%. Get your popcorn ready because you will devour this account.

Was this review helpful?

That was a ride. It was refreshing to read this take from someone who was actually at the top of the pyramid. She was getting $40,000-50,000 a month from having such a long downline and finally realized how harmful an MLM could be. I appreciate the stories of those who did not make it far up and realized early on what a toxic culture it is, but I think a perspective like Paulson's - someone who drank the Kool aid for so long and truly benefitted from it - could actually change things.

There was also some super interesting info in here - how the MLM set up is there to benefit white women, how they use any form of tragedy or natural disaster to line their pockets ("for every X purchased, I'll donate X% to charity"), how this particular MLM (Rodan & Fields) cared about their name being associated with topics they deemed unprofessional and yet had no problem with consultants knowingly attending the Jan 6 insurrection and posting about All Lives Matter. I was also shocked to hear how many consultants signed up for PPP loans during the pandemic fully knowing that it was illegal to do so since those loans were to take care of small businesses with employees.

I also appreciated how Paulson's perspective wasn't black or white. She didn't bash people that get involved with MLMs in the hopes of extra income or who just join for the discounts because she understands them. She is firmly against the pyramid itself and how it only benefits the people at the top no matter how hard you may work at the bottom. You should benefit directly from sales instead of how many people you get to sign up under you. You also shouldn't have to pay to "keep your level." MLMs are specifically structured to support the company, not their employees.

This has turned into a long review but I guess I'm just writing it in the hopes that someone will read this in case they don't feel like reading all of Paulsen's book.

Was this review helpful?

This was very intriguing to me - seeing INSIDE an MLM was very fascinating. This is a "if you see it, you see it and can't unsee it" - but if you don't, then you REALLY don't see it and have been taught to tell those who are exposing the truth that they are wrong.

MLM involvement might be the most pervasive cult in our culture - and I appreciated Emily exposing the methods. I think so many women are ALL IN and don't even know how to say "wow, I might have been wrong about that."

I had some cognitive dissonance though because I regularly purchase from an MLM for my skincare routine - I have decided that that skin regimen is going to be my only purchase from them - until I can find a simple solution that is not from them. The consultant I purchase from is high in the organization as she was one of the first people I know who became a consultant, so she's got a huge downline, which I know is how she's making it there. I'm torn trying to understand if she's actually doing something good or she's doing harm. The mean income for new consultants in that MLM in the first six months is $42, so not quite life changing - and that's not profit, you've still got to pay for product and taxes.

Was this review helpful?

Kudos to Emily Lynn Paulson for writing this book about her experience in a MLM (multilevel marketing) skin care company. She didn’t outright name the company, in the book she ficitionally calls it “Rejuvinat”. I was fascinated with her experience, and also her journey with realizing she was drinking too much and needed to get sober. Then, how her sobriety changed her outlook on life.

The author is a mom of five kids, and a wife, and eventually she pivoted, starting her own company called Sober Mom Squad.

What I enjoyed about this book is that the author was transparent about how the MLM experience quickly segued to the possibility of making good money, while being able to be a stay at home mom, and she then felt pressured into selling this idea to others. This is what the appeal is for so many women with MLMs. The issue is, unless you get in the MLM very early, you will rarely make sufficient money after expenses (important, because the expense piece is a huge part that many don’t consider, or choose to ignore), never mind making enough after taxes to substitute for a corporate job or owning your own company.

When in an MLM, reps never share how much (or little) income they actually make, and this results in selling the “dream” to others. Only 1% of those in an MLM actually make money which is a fact many don’t realize until they are knee deep into it. This is why there is such a large turnover at the bottom of the company.

The author likens being part of an MLM as like belonging to a sorority. It can also be a popularity contest, and image is everything. Unless one has a large personal network to begin with, it can be difficult to be successful.

I don’t shame anyone for the choices they make and if anyone enjoys being part of an MLM model, that’s their choice. Some sign up just to get a discount on product. Some of our most beloved companies over the years are MLMs (Tupperware, Avon). I do think this book is a wide-eyed journey into what it can be like being an active part of an MLM company, and what can happen if one joins with the dream of making a significant income, and their expectations are not in alignment with reality.

Thank you to Row House Publishing and Netgalley for the advance reader copy in exchange for my review.

Was this review helpful?

I honestly feel really torn when it comes to this book. I REALLY wanted to love it. And for the first 75% of the book, I did.

The beginning 3/4 of this book paints a really compelling picture of life inside an MLM and how, even when you're at the top, it can have a negative effect on your life. Even during this portion of the book, however, she threw around a lot of platitudes about white supremacy and how privileged she is, without really investigating what those things mean or what it is that makes her so privileged beyond money (hint: it's the white supremacism).

Then, comes the last 25% of the book. After telling us about how long she took to actually get out of the MLM once she decided she didn't want to do it anymore, continuing to profit off of her downline without doing any work, she pivots to tell us all about her new alcohol recovery coaching business and how much better it is than an MLM... all while pointing out how sketchy the coaching industry can be. It definitely felt like she hasn't done as much unpacking of all of this as she thinks she might have.

What got me the most, though, was that during her blatant pitch for her membership community, she goes on and on about her sliding pay scale, scholarships, and how she really wants it to be a place where all women are welcome. It really felt like she was begging for a pat on the back for that that just felt icky.

All in all, would I recommend this book? I did find it interesting, and if you want true insight into how the mind of an MLM-er works, then you should give it a go. For an introduction to the sketchy, cultish world of MLMs, though, there are definitely better options.

Was this review helpful?

This needed further editing, but it is overall breezy and readable, if also kind of empty, sort of like cotton candy. It feels very Robin DiAngelo for the MLM-deprogramming crowd, by which I mean it’s something only a white woman can write because only white women will be listened to in this way, so cheers but also arghhhh because they identify the problem but still are a problem!

Was this review helpful?

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for this ARC. Obviously anything MLM or cult-y lately, I've been all in. I really enjoyed the author's first hand account of joining an MLM and essentially how it ended up ruining her life for 7 years. I knew a lot of the statistics she cited but the very real stories she shared about her experiences were wild. I'm also so glad she acknowledges and leans into the white supremacy that runs behind the scenes. The amount of money she was making was so much more than I thought possible... but she was also in the like 0.5% of people at the top of an MLM. I did think the choice to tell the whole story in present tense was interesting, it made more sense some times than others. I received an advance review copy for free and I'm leaving this review voluntarily.

Was this review helpful?

Thank you Emily Lynn Paulson, 47North and NetGalley for this ARC e-book. Alright who hasn't received a "Hey Hun" or some other type of cold call message??? Most of us have, they come from that one girl you known from high school or as random as some girl you have never met sending you an out of thin air Facebook friend request. You know them as the dreaded MLM some of you may have even joined only to realize the rewards are few and far between and you spend more than you make. This book walks you through the pyramid schemes with insider looks and first person accounts. The wit of the author takes this pretty much annoying topic into an inside look and understand and makes it enjoyable to learn the truth about it.

Was this review helpful?

If you have ever wondered what it's like to pick the brain of someone inside an MLM this is the book for you. It was so interesting to see a perspective from someone that was on the inside and actively trying to recruit people. This was definitely an interesting read and worth the read if you value different perspectives.

Was this review helpful?

Would recommend for fans of…
💸Cultish
💸LuLaRich
💸The Dream podcast

Part memoir, part exploration of multi-level marketing companies, it’s an in-depth look at how these companies function and continue to bring participants into their ranks. It’s an interesting read as the author, Emily Lynn Paulson, details her own experience as a leader within one of these companies.

While she doesn’t reveal specific details about the company she worked for Paulson does share some shocking stories about her involvement with the company impacted her relationships with her family and friends, as well as the tactics she resorted to to maintain her status and continue to sell product and recruit people.

This book covers a lot of ground (it delves into Paulson’s journey to sobriety as well), which makes it feel a little thin at some places. While Paulson explains how the topics are linked, I think I would have preferred a more in-depth look at the MLM aspect of her story.

If you ever bought (or were tempted to buy) a pair of LuLaRoe leggings or were fascinated by the MLM chapter of Cultish, you need to add Hey Hun to your summer TBR.

Hey Hun is out now. Thanks to Simon and Schuster and NetGalley for the eARC in exchange for an honest review.

Was this review helpful?

“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—and perfection in this context is defined by white, Christian, upper-middle-class women.”

I received an ARC of this and tore through it in a few days! I will admit- a lot of the information is that which I already knew- but that’s only because I’m a “citizen detective” when it comes to cultic and religious studies 🤣Emily is a recovered member of MLM giant “Rejuvinat” (a pseudonym) who climbed the ladder of girlbossing until, simply put, she could girlboss no more. Having Emily pull back the curtain on the processes of “business” employed by these groups- from the social media posting to conventions- was fascinating, and worth the read alone.

I want to provide a disclaimer- I see a lot of people online critiquing this book because they feel the author’s previous use of her own story for financial gain is so despicable, that she shouldn’t be given any more air time. I feel strongly that most things in this life are nuanced, and in this case, the author has journeyed through girlboss hell and back again. What she has to offer us as a consolation for supposed “bad behavior”, then, is her first person account of experience and growth through it all. I think that Paulson’s radical honesty, vulnerability of portraying herself as flawed, and willingness to call out her own part in perpetuating the toxicity of all aspects of MLM culture are all grounds for commendation. Emily isn’t perfect, and neither are any of us. There is a lot of value in her story- and through her opening the door, hopefully many others will walk through to tell their own stories. Thank you Emily for writing this book, and I am so grateful to have been able to read it a bit early- but it’s now available WHEREVER books are sold!

Was this review helpful?

Emily Paulson felt lost. A young mother with several small children, she’d stepped away from the career ladder and found herself stuck juggling childcare alone when her husband traveled for his corporate job. She was trapped in a circuit of sweatpants and Spongebob. So when an old high school acquaintance invited her out for wine, she was thrilled at the chance to get dressed up, go somewhere swish and feel like herself again.

It turned out to be a trap. Although she wasn’t swept into the back of a van by kidnappers, she was propelled into the world of Multilevel Marketing (MLM), also known as a pyramid scheme. The drinks invitation was a lure, first to be wowed by the fabulous cosmetics she could buy (at a discount!! And didn’t her friend’s skin look amazing?), and if she liked the product: why not have a go at selling it herself?

As Paulson writes in Hey, Hun, “I was the perfect target for an MLM, which preys on the cultural epidemic of isolation. They don’t exist because millions of SAHMs [stay-at-home mothers] are just dying to sell beauty products. They exist because those women feel lonely, trapped, and bereft of other solutions.” None of this is new: fifty years ago, suburban housewives were being targeted by Mary Kay and Tupperware parties. The postwar suburban expansion left many people feeling isolated, and the prospect of finding a network through a pyramid scheme was incredibly appealing to the stranded. But the rise of social media put a rocket under network marketing, enabling reps to reach out and pester thousands of connections, unlike the 1960s, when Amway reps had to rely on glad-handing at the Elks Lodge and Avon was still ringing doorbells.

What makes Paulson’s story fascinating is that she wasn’t a victim. There are thousands of people who bought into one of these firms, and now have nothing to show for it but a garage full of eyeshadow (or health shakes, or fitness DVDs), and a hefty credit card bill. She notes that “between 96 and 99.7 percent of people who buy into MLM schemes lose money. The odds of turning a profit in any MLM are lower than the odds of winning roulette.” Yet she was one of the winners, quickly becoming a top seller and at her peak earning $40,000 per month: mostly from the sales of her “downline,” those she had recruited. Those above her on the pyramid made even more.

This money partly came from a jaw-dropping degree of sleazy opportunism. Paulson’s firm (which she refers to by a pseudonym) was having their annual convention in Las Vegas at the time of the Mandalay Bay shooting. They turned this horrifying crime into a sales pitch. There is nothing, in her telling, that they wouldn’t monetize. She includes herself in this; she used her own cancer diagnosis to drum up customers. Because even as a winner, the pressure was immense. If you weren’t constantly pushing, you weren’t trying. You didn’t really believe. Part of what led Paulson to leave was becoming sober: realizing that without alcohol to lower her inhibitions, she couldn’t bring herself to be so pushy. She seems to have had a natural gift for sales and promotion which enabled her to do well (as well as charisma and looks), and has turned her post-MLM life into a success too. Since leaving MLM, Paulson works as a sobriety coach.

MLMs all work the same way, whatever the product. They have grown in the United States since the 1970s, partly through evangelical groups where they rose in tandem with the Prosperity Gospel. But they mine a rich seam of aspiration, going back to Napoleon Hill’s get-rich-quick books of a century ago. Paulson’s MLM was selling high-end skincare, mostly to white women, and the shakiest claim in the book comes when she labels this “white supremacy.” The nature of network marketing is that it leverages social networks that already exist. And most of us are socially connected to people who are like us. As any salesman (or con artist) will tell you, the best prospect (or mark) is someone with whom you have something in common, which is why you’ll be roped into an MLM by your neighbor, a sorority sister, or another mother from the PTA. We shouldn’t be surprised that pyramid schemes tend to be intraracial. But that is not to say that the concept is a distinctly “white” thing.

There are pyramid schemes around the world. They’ve been a growing problem in China since the Seventies, and in recent years they have become such an issue in India that the government has had to crack down. Humans of all races are susceptible to the controlling behavioral techniques that MLMs use. This is where Paulson’s book is at its most interesting, as she outlines the striking — and horrifying — parallels between MLM behavior and cult practices. People are initially seduced with promises of success, which give way to bullying and manipulation. The love-bombing returns as a reward that members are quickly conditioned to pursue. Like those living with an abusive spouse, members are at once desperate for the group’s approval and terrified of leaving. Some of the narrative is repetitive, as Paulson realizes how much she needs to spend to keep up the image, the designer clothes, the travel to all the networking meetings, the gifts to her team. But then she’s off on another flight; another convention. The hindsight recognition that it was all a crock taints the whole story (perhaps inevitably), because come on. Forty grand a month? That had to be more fun than she’s admitting. Which makes this a tricky cautionary tale, if its message is “don’t do what I do, because I made a fortune.”

But Paulson is brutal about the financial realities of most who get hooked by an MLM. The pyramid only works for those at the top, and the suckers at the bottom always lose. She’s able to stay afloat when she starts because of her husband’s income, which enables her to keep going until she starts recruiting a lot more “downline” sellers. Even the “free car” she is awarded for being a top saleswoman (free cars are a highly publicized MLM perk) isn’t free after all. She has to make the down payment, cover registration and insurance, and the MLM will only make the monthly payments as long as she stays at the top tier in sales. When she finally leaves, she is treated as an apostate, and dropped by all her “friends” who are part of the pyramid.

It’s easy to think “who would be such a dope as to fall for this?” Pyramid schemes are the subject of jokes and general derision. But they work because we all have points of vulnerability — and unscrupulous actors know how to use them.

Was this review helpful?

Hey, Hun is an inside look at the MLM industry and how hard it is to leave even when you are one of the Top Earners.

I found Emily Lynn Paulson during the pandemic through Sober Mom Squad. She is a well spoken and very insightful so I was excited to read her story of what it was like to be in and get out of a popular MLM. I have always felt an "ick" towards MLMs but after reading this book I realized I had no idea how icky it really is. The MLMs prey on mostly stay at home moms who are lonely, want connection and want to feel like they are contributing to their family more. Here enters the MLM - work when you can! On your own terms - you are your own boss! Spend money to make money, if you aren't making money then you must not be working hard enough, make sure you recruit more people, meet your quotas, use your "story" to sell - cancer? Fabulous! Use it to send a message that even fighting cancer you can do this. Recovering from alcohol and substance abuse? Great! Come speak about how you overcame that! to a group of tipsy women who are drinking champagne during your presentation... hmmm doesn't sound so great anymore.

I always wondered why and how people got involved in the MLMs and why they couldn't just quit. I hadn't realized how hard it is to really get out even when you want to... especially when you are making very good money at it. And I hadn't realized how much manipulation is done to keep people "drinking the cool aid"

Was this review helpful?

A really interesting story, with a great mix of the psychological and sociological reasons why people (particularly moms) join multi-level marketing companies. The book explores it all, including the problems people face when they do leave the MLM and how long it can take to do so. I wish the author had focused a bit more on her day to day experience in the MLM, but I still did find it pretty revealing. I enjoyed the book, and encourage you to pick it up if you're interested in learning more about the MLM industry. Thank you to Row House Publishing and NetGalley for an advanced copy, all opinions are my own.

Was this review helpful?

I really enjoyed this tell all/ memoir about the downsides of MLMs. The author writes with honesty and authenticity. I never made the connection between MLMs and cults and white supremacy and I found her illustration of the connections and overlapping areas to be fascinating. She also talks candidly about mothering, her marriage, and alcoholism. If you liked the Lularich documentary, you will enjoy this book.

Was this review helpful?