Myka Stauffer and Rachel Hollis are lifestyle/family/self-help gurus. Both have been rocked by recent scandals. Stauffer, a Mommy Vlogger with millions of subscribers between her YouTube channels, admitted to “rehoming” her autistic adopted son. Rachel and Dave Hollis recently announced their divorce. It’s my opinion that Myka’s abandonment of her son is heinous. It’s much more than a scandal. And I don’t think, in and of itself, that the Hollis’s divorce is scandalous. However, both families share the similarity of pretending that everything was fine, up until the moments these bombs were dropped.
Stauffer is a YouTube influencer and mommy vlogger. On her (now deleted) family vlog channel, The Stauffer Life, she shared momfluenster content, like “Day In The Life of a Mom of 3 (then 4, then 5)” videos. Or, “What I Eat In A Day To Stay Healthy And Lean,” and “REAL Baby Nighttime Routine 2020.” Myka appeared in her videos with her blond hair in perfectly mussed beachy waves, a light wash of brown eyeshadow in her eye creases. She speaks in a high pitched, relaxing voice, her glowing presence untouched by scandal.
Until now. Public relation downfalls tend to bring people out of the woodwork. Former friends and neighbors of Myka paint a picture of a calculating woman, one hotly focused on becoming “YouTube famous.” Individuals allege that Myka never showed any interest in homeschooling her children or Christianity until hanging out with homeschooling, Christian mom YouTubers (and noticing their subscriber counts).
Adopting for Clout?
These same people have alleged that Myka had no interest in adoption until she saw the social media success of adoption stories. The Stauffer’s filmed their entire adoption journey, from just thinking about it, to contacting adoption agencies and planning, to Huxley’s Gotcha Day and other updates. Huxley’s “Gotcha Day” was the most-watched video on her channel with 5.5 million views. In one video, Myka acknowledged that the meteoric rise of her channel coincided with their adoption story.
The Stauffers even crowd-funded their adoption. Donations would help uncover a photo of Huxley, every $5 revealing more of his picture. The Stauffers made monetized videos releasing details about Huxley before his official adoption.
Throughout this process, Myka seemed confident about all adoption outcomes. She repeatedly said that she was comfortable with all kinds of “special focuses.” She stated that they would love their son, regardless of any medical difficulties or trauma. According to Myka, their child was “not returnable” and doctor’s warnings “went in one ear and out the other.”
By early 2020, followers began to notice that Huxley wasn’t in posts and videos. Those that asked about him were blocked. In May 202o, a DM (direct message) attributed to a neighbor of the Stauffers was released. In the DM, the individual alleged that Huxley “didn’t fit in” with the family’s filming, that his needs weren’t being attended to, and that “the truth would come out.”
On May 26, 2020, the Stauffers posted the video “An Update On Our Family” (now deleted) in which they tearfully revealed that they had placed Huxley with another family. They stated that they were not aware of the extent of his needs and diagnoses (remember how they said none of that mattered?). Myka and James assured subscribers that this was a decision that Huxley wanted (he’s four).
Then, they dared to ask for privacy. Not just for them, but for the little boy they’d been filming for years. Privacy is important when monetization is no longer a possibility.
The Stauffer Backlash
The backlash was as fierce as it was immediate. Entire Facebook groups are dedicated to demonetizing Myka Stauffer’s platform. Nearly every brand she has worked with has severed ties. The public outcry was so fierce that local authorities got involved. The Delaware County Sheriff office released the statement that Huxley “is not missing” and that they were launching an official investigation into the adoption.
Screenshots were unearthed. Soon Reddit threads, Facebook groups, and YouTube commentary videos were awash with “receipts.” Everything that the Stauffers had ever posted online was soon found (and/or re-examined) by Internet sleuths.
James and Myka Stauffer: Picture Perfect Parenting?
One of Myka’s vlogs showcases “difficulty” with Huxley. He wanted more food, cried when told no, and was punished simply for his tears. Huxley experienced food anxiety; which is common in cases of international adoptions. Huxley would often closely watch family members eating. Myka stated that this drove her husband “bonkers.”
A picture resurfaced showing that the Stauffers had duct taped Huxley’s hand in an attempt to stop him from sucking his thumb. When Myka’s biological daughter sucked her thumb, Myka made a whole Instagram post about cute it was and how Myka never wanted her to stop.
All For The Money?
Screenshots showed Myka posting in a Chinese Adoption Facebook group about beginning the process of a second adoption. She also asked what special needs fellow group members would “consider minor or relatively easy to manage that most people wouldn’t consider easy?” Strangely, a second adoption was on the table, considering how difficult they stated the situation with Huxley was.
But they understood the source of their income streams. In one Instagram story, Myka complained about the high cost of therapy and the need to find a cheaper one, while wearing a $4000 Cartier bracelet. Myka accepted one brand sponsorship in which she posted a picture of her and Huxley, crediting a laundry soap with their ability to bond (seriously). After rehoming Huxley, the Stauffers went on a luxury vacation. To Bali.
I’m not sure that James and Myka Stauffer can ever come back from this. Nor do I think they deserve to. As the mother of an autistic child myself, I know that “rehoming” a young autistic child, who has already experienced the trauma of international adoption and relies on consistency and order, is an abhorrent act.
Dave and Rachel Hollis Divorce
The divorce of Dave and Rachel Hollis is more annoying than abhorrent. There isn’t nearly as much to break down with this story. Simply: the Hollises are getting divorced. The divorce isn’t a scandal.
The amount of money the Hollises made peddling their seemingly perfect relationship? That’s the scandal. To paraphrase YouTuber, author, small business owner, and anti-MLMer SAVY Writes Books: “If your marriage/relationship/lifestyle is your brand, if it’s monetized and inevitably goes down the toilet, criticizing [the divorce] is not drama, it’s a brand review.”
And I give this divorce 1/5 stars.
Keeping It “Real”
Transparency has always been part of the Hollises brand. As Rachel wrote in Girl, Wash Your Face, “for every gloriously styled cupcake picture we produced, I shared a photo of myself with facial paralysis.”
But just how transparent were the Hollises being? Ten days before their divorce announcement, the bubbly couple posted feel-good Happy Anniversary shout outs (it’s now deleted). In a podcast recorded during the COVID-19 outbreak, the Hollises stressed that their relationship was stronger than ever (also deleted). Taking that information into account, pivoting to a divorce announcement is, uh, surprising.
The Hollises raked in cash releasing books, podcasts, and marriage conferences that trumpeted their great relationship and so-called transparency…all while contemplating divorce. According to their own admittance. Both of their divorce announcements (especially Dave’s) stated that they’d struggled for years.
Marketing Marriage Tips
Dave and Rachel Hollis’s loving relationship was part of their brand. They peddled it through their YouTube videos, social media posts, books, and their Rise Together conferences and podcast. The videos were endearing, the posts were mushy, and the books/podcasts were filled with tips and tough love.
The Hollises charged $1,795 (not including airfare and hotel fees) for their Rise Together conferences, a “weekend getaway” where they would share their relationship secrets. While their marriage was supposedly crumbling, Dave and Rachel Hollis had the audacity to charge for marriage advice.
And their marriage advice was just platitudes. They were not groundbreaking. In books and videos, the Hollises dispensed common advice like the importance of date nights and making out. In his book, Get Out of Your Own Way, Dave advocated for not taking relationship advice from “struggling couples.” Talk about words that’ll come back to haunt you, huh?
The Danger of Curated Imperfection
So, how did we get here? How did picture perfect parenting and a wonderful marriage crumble so completely? I think it’s because both the Stauffers and the Hollises were peddling curated imperfection. This term was coined by writer Laura Turner in an article detailing the problematic aspects of Rachel Hollis’s brand. Lifestyle gurus use curated imperfection to paint themselves as #relatable.
That means influencers share faults, but only small ones. Like, “Look at me with my messy bun! See? I don’t even care about my hair,” or “Check out my stretch marks!” or “Argh, see, my kid’s room is cluttered, too!” It’s basically begging followers to see them as girlfriends dispensing helpful advice, not actual gurus. It’s an attempt to avoid punch-ups and criticism. It’s easier to criticize a celebrity than a friend, right?
And struggling so much with parenting that you would give away your child or struggling so much with your marriage that you are on the precipice of divorce (for years), is not #relatable. So the Stauffers and the Hollises hid these struggles until the moment they couldn’t.
Curated Imperfection: Removing The Scales
Curated imperfection wouldn’t be such an easy trap for lifestyle/self-help gurus to fall into if consumers weren’t so thirsty for it. In a reality-TV, post-truth world, we crave “realness” and “authenticity” in the content we consume.
But, what really is authenticity? Mostly, it’s a construct. Humans have concealed shadow selves since society’s beginning. If anything, social media makes it easier to continue the concealment, presenting a highlight reel of our lives.
We need to see curated imperfection for what it truly is: a marketing tactic. When we accept that curated imperfection is just another marketing gimmick, we won’t be so angry about the eventual and inescapable downfall of our social media gods.
What social media scandal shocked you the most this year? Let me know in the comments. Share this article, help everyone see through the curated imperfection hustle.