Nowhere and...everywhere, really.
Despite keeping a relatively low profile this year (not by choice), Holmes’ celebrity status has continued to grow, much to her detractors’ chagrin. She remains a pop culture darling—a braggadocio extraordinaire of sorts—whose tarnished reputation has had little impact on her public appeal.
Holmes first charmed audiences with her meteoric rise among Silicon Valley entrepreneurs. Her too-good-to-be-true story, rehashed ad nauseam in countless publications, is now almost as renowned as her idol’s, Steve Jobs, and practically as chronicled: Holmes’ rise and fall from the entrepreneurial elite is extensively detailed in Wall Street Journal reporter John Carreyrou’s best-selling book, “Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup,” which is currently being developed for Hollywood by Oscar-winning director and former “Saturday Night Live” head writer Adam McKay. Jennifer Lawrence is reportedly set to play Jobsian wannabe Holmes.
“I can’t wait to get into that story,” McKay told Vanity Fair in 2017.
Neither could other reporting outlets. In January, ABC News rolled out a seven-part podcast (The Dropout) featuring deposition interviews with Holmes and ex-boyfriend Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani, president/chief operating officer of the now-defunct Theranos.
The culmination of a three-year investigation, The Dropout attempts to explain Holmes’ ability to dupe Silicon Valley investors out of millions of dollars and why “so many smart people [got] it so wrong along the way.”
HBO tackles the same issues and more in its two-hour documentary, “The Inventor: Out For Blood in Silicon Valley” from Alex Gibney. Released in March, the film examines Holmes’ massive web of deception as well as the psychology of deceit through never-before-seen footage and interviews with former company insiders. “Elizabeth was lying about the accuracy of the blood tests,” one of the insiders declares in the docudrama’s two-minute trailer.
“It was all a show,” asserts another.
Other interviewees, however, question whether Holmes deliberately lied.
“I don’t know if she’s lying, or if it’s an unconscious, self-protective, reconstructed reality,” Fortune’s Roger Parloff asserts in the film. “But what is coming out of her mouth is not mapping onto reality.”
Actually, little that came out of Holmes’ mouth was based in truth. And while the extent of such dishonesty should logically render any motive irrelevant, several subjects in Gibney’s film appear conflicted about Holmes’s intent. Was she a conniving con artist, or merely a victim of Silicon Valley’s “fake it until you make it” culture?
Does it really matter at this point?
Vanity Fair thinks not: “What’s interesting isn’t so much whether Holmes knowingly lied or not, but the fact that journalists, who went so far as to share their interview recordings with Gibney, remain so fascinated with this question,” film critic K. Austin Collins wrote upon the documentary’s release. “The strange truth of ‘The Inventor’ is that even now that the breadth of her deceptions has become clear, Holmes still fascinates. The reporters in the film are still surprisingly breathless when describing her meteoric rise and catastrophic fall; they still, even from this vantage, spin stories of her childhood interest in ‘Moby Dick.’ To even pose the question of whether her lies count as the worst kind of lies is beside the point. The real fun, Gibney suggests, is in wondering about the things we can’t know: Holmes’s inner life and motivation, the person that’s revealed when we peel back the layers of self-deception that landed her here—to say nothing of her strategic image-making, in which even Errol Morris played a part. In the end, Holmes remains the complex, magnetic, repulsive, odd, completely watchable star of a thriller that’s ongoing. And the rest of us remain her captive audience.”
Captivated audience, actually.
A bizarre kind of celebrity worship (or public fascination) has kept Holmes in the news consistently since the release of Gibney’s documentary, whether it be for personal, professional, or legal reasons. In June, word leaked that the Stanford University dropout had married her boyfriend of two years, 27-year-old MIT grad Billy Evans, the heir to a California hotel chain. According to multiple news sources, the pair lived in a luxury apartment in San Francisco’s Russian Hill neighborhood with their Siberian husky until they moved out in April. Business Insider provided interested parties with a peek into the complex, posting pictures of the building on its website along with a description of the couple’s supposed living quarters. Citing CNBC, the Business Insider story said the apartment complex’s hallways are lined with “dark brown mosaic carpeting, and white apartment doors featuring gold doorknobs.” It also reported (from CNBC) that Holmes and Evans occupied a corner unit in the building, offering them some of the best views of anyone in the complex.
Compelling information, for sure.
Perhaps more fascinating: the chatter that Holmes is reportedly seeking funding for a new startup venture less than a year after Theranos closed its doors. She’s also supposedly desperate to write a book.
A book might not be a bad idea. It could, after all, clear up any misconceptions about Holmes’s true motivations for founding Theranos. But it may also substantiate her reputation as a clever swindler with both sociopathic and narcissistic tendencies.
Either way, the book would likely be a best seller. “The Theranos debacle is, undeniably, a story about stories,” Vanity Fair’s Collins wrote, “and Holmes was full of them.”
Strangely enough, the public just can’t seem to get enough of those stories. Or of Holmes.