I’m not gonna lie. My first impression, as I started writing and researching Two Face, was shock. Then horror.
The shock side is sometimes difficult to explain. When one realizes what Shan’ann was doing all day, every day, and what that involved, and what that must have been like, and the picture it portrayed – versus the reality – it was shocking. Here’s one example.
The above video was posted on May 3rd. Shan’ann was either pregnant at this point, or about to become pregnant. She’s hyping selling product bars to her friends, and filming them while doing it. She’s apparently “having fun” while doing this; Shan’ann seems almost giddy with excitement.
Of course, although it’s mean to appear spontaneous, a genuine “moment”, it’s all contrivance. It’s all a little theater packaged into one of hundreds, and eventually thousands of sales pitches contaminating social media at the behest of Thrive.
Coming back to Shan’ann’s video shot inside her Colorado home, her buds, one of them Nickole Atkinson, are a lot less excited than Shan’ann is, and it shows. In the video, and just recently, Nickole emphasizes that she didn’t like being filmed [especially by someone else] Live. But Shan’ann’s pushy and does it anyway.
I’m not certain why Nickole’s comment here is:
“This is one of the many reasons why I love her!”
Through this one video in May we also get a sense of Shan’ann herself, not only how she organizes her kitchen but how she “organizes” her friends. That pantry is very neat and ordered, isn’t it? Everything’s in its place. There are also a bunch of labelled jars and containers – this labelled stuff goes in there, and that stuff goes into that jar with that label. This is Shan’ann’s effort to control her world. She exerts total control over her world, and perhaps her sickness causes her to overdo the controls over her environment.
Putting labels on food is one thing, promoting a product is one thing, but what does it feel like when you do that to people? When you apply that rigorous, anal, limiting perfectionism to people, how do they react? When you incessantly turn real life moments into mechanical selling, what does it feel like?
Well, we don’t have to guess, we catch of a glimpse of it right here, in this video.
There’s a moment when Shan’ann flips the screen back on herself, and she suddenly [just for a flicker of time] appears worn out, miserable, a harrowed expression on her face. This is what she’s going through. This is what it feels like to be her, to be Shan’ann.
Then, the next moment, she’s all smiles again. Bear in mind, this is right around the time she became pregnant for a third time.
And for others in Shan’ann’s circle? What was it like to be around her?
At about 30 seconds left in the clip, just as the pantry door shuts behind her, Shan’ann turns her phone onto Nickole at the table. It’s difficult to make out, but Nickole lifts her pen and swings it in the air as if to say I told you not to film me! And that’s when Shan’ann flips the video back on herself.
She cracks a joke in direct reference to Nickole and Nickole’s gesture:
Okay, so…[chuckles]…they love me, they promise they love me…
What she’s actually acknowledging is that her companions aren’t loving this, and aren’t enjoying this. She even says just before signing off:
Everyone doesn’t like going Live, but I make them go Live cos…[shrugs, smiles]…you know…
Nickole, perhaps assuming that the Live video is now off, that it’s ended, sits back with both arms behind her head and complains emphatically:
Cos you make us go out of our comfort zone EVERY SINGLE TIME. It’s amazing.
And you love it…?
[Sarcastic] I love it. Every time.
If Shan’ann was getting under the skin of her pals, and let’s face it, Nickole was [and still is] drinking the Thrive Kool-Aid, and it was irritating the crap out of her, imagine what it was like to live with?
Look at what Shan’ann’s doing in bed at 23:00 at night. The image is from May 1st, two days before her chocolate promo video with Nickole and co. Did she have the munchies because she was feeling the effect of being pregnant?
Like so many others, I took to trawling through Facebook to get a handle on the dynamics between Shan’ann and the kids, and Chris Watts, but since Shan’ann’s Facebook runs out in August, I eventually went back to Nickole Utoft Atkinson to get a better sense of continuity, and context.
What happens, I wanted to know, when there’s a real crisis – like a murder. What impact does Thrive have on a crisis, or a crisis on Thrive? What impact does someone close to you, dying, a real loss, having on a Thrive seller? What impact does a funeral have? Is there a blip on the radar? What happens to the sell sell selling when there’s a personal crisis, or a crisis of conscience? Is there a time out?
I was shocked, then horrified by how quickly Nickole went right back to breathlessly plugging Thrive after Shan’ann’s murder. Going Live. Punting this products, that event. Smiling for the camera. Her friend had just been murdered, kids too, but Nickole was back in the saddle, back at it, smilin’ and Thrivein’ like a champion.
The screengrab below is Sunday, August 19. The bodies of Bella and Celeste were recovered on Thursday, August 16, just three days earlier. Their blood wasn’t even cold but Nickole’s mind is already on 3 steps, not on the 3 murder victims.
Then the vigil happens, and Nickole’s social media briefly acknowledges that…but with the funeral still to go, there’s still time to go right back to plugging products…
And then the funeral takes place on September 1st. Once again there’s a flicker of consciousness…
But then the very next day it’s back to Thrive. Thriving while burying your friend and her three dead children. Thriving while dying. Thriving despite standing over four freshly dug graves.
You want to reach into Facebook and grab these people, and shake them. And tell them three/four people – human beings – are fucking dead!
You, in your life, wake the fuck up!
This, what you’re doing, isn’t how you’re supposed to be working or living!
If this doesn’t wake people out of the nonsense of their lives, what will?
My initial impression of Nickole was that she was fickle and shallow, or just a zombie passing through her own life. Not living, just existing. But the more I got to know her, the more I saw there was a real human being there, she was just being drowned out by Thrive.
I was especially touched by her short interview on ABC. The tears and the grief were there, and they were real. For me it was a rare moment of authenticity in a sickening spiel of wall to wall fakeness and fakery.
It was also a moment to remember that people aren’t two dimensional. It may seem as if we have just two faces, an on and an off switch, but often it’s a lot more complicated than that. We do things even though we don’t want to. We put on a brave face not because we want to but because we feel we have to. We don’t have a choice. Behind the scenes, the conflict is there and the conflict is real. It tears us apart from the inside out.
The last message Nickole posted on August 12, in the final hours of Shan’ann’s life, was about a book she was reading. As a full-time writer I’m partial to people who read. Just as writing requires depth of character, so does reading. And so, how ironic that within hours of Shan’ann’s catastrophic end, Nickole’s reading a book that exhorts its readers to:
…stop believing the lies about who you are so you can become who you were meant to be…
Although this is what the doctor ordered, are these women and these people going about reinventing themselves the right way? Gaining confidence, going LIVE, making celebrities of themselves, not to become someone, but to sell something. Not to make something of themselves, but to make money?
On August 14, the day after her murder and disappearance, Nickole changed her Facebook profile picture to a picture of herself and Shan’ann. On August 23rd she updated this image to one of herself with her hand on Shan’ann’s pregnant stomach. But by September 3rd, two days after the funeral, Shan’ann was out of the picture again.
Does this make Nickole a bad person? If we think that, we miss the point. What’s really at work here are two things: social media, and Thrive. Both are like viruses, two snakes worming their way into the human heart and the human psyche, destroying who we are and turning us into mechanical, mindless slaves. We are groomed and manipulated by companies not to live, not to feel, but to make money. We’re led to believe that we can only live if we have money. We’re transformed into greedy monkeys.
The Thrive fantasy is that we can only live [only thrive] if we have Thrive. We can only be healthy, wealthy and happy if we have Thrive in our lives. Put a patch on it and suddenly our diets are balanced, our wallets are filled, our weight drops and all is well with the world.
But if Thrive is so self-evidently good, why this endless machine-gun promotion? Why does it overwhelm identities, taking over who they are on social media, just as its taken hold of them in other ways? And like a virus, they turn on our hosts, their friends and family, trying to infect them too.
In fact, this what’s on Nickole’s wall right now.
So the question is, did Thrive have an impact on Shan’ann’s marriage? It appears to have an impact on every aspect of those it infects – not just marriages, but livelihoods and lives.
In two future blog posts, I’ll address firstly my personal experience of MLM and secondly we’ll explore people’s personal experience with Thrive…what are people saying about Thrive in particular, how do the products work and how has it helped/or harmed these people? Meanwhile, please feel free to share your experiences, concerns and perhaps endorsement/s of Thrive/MLM.
“I’m one-dollar an hour, Willy! I tried seven states and couldn’t raise it. A buck an hour! Do you gather my meaning? I’m not bringing home any prizes anymore and you’re going to stop waiting for me to bring them home!” ―