Because there’s no such thing as too much coverage of a scandal, on Monday, HBO aired The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley, a documentary about Elizabeth Holmes, the founder of the health-tech company Theranos—joining the other, yet-to-start-production film (starring Jennifer Lawrence); the hit podcast; the best-selling book; and the hundreds of news articles in the Theranos-scam canon. Depending on viewers’ prior knowledge about Holmes’s decade-long con, The Inventor either reiterated or shocked them with just how willfully Holmes ignored repeated warnings and red flags in her single-minded quest to revolutionize blood testing. (To recap: Holmes sought to invent a machine that could run hundreds of tests on a single drop of blood, and spent years lying to deep-pocketed investors about her progress in doing so.)
No matter how familiar they were with the scandal, however, nearly all viewers who reacted to the documentary on Twitter were appalled by a few key elements of Holmes’s story: the immense amount of unchecked privilege that allowed her to get away with her scam for so long, the massive sums of money she raised from prominent investors despite never actually producing a working blood-testing machine, and, of course, that deep voice she affected in every interview.
That confusing baritone has become as much a part of Holmes’s lore as her Steve Jobs–inspired uniform of black turtlenecks, her disarmingly wide eyes, and her ability to lie for years to the American public about the so-called technological advancements Theranos was making and build a multibillion-dollar company on top of this teetering pile of lies. Holmes’s deep voice wasn’t a secret—nearly everyone interviewed in John Carreyrou’s Bad Blood recalls being initially disoriented by it, and it’s audible in every recording of the founder’s many speaking engagements during her heyday—but it still shocked many who tuned in to the premiere of The Inventor, as evidenced by their bewildered tweets.
If simply hearing the strange timbre of Holmes’s voice isn’t enough to convince you that it’s completely put-on, many of those who have actually interacted with her claimed in both Bad Blood and ABC News’s The Dropout podcast that they’d heard Holmes occasionally slip into a much higher, more natural register, often when she was drinking. Dr. Phyllis Gardner, one of her professors at Stanford (before Holmes became the titular college dropout), told the podcast, “When she came to me, she didn’t have a low voice.…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.”
Here, for your amusement and, perhaps, discomfort, are several minutes of Holmes speaking in her fake voice: