Everything You Need to Know About the Rachel Hollis Drama

The controversial white author of Girl, Wash Your Face seemingly equated herself to Harriet Tubman—and the backlash surrounding her privilege was quick.

An image of Rachel Hollis.
Photo: Getty Images.

Suddenly seeing the name Rachel Hollis everywhere you turn? That's because she's found herself in a bit of hot water over controversial comments about her own privilege where she compared herself—a white woman—to Harriet Tubman and the struggles she faced.

I'll let that sink in for a moment.

But Hollis is no stranger to backlash. Here's what you need to know about the current drama surrounding the influencer—and why many people have been boycotting her for some time now.

Who Is Rachel Hollis?

You probably first heard of influencer, mom of four, and author Rachel Hollis back in 2018 when her self-help book, Girl, Wash Your Face, became an instant best-seller. Hollis's tough-love approach made the book wildly popular, but she was quickly hit with criticism for spewing "toxic positivity." Hollis may have been aiming to inspire others to reach their full potential and cut the excuses, but her message—"You, and only you, are ultimately responsible for how happy you are"—felt tone-deaf and privileged, especially when you take into consideration the struggles and inequities that people of color face every day. As Laura Turner wrote for BuzzFeed in 2018, "Hollis doesn't address the possibility that for some people, obstacles to happiness are outside their control. And it is proof of her hard-earned privilege that she doesn't have to."

Fast-forward to 2019 and Hollis is accused of plagiarizing quotes on Instagram. The same thing happened in April 2020 when she was hit with backlash after posting part of a Maya Angelou poem on Instagram and seemingly suggesting the words were her own since there was no attribution.

Hollis ultimately apologized but shifted some of the blame to her social media team: "While I didn't create or post the graphic, I am the leader of the team that did and so I accept full responsibility for their actions. I can't imagine how deeply hurtful it is to the African American community to see the words of your heroes used without credit. This has happened to you far too often and I hate—I literally HATE—that anything produced by my company added to your pain … I understand that this post without credit is not a little thing to you … this is death by a thousand cuts. This is the millionth type of incident like this you've experienced."

Why Are People so Upset Now?

Seems like Hollis just can't escape the drama. The latest? In a now-deleted TikTok, Hollis talks about the "sweet woman" who cleans her toilets twice a week—and how a commenter called her out for her privilege. The author owns up to being "super freaking privileged," but insists that she worked her a** off to have this sort of lifestyle.

But it didn't end there. Hollis responded to the commenter calling her "unrelatable" by agreeing, saying, "Literally everything I do in my life is to live a life that most people can't relate to" because "most people won't work this hard." To prove her point that "Every woman I admire in history was unrelatable," Harris captioned the video with some examples of "unrelatable AF" women from history: Harriet Tubman, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Oprah Winfrey, and Malala Yousafzai.

Her followers were quick to respond to—and even educate—Hollis on why this was problematic, but her initial apology came off as insincere and, again, shifted the blame over to her team. It seemed that Hollis didn't really grasp the issue of her privilege, which users have been quick to point out on social media.

On top of all this, users are even alleging that Hollis deleted comments from BIPOC educators who were trying to help her—and some of her followers—understand why people were upset and learn from the experience.

Here's How Hollis Is Responding

It's not the first time Hollis has been called out for her behavior—and she's no stranger to public apologies. For her second apology in response to the TikTok in question, Hollis took to Instagram to address her 1.6 million followers:

"I'm not going to do this perfectly but going to speak from the heart," Hollis wrote in a series of slides. "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. I know I've caused tremendous pain in mentioning prominent women—including several women of color—whose struggles and achievements I can't possibly understand. By talking about my own success, I diminished the struggles and hard work of many people who work tirelessly every day. I disregarded the people whose hard work doesn't afford them financial security, often due to inherently racist and biased systems. I did not allow a space for people to voice their anger, hurt, and disappointment, which caused even more pain. I acknowledge my privilege and the advantage I have as a white woman, no matter how I grew up. There are many things I would like to say to reiterate just how sorry I am, but the important thing for me to do now, something I should have already done, is honestly, be quiet and listen. I know I have disappointed so many people, myself included, and I take full accountability. I am so sorry."

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