There are so many ways to consume the rise and fall of Elizabeth Holmes, founder of scam blood-testing company Theranos and Steve Jobs cosplayer: you can return to the archives of the Wall Street Journal for its formative reporting on the company, read the book that journalist John Carreyrou wrote after breaking the story, listen to ABC News’ investigative podcast, watch ABC News’ corresponding documentary based on the same source material, or watch the HBO documentary that was just released. (Or all of these things, which has so far been my preference.)
I will say though that it’s only the latter three options that offer the specific pleasure of hearing Holmes’s very low, affected voice for yourself. And while a lot has been written about her fake voice, none of it touches on this crucial point: Elizabeth Holmes’s chosen fake voice, meant to project gravitas and business acumen, is the same voice that I (and maybe you) put on when making fun of very stupid men.
It is the voice—indignant, coming straight from the back of the throat—of a man saying: I don’t know Chad, why don’t you clean out the protein shake blender this time. It’s a voice that tells you: I was reading about Medicare for All on Reddit and actually learned a lot about how current prescription drug costs fund medical innovation.
If you haven’t heard Holmes’s voice yet, please watch this representatively credulous interview from 2015, featuring Holmes and disgraced sexual harasser Charlie Rose:
“When she came to me she didn’t have a low voice,” Dr. Phyllis Gardner, a professor of medicine at Stanford University and early whistleblower on Holmes’s general grift, said of the fake voice on ABC News’ podcast about Theranos and Holmes. “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.”
Holmes apparently even slipped out of it on occasion, too. “It was maybe at one of the company parties, and maybe she had too much to drink or what not, but she fell out of character and exposed that that was not necessarily her true voice,” a former Theranos employee also told the podcast. “Maybe she needed to be more convincing to project a persona within a room among male VCs. I’m not really quite sure.”
Now let’s hear it again:
How can you describe that voice as anything other than stupid man? Its register, clearly at the bottom of the range at which she can comfortably speak. The DC-born Holmes’s vaguely West Coast affectation, subtle but still there. You practically expect her to punctuate each of her sentences with a sincere, ah-duhhhhhhhh. It is this, but not quite:
There are all sorts of contortions women perform in order to be taken seriously, including, apparently, when they want to be taken seriously while conducting a multi-billion dollar scam that endangered people’s lives and charmed war criminals.
Did it work? Did the stupid men Holmes surrounded herself with while building her scam empire take the bait? I don’t know Chad, why don’t you tell me?