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In this episode, Chelsea speaks with YouTuber TiffanyFerg about the worst social media trends, from TikTok flex culture to girlboss-y MLM recruiters.

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Tiffany Ferguson on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/tiffanyferg
Tiffany Ferguson in Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/tferg__/?hl=en

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Hello, everyone and welcome back to another episode of The Financial Confessions.

I am so excited-- I wore my most bright and happy chartreuse sweater today to express what I'm feeling on the inside. For those of you who are not watching video, I'm wearing a bright green sweater and plaid pants-- I'm really going all out with my best golf look today-- to express my extreme excitement because we have a guest today that you guys have been absolutely clamoring for.

When I shared on Twitter that she was going to be coming on the show, you guys lit that shit up like a firecracker-- you were really excited. And I think some of the topics that she covers on her YouTube channel are some of the things that you guys enjoy hearing about the most here at TFD. There's a lot of overlap between the two of our channels in terms of a focus on how the culture that we live in impacts what we aspire to, how we spend money, what we deem as cool, or interesting, or worthwhile.

Oftentimes, our spending habits will just come down to a series of desires, many of which we didn't even come to organically-- they were sort of planted in our head by the world that we live in. Obviously for years that was things like television, magazines, movies, et cetera, and now it's in our pockets every day with social media, and it's so much more intense-- both in terms of how our own desires and our own perceptions can become infiltrated and sublimated by all of these various, sort of-- I don't know what to call them, people screaming at us from our phone? But we also have, at the same time, via social media, a heightened level of connection which can lead to an even more effective way to prey on people-- things like payday lenders, MLMs.

All these various scams that used to exist well before the internet have now become even more effective in targeting people who might be vulnerable through this same social media that is constantly feeding us wants, and desires, and aspirations that we might not have otherwise had. I think that my guest-- her name is Tiffany Ferg, and she does a series on YouTube called Internet Analysis, has one of the most interesting fun and balanced takes on all of these issues. And I want to dive into all of them with her right now.

So without further ado, welcome to the channel, Tiffany Ferg. Yay, thank you, Chelsea. I'm so excited to be here.

I bet all the people asking for me are the people from my channel because I've mentioned TFD like a million times in my videos. Well, I'm so honored and flattered because I am a big fan of the YouTube video essay. It's not really a format that we do at TFD-- and that's fine, we don't need to-- but it's definitely my favorite genre of YouTube video to watch.

I recently had another YouTube video essayist, Big Joel, on the channel recently-- and his are more about politics, philosophy, et cetera-- but your video essays, as I mentioned, they really tend to talk about the culture that we live in, how it impacts us, how the internet is shaping who we are primarily as young people. Tell our audience, who may not be familiar, who may just want to know more about it-- why you do what you do and what your general focus is in your Internet Analysis series? Yeah.

So, basically, I have actually been on YouTube since pretty much the beginning. I was, I think, 11 when I made my first channel, and I'm now 25, so it's been a long time-- I've seen you know every era of YouTube. And, yeah, I think it was in 2018 that I felt a little bit lost on my channel, I didn't know what types of videos to make.

I used to do a little more personal stuff, or like comedy, or rants, or blogs, or whatever-- just anything. And one day I just made a video about Joana Ceddia-- she blew up really quickly, and I compared her channel to Emma Chamberlain's, and then my viewers liked it, and they wanted more of this, and I accidentally called it internet analysis type of content. And then that just stuck, so I realized-- oh, I, as somebody who has grown up on YouTube and watches so much YouTube, can actually use that in my own work, and that can be the focus of my content.

At that point, I hadn't really known about the whole commentary section of YouTube, so I was like wow, this is just really meta. And I feel like there's that desire for people to have discussions about YouTube and social media, so I'm really excited every time I get to make a video about something that really interests me, and it's always really rewarding when it resonates with other people. So something that you've done videos about, which was not very familiar to me-- so I'm 32, for context-- which is old for YouTube, and kind of old for the internet in a lot of ways, but definitely old for internet celebrity culture.

I feel like my generation was maybe one of the last generations before our biggest celebrities and icons were, first and foremost, internet personalities-- you know, who became famous on YouTube, or Instagram, or what have you. And now, the people who I think are most aspirational to younger generations, are people who come from just recording themselves maybe in their bedroom to becoming these megastars. And you talk a lot about that particular type of celebrity culture-- influencer culture-- and you talk about something called flex culture in your videos.

And-- obviously, I've watched, so I know-- but talk a little bit about flex culture, what it is, and sort of what defines this young, internet-born influencer stardom. It's interesting because I recently did a video about the obnoxious closets of the super rich, and that kind of reflected on this flex culture idea. The video focused a little bit more on traditional celebrities, but it applies to the richest YouTubers as well, who have these massive "closets," quote unquote-- it's really like an entire floor or wing of a house.

But it's funny because I had reminded myself of those early, when I was maybe 14, 15, there was the house tours and room tours of all the young, up and coming beauty gurus. And there was such an emphasis back then on, like, I'm not bragging-- you know, like, my family is really comfortable, but we're not rich-- it's like you're showing off your very ornate home, and your luxury goods as a teenager. So I found that really funny, but there was a point in YouTube culture where it switched from, oh, you should be humble, you should not brag about your material things-- even though you're doing hauls and stuff as a beauty guru, for example-- it switched to, oh, people want to see what you have-- you should show off everything you have, everything you buy.

You should go out of your way to tell people how much you shop, and how much you spend, and it's been really fascinating. And I think it's something that, I think-- around like the more leftist side of YouTube-- it's something that's really alienating, to where people are like, oh, this is like really sickening content actually-- it's disturbing to see people consume so much or buy so many expensive things that are essentially worthless, or don't really have value to them. But then obviously there's such a major audience for this that loves that content, and finds it very aspirational, and they want that.

They want to be able to go on these Gucci shopping sprees, or buy a fucking Lamborghini or whatever, and yeah-- I just find it really fascinating. I'm curious because what's so fascinating about these internet celebrities in particular is that they originally did sort of come to notoriety by being an everyman, everywoman-- like, they were just like you recording in their room on their iPhone or whatever they were doing, and now they've achieved these really extreme levels of success. But unlike prior generations of celebrity-- where I feel like, them being not like you, and then being completely unattainable, and completely unrealistic-- I feel like that was almost what made celebrities compelling in previous generations.

It was almost like they were Greek gods, and you knew that you had nothing in common. But I feel like with this internet celebrity, there is that simultaneous need to be incredibly aspirational and to have this massive wealth, but also yet to remain intimately relatable and related to your audience, and to be accessible. And to be something that people could aspire to in the way they couldn't aspire to be like a celebrity.

And I feel like it's often that tension in that dichotomy which leads to them fucking up on such massive scales and having to produce so many apology videos, and notes app videos-- and I'm curious what your perspective is on that tension between I'm just like you, but I'm also nothing like you. Right, it's funny because with celebrities-- I grew up, like being five, listening to Britney Spears like, I want to be a pop star when I grow up-- until I realized I do not have a good singing voice. But the funny thing with celebrities is obviously everyone thinks, if I had the right discovery moment in the mall or whatever, I could move to Hollywood-- I could be a singer, an actress.

But like-- I mean, you could argue-- but celebrities have to have some kind of talent-- arguably, again-- or at least be ridiculously beautiful. But the appealing thing about social media and the influencer lifestyle is-- of course, yes, a lot of those things still do apply-- obviously, being conventionally attractive, or fitting these beauty standards will be an advantage to you, but it still feels a lot more accessible because you don't even have to move to LA first. You can go viral on TikTok and then three months later move your whole family to Hollywood-- like Addison Rae.

And so, I feel like the influencer lifestyle on its own has become the ideal, so it's like-- I don't want to be a movie star, sitting on set all day doing work-- I want to make four TikToks a day, sit in my mansion. The lifestyle has a lot more, I think, time off and the work doesn't seem as much like work, at least from the viewer's perspective. And so, it's like nobody even wants to be a traditional celebrity anymore-- unless they genuinely have a talent or a desire to be a musician or something.

But yeah, it's like, the things that are appealing about being an influencer is it could happen any day, it can go from 0 to 100, and then it could be pretty low effort for pretty high rewards. And it's like, you know, I can totally understand especially why young people find that to be the ideal. They're like, wow, I could blow up tomorrow and then all my problems would be solved.

It is very interesting how completely decoupled a lot of this influencer stuff has become from actual talent like you're saying. It used to be really exceptional levels of talent, and to be fair, some of them do have talents-- ostensibly-- but a lot of them are just like-- because, OK. I'm going to just start naming names here, you said Addison Rae, but the D'Amelio sisters who-- I'm not really plugged into that, but I know how big they are and how popular they are-- they're probably not even the top 10th percentile of good dancers on TikTok.

They're just-- they look like the pretty girls at your high school, and they live a life that seems like a slightly upgraded version of the most popular rich girl at your high school. And when you watch their videos-- I watched this compilation in preparation for this video because I'm really off TikTok-- and I do want to talk about TikTok so I had to-- Me too, yeah, but we'll talk about it. I want to crash course in it and so I watched this compilation on YouTube that was like, the 50 most popular TikToks of 2020, or something like that-- I might have a different superlative, but something like that.

I'm not exaggerating when I say that 20 out of these 50 TikToks were just a pretty girl looking in the camera-- not even like outrageously supermodel-pretty, just a prettier than average girl and a nice-ish looking house-- looking at the camera with a filter on and mouthing words to a song. And these are the most popular TikToks, and that to me-- I feel now that I've crossed some sort of threshold in my being attuned to internet culture. And I work on the internet, and I look at that, and I'm like-- this represents an entirely shifting ideal of what is fame, or what is aspiration, that I feel like I no longer even understand.

Yeah, it's fascinating. I also-- I literally still haven't used TikTok ever, which is probably a detriment to my work because so much of my videos are about internet culture. And everyone's always requesting like TikTok or this on TikTok, and I'm like, I don't know what you're talking about.

The only times I see TikToks is like when it's reposted on Twitter, or I watch Reels on Instagram, and I'm like, wow, I'm falling for it-- but like this different version of it, this probably older-skewing audience on-- who uses Reels, you know? Not Gen Z, probably. But, yeah, it's been funny to see-- it's hard because I don't want to be one of those older people who's like, what are the kids doing?

They're all just lip-syncing. I did lip-syncing music videos when I was a kid, that's another gem of the early YouTube era. And some people got their careers started from that, like Andrea Rusett-- TBT.

So yeah, I don't want to just shit talk the kids for doing what they do because I'm sure if I were that age, I would be doing the same thing. We've always liked attractive people, and we like to watch them-- whether they're just doing their Instagram pictures, or their stories, or I guess lip-syncing, or like doing a little dance on TikTok. But it is fascinating though because just the level of virality is so incredible to me.

The fact that TikToks can get hundreds of millions of views within, I don't know, a day? It's just mind blowing because I think of that reach, and I'm like, are these people really recognizing the creator? Or is it like you have a two second TikTok and then you forget about it?

But with people like the D'Amelios it's like, yeah-- they have reached this level of fame and so much wealth in a very short amount of time, and they're getting all of these opportunities because people are-- for some reason-- very dedicated to following them even with such surface level content. One of the videos that you did that I thought was so fascinating was about Instagram face. And-- now, I want to be clear here that I'm not-- I agree with you, I don't like the vantage point that's like, look at how dumb and shallow the kids are.

Because every generation, I feel, does have that sort of perception about the generation that follows them, and I think that's really lazy-- and it's not their fault, ultimately. Teenagers are-- their minds are like porridge at that age, and mine was too. They don't know what they're doing, they're only responding to stimuli.

So the thing that really freaks me out about social media with regards to young girls, and I'm sure you probably watch The Social Dilemma. Yes. The time when I think, OK, maybe we are dealing with something different, and it's not just the-- traditional sort of generation looking at the next generation, and being like, oh, they're so wacky or whatever-- is really when I think about things like Instagram face.

Because, on the one hand, you can say that this sort of, new concept of celebrity where just-- a pretty girl in her parents McMansion lip-synching to a video is more powerful than Julia Roberts in the early 90s, fine. I'm OK with-- in some ways, maybe that's even better, I don't know-- but when you look at something like Instagram face, which I'd love for you to just describe for the audience-- I really look at that and see the way that it's shifting our own perception of human bodies, and I feel like this cannot possibly be a good trend. So for our audience, first, what is Instagram face?

And how is it affecting young women? Yeah, I had first thought about this in an early Internet Analysis video, I think I made one about face tune and then I made another one about how filters are changing our perceptions of ourselves. And if anybody has used a filter, whether it was on Snapchat or Instagram, yeah-- I mean, you have the kind of skin lightening features, your nose gets thinner and smoother, your eyes-- especially now, there's more of that catlike brow arch, and they put on fake lashes for you, and bigger lips, and they make your face smaller.

All of these things that fit the current beauty standards, at least as they are on Instagram. Because I feel like, again, we don't see people who fit those standards very often outside of Instagram, unless maybe you're in LA or something. So, yeah, I feel like we have this very digital-centered beauty standard and that's become the Instagram face.

And then you also have the Kardashian-Jenner-inspired face which of course has so many roots in these vaguely mixed or ethnic-looking, but still white features. It's very, very complex-- and again, I'm not the expert on the racial implications there and all of that-- but the Kardashians do tend to get credit for it because for a good while everyone wanted to look like Kylie Jenner. And that might be changing a little bit now, there might be another person that people want to look like, but it's very obvious that there is a certain aesthetic and a certain style that becomes literally everywhere.

And again, I feel like it's only recognizable in digital spaces because-- unless you do get procedures or surgery, you're probably not going to look exactly like that in real life. But I feel like-- obviously I think it's sad-- and that's why I don't really let myself use any beauty filters. I try to not even use filters on my Instagram stories anyway just because I want to post something that looks kind of blah.

And it doesn't have great contrast or coloring, and my skin looks normal, but that's OK. So I feel like that's something that people can do if you want to pull yourself out of that filtered world. You have to start to separate yourself and, if you want to decide to not use those filters or to use them very minimally, I think that's probably a good idea.

Especially if you get to the point where, when you turn the filter off or that split second before it turns on, if you're finding yourself like disgusted by your face-- that's really fucked up. And that's really sad that we probably didn't used to feel exactly that badly about ourselves, but especially with these filters it's just making it so much worse. It's ironic that so many people initially modeled themselves after looking like Kylie Jenner because Kylie Jenner doesn't even look like Kylie Jenner-- no one knows what Kylie Jenner looks like.

And that to me-- I feel like we, as a culture, have never even fully reckoned with the implications of that, of her sort of ubiquity and the culture when she was-- by all photographic accounts-- starting to undergo cosmetic surgery when she was probably in the middle of puberty. So maybe like 13, 14 years old? Never finished puberty as she would have looked-- we genuinely don't know what that girl would have ended up looking like.

I've seen people try to do like honest-to-God police sketches of what Kylie Jenner likely would have looked like if she had aged naturally. And I think we kind of don't even truly understand what it says about our culture that, not only is one of the most famous people in the world in large part famous for having her face reconstructed as a child, effectively-- but that child reconstructed face that we sort of stopped mid puberty and completely overhauled has become the model for millions, and possibly billions, of faces around the world in all kinds of ways. And I do think that's the part of these sort of internet culture phenomena that you really don't understand until years later, and you see the way it permeates and radiates out.

And I'm curious what you think when we talk about this influencer culture, this flex culture-- in your analysis of these things, what do you think are the sort of radiating effects that it's having on people and how it's changing people especially young people? It just sucks because obviously focusing on these things changes your priorities in life. And when you talk about having body image issues, or self-confidence issues, or even body dysmorphia, if you get this hyper focus on-- I need to look like this, I need my body to look like this.

And then on top of that, I need money so that I can buy these designer or luxury things, and then I want to live in a luxury apartment or something. I mean, generally to me, those are pretty shallow aspirations, especially the material ones. I totally understand people having their own body image issues because, of course, I have mine as well-- but just for that to be the goal?

I know that that's always been a thing. People think if you have money and beauty all of your problems are going to be solved-- or maybe people don't think that, but they think OK, at least I'll look good. At least I'll wake up and my eyebrows will be microbladed, and I'll have my eyelash extensions, and I'll be able to stand looking at myself when I first wake up.

I think that it shouldn't be discounted that our appearances and our confidence-- from how we feel about our appearances-- definitely is valid. I don't want anyone to think they're shallow for caring about how they look-- I care about how I look. But I feel really, really bad for young people, especially because obviously we had our standards of beauty when I was a teenager.

But-- and we had early Instagram, which was like the terrible filters like Valencia and Kelvin, and that was it. That Valencia filter did its best. I mean, it did the most-- Valencia was the good one.

But yeah, I mean, we had our standards, but there was nobody that I knew even in-- I grew up in Orange County, California-- even there nobody was getting filler as a teenager, or even thinking about getting preventative Botox, or all of these things. So I just feel like obviously the standards are so much worse for young people. And because they see it everywhere all the time, and because we spend so much time on social media.

I mean, it's almost impossible to not have that trickle into your brain-- even if you consciously want to fight it-- it's really hard to resist. And so, I feel like all of these things are the typical things that older people say, you know fear mongering-- Because they're true. --about the dangers of social media. But I think it's valid and it's true, and if I can admit that these things have affected me as an adult-- I can only imagine how much worse it is for someone younger.

Oh, yeah. I mean, listen, I have never used one on my IG story because I just feel like it's probably not-- like you said, it's just a slippery slope for anyone to go down, but especially because I am a woman who does have many other women who follow me, I don't want to set that example. So I've never actually posted a story with one of those beauty filters, but of course I've looked at them and I have done all those Ariana Grande faces into my camera.

And you really do feel yourself becoming a little insane when you do that because all of a sudden, you click off the filter and you're like, I'm disgusting. You're like, you feel like the Hunchback of Notre Dame when you close it, even if when you first open the app you felt good. Because now all of a sudden you're comparing yourself to this completely different augmented reality and an actual reality feels a lot worse.

And I feel like then, beyond just like the filters, you have influencers. The two that really leap to mind as influencers who are in part famous because they represent a sort of, almost post-human body manipulation are James Charles-- who I think gets so much mileage out of just doing very strange things with his body and looking as strange as possible. Like when he did that pregnant photo shoot, or like he's like taking all these pictures-- He wore a bald cap recently or something.

He looked like a sperm, he looked so strange. But then there's also Nikita Dragun, who I think is very-- a huge part of her brand is sort of going out of her way to look very cartoonish and unreal. And they're both massively popular and have huge followings of young women, in a lot of cases, and I do wonder-- when we're now going past just looking as beautiful as we can to almost looking like a cartoon, and thinking that it's aspirational, where does this end?

What are people going to be aspiring to? Yeah. I find it really fascinating.

I know I always try to be careful about how I describe that type of look, the extreme Instagram face, or even using some of those filters on Instagram. Some of them look comical, like, they don't look good-- it's very eerie, very creepy-- but also still, for some reason, alluring. Like, why do I want to see myself kind of puffed up like that?

There's something to it and-- yeah, I don't know. I don't know why this trend is gone-- I mean, obviously, nobody's really going for natural beauty at this point in terms of the people who promote the procedures, or promote certain makeup routines that are meant to change the way that your face looks. I mean, the most natural thing we see is maybe like a no-makeup makeup look, sure-- that's fine.

But I feel like in terms of the top influencers, you're right that-- natural looks or even something that looks a little more low-key, it doesn't look like you've had a bunch of procedures or haven't facetuned the shit out of your face-- James Charles. That's just not what's even appealing and nobody's even trying to hide what they're doing-- whether that is just digital manipulation or actual physical procedures. Which, I don't know-- this gets into, I guess-- I don't know what the concept is called.

But the idea that anything that a woman or a femme person does is feminist because they're doing it themselves? So I feel like we've gotten to that point where it's like, you know, it's kind of that girl power like-- let girls be in charge of their bodies, they should be able to facetune if it makes them more confident, or they should be able to get unlimited procedures if it makes themselves confident. I think that's a tricky area to navigate because, again, I want people to have their own autonomy over their bodies and how they present themselves online, but also-- trying to tout that as the most feminist move is also questionable, I think.

Let's unpack that because that is one of my least favorite-- and I also want to talk about, like, it kind of goes hand in hand with the girl boss phenomenon of like-- it's these sort of dual analyses of feminism that I think are just-- it's almost like the Steve Buscemi how do you do fellow kids meme, except it's capitalism. And it's being like, how do you do fellow feminists? Obviously this framing of feminism that anything a woman does is feminist by dint of her doing it.

And, moreover, there should be zero sort of pushback around any decision she could want to make-- including young girls who are not even of age yet-- because her being able to make every decision that she wants exactly as she wants to represents total autonomy and agency. I think that's just an incredibly shallow reading of what feminism means. And I think, we talk a lot about the male gaze, and I do think that that framing has some utility, but I think we need to go well beyond that and talk about-- first of all, obviously, the capitalist gaze when you get to all the girl boss shit of like, it's so powerful that a woman is in charge of Raytheon.

Like, yes, queen-- carpet-bomb those people. Sorry. But then you also have the sort of, I don't even know what the word would be for this gaze, but it's almost like the Uncanny valley.

It's like sort of the distorted gaze that we're talking about where-- obviously, like James and Nikita, and I'm sure there's like 10 others who are really famous for very much leaning into that Uncanny valley kind of beauty. Or even, I mean, like James Charles nemesis-- Tati. She's like almost 40 and she has-- her face is perfectly smooth-- she looks like handsome Squidward.

Sorry. But what I'm trying to say with this is that we're now talking about looking at women's faces and beauty and-- just fundamental humanity through a lens that the male gaze doesn't-- I don't even think this is for straight men anymore-- we're not talking about that. And having a feminist versus anti-feminist lens that's so limited by what, quote unquote "the patriarchy" wants I think is a misunderstanding.

Because things can be oppressive and damaging to women without necessarily coming from the heterosexual male gaze. And I do think this Uncanny valley beauty standard is one of those things because I do think it's created in part by algorithms, it's created in part by other young women, by these influencers, and I think it's naive to say that young women participating in that and being heavily influenced by that is not a terrible thing-- I think it's terrible. Right, in my last semester of college-- I just graduated recently-- Congrats.

I was taking, I think it was Women in Film class-- and we talked a lot about the male gaze, and it was so difficult for me to try to deconstruct like, essentially, we're kind of taught everything is for the male gaze because no matter what we're all-- especially as women, we're trying to even unconsciously satisfy these standards. Or if you consider capitalism and patriarchy all part of the male gaze umbrella, then it's like, all right, then yeah-- whatever we do, that's all the male gaze. But I agree, that idea of the capitalist gaze is really interesting and also the Uncanny valley-- almost alien.

It's almost like its own aesthetic, which in terms of design is kind of interesting, but when you're talking about actual people presenting themselves this way and not in an ironic way? Or maybe it is, I don't know, to be honest. I don't follow James Charles, or Nikita, or any of them very closely.

Though, again, I think it would benefit my work. I just can't, on a personal level, get into it because it I think it would just drive me mad to consume that type of content all the time. I don't know how much of that is like them perhaps having some kind of body image issues on their own, or if they're intentionally trying to be extreme or next level in terms of what they're looking like.

But it's definitely absolutely distorting all of our perceptions of each other. And it's funny that we've gotten to this point where a James edited photo or a Nikita photo looks normal in terms of social media, but we still look at quote unquote "plastic surgery fails" as these monstrous kind of creations-- which is really mean, obviously. But it's like, aren't these kind of in the same realm?

It's totally a tightrope act, right? Because there's such a fine line between being on an episode of Botched and being Kylie Jenner, just period. Those things are a couple milliliters of Juvaderm away from each other.

And there are times like, I'm sure we've all seen those photos and videos of the Kardashian-Jenners with some of their body parts malfunctioning, or not sitting correctly. And those things get-- well, they'll get derided all over the internet. Joe Rogan has done multiple segments about Kim Kardashian's ass looking weird because, you know, she's gotten I'm sure tons of liposuction after having her babies.

And then she has, I think, a lot of fat injected elsewhere, she has all these fillers. So, yeah, it's natural that sometimes if you catch these things in the wrong light or maybe it's after a recent touch up, or they're due for a touch up-- these things are going to look weird. But it does go to show that there's a weirdly strong permissiveness with completely artificial beauty, and there's almost even a preference to artificial beauty.

But if that artificial beauty gets a step out of line, it's completely destroyed, and mocked, and derided-- and I think that is another reason why this new beauty standard is, to me, in no way liberating for women because it just represents a new cage. I've seen a lot of those Instagram versus reality pages-- or I think it's called celebface on Instagram-- and sometimes they claim that they're just trying to reveal the truth and show people that celebrities are influencers, may not be as perfect as they seem online, yada, yada. And I think it's interesting, I always wonder if I'm consuming that content because I'm like, oh, I'm just researching-- or if I'm genuinely trying to comfort myself and remind myself like, look, they have pores, they don't look perfect.

And I want to see these pictures, and see them in bad lighting, and feel vindicated in some way. Yeah, I have a very troubled relationship with those pages. Me too.

They are helpful, especially for people who really don't see the side by side comparisons, but also-- obviously, they can lean very mean-spirited in the sense that you're making fun of or exposing people for not being perfect. I think I lost my train of thought, what was I going to say? No, lost it.

My questions do that to people, unfortunately-- they're very winding. But-- Oh, wait I remembered, sorry. I was just going to say, yes, you're right.

In terms of, again, with this kind of beauty standard that does often rely on, obviously, money-- money is the root of everything, so like, do you have the money for the procedures, or surgeries, or personal trainers? You know, nutritional plans, whatever. The thing is, that can be the standard, but the average person definitely does not have access to that.

And that's where we do see people getting desperate, and going to maybe doctors that they shouldn't, or they can't afford the top quality surgeons, or beauty specialists. So then people do end up botched, and they're the people who can't afford to fix it because they probably couldn't afford the procedure in the first place. And, you know, meanwhile-- yeah, we have celebrities who, if they do ever have a bad result, they can afford to hide away, get it fixed by the next best person, and we probably will never even know about it.

So, yeah, that's just another dangerous component as like-- we've heard about all the deaths due to BBLs. What is it, Brazilian Butt Lifts? Yes.

It's horrible and I think that the fact that a lot of people are willing to do that surgery even though the risks are so high-- I mean, that's terrifying. The one that is most compelling to me on that front, and I have to go on like a 30 second digression about this, but I must like exorcise this demon from my chest. Because I too have a strong love hate relationship with those plastic surgery revealed whatever, like, the comparison Instagrams that show you a picture of an influencer, a celebrity on Instagram that they've heavily curated, and a real picture of them.

And I agree with you that there's a fine line between this is healthy for young women to see because they need to understand that what they're looking at is a fun house mirror and they can't compare themselves to it. But at the same time, it gets really quickly into that genre of post that's just like, ew, look how gross she is-- which I think is really dangerous. But the one that I am so fascinated by because she is not like all these influencers who pretty much live and die on Instagram-- she's even not really like Kylie Jenner, who I think has always been sort of a down-market brand-- Bella Hadid.

And I'll tell you why this is such an obsession for me, so I'm a big fan of The Real Housewives which is its own problem, a can of worms, so we don't even need to get into that. But I'm a big fan of Real Housewives and on Beverly Hills-- I'm sure anyone who's a fan knows that for several seasons a cast member was Yolanda Hadid, who is Bella's mother-- and her father is, much embroiled in scandal billionaire developer, Mohammed Hadid-- who was a billionaire, I think, when they were kids-- so they've been massively, massively wealthy their whole lives. But so, on the early seasons of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills where Bella and Gigi are pre modeling careers and they're running around in the background of the show.

You can see that Bella has a completely different face in these videos where she's maybe 16, 17, and lot of people think it stops there-- it does not stop there. I'm going to tell you all to go to YouTube and look up the video from Yolanda Hadid and David Foster's wedding in 2011. A deep dive. [LAUGHS] Oh, no.

OK, so at one point the camera-- because of course it's recorded-- at one point the camera pans over to Gigi and Bella, and I'm pretty sure this is the only publicly available recording of Bella Hadid in motion at least four or five faces ago. I think, because of her age in this video, it's probably her original face? Although she may have already gotten some tweaks-- completely unrecognizable, even more so than in the actual Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.

And what's really scary about it is that there are almost no photos of her available on the internet whatsoever pre surgery. Clearly her family has probably paid a lot of money, and her team has paid a lot of money, to scrub photos from the internet of her several faces ago. And why that's so compelling to me is because she has actually broken through to true high fashion-- she's truly considered a high fashion supermodel.

And it's funny, you can see back-to-back comparisons that she literally went to her doctor and was like, give me the Carla Bruni-- and they just completely reconstructed Carla Bruni's face on top of her face. And that is the one that I look at, and I see, and I'm like, this being rewarded at that level-- because normally high fashion is supposed to be the ultimate gatekeeping of human beauty-- that we're now saying a girl who's been reconstructed from her teen years and disappeared her own past is accepted into this ring of beauty. To me that means there's no going back, and this is now just the new beauty standard.

And will probably never again get models who are just born pretty like they used to be. Who knew we'd be yearning for the days where supermodels were just naturally pretty as they used to be? That's so funny, but-- But it's true.

It is interesting, I feel like there are those levels of-- yeah, there's high fashion supermodel beauty which still has its very distinct standards for the most part-- and then it's the Instagram tier, and then it's kind of the actual people in real life who are somehow miraculously good looking in person. I feel like those tiers aren't supposed to intersect, so it is weird to see it happen because it almost ruins our division of what we expect. Oh, absolutely.

So one topic that I know our audience will bang down our door here at the TFD offices if we do not discuss is MLMs. And I have so many questions for you about MLMs-- I absolutely highly, highly recommend Tiffany's video on the subject, absolutely love it. But I want to kind of just kick off our convo with regards to MLMs with just the general question of, what got you specifically interested in talking about MLMs, and how does it fit into the broader picture of the internet analysis that you do?

I don't remember when I personally got into like a MLM content. I had had some personal experience around MLMs because my sister was actually in two of them, and we made a video talking about that because I was like-- OK, you fell for it once, but then again? Which was hilarious to me, but it happens and a lot of people-- especially once you get into an MLM and you believe that business model.

You believe that it is something that you could be successful in-- it makes sense that people do try again because they think, oh, maybe it was the wrong company, the wrong product for me, maybe I was too late, maybe I can try again. But, yeah, I think I had just seen the typical memes, and I had had the experiences of people from high school messaging me, hey, girlie are you looking for a part time job? I partnered with a new company-- I actually just got a text from one of my old friends from years ago.

I had seen that she partnered with an MLM, she posted it on Instagram-- and two days later she texted me and I already knew I was like, she's not just trying to catch up, she's going to try to ask me to join or ask if I'm interested. Which kind of made me laugh because I was like-- I mean, I don't know-- I'm surprised that people don't try to recruit YouTubers, or influencers, or that more YouTubers or influencers don't do MLM because obviously they have this scare me aura about them. But, I mean, that is kind of the perfect business model.

I had been recruited by this woman whose kids I babysat when I was like 20, and I had a small YouTube channel back then. And I remember her being like, oh, this is something you could promote to your followers-- that would be really cool. And I was like, oh, my God like that is kind of-- from an MLM person's perspective, finding someone with a big audience and having them be in your down-line is ideal.

But anyway, yeah, once I discovered MLMs and I started to see a lot of the patterns on social media, and the patterns of how they are taught to reach out to people, and how to respond to different questions-- it's such a fascinating labyrinth-- and so much of it is blocked out because it happens in private Facebook groups, or it happens in group chats. And that's why I like Kiki Chanel's video-- she does a lot of anti MLM content-- and she'll just react to different stories, or leaked team calls. And it's really fascinating to see how-- not honest-- how brutal they can be in their promotional tactics, or intentionally targeting someone who is pregnant, or has a disease, or is suffering in some other way-- they just lost their job-- they love that.

That is their favorite thing to find because that's the ideal candidate to join an MLM. The true hyenas of the internet animal kingdom. They see that wounded zebra and they're like, let's get it to sell leggings.

And they're like, wow, your life is really going bad, join my MLM. I can help you-- not really-- but join it anyway, you're going to make me some money. It's so upsetting.

But here's my question, so we're actually doing a video-- either slightly before or slightly after this, I don't know when they're both airing-- we're doing a video about MLMs specifically with regards to COVID because they've gotten somehow massively more successful during COVID. Which makes sense when you consider all the newly unemployed people, people who are newly working from home-- don't have a lot else going on right now, so it does make sense on that level. But even in researching and doing that video, what was so striking to me was like, how does this shit still work?

How is it still effective? And I was looking at, again, like you-- I consume my TikToks through Instagram Reels because I'm 80 years old-- but I screencapped several MLM, kind of girl boss IG Reels. Because some of them-- I don't think a lot of influencers turn into MLM peddlers, although I'm sure some do-- but a lot of the really successful MLM girls become influencers-- and so they have their Instagram pages or whatever that are about their product.

And so, I screencapped like six or seven of these videos where they're like, the Reels, where it's like they're pointing to words to talk about it, and they're doing-- one of them was, like, this is all the stuff that you'll hear when you're thriving. Like a salesperson for whatever, and it's like-- it's a scam, it's a pyramid scheme, you're not really doing whatever. And then she swipes it all off the screen, and she's like, don't listen to the haters-- you're your own boss-- and it had thousands of likes and positive comments.

And seeing that, I really felt such a despair because I'm like-- how, in the year 2021 with all the access to information we have and the sheer number of people who've lost money-- It's about 99% of people who end up losing money to these schemes-- how do they keep working? And more importantly, how are these women still to this day able to frame themselves as the female empowerment girl boss figures? What say you?

Why do you think it's still working? I'm amazed at how they consistently rebrand, and how they'll be like, it's not an MLM-- it's network marketing, or it's direct selling, or it's social selling-- just, OK, all the different names-- sure. So that's one thing, but I always wonder-- again, I'm like, in my corner of the internet, based on what pops up on my Explore page or my experience, how does everyone who's in their 20s or whatever not recognize MLMs and not recognize the signs?

I do wonder, I'm like, how has this just not crossed your radar? Or perhaps maybe they're so surrounded by MLMs that it's become normalized, and that they haven't seen any of the pushback because everyone on their Facebook feed or their Instagram is in one-- so it seems normal. And from what everyone says, they're so successful, and they're thriving, and they're making money, and they're so free.

So that does interest me, I'm always like-- again, I'm like, why don't you just Google blank MLM? Or like, blank scam, question mark? Because you'll find it if you search for it-- I mean, of course, there's the pro MLM blogs or whatever that all have those same things, like-- people have probably told you.

It's hilarious when the criticism is like some of the worst things that you could possibly say, they're like-- a lot of people say this is a terrible waste of money, a waste of time, it's going to ruin your life and your relationships, but don't listen. I'm like, if I had? heard those warnings, I feel I might want to take those to heart. Right?

Like, even on the off chance they're wrong, I'd rather hedge my bets and not sign up for something that everyone says is going to destroy my life. Right, right. But it's hard because, again, I think it really does boil down to that it is the sense of despair, and wanting to have something to be hopeful about, and wanting to believe in yourself.

And when somebody says, hey, I have this opportunity, you could do really well in it if you just work hard. I think a lot of people want to believe that they can be good at that. They want to believe that if they work hard enough and they dedicate themselves to it, they can be successful.

Of course, to them I would say, hey, there are a lot of actual sales jobs that can pay you real money, and that is something that you can get into. I would be a terrible salesperson, and that's why I've never been in an MLM because I'm too shy to approach anyone-- and I'd be like, I don't want to impose, I don't want to bother you-- so it's not for me. But yeah, if you want to do traditional sales, if that's something that you're really talented at or want to learn, that's a traditional skill-- but MLMs are not the way to do it.

And I just wish that-- I don't know, yeah-- it seems like, no matter how many anti MLM exposing videos are out there, or memes or whatever, either it's not reaching everyone or somehow they are rebranding. And they're-- well, I guess the thing is the thing that they're so good at-- the MLM promoters or up-lines, or whatever-- they're so good at creating that sense of trust and friendship. And, you know, it's not just about a new business opportunity, it might be someone you know, or somebody that you've just met-- but they say like, hey, I want to be best friends with you-- we can talk every day, we can be there for each other.

So it is a lot of those social components too that keep people roped into it, and that's really what stops people from getting out a lot of the times. It's like, you don't want to lose your squad of girlies, or your tribe-- as they say. I don't like that expression, but it's often used in the girl boss circles.

So, yeah, I have so much sympathy for everyone who gets roped into these MLMs, but they're just terrible. I want to do more anti MLM videos, but I want it to be from a different angle, and I don't know how to cover what I haven't already covered. But one thing I've thought about is just how very obviously MLMs are the worst epitome of capitalism.

Because it's not just OK, you join this thing, you get screwed over, and now you have to be the boss. And your job is to screw over other people, but you have to reel them in and trick them into joining this thing that you may already know is going to make them lose money because it'll make you money-- and you might need to make back money that you've lost. So it's like, I know a lot of people in MLM aren't maybe conscious of that when they're recruiting at first, but I feel like at a point you do realize-- like, hey, I've lost so much money-- I have to recruit people, I have to get them in this no matter what I have to say just to make up this money.

And that is just the worst thing because it's like hey, I'd rather be at shitty job selling stupid products for a terrible company rather than having to be that person myself, and seek out people to harm directly. But again, I feel like everybody who is in an MLM-- except the people at the very top-- they're all victims, so I don't really want to blame them actually. Well, I don't disagree, but I think that particular dynamic that you just touched on is what makes them so able to survive.

Because, yes, people who initially get roped into emblems are victims, but they become predators really quickly. They became the perpetrator pretty much as soon as they're integrated into the program and recruiting other people. So the line between victim and perpetrator is extremely blurry and, for the most part, everyone in an MLM-- if they've been in it for any amount of time have been both, and are both, in a lot of ways.

Which is why I do feel like it can be very difficult because-- here's the thing if it were the mafia, or other organized crime-- or if they were a ring of people trafficking drugs, no one would have any problem being like-- you stay away from my family, you're terrible people, we don't want you involved in our community. But because of that very fine line between who's really a victim here that we need to be understanding to and who's perpetrating this really dangerous, really cancerous, and predatory business model on communities of vulnerable women-- those are often the same people. So I feel like you can't have the level of-- like, for me, I feel like if you have someone on your Facebook who approaches you to do an MLM like-- first of all, I'm pretty sure anyone who has ever come into contact with me knows better than to do that shit in my inbox, but then I also don't use Facebook-- but if I did, and if I were there-- well, I do occasionally, but.

I just want to say for the people in the TFD Facebook group, I do see you guys-- I can't interact with my own Facebook, it's just-- I don't like Facebook. But anyway all of that is to say, if someone were to DM me trying to recruit me, I would literally make a Facebook status tagging them being like-- this person is preying on their friends, do not respond to them, report them for fraud-- and tag every single friend we have in common. That's how I would approach it and how I think-- [LAUGHS] Well, that's how I think we should approach it because I just don't think there's-- these organizations and these people who are on the upline are going to continue to be able to frame themselves as benevolent actors, and as girl bosses, and as someone who's really just trying to help out other women looking to make some cash unless there becomes a real stigma around it.

And you are-- like, if anyone knows that you're associated with this, all your Facebook friends are going to block you because they don't want to be pulled into this. And I, for me, I don't see how we're really going to make a dent in these unless we start treating it the way I think it deserves to be treated, which is that it's almost like an organized crime organization that preys on vulnerable women-- it really is. But I do think that that particular dynamic of like, who's being victimized and who's the perpetrator, is part of why it's so complicated to do that.

But I don't see how we're going to change it without it, especially when you look at the fact that these organizations have only grown during COVID-- which means that the current level of awareness of how bad they are isn't working. Right? Yeah, that's a good point.

I mean, I'm not confrontational enough to call someone out like that, but I would admire it if I saw it. So I wish I had a little bit more of that spirit maybe-- You'd like it. I mean, I've felt conflicted about what to do about my friend who just reached out because I almost wanted to immediately be like-- hey, have you heard, because I know the company, I know that it's shitty, I know everyone has shitty experiences-- 99% of people.

And I almost wanted to reach out and tell her that, but I also didn't want to sound condescending. And I also was like-- well, if she's been primed by her upline, she's already going to be like-- no, no, no, they've already told me, don't worry blah, blah, blah. So, yeah.

I didn't really know what to do, I haven't even fully opened the message yet because I just don't want to face it. But I think part of the problem with MLM is that, especially women, we are taught to be polite, we're taught to be supportive. And so when your friend has a new business venture-- again, that's why so many people do end up joining or at least buying the products because they want to support their friend.

Or they just can't say no because they don't want to seem rude, and so, yeah. I do agree that that stronger sense of like, not only should you say no, but, yeah-- maybe we should be publicly calling this out. Maybe we shouldn't be quiet and careful about saying this in private, maybe it should be a bigger thing.

And it is horrible to see, especially, what these MLM up-lines have been saying, and doing, and encouraging in COVID. Immediately it was, like the first stimulus check-- oh, good, you have money coming in? Now you can buy your starter kit-- the worst possible advice to give people during this time.

Like, hey, take that little tiny bit of money that's not even enough to cover what you need and invest it, OK? Throw it away and start this terrible journey of digging yourself into debt, probably. It's horrible-- but of course, we already knew.

Anybody could have predicted MLMs are going to flourish in this environment because they flourish when people are struggling-- and when they're desperate for some kind of work or some kind of income. There was a-- I think it was a VICE documentary I saw on YouTube, a shorter one about a woman who lost a ton of money in that legging MLM? LuLaRoe, yes-- I think I've seen that one.

Those are the worst-- I can't stand them. They're so ugly. Even if-- honestly, the MLM part of LuLaRoe isn't the real sin, it's the patterns of those leggings.

So heinous-- but she, like-- it was like this whole interview with her-- I think it was like 20 minutes long or something, it was like a mini doc. But they interviewed this woman, she's in her condo or wherever she lives-- it has whole rooms that are full of these leggings. And-- That's horrible. --not only did she have a ton of them that she had to buy in order to make her quotas or whatever, but she also like-- apparently they're just absolutely terrible quality.

So she would get all these shipped to her that were full of holes, and they were-- Moldy? Yeah. --the pattern was on wrong. And she would sell product and they would get returned for that-- this woman was physically drowning in LuLaRoe leggings-- and she's sobbing.

And I think in the documentary, I can't remember exactly, but I think in the documentary it said that it wasn't even her first MLM that she got pulled into. But so, she's in this documentary, and she's going to like-- I guess file for bankruptcy-- and, you know, her whole life is ruined. And you finish the documentary and you're like-- OK, wow, that was terrible-- but it seems like she's starting a new life, she's throwing away all these leggings-- she's going to move forward.

Cut to I scroll out of the comment section and everyone's like-- if you go to her Instagram, she's in a jewelry MLM. No, no. We want to help you, but, you know, yeah.

Again, that's the mindset, if you are one of the people who is particularly inclined to this kind of work-- "work" -- quote unquote, or this pursuit. I mean, even a massive failure like that isn't enough to deter you from another one. Well, and that's part of why the whole girl boss sort of messaging-- in general, but especially with MLMs-- is so dangerous.

Because it has this-- because, obviously, they know that most women who participate in these are going to lose money-- they're going to fail, they're not going to meet their goals, et cetera. So they have to sort of bake into the motivational package like-- you're going to fall down, hon-- you're going to file for bankruptcy a couple of times, but that's OK. Get back up, that's how you know you're strong.

And that stuff, I think, is really dangerous because it takes what should be a good lesson for women-- which is that we do not have to beat ourselves up about our failures. We don't have to define ourselves by the goals that we might have missed, et cetera-- and turns them into a justification to continue putting good money after bad and exploiting yourself, essentially. Right, right.

I know, it's an interesting combination of the traditional, more like, masculine hustle culture, and the online entrepreneurial stuff. I see that all over YouTube-- it's the guys who are going to sell you a course on how to make money online or some shit, which is essentially-- become a goober like I am, and tell other people to buy your package or whatever. So yeah, it's got some of those components of you should be working yourself to the bone, no days off, rise and grind-- I can't even say these-- You can't say them. --phrases.

But yeah, it's like it has some of that, but then it's also-- it does appeal to that modern feminist girl boss who's like-- oh, you don't just want to be a secretary, you don't just want to be an employee-- we want to be bosses, we want to be like the guys, and we want to-- again, it would be great if more women had financial independence, or could be-- they can be their own bosses, you can have your own business. But again, this is not the way to do it. But the fact that they know that so many women desire that.

And that-- also a huge component of this-- is military wives and mothers, stay at home moms, who really do have more limited options in terms of employment and making an income-- that, again, it's a great recipe for MLMs because what other options do you have? If you can't get hired or you can't find work near you, great-- here's something you can do at home. And so again, it's the perfect monster.

And it's incredibly powerful, but it is just endlessly damaging. Again, I'm amazed that it still works, but it's like painfully successful. You've just inspired me that the male version of MLMs is life coaches who sell courses on how to life coach.

Exactly. Yes. Like all those guys on YouTube, I just-- yeah, that's their own-- which is not necessarily all that much better, but at least they're not pyramid scheming it out, I guess.

Or maybe they are in some cases-- I guess, we don't know. Yeah, you're right, I can't say that for certain. But you're right that it does, like, it really takes the worst of both worlds when it comes to gendered stereotypes and what we think works on various genders.

Like you say, it has that sort of very typically masculine sort of hustle culture. You know, glorifying the idea of always being working-- which I think anyone with common sense would say-- wow, I've really bad time management or I'm being exploited-- one or the other, it's not a good thing. But then to combine it with what you were talking about earlier, which is like rolling the women who are exploiting you financially into being your friend-- that these women are not just your boss/colleagues, but they're also your closest friends.

They're the people you talk to most that you have these really intimate relationships with-- which seems obviously very dangerous. But I've heard from many women, and I'm sure you have too, who've left MLMs-- that the hardest part of it was that, literally overnight, these friendships evaporate and they don't speak to you anymore. And I feel like that level of kind of cruelty, as far as using these systems against women, it's part of the reason why I'm so surprised that it's not more socially acceptable to really call these things out publicly.

Because it's hard for me to think of a more targeted damaging system that exploits women in their weakest moments than to convince you that a bunch of people are your friends when they're really just there to take your money. Right. I actually watched a really interesting video from a creator named Kelgore and she was talking about MLMs and how, obviously, anti-MLM content is important-- again, for raising the awareness.

But also that the anti-MLM community becomes its own bubble of all the same people who obviously know and fervently hate MLMs so how many new people is it really informing if it stays within this community? But the video was about how, obviously, the root of the problems that make MLMs popular is capitalism. And especially in the US, our lack of a social safety net, and our lack of a jobs guarantee-- for example-- the fact that without those things, without higher wages-- without, again, a stronger social safety net.

We can shit talk MLMs all we want, but people are still going to believe or they're going to say-- OK, this might not be a great opportunity, or it might be really risky-- but again, this is my only thing I can bet on right now. And I'm going to bet on myself, I'm going to try it because there's nothing else for me. Or they feel like there's nothing else for them, so I feel like that component is very important.

But then it's also like-- I mean, optimistically-- can I be optimistic? When are we going to have a stronger social safety net? When are we going to have a jobs guarantee and all of the other things we need?

Medicare for all? I don't know if it's going to come any time soon, but it is sorely needed. I feel like in America there's like 10,000 things that takes people's righteous frustration and desperation with a social safety net that fails them at every turn-- and channels it into the most unproductive possible outlet.

It's like, you're really angry that you're unemployed and have no options to help feed your family? Come and join this scammy pyramid scheme-- or let me tell you about QAnon-- or like all these other outlets that I feel like, if we could just get a little bit of class consciousness going in the chat, we would be so much better off. And I feel like it's taking-- because at the end of the day, you're right-- as long as we have a social safety net that really fails people and very limited options for women in a lot of these situations-- like being military spouses, or new mothers, et cetera.

As long as we don't have guaranteed maternity leave, or universal child care programs-- as long as we don't have these things, MLMs will just continue to prosper. Because you can't blame people, initially, who don't have a lot of choices for taking bad choices. Which is why it is-- like you said, you don't want to shame people-- and you don't want to victim blame, and you don't want to make them feel like there's no coming back from it.

You want to welcome people back into a better life, but almost as soon as they get into these organizations-- they're just doing it to other people. Right, I know. I wish there was a legitimate alternative that could be offered like-- hey, get out of that MLM, but I can offer you this actual online sales position-- I don't know, are any of those things even feasible?

And again, is that even the model that we should be going for? I think the reason that people think that MLMs sound like such a good opportunity is because they're packaged that way. Because it's like, oh, work from home, work from your phone, work from anywhere.

But then it's like, is that really the work that people want to be doing? Do you honestly want to be on your phone all day messaging everyone you know? Getting ghosted or getting people mad at you because you're hassling them about something?

I think that's a lie in itself, I don't think that's the labor that people want to be doing. But then, I mean, you get down to the root of what labor does anyone want to be doing? And we're all going to be exploited in some job, but I do think there are jobs that are at least less painful and less soul sucking?

But also, I feel like we should get into the mindset sometimes that-- well, that's part of the MLM thing-- is the hatred of the 9 to 5. And there's definitely this big part of people who want that freedom, they want-- I've been looking a lot into those van life videos, or like, I live in a off-grid cabin. And there's a lot of yearning for that type of lifestyle, so I get that there are people who don't want that traditional, locked down, suburban, or whatever life.

But again, I'm like-- there has to be other work-- because we have to work, that can be better for you. And it's OK if you just go to your job and earn money, and then you can go home and do whatever you want. But again, the issue is the wages aren't high enough-- so it's not just that.

If you could earn, I don't know, 40 bucks an hour doing a job that you're like eh-- but then you go home and you actually have time for hobbies and relaxation? I think a lot of people would totally be fine with that. Totally agree.

And speaking of money, it is that time guys for our rapid fire money questions. So feel free to pass on any of these, Tiffany. And just keep it keep it zippy and honest.

What is the big financial secret of your industry? Oh, Jesus. For me?

Get a manager. That was the big game changer because I used to try to negotiate my own brand deals. And you have no idea what your worth as an individual content creator, especially if you don't know anybody in the industry.

So of course the companies just take advantage and lowball you, and make you feel bad for even offering that. So, yeah. For me, getting my management team has made my income go way up.

And I don't have to deal with as many emails, and that is honestly all I could ever ask for. Love it. What do you invest in versus what are you cheap about?

Oh, good question. By the way, I'm terrible at quick answers-- it always takes me like a long winded response to answer anything, so zippy is not my thing. What do I invest in?

Nothing, to be honest. No, I mean-- I don't know. I've been thinking a lot about my spending habits because in the last few years, I've made significantly more money than ever.

And I've been enjoying the freedom of being a YouTuber, and I've been trying to figure out, what do I want to prioritize? What do I not want to spend money on? I guess I've never been a very materialistic person in terms of, like-- I don't want to go on massive shopping sprees because I have limited closet space, and it's already full anyway.

So that's not my thing, bags and shoes are not my thing. I guess, I don't know for right now I'm just trying to save money, which is a boring answer. I would say-- Not here it's not. --I do spend money on, ordinarily, traveling.

So yeah, I guess that's my answer. Traveling experiences-- I'm willing to shell out money on that, but obviously haven't done that in over a year now-- so hopefully someday soon I'll be able to do that. What has been your best investment and why?

So many questions. On a very practical level, I would probably just say my cameras and computers? All my work equipment?

Because obviously I couldn't do my work without it. That's such a boring answer. No, it's legit.

Work expenses, baby. That's probably true. What has been your biggest money mistake and why?

I have a lot of these, OK. I mean, a lot of it came from just being a broke young person who was trying to not rely on my parents. I was trying to be financially independent, essentially, from the time that I moved out.

And so, I racked up probably $10,000 of credit card debt by the time I was like 21. And I made a whole video about that because it felt like a very heavy shameful thing. That was from survival everyday living expenses, but also I studied abroad in France in 2017.

And I probably spent a few thousand dollars on my credit card-- just my last travel stuff on my little hostels, and buses, and stuff. So that was, I'd say, irresponsible, but also I don't regret it at all because it was worth it. But also I've been lucky enough to be able to pay that off.

So it's a lot easier to not regret it because I've already dealt with it. If I still had that credit card debt hanging over me, I think I would be a little more bitter about it. Nice, where in France did you study?

In Aix-en-Provence. Oh, how nice-- so beautiful. I was there last summer.

What is your biggest current money insecurity? I would say getting used to the income that I'm making? Because I feel like, again, being a YouTuber who talks about things that are like more anti-capitalist.

And I want to have my class solidarity, but then I'm like, what even is my class now? Because I was so used to being a lower income family growing up and then being a broke young person. And now that I'm, who knows, middle class?

Compared to New York I don't know, but being solidly middle class is a really weird thing for me-- and it's hard for me to adjust to. And I feel like it almost-- yeah, it almost is an insecurity where I feel almost shame for making money-- Or, especially as a YouTuber, because I feel like the idea is that this work is not valuable, and that we don't deserve to be earning however much we're earning. I feel like I might have internalized that a little bit, but then I have to remind myself that-- first of all, I will happily take money from Google, even though they're making money off of me.

And also, in terms of brand deals and stuff, it's OK for me to do my ad reads. And I hope that the company gets some benefit out of it, but also I got to make my coin, and I don't want to be ashamed of that. But if I start selling out too much, that's when you know you've got to reel me back in.

What is the financial habit that has helped you the most? Literally just basic tracking my expenses. I still don't think I have an actual budget in terms of being strict about my spending, but I have a general idea of how much is OK for me to spend?

So I guess it's like a rough budget. But I think it was-- it's been just in the past few years that I've actually had all my different spreadsheets, and my little tracker apps, and I go through every month and I look at what I'm spending. And, I think, literally just having the habit of looking through every single transaction on all my accounts and my cards makes me a lot more aware.

I think naturally over time, I've started to know what's OK for me in terms of spending. If I spend too much at the grocery store, I'm like all right. If I were to go to Whole Foods one or 2 times, I'm like that is too much.

I have to objectively know that that is beyond my grocery budget. So, yeah, I mean-- it's a simple scale, but the fact that a lot of people, especially young people, get in the habit of not looking at their bank statements ever-- and not wanting to look at the balance in their bank account. Obviously, I see why people avoid it, but I think it's a good idea to look at what you're spending and to be mindful of that.

Well, I agree with all of that. That Whole Foods, man more like-- It's crazy. Every time I think I'm like, if I'm just selective, it'll be fine.

No. I mean, I am buying like specialty vegan stuff, so it's probably the worst of the worst in terms of cost. But I'm just like-- I bought like four things and this was like $60-- that's unreal.

Oh, yeah. I don't know what a normal food budget is either and I eat everything, so I don't-- I spend a lot of money on food and that's definitely where I spend the most outsized portion of my budget. But you also cook, I feel ashamed-- I'm sitting here talking about how much I love my vegan junk food, and I'm like, oh, no Chelsea has the most immaculate fucking dishes that you make for yourself.

Well, that's very, very sweet of you. I really appreciate that-- I do love to cook. But I have-- the thing is that, people often think that-- because I only post the stuff that looks good-- so many nights I'm just making quick noodles with a fried egg and some microwave frozen vegetables, I eat that constantly.

I want to see those-- post those on the story. I know, I should give them story love because I don't want people to think like every night I'm just hand rolling out some pasta. You know, braising short ribs.

As you do, of course. Yeah, no, not every night-- only sometimes. OK, and then the last question is, when did you first feel successful and what does that word mean to you?

Cheesus. It means a lot. I've talked about being a previously gifted student, and so I grew up thinking I was like a straight-a student.

I was good at academics and that was my value because I was never good at sports, and I never really cared about extracurriculars-- so an A on a test was all that I cared about. Obviously through college-- and my college journey was a mess, and I didn't end up going to like a top school-- which had originally been my plan just because I wanted the-- I guess, you get to prove to people that you got accepted into fancy school? Could not afford that-- so, no thank you.

But yes, so my definition of success has changed and obviously now it's very linked to YouTube, of course. Which can be nice when the YouTube studio's telling you like, oh, your video is ranked number one this week, I'm like-- fuck, yeah. That just happened just last upload-- I'm like, finally.

But then you get one that's like 10 out of 10-- your worst video out of the last 10, and it's like-- all right, I'm a piece of shit. I'm going to fail, I'm going to be irrelevant. So, yeah-- It's dangerous to have my success tied to those numbers, but that is being a YouTuber, I guess.

I would say, I guess right now is my most successful time, which is nice. I'm finally in the freedom of post-grad life, so hopefully I can enjoy it and also work. I want to work more, but I also have the mindset of true success is I can afford to work less.

So really, I want to deliver the content, but not force myself to work an arbitrary amount of hours just because that's what we're supposed to do. So, yeah-- I'm my most successful ever right now, thank you. Love it.

Well, thank you so much for joining us-- this has been a fantastic conversation. Where can people go to find more about you? My YouTube channel is called TiffanyFerg.

My Twitter, which I haven't been using much, is also TiffanyFerg. Instagram is tferg__ double underscore-- absolutely worst username of all time, but yeah. Mostly I'm on my main channel-- I also have a vlog channel and I have a podcast called Previously Gifted. [CLAPS] Yay.

Wonderful. Well, thank you guys so much for joining us. It has been a wonderful and enlightening conversation for me, I hope for you guys too.

Take care of yourselves this week, and we will see you next Monday for another episode of The Financial Confessions. Bye, y'all. [MUSIC PLAYING]