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Elizabeth Holmes believed that Theranos, the company she helmed, would change the world — until her shady business practices caught up with her. Theranos, a blood-testing company that hoped to democratize healthcare, was at one point valued by Forbes at $9 billion — but when Wall Street Journal writer John Carreyrou exposed the chaos behind the scenes in 2015 (Theranos claimed it could gather medical data from a tiny blood sample, but that technology simply didn't exist), the brand was ultimately forced to dissolve.
Now, with the release of HBO's "The Inventor: Out For Blood In Silicon Valley" documentary, which covers the rise and fall of Holmes' fortune, plenty of strange details about the mysterious figurehead behind Theranos are beginning to emerge. From an allegedly faked baritone voice to bizarre stories about her dog, here are the most interesting stories about Holmes' eccentric quirks.
Her Deep Voice
Holmes' voice has fascinated the public with the release of this latest film. Some former colleagues of hers claim this unique characteristic was a performance, although her family has since told TMZ otherwise.
“When she came to me she didn’t have a low voice," Dr. Phyllis Gardner, a professor of medicine at Stanford who worked with Holmes during her freshman year of college, told Rebecca Jarvis on "The Dropout" podcast. "When I next saw her again was at the Harvard Medical School board meeting where she was being introduced. She says with this low voice and I’m like, 'Oh my god.' It was quite off."
The Way She Made Eye Contact
Much of what we know about Holmes' allegedly odd behavior also comes from Carreyrou's book "Bad Blood," which explored Theranos' shadiness. Holmes' direct and intimidating eye contact, for example, was noted by the author.
"The way she trained her big blue eyes on you without blinking made you feel like the center of the world," Carreyrou wrote. "It was almost hypnotic."
Her Paranoid Behavior
Although Holmes presented herself as affable and enthusiastic, reports from Carreyrou's book indicate that in reality she was deeply paranoid.
Carreyrou wrote that Holmes’ “administrative assistants would friend employees on Facebook and tell her what they were posting there" and that she “demanded absolute loyalty from her employees and if she sensed that she no longer had it from someone, she could turn on them in a flash.”
What "turning" on someone actually constituted sometimes involved searching for incriminating material in the person's past, with a former Theranos employee telling Carreyrou that they had at one point been hired to create “a dossier on the person she could use for leverage.”
Holmes' paranoid streak allegedly extended to Carreyrou himself, who claimed he was put “under continuous surveillance for a year" while he penned his tome.
Her Company's Cult-Like Atmosphere
Reviews of Theranos from Glassdoor confirm at least some of the details presented by Carreyrou, with former employees describing the environment of the company as cult-like.
“The first day on the job you start to become a victim of gaslighting," reads one review.
"Reality is far from described," reads another.
Her Steve Jobs Cosplay
Strange stories about Holmes' sartorial inclinations have since emerged as well. Richard Fuisz, M.D., a Georgetown-educated psychiatrist, inventor, and former CIA agent who has known Elizabeth Holmes since childhood, confirmed that the young entrepreneur's mimicry of the late Apple CEO Steve Jobs was intentional and vaguely obsessional.
"She wore Jobs' black turtleneck, she had her picture taken with a slimming lens to make her neck look thinner, she had staff meetings at the same time as Jobs did, she imitated his body language — pulling the nanotainer [where Theranos would store the drop of a patient's blood it claimed it would test] out of her pocket the same way Jobs did with the iPhone," Fuisz told Inc.com.
"In line with designing my life to be able to give every bit of energy I have to this, I have a closet that has a very large number of the exact same set of clothes," Holmes told Ken Auletta of The New Yorker, as shown in the HBO doc. "And every single day, I put the same thing on and I don't have to think about it."
"This woman lived in her apartment — basically, she called her apartment a mattress," Auletta added. "The only thing in her refrigerator was bottled water. She ate all her meals at the office. She slept four hours a day. She worked in the office 'til midnight, or thereabouts. You ask her the date, she says 'I don't know, I'm married to Theranos.' Those were literally her words. What she said to me. And I believed it!"
Toward the end of Theranos, Holmes was caught in several lies about her business dealings — but in an article exploring Holmes' life in the wake of Theranos' dissolution, Vanity Fair writer Nick Bilton stumbled upon a peculiar factoid about a lie Holmes told about her dog, Balto.
"Balto — like most huskies — had a tiny trace of wolf origin," Bilton wrote. "Henceforth, [Holmes] decided that Balto wasn’t really a dog, but rather a wolf. In meetings, at cafés, whenever anyone stopped to pet the pup and ask his breed, Holmes soberly replied, 'He’s a wolf.'"
Holmes now lives with Balto and her fiancé in a luxury apartment in San Francisco, according to Bilton. Although she currently faces several fraud charges, she continues to maintain her innocence.
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