Elizabeth Holmes, the ex-CEO of Theranos who was convicted on four counts of defrauding investors, has been on a journey to reshape her public persona from a reputed tech visionary to a gentle, devoted mother. Her latest public appearance, a feature in the New York Times, marked her return to media attention after seven years of silence. In the article, Holmes is portrayed as a caring mother who enjoys family outings and converses in a normal voice, starkly different from the ‘weird baritone’ she formerly used.
Holmes was known for her incredible branding skills during her time at Theranos, embodying what many thought a tech visionary should be. With traits like wearing black turtlenecks reminiscent of Steve Jobs, being a Stanford dropout, following a strict vegan diet, and maintaining a secretive demeanour, she was widely hailed as the world’s youngest self-made female billionaire and the next Steve Jobs.
However, with her conviction and impending prison sentence, Holmes has adopted a new persona, ‘Liz.’ She insists her CEO image was a character she created to be taken seriously in the tech world, now laughable to her and her husband. Liz is presented as a sensitive, domesticated individual who volunteers at a rape crisis hotline and cannot stomach R-rated movies.
The aim of this transformation is speculated to be an attempt to improve her image and potentially affect her upcoming prison sentence. However, the rebranding has been met with considerable criticism online, with many accusing the Times writer of being uncritical of Holmes and falling for her new ‘doting mother’ image. The writer, Amy Chozick, counters these claims by admitting Holmes’ adeptness at manipulation and weaponizing her white womanhood.
While Holmes receives a glamourous redemption photoshoot, it’s worth noting that many mothers in American jails don’t have the same opportunity. Since 1980, women’s incarceration in the US has grown by over 525%, and around 58% of women in state and federal prisons are mothers to children under 18, yet few receive the media attention or chances for redemption like Holmes has.
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