How to Spot a Celebrity Entrepreneur

(2021 Edition)

By Maggie Patterson

All opinions in this post are my opinions and mine alone.

You can view our full disclaimer here.

Maybe you wouldn’t trust, let alone buy from the person lying on a Ferrari, but would you follow or buy from someone who’s like your BFF? Or someone who seems super smart or edgy? Sure you would. I know I sure have, and that’s why in this episode, we’re diving into the world of celebrity entrepreneurship with fresh updates for 2021.

Over the last year, online business has been shaken up as more of the dark side of the industry has been exposed. From my perspective, this is just the start, and part of the problem we’re now dealing with is that the people with power and influence in this industry are amazing marketers.

They’ve built powerhouse brands that convince us that we can trust them and the result is that we keep giving them our time, attention and money. It’s not just the big brands, it’s also the would-be celebs who’ve learned these tactics and simply think this is the way business is done.

The result? We can’t just look for something sleazy or sketchy as a sign that we should skip doing business with someone. It’s much more complex and nuanced than looking at the FB ad with a guy on a yacht and thinking, “Next.” Because what you find next is much more subtle, and the job of their marketing and sales is to get you to know, like, trust, and ultimately buy from them.

Celebrity entrepreneurs come in many different packages, and my goal with this podcast episode and essay is to give you the need-to-know so you can spot celebrity entrepreneurs and their wannabes in the wild.

The Cult of Celebrity Entrepreneurship

Fans, followers and cult-like devotion is a big part of online business. So when we talk about the culture of celebrity entrepreneurship, we need to recognize how it definitely has culty vibes.

I’m not saying online business is a cult in the traditional sense, but there’s some definite cross-over as explored in my limited series podcast Duped and my post on Lessons About Online Business from the NXIVM Docuseries.

Many of the hallmarks of celebrity entrepreneur culture are very cult-like. From promising access to insider secrets, to the leader/follower dynamics, to the constant need to keep investing, many celebrity entrepreneurs definitely take a page from the cult leader playbook. (Many times they may not even realize the origins of the tactics they’re using and how problematic they can be.)

As Adam Grant explains, the difference between a culture and a cult “is whether people have the freedom to question and challenge the way things are done.”

Unfortunately, many celebrity entrepreneurs run their businesses and their marketing machines in a way that’s built on the premise that their way is the only way. There’s little room for real dialog or debate, and any discourse is shut down as it’s seen as “low vibe” or people are labeled as haters.

While I’ve made it clear in the past that I make a point of focusing on critiquing business practices over people’s character, I firmly believe that there needs to be room for differing points of view.

For me, a real leader should be open to feedback and open to discussion, but that’s often not the norm in online business.

Like cult leaders and Instagram influencers, celebrity entrepreneurs have built their brands based on their charisma. Their image can be fragile and it takes work to maintain, so eliminating any criticism is seen as the best possible way to protect the brand.

Think of celebrity entrepreneurs as business influencers. Having a business and making money doesn’t mean that they’re experts. It just means they know how to market and sell to you. They know how to influence the way you think and act.

As I’ve talked about in detail, anyone can say anything they want on the internet. They can lie about their experience. They can claim credentials they don’t have. They can tell you they make money that they’re not.

That invented authority and pile of lies, adds up over time, and it makes it hard to know who should be trusted.

The real problem is that, unlike the average influencer who’s selling you a mattress or vitamins, celebrity entrepreneurs are selling you a course for $3k or a mastermind for $30k. The stakes are so much higher, and the potential for harm grows exponentially.

Take, for example, the case of business influencer Sarah Akwisombe last fall. As reported by Women on Top, she sold a coaching program and failed to deliver. She hasn’t honored most of the requests for refunds while continuing to run her business and talking about how much money she’s making.

By no means is this an isolated case. Abuse in this industry is very real. Personally, I hear stories every single week from people who’ve lost money and been victimized by celebrity entrepreneurs.

Scribble Red 2

How to Spot a Celebrity Entrepreneur

I’ve talked about Celebrity Entrepreneurs before, but I wanted to give it a fresh new spin with some updates for 2021. Things have changed since I first introduced this concept in the summer of 2020, and one of the biggest moves I’ve seen is how people are trying to distance themselves from bro marketing.

Bro marketing is getting a lot of attention as more and more people realize there are other ways to do their marketing and sales. The challenge is that much of what we’re seeing is simply a rebrand where people are trying to distance themselves from the worst of these tactics.

There’s been an increasing number of celebrity entrepreneurs who are moving towards a more ethical, humane way of running their businesses, but the harsh reality is that much of it is a performance.

The underlying tactics haven’t changed. It’s the same problematic marketing and sales tactics in a fresh new package labeled “ethical” for 2021.

That’s why we can’t simply look at the outer package of these celeb entrepreneur brands and figure out if they’re someone we want to engage with or not.

Before we dive into the archetypes, I wanted to share what we should look for at a high level to figure out if someone is a celebrity entrepreneur or not. I cover these in much more detail on each of these in my essay and episode on the Dark Side of Online Business, but this is a good primer.

Invented Authority
  • Using titles to signal power
  • Worthless certifications
  • Signalling affluence with images
  • Results not typical social proof
  • The “as seen on” hack
  • Inflated and creative revenue claims
Weaponized Stories and Sales Tactics
  • Dramatic and traumatic stories
  • Invest at all costs message
  • High pressure sales strategies
  • Forcing a decision with scarcity
Insider Secrets
  • Limiting access to the leader
  • Playing up prestige and belonging
  • They have the ONLY solution
Mindset Manipulation
  • Challenges to authority aren’t tolerated
  • Toxic positivity
  • Constantly blaming the customer
  • Deflecting feedback
  • Gaslighting customers
Scribble Red 1

If you’re following or doing business with anyone using these tactics, you’re likely in the celebrity entrepreneur zone. And if they’re not a full-fledged one, keep in mind that they’ve likely been heavily influenced by these methods.

Ultimately, the decision is up to you, but I want to equip you with the tools you need to see celebrity entrepreneurs and their wannabes for what they are. My goal is always to give you the ability to decide for yourself so you can make better business decisions.

Now, let’s dive into the celebrity entrepreneur archetypes.

The Celebrity Entrepreneur Archetypes:

Updated for 2021

For us to do business in a way that’s truly aligned with our values and in integrity, we need to know exactly how celebrity entrepreneurs may show up.

I created these archetypes last summer as a way to help people see that we need to look past the brands and understand how we were being played. The truth is that while we may look at a “bro” marketer and never do business with them, we could be sucked in easily by one of these other archetypes.

Back in 2020, I started with six archetypes, and after some learning and consideration on my part, I wanted to update them to make them gender-neutral. Plus, I wanted to add a new one that’s emerged in 2021 that shouldn’t be ignored.

Here are the Celebrity Entrepreneur Archetypes for 2021.

The BFF Next Door

The BFF Next Door archetype builds their brand and business based on their relatability. They connect with us in a way that makes us like them, and most of all trust them based on their familiar vibe.

Archetype-icons-BFF-Next-Door

Goal:

To disarm you with their “I did it and you can too” promises so you buy into their dream they’re selling. To turn you into a loyal fan or follower who will buy anything and everything.

Go-To Move:

Curated vulnerability. They share stories that are designed to play on their relatability and BFF vibe.

Beware:

This is one of the hardest archetypes to spot as they're so damn nice and likable. Remember, their marketing machine is working 24/7 and they’re warming you up for their next launch.

The Woo Crew

Over the last year the Woo Crew group of celeb entrepreneurs has gone from being a bit out there, to down right problematic. Many of these individuals have gone deep into the cult of Q, which has been well-documented on the podcast Conspirituality.

Archetype-icons-Woo Crew

Goal:

To convince that your real problem is your mindset because your mindset is everything and nothing else matters. The Woo Crew celeb entrepreneurs are really into all things abundance and manifestation.

Go-To Move: 

Mindset manipulation in the form of gaslighting and toxic positivity.

Beware:

Practices designed to help you with your mindset executed by people who have no business being in your head. Watch for the use of practices like NLP and hypnosis by unqualified individuals.

The Luxury Lifestylers

The Luxury Lifestylers are new for 2021, and they’re a combination of the two archetypes that I used to call the Fancy AF Lady Bosses and the Hard Core Dude Bros. In an effort to de-gender the archetypes, meet the Luxury Lifestylers who are selling you the dream of their fancy AF life at every turn.

Archetype-icons-Luxury Lifestylers

Goal:

To sell you their fancy AF lifestyle and make you feel like if you’re not making 7 or 8 figures you’re failing.

Go-To Move: 

Using a glamorous or luxury brand image to convince you they’re the expert. This group relies on using invented authority, including inflated revenue claims and results, not typical social proof. Plus, they love to share good old fashion rags to riches story (even if it’s completely untrue).

Beware:

The lifestyle they’re selling is a scam. They’re gaining your trust by virtue of their attractiveness and the material trappings of their so-called lifestyle. The only problem is that when you buy from them, the only one getting “richer” is them, as what they’re selling is complete crap.

The Rebel Creative

If you’re here, you’re likely a rebel and/or a creative, but don’t worry, you’re probably not this type of celebrity entrepreneur. This archetype is very much rooted in the idea of being a badass in name only, with very little actual backup on the badassery.

Archetype-icons-Rebel Creative

Goal:

To sell you the same old crap but dressed up in a leather jacket with purple hair. Their rebellion is more of the “look at me I'm a badass” variety than actually breaking away from the status quo.

Go-To Move: 

Claiming to do things “differently” while doing the same old, same old things in an edgy package. Using stories about how they don’t fit in to seem relatable.

Beware:

Being sucked in by the facade of their rebellion or creativity. If they’re using the same tactics and strategies (even if they pretend they're not), they’re still a celebrity entrepreneur. Being a real creative rebel isn’t about an attitude, but true innovation with action to back it up.

The Intellectual Superior

They're smart, and they want you to know they’re so much smarter than you’ll ever be, so you better buy their 88 step framework.

Archetype-icons-Intellectual Superior

Goal:

To suck you in by making you think they’re super smart and they have all the answers.

Go-To Move: 

Using loaded language and complex ideas in an effort to elevate themselves and convince you that they have all the answers. Confusing the shit out of you so you believe their ideas are new and novel when really, they’re not.

Beware:

They may seem more like a high-paid consultant or expert than a celebrity entrepreneur by virtue of how intellectual everything is. Watch for how they’re marketing and selling the same tired strategies around things like productivity or growth but dressed up in academic, conceptual language.

The Contrarian

This celebrity entrepreneur is a new addition to the lineup, but here in 2021, it’s needed now more than ever. From people running on conspiracy theories to people who will say anything to make a buck, this archetype is less prevalent, but I’m seeing more of it in action.

Archetype-icons-Contrarian

Goal:

To use a polarizing point of view to get attention, and living by the motto that “all publicity is good publicity”.

Go To Move: 

Presenting contrary points of view regularly to spark discussion and get your attention at all costs –– even if they’re completely wrong, toxic or downright damaging to your business.

Beware:

Polarizing points of view that don’t offer up tangible alternatives or solutions. The Contrarian creates chaos with their ever-changing viewpoints and they shape shift constantly to use the latest and greatest tactics. Watch for constant reinvention of their businesses and brands, as well as business “advice” that runs counter to common sense.

Look Beyond
the Brand

My goal with this post is to help you, as a consumer who’s being targeted every single day by celebrity entrepreneurs, to have a tangible way to look beyond the brand.

As many of us have learned the hard way, not all brands in the online business world operate in a way we can trust. The outer image we see in the marketing and sales process is often a facade, a performance designed to get our time, attention, and ultimately our money.

The cult of celebrity entrepreneurship isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, so it’s up to each of us, as consumers, to do a better job of vetting who we trust and invest with.

This is just one way we can start divesting from the bullshit of the online business world for good.

Scribble Red 2