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What Made A Young Elizabeth Holmes Different From Her Childhood Peers?

“I was probably, definitely, not normal,” Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes told the New Yorker. 

 

Disgraced tech CEO Elizabeth Holmes life has been far from ordinary and nothing makes that clearer than the depiction of her in Hulu’s “The Dropout.”

The dramatized series begins with a young Holmes struggling to fit in with her peers. She is driven but she is socially awkward and different. One scene shows classmates laughing at her as she runs track as a child. Then, in another scene, more classmates laugh at her after she scolds them for not speaking only Mandarin while in an immersion college program in China. “The Dropout” depicts Holmes as someone who dances around her room alone and practices talking to people in the mirror.

Later, she tries to explain to one of the employees at Theranos that she is an outsider. But by that point, that employee as well as many others in her life just viewed her as a fraudster.

The real Holmes was indicted on fraud charges in 2018 for defrauding numerous investors by making false claims about the breakthrough medical technology her company Theranos had supposedly developed. It turned out, what she was proposing wasn’t technically possible; she had faked that a prototype of the device was ready. A jury convicted her on four fraud counts in January.

And Holmes, now 38, confirms she was indeed different from the beginning. 

“I was probably, definitely, not normal,” she told the New Yorker in 2014. “I was reading ‘Moby-Dick’ from start to finish when I was about nine. I read a ton of books. I still have a notebook with a complete design for a time machine that I designed when I must have been, like, seven. The wonderful thing about the way I was raised is that no one ever told me that I couldn’t do those things.”

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The New Yorker notes that Holmes was raised by a father who worked for government agencies and mother who had worked as a foreign-policy and defense aide on Capitol Hill. Her dad also was once a vice president at Enron, which went bankrupt after its own fraud scandal. The New Yorker piece reported that the family moved several times, “which meant there was little opportunity to develop lasting friendships.”

“Holmes describes herself as a happy loner, collecting insects and fishing with her father," the New Yorker reported.

Richard Fuisz, a former neighbor of Holmes and her family, told Forbes in 2019 that “in the pictures I have with our family she is withdrawn.” 

“She is always pulled to the side and was not naturally emotive as a child,” he explained.

He also claims that Holmes' mother encouraged her to be more like Fuisz, who was an inventor and former CIA agent.

“They were jealous of our family,” he told Forbes. “I was a physician who had many patents and made money off of them and knew Arabic. [...] Noel programmed Elizabeth to be like me, invent and learn a language. I am a psychiatrist and family practitioner and would tell a father and mother not to treat their child that way.”

It should be noted that Fuisz, as “The Dropout” depicts, created a patent that would embroil him and Holmes in court with one another for years. Holmes had accused Fuisz and his family of stealing a secret Theranos patent. She filed a lawsuit against him in 2011 and three years later, Fuisz and Holmes settled. Forbes reports that neither party received anything from the patent. 

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