Elizabeth Cutler and Julie Rice, founders of cult-y fitness company SoulCycle, have come up with an even worse idea: Peoplehood, a new business aimed at improving customers’ social and relational health.
The duo teased the venture at WWD’s Wellness Forum, where Rice described Peoplehood as a mash-up of “AA, church and SoulCycle.” Apparently, the company will offer a series of 60-minute classes — or rather, “gathers” — on how to improve one’s interpersonal and work relationships via guided group conversations, stretching, breath work, and music.
Disclaimer: classes aren’t taught by trained therapists but “connectors,” whom Rice believes will amass a cult following much like SoulCycle’s superstar instructors, several of whom were accused of racism, sexual harassment, and fat-shaming.
“I can absolutely already see what’s happening at Peoplehood,” Rice said. “You come your first night, Anthony is your guy on a Monday night and then all of a sudden you can’t see past Anthony. You want to spend that weekly hour with Anthony, you want to know what’s happening in his life, you want to know what his people problems are, you want to know what his hopes for that week are.”
Peoplehood is slated to launch in January with a digital presence and physical New York City space that will include classrooms, a coffee shop, and a storefront offering prayer candles and sweatshirts à la SoulCycle’s hoodies and bandanas.
Already, the venture reeks of the cult-ish fervor that can serve as a breeding ground for unsavory and unethical behavior. Take start-ups such as WeWork and Theranos, for example, where Adam Neumann and Elizabeth Holmes’ cult of personality blinded followers to their shady dealings. (Fun fact: Rice worked for Neumann as the WeWork’s chief brand officer.)
And don’t forget SoulCycle, where instructors are regarded as spiritual gurus and spout quippy, over-the-top messages of empowerment during candle-lit classes, breeding student-teacher power dynamics that in some cases, became toxic.
Rice’s own words foreshadow Peoplehood’s uncertain future: “It’s vitamins, not medicine,” she said in a recent interview, comparing the company to a pharmaceutical marketing ploy.
For now, I’ll stick to good old therapy.