Four reasons why we believe Fearne Cotton is betraying women by endorsing MLM Arbonne

Find out why we believe Fearne Cotton’s decision to endorse MLM Arbonne demonstrates an inauthenticity of her brand, and four ways she is betraying women as a result.

We know that MLMs love to use celebrities to ‘endorse’ their businesses by hiring them for events. Kelly Clarkson, Craig David and Katy Perry have all performed at MLM events in return for payment.

Indeed, appearing at an MLM event can earn you a LOT of money. Kary Perry was allegedly paid $5 million to appear at a LuLaRoe convention.

But it was a particular shock to see Fearne Cotton – who promotes mental health through her Happy Place podcast and events – announced as a keynote speaker at this year’s Arbonne event in the UK:

On further research though, this shouldn’t have been a shock. Because in April this year, Arbonne ran a PR piece claiming that, “Laura Whitmore and Fearne Cotton are fans of ARBONNE and prefer to use vegan friendly beauty products.”

Apparently, Arbonne’s mascara is “A firm favourite with Fearne Cotton!”, while Laura Whitmore “credits” their gel eye masks “for the base of her wide eyed bambi eyes!”

Clearly both Fearne and Laura are happy to endorse Arbonne, most likely as part of some commercial agreement.

Four reasons why we believe Fearne Cotton is betraying women by endorsing MLM Arbonne

So why is it so problematic for celebrities like Fearne and Laura to take money from Arbonne in return for promoting them? Let’s look at four ways we believe they are betraying women by endorsing MLMs.

1) The money paid to Fearne probably comes from the losses of women

According to research published on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) website, on average 99.6% of people who join an MLM like Arbonne will lose money once business expenses are taken into account.

This is backed up by income disclosure statements from Arbonne themselves. These show that as many as 88% of people who join them earn nothing. Deduct business expenses, including products bought from Arbonne (as encouraged by the company as we’ll reveal later on), and these people will undoubtedly have made a loss.

Here’s what some former US Arbonne consultants say they lost:

In fact, out of 21,000 Arbonne consultants in the UK, their income disclosure statement shows that only 88 people earn more than the National Living Wage.

It gets even worse, too. According to marketing materials produced by Arbonne, “Most people invest about 10-15 hours per week, on average, when they start their business”. And if 88% of people who start a business with Arbonne don’t make any money, that means they are working 520-780 hours a year for free.

By our calculations, this means that the money inevitably being paid to Fearne to promote Arbonne comes from the unpaid labour and losses of women (and men) who join the company. Personally we’d find it pretty hard to sleep at night knowing we were making a profit from the virtual ‘slave labour’ and losses of others.

2) Fearne is helping to promote a company whose consultants’ social media activity has been described as “unlawful” by the FTC

Over the years, we have been shocked at just how deceptive some MLMs and their consultants can be in order to recruit and sell, including Arbonne.

In April 2020 Arbonne were sent this warning letter from the FTC after reviewing social media posts by Arbonne consultants that “unlawfully advertise that certain products treat or prevent Coronavirus Disease 2019 (“COVID-19”) and misrepresent that consumers who become Arbonne business opportunity participants are likely to earn substantial income”.

The FTC were clear that Arbonne was “responsible for the claims of your business opportunity participants and representatives” and instructed them to respond within 48 hours “describing the specific actions you have taken to address the FTC’s concerns”. However, despite the warning it seems that Arbonne consultants were still posting deceptive claims.

Arbonne consultants have also been exposed tastelessly and cynically capitalising on a tragic terrorist attack in which two people tragically lost their lives and three more were injured:

Furthermore, Arbonne has been investigated by Truth In Advertising (TINA) for a range of false health and income claims, including this one:

And it’s not just their consultants. Even Arbonne’s own recruiting document makes it look feasible to earn $1,000 a month with the company – despite their own income disclosure statements showing that the vast majority of people earn nothing (as many as 83% of consultants in the US earn zero according to their income disclosure statement):

Arbonne even encourage their consultants to spend enough money with them “to be uncomfortable” and work to pay themselves back… again KNOWING that most consultants won’t earn that money back:

It is very disappointing to see celebrities like Fearne and Laura endorsing companies who encourage people who spend more than makes them comfortable, knowing they are unlikely to earn that back, and whose reps are happy to use a tragedy as an attempt to make money.

And companies who produce what we believe is deceptive advertising, and who need to be warned by the FTC for the deceptive actions of their consultants.

3) Fearne is endorsing a company who attempts to cover up their ‘deception’ when caught

Arbonne is well aware of the gap between their marketing messages and the reality of what their consultants really earn, after all they produce their own income disclosure statements each year!

And when this is exposed – as we did in a video presentation at the first virtual global MLM conference in 2021, what do you think Arbonne did? Did they leave the claims we highlighted as troublesome up on their website, confident they were in the right? Did they apologise for the error and correct them?

No, they simply took the pages down. (You can watch my video and see the problematic pages here.)

This indicates to us that Arbonne were fully aware that these pages were deceptive, and that our accusations about the company in the video were correct.

Like many other MLMs Arbonne has also been quietly doctoring its income disclosure statements over the years, as they come under greater scrutiny from the media.

To illustrate this, here are earnings tables from Arbonne’s UK income disclosure statements in 2019 and 2021. See if you can spot one important difference:

The type in the top screenshot is quite small, but it reads: Average annual earnings of Arbonne independent consultants who had earnings in 2019.

However, just two years later Arbonne drop the important distinction ‘who had earnings’, labelling the 2021 table: Average annual earnings of Arbonne independent consultants in 2021.

We know that the fortunes of Arbonne consultants hasn’t dramatically increased over those two years. And indeed, the percentage of people at each level remains roughly the same. So the table is clearly including the same group of people – only independent consultants who actually earned ANY money.

However, if you were to view the table without realising this, you would naturally assume that everyone who joined the company had a chance of earning money.

In our opinion this is further evidence of the deception of Arbonne. They know that most people who join will earn nothing (and therefore lose money), as their income disclosure statements show. However they, in our opinion, continually attempt to hide the truth in order to recruit more women who are likely to lose money, based on Arbonne’s own data.

Are these really values that Fearne Cotton is happy to endorse?

4) Fearne is supporting a company that appears to split up relationships and damage women’s mental health

And finally, this is probably the biggest reason why we are so confused that Fearne Cotton is seemingly happy to take money to promote Arbonne: evidence shows that MLMs like Arbonne can be incredibly detrimental to people’s mental health.

When women join an MLM they are encouraged to see friends and family as “speed bumps” and “red lights” on the road to success. If people who love you don’t support your new business, or try to warn you about it, you are told they are just ‘jealous’. Here’s what one ex-consultant said of her time with Arbonne:

And here’s a post by an Arbonne rep rationalising that anyone who doesn’t support her is simply doubting her big goal and therefore expendable:

In an interview with The Guardian, another former consultant said that she was encouraged to set an alarm for 6.40am so she could listen to a motivational talk given live by an upline. She said it was “like brainwashing.”

The single mother of two told The Guardian that she had lost more than £1,000 selling Arbonne cosmetics in 2016. She says she was pressured to “prey” on new mothers in soft play areas, and encourage a single mother who joined to buy more products. She says that her upline told her to take out a credit card to buy stock, and that she is still paying off the debt.

When people do eventually leave an MLM like Arbonne they are often traumatised and ashamed of how they behaved and how they were duped (as they often come to see it). Here’s a post from a former Arbonne consultant:

This woman’s marriage isn’t the only to be placed under pressure by an MLM. On Reddit one poster asked: “Anyone on here gotten divorced over Arbonne or an MLM in general? I’m currently going through one because she got so sucked into this cult (and other reasons which stemmed from it).”

He elaborates: “…she has alienated people and she is ALL about her boss babes- she’s addicted to social media and spends most of her day on it- it’s gotten bad.”

Another frustrated husband told You Magazine:” It’s like she’s been completely brainwashed… She’s been emotionally distant. And she’s always on her phone or laptop.” He also told You that while his wife was convinced she was going to be earning £12,000 a month with Arbonne, she hadn’t actually made any money at all. In fact, she had lost around £4,000.

MLM schemes like Arbonne have also been blamed for ripping families apart, divorce, custody battles, police reports and even fist fights – none of which are positive influences on women’s mental health.

Contrast this with the stated mission of Fearne Cotton’s Happy Place:

“Through story sharing and experts’ wisdom, we drive joy and inspire self-empowerment. Enriching your day with stories that relate to the rainbow of emotion and experience.”

She also says it is a space for “positive impact, where everyone has a voice. We hope to listen, learn, share. And smile — it’s a happy place.” And, “When we are disconnected we can feel dull. Connection is where all the meaning lives.”

This feels very much out of line with the lived experience of women who join Arbonne. To us the two are culturally incompatible. Fearne claims to encourage connectivity and embrace different experiences and viewpoints. Arbonne, meanwhile, allegedly encourages its consultants to cut out friends and family who don’t blindly support you or join the business.

We really can’t understand, given this, why on earth Fearne would want to align her brand and reputation with Arbonne – unless they were paying her a LOT of money. And if that is the case, it reflects poorly on her authenticity to us.

Arbonne have removed public mentions of Fearne speaking at their event

So no wonder that Fearne’s endorsement of Arbonne now appears to be hush hush.

We first became aware of Fearne Cotton’s involvement with Arbonne thanks to a tweet by the Anti-MLM Coalition:

The tweet shares this Facebook post by Arbonne:

A week later we searched for the post and found this reference to Fearne Cotton speaking at the Arbonne event:

However, when you try to click through to the Facebook post now, you just get this:

It appears that (in typical Arbonne style when they receive criticism, in our experience) Arbonne have deleted the post. Indeed, it isn’t possible to find a mention publicly now of Fearne’s involvement. It is possible they were instructed to do this as damage limitation by Fearne’s PR agency.

However, it appears that she is still speaking, but Arbonne are only mentioning this to their own consultants:

We are extremely disappointed in Fearne’s endorsement of Arbonne. There has been significant media criticism of MLMs for several years, and we would expect any PR agency to thoroughly research a company before agreeing to a commercial relationship.

So we can only conclude that Fearne and her PR agency are happy to take money from and promote Arbonne which, we believe, is a contradiction of her stated values and mission. If Fearne is indeed still taking money from Arbonne to endorse them, we would urge her to reconsider.

If Fearne has pulled out of the event, then that would be a positive move in our opinion. And we would hope that someone with Fearne’s influence and interest in mental health would use her platform to help educate and protect more women from an industry that seems to harm so many.

Read more about MLMs like Arbonne

If you’d like to learn more about MLMs like Arbonne, and why we believe they are so harmful, we recommend reading these articles:

We also recommend reading the experiences of some of the former MLM reps we have interviewed here:

Photo by DANNY G