Cami Strella is one of OnlyFans’ biggest stars, earning six figures a month and donating a portion to PTSD clinical research.
But nearly five years ago, Strella was $25,000 in debt and could barely survive under the tutelage of a bizarre MLM (multilevel marketing) scheme that she says is run like a strictly religious cult.
At one point, Strella had to become celibate, labeled a sex addict, and encouraged to see a trauma therapist to cure her.
Strella talked about her harrowing experience in an exclusive interview with todaybusinessupdates.com hoping to help others avoid her indiscretions.
“This wasn’t like being a Mary Kay lady,” she says. “There was a much deeper immersion of experience that a lot of people in multilevel marketing companies never had. This was deeply personal. It was about restructuring and reshaping you as an individual.”
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How the recruitment worked
Strella was completing her undergraduate degree when her brother approached her about earning some extra money by recruiting people to sell products for Amway, which makes health and beauty products.
She agreed, partly because she needed the money, but also because she saw it as a way to reconnect with her estranged brother. But what she (and her brother) had no way of knowing was that she was about to give her life away to a manipulative MLM scheme.
MLM, or network marketing, is a sometimes controversial but legal way to sell products or services directly to consumers using independent sales representatives. In this case, Strella would be trained by an outside consulting firm, in what they called “the process,” of recruiting other sales representatives.
“Each day I approached five people and did what’s called ‘dropping the message,’ which is really vetting someone to see if they’re happy with their life or work,” says Strella. “I was trained to seek out the most desperate and vulnerable with the goal of taking early retirement by recruiting enough people to support myself financially.”
If one of her targets was dissatisfied with their lives, she would contact them a few days later to arrange a coffee date. There she explains, “I would give them a really well-written story about my life that I could easily sympathize with or relate to. Everyone has been depressed, so if I revealed my past trauma, people would say “Wow, she’s so fragile, I have to trust her.”
Finally, her recruits were encouraged to go to a meeting where they would meet another impressive salesman who would arrive in a nice car and promise them that they too could be wealthy and self-sufficient.
Going off the deep end
Soon, Strella started meeting other successful MLM coaches. She was so impressed that she dropped out of school to enlist full-time.
“Dealing with entrepreneurs with so much money really surprised me,” she says. “I gave up absolutely everything to pursue this because I was inspired by all the cars, private jets and trips my mentors took part in.”
She was encouraged to set up an online store, dropping $25,000 of her own money to start it.
Her education brought her to Seattle, where she lived with a deeply religious couple who preached that yoga was demonic and unmarried sex was sinful.
“I was forced into celibacy,” recalls Strella. “I just went with it because I thought, These people are rich and they know people who are very rich, so I think this is the way to go.”
After eight months, she hooked up with a man and told her mentors, who accused her of being a sex addict. They asked her to see a Christian sexual trauma therapist, whom Strella calls “slut conversion therapy.”
She was given a must-read list of books to read and CDs to listen to that always told the same rags-to-riches stories from other followers of the MLM philosophy.
Escaping the MLM
Strella gradually became aware that she was being brainwashed. “It took me a year to really give in and gain the self-awareness that this was, in fact, a cult,” she says.
She moved to the East Coast and re-enrolled in school to earn a neuroscientist degree. In 2020, Strella created her OnlyFans channel to pay for her college tuition. The channel became so popular that she took it full time, using some of the sales techniques she learned in MLM – but this time for good.
Strella now donates 10% of her monthly earnings to raise awareness and money for causes around mental health, PTSD and traumatic brain injury (TBI), especially for military veterans.
“My whole goal in getting into sex work was to support myself while pursuing something to help other people. Now I can help hundreds a day by funding research,” she says.