Jillian Michaels Cleanse: The Last Chapter
The real question since this story broke has been “Are Jillian Michaels products being developed by Basic Research?”. I keep getting incredulous posts suggesting that it is impossible that Jillian Michaels would be connected to a product made by Basic Research. If you want to know more about Basic Research click here. She hasn’t answered any of the questions in the posts, nor questions in the tweets (from myself and from her fans) since her first angry response asking me to ‘research her product before commenting’. Ms. Michaels, I have done the research and I am deeply disturbed. I know it is in your best interest to not respond to this. You can’t win because any answer will acknowledge your role in this PR disaster. Still, it is intensely discouraging to see your fans continuing in the dark because you aren’t big enough as a person to respond.
So how did this happen. How can Jillian Michaels, who states that this is her product, actually be unclear about who her manufacturer is? I think that part of the answer lies in the set up of her company. In February 2008, Jillian Michaels partnered up with Giancarlo Chersich, a licensing agent, and made him CEO of her new company, Empowered Media LLC. His linked in profile shows that he has been a director of sales at Magna Global Licensing (currently ACI Licensing) as well as the Senior Manager of Licensing at Tommy Hilfiger. What does a Brand Licensor do? According to ACI:
Brand Licensing is a strategic relationship between a brand—an intellectual property, trademark, or celebrity—(“Licensor”) and a manufacturer or retailer (“Licensee”).
Why is this important? All that a brand licensor does is find products that aren’t selling (or are selling under a different name) and connects them to people who could, by putting their name on that product, move it in the market place. They are the people who put products into our movies, who take products with no value and make them appear good because someone we trust puts their good name behind them. All they do is essentially polish a turd and then sell it. They leverage the good name of the celebrity to make money for themselves, the celebrity and the product manufacturer, all that money from people who actually trusted the celebrity. This is the person she put in charge of her company and since that time, she has licensed numerous products and continues to state in her twitter feeds that she has many, many more products coming to market shortly. She is leveraging her name to sell products to her fans. Products as useless and shameful as her triple process detox and cleanse.
We can see from a news release dated June 29, 2009, that Jillian Michaels company Empowered Media partnered with Thincare International to produce the supplements. According to the press release:
“We are extremely happy to be working with Jillian Michaels,” says Gina Daines, spokesperson for ThinCare(TM) International, LLC. “Jillian is a true icon and we are excited to be able to help people reach their weight-loss goals.”
Who is Thincare international? That is a hard question to answer. A little research on Gina Daines confirms that not only is she from Utah (the home of Basic Research), but more importantly she is also the marketing director for Klein-Becker USA, as well as the spokesperson for Carter-Reed. These are both companies that are essentially Basic Research. As you can see from this ruling by the FTC, Basic Research trades under many, many names. In fact, what is more interesting is that these companies use the same employees regularly and interchangeably. So, how can we know that ThinCare International is just another company owned by the owners of Basic Research and operating out of the same business?
The smoking gun may very well be this webpage that claims that the trademarks owned by ThinCare International are actually owned by Western Holdings LLC. Western Holdings LLC is associated with Basic Research through many products here and here and acknowledged as being the same entity in several different government actions against them, here and here. In fact the Utah Courts refer to these companies as:
Defendants Basic Research LLC (“Basic Research”), Dynakor, Western Holdings, and Bydex are Utah limited liability companies (the “Corporate Defendants”). Basic Research develops, manufactures, and markets cosmetics, nutritional supplements, and dietary supplements through a variety of trade names, including Dynakor, NutraSport, Silver Sage, Klein-Becker USA, Urban Biologies, Alpha Gen Biotech, Sovage Dermalogic and Body Innoventions, AG Waterhouse, and BAN. This group of trade names is referred to as the “Basic Research Family of companies.” Often, the same product is marketed under different names,10 through different affiliates of Basic Research.
So, with Gina Daines and Dr. Nathalie Chevreau both confirmed to be on board, we can safely say that the employee at Basic Research who said that the company did develop the Jillian Michaels Cleanse has been independently confirmed (which is kind of cool, because it was the only investigative reporting I have done that involved questioning employees to get shockingly disturbing information. It was totally awesome, you could have knocked me over with a feather when the employee did indeed confirm that they developed the cleanse for Jillian Michaels).
Let me lay out what I think has happened. Giancarlo Chersich found Basic Research or vice versa. They probably sold themselves under the name of ‘Thincare international’. I am betting they sold Empowered Media on the doctors that they could bring to the table, at least on Dr. Arne Astrup (who Jillian Michaels still mistakenly thinks is from Harvard I believe). Still, I don’t think that anyone at Empowered Media did ANY due diligence (which in this case would have been the simplest google search). I don’t even think that due diligence in terms of quality of product was even on their minds, more likely concerns of how much product they could deliver and how fast, and how many exclusive product deals they could put together with GNC, Walmart and others.
So, where does this leave us? Clearly anyone who would knowingly hire a company that sold unresearched weightloss products to children, products that list ingredients that don’t exist, is either irresponsible, uncaring, greedy or plain dumb. So we are left truly unsatisfied here. Was Jillian Michaels even involved in this deal at all? Did she know who she was getting in bed with? Does she care? Was she involved in all aspects of this product as she claims? I don’t know if I would be more upset with the fact that Jillian Michaels knew who she was doing business with but didn’t care, or if it would bother me more that she didn’t do any due diligence and is just slapping her name on products that she is unaware of and then lying about it afterwards. Neither option is very appealing.
The problem is we may never know what happened, because any admission by Empowered Media, any discussion of this topic is a loser for them. After all, if they admit that they chose to work with a company that has such a checkered past would destroy any belief that Jillian Michaels cares about your well being.
As I said earlier, Jillian Michaels isn’t discussing the issues surrounding her relationship to Basic Research. I felt it was only fair for me to make a formal request to Jillian Michaels for comment, because although I am positive she is following this story through twitter, I am sure she will claim she hasn’t been. So, to make sure she had every opportunity to respond, I emailed Krupp Communications the official PR agent for Empowered Media. I received this response:
My colleague Jennifer Garbowski passed along your email below regarding Jillian Michaels supplement line.
It would be great if you could pass along further details about the report you’re publishing, the outlet the report is for and the questions you’re looking to have answered.
Thanks so much!
I promptly sent her the following explanation of my blog posts and questions:
No problem Kimberly,
This is the last in a series of exposés regarding the manufacturers of the Jillian Michaels supplement line. The other entries can be found at http://www.youarenotafitperson.com. Specifically:
I have finally put together the connection between Basic Research and Jillian Michaels line of supplements, but I have some questions as to what exactly Jillian Michaels knew and when. As well, I don’t know if at the end of the day, even if she knows about the history of Basic Research if that in any way concerns her.
So, my questions are as follows:
1. Was Jillian Michaels aware (at any time before signing with them) that Thincare is a Basic Research Company?
2. She says that she has worked with these same doctors for 5 years. Is this true?
3. Which doctors (specifically)?
4. Was she aware of the products they were developing at the time?
5. Did she have any involvement or take any money for developing these products?
6. Was Jillian Michaels aware of the legal actions taken against Basic Research?
7. Jillian Michaels was aware that Dr. Nathalie Chevreau was involved in developing her products, as evidenced in her tweets. Was she aware that Dr. Chevreau role was ‘explaining the science’ behind such products as:
- Tummy Flattening Gel,
- Cutting Gel,
- Dermalin APg,
- as well as 2 ephedrine products, Leptoprin and Anorex and
- 1 fiber pill that is marketed to obese children: PediaLean!!
8. What is the current deal with Basic Research/Thincare regarding production of these products?
9. What is the quality control testing that is currently being done to confirm the quantities & qualities of ingredients in the products?
10. What role did Jillian Michaels play in developing all of these products?
11. Does Jillian Micheals feel that it undermines her credibility and the credibility of the fitness industry to work with companies that have had such a checkered past?
12. Was anyone at Empowered Media aware that Thincare is a Basic Research Company?
Thank you for your time and attention with regards to this issue. I will be publishing this last exposé early next week, so if possible a quick response would be greatly appreciated. If the timing is a problem, please send me an email and let me know if any answers are going to be forthcoming to the questions, and I will try to time my entry to give you fair time to answer any and all of these questions. The entry regarding the role of Dr. Arne Astrup will be published later this week.
So, no response from Jillian Michaels. Finally, it appears that the FTC is going to take on Basic Research again, and that may be the least of the problems facing Basic Research, as they are facing a class action lawsuit.
If you are a fan of Jillian Michaels, you might want to spare me the ‘leave her alone’ emails (or not, as long as your comment isn’t offensive I will approve it). Don’t forget that before this cleanse money grab, I was a huge fan of hers. She let me down and if she fails to answer these questions honestly, she continues to let you down. You have a right to know what she is thinking with these products. After all, she has stated publicly, on her facebook page and in twitter that she believes in these products, and that only the best people are involved with making them.
If you think none of this matters by the way, here is a little tidbit of information for you, there is no requirement in the supplement business for any quality control whatsoever from anyone but the manufacturer. So you are depending on a quality manufacturer to know that your product is made naturally, that your product contains the ingredients on the label, and in the amounts shown on the label. Jillian Michaels couldn’t even tell you how the unnaturally blue pills were made naturally to look so blue… I wonder, could Basic Research? You have read all about them, tell me, would you believe them? So tweet Jillian Michaels and ask her, what is the truth? Ask her to answer these questions