“How would you spend your time if you didn’t know how much time you had left?” Ms. Holmes said, her impending prison report date top of mind, perhaps even more so given that we were surrounded by animals behind bars. “It would be the kind of things we’re doing now because they’re perfect. Just being together.”
Ms. Holmes has not spoken to the media since 2016, when her legal team advised she go quiet. And, as the adage goes, if you don’t feed the press, we feed on you. In Elizabeth Holmes, we found an all-you-can-eat buffet. It had everything: The black turtlenecks, the Kabuki red lipstick, the green juices, the dancing to Lil Wayne. Somewhere along the way, Ms. Holmes says that the person (whoever that is) got lost. At one point, I tell her that I heard Jennifer Lawrence had pulled out of portraying her in a movie. She replied, almost reflectively, “They’re not playing me. They’re playing a character I created.”
So, why did she create that public persona? “I believed it would be how I would be good at business and taken seriously and not taken as a little girl or a girl who didn’t have good technical ideas,” said Ms. Holmes, who founded Theranos at 19. “Maybe people picked up on that not being authentic, since it wasn’t.”
Ten years ago, Ms. Holmes was the world’s youngest self-made female billionaire, worth $4.5 billion (on paper, in Theranos stock), and one of the most visible and celebrated female C.E.O.s on the planet, running a start-up with a $9 billion valuation. Then, in 2015, The Wall Street Journal published an investigation into Theranos, calling into question whether its labs and technology — a sleek, boxy device called the Edison — actually worked as promised, testing for a wide range of illnesses with a tiny amount of blood collected with a rapid finger prick.
In 2016, federal inspectors from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services found “deficient practices” in a Theranos lab that posed “immediate jeopardy to patient health and safety.”