In the past I have advocated for Danielle LaPorte as a thought leader. I have loved her work since before I was a coach, before The Desire Map was published. I was one of the original Desire Map workshop facilitators and used her work as the basis of my coaching career. Although I was resistant to offering a prefab experience, I found comfort in having a structure laid out for me instead of having to start from scratch.
Privately, I had reservations – I had feelings to process around feeling like a follower, like I was joining a cult of personality. I was committed to teaching the basics of the Desire Map in a way that felt true to me. And all along I felt that something was missing.
A year ago, I stopped being a licensed facilitator. I honestly think my private reservations were manifesting in difficulty getting the workshops off the ground – I didn’t express my doubts, but they were coming through all the same. Message received. Also, I’ve spent the past year focused on massage and giving my coaching business a fraction of my attention.
About a week ago, Danielle launched a new program called LIGHTER. Yeah, in all caps. I didn’t pay much attention to it because I’m not adding anything new to my life these days, and I just haven’t felt attuned with her in general. Then the explosion came: the name, imagery, and the wording associated with it were found by women of color to be hurtful and offensive. Many comments were added to her launch post. This is when I looked closer and – how did this happen? How did this ever get published? Does she have no one on her team to say – whoa – let’s think this over? A collage showing a body with multiple skin tones, with text celebrating how it is sacred to be LIGHTER???
Women I deeply respect (Layla Saad, Alexis P. Morgan) provided intense educational responses on how and why this was so problematic. Their words were largely ignored, then the entire thread was deleted – a cowardly act of erasure it itself. The thread was a genius resource for education in how to listen and reflect on white feminism and racism. It was deleted.
Danielle offered an apology that just didn’t ring true. Didn’t take responsibility. Didn’t incorporate the lessons offered.
Next, the imagery was removed… and replaced… with imagery that appropriated Native American culture.
I am not doing this to trash Danielle LaPorte. She is human. Mistakes get made (even tho, seriously, women have tried to educate her in the past and shit like this is still happening). I am certain this has been a painful and expensive lesson. However, she’s done nothing publicly with the education she received. As far as I can tell no further/more authentic apology has been published. LIGHTER is still available for the low low cost of $1200 per year. Except for removing the images people specifically complained about and making a non-apology, I don’t see what has changed. I am not confident that the message really got through to her, that she is willing to truly do the work to shift her image as a shiny white woman spiritual guru type to true, authentic service. I am open to possibility- she has the brains and the resources to really make this right. But I’m not confident she will.
In the meantime I have realized that this is my moment to release the years of unease around following/teaching another person’s work and deepen my own contribution. I am ending my association with Danielle LaPorte and shifting all my energy to developing my own body of work. My job as a privileged white woman is to listen, to amplify, to learn. My coaching will still be what I am best at – guiding women to see their own genius – but I can’t do it in isolation from the larger world. I will not ignore the larger systems of oppression that have affected every aspect of my life (as the privileged) and keep destroying black women’s lives (as the oppressed). I will not use other people’s skin, symbols, or lives as a platform.
For further reading:
On White Leaders Who Dehumanize Black People and Danielle LaPorte’s New Program by Sarah Haile-Mariam
Tip for Racially Recovering White People by Glennon Doyle