Mar 15, 2023

From Deep End to Deepfake: Inside Teal Swan's Marketing Machine

Fake News
Rising Prices and the Shrinking Tribe
Breathtaking Cruelty

When Teal Bosworth Scott Swan got her long-sought break into "mainstream" media coverage, it did not go well. Her quest for fame brought her infamy instead. By the fall of 2019, attention from the BBC had cost her the Teal Tribe group on Facebook and a number of YouTube videos, as both platforms cracked down on her suicide-friendly messaging. It was against this backdrop that teal presented another example of her bizarre understanding of how news media (or what she calls "mediums") operate. In this video, she explains the following to her credulous followers:

[O]nce you get to a certain level of fame, let's say that there's a little under the carpet contract that occurs, though not in writing, it's understood in the business that once you get big enough to be of interest to people, what they will do is they'll write a negative article about you. At which point you are then welcome to spend a large amount of money to pay them to do a positive one. After which they will do a negative one, after which you will pay them again, to do a positive one.

In the real world, most of us know that news coverage and advertising sales (or any other form of payment) are separate functions, and that their separation is crucial to the reputation of any news organization. One need look no further than the unfolding scandal at Fox News, with Rupert Murdoch's confession that Mike Lindell bought his way into guest spots on Fox with ad buys. Murdoch's admission that the decision to let an obviously unhinged pillow magnate on the air "is not red or blue, it is green," is scandalous precisely because news coverage isn't meant to be pay-to-play. Trust in news organizations, and the viability of their business model, is dependent on the expectation that they cannot be bought.

More recently teal's reputation hit its nadir after a high profile docuseries that landed her in the "Deep End" of her own, dark pool. She got more press, when the doco aired, than I've seen her get, in my nearly 10 years of blogging about her, and it was all bad.

The Deep End revealed an organization under financial strain, trying to fight back against critics by proving that it wasn't a cult responsible for stoking suicidality and causing deaths. After the doco, all those problems seem to have gotten much worse. She's been branded with the cult label and concerns about her practices permeate discussions of her in podcasts and other media. She's telegraphing her financial distress by repeatedly doubling the price for Premium membership, which has gone from $12.99 to $79.00 a month in two years. Her latest money-making scheme revolves around a "lifetime" Premium membership and the marketing of it has tealers questioning the integrity of her marketing team, and even of teal herself. Attempts to restrict critical discussion of these and other issues are creating a lot of tension in the tribe. And there are signs that she's stepping up her abusive control over her inner circle.

Fake News

In recent months, teal seems to be hitting back at all that bad press, with a new PR agency and placements in various publications and news segments. Strangely, she is doing this in something approximating the manner she described in that video. She's apparently paying for a lot of this coverage, in a series of ad buys made to look like media coverage. She's getting the kind of softball interviews she expects, but it's no-kidding "fake news."

In January of this year, teal and her team quietly announced the exciting news that she was featured on the E!News website.

Cropped out of her screenshot is a rather important detail, italicized fine print that says, "Ad." Because this "feature" is not so much an article as it is an "advertorial," a paid ad made to look like an article. Advertorials have long been controversial, in the world of print media, because their appearance can be misleading. Not disclosing that little detail in announcing the item to her followers certainly looks like a very deliberate attempt to mislead.

There are other indications that this is not a real article. For a start, it does not come up in a site search of her name. The only articles about teal that come up are two about the docuseries. They can be found here and here. I could find no instance of teal promoting either of those articles, no doubt because they are not terribly flattering. The only other items that appear in the search results are random articles that reference the color teal.

Another tell is that the byline doesn't name a reporter. It's attributed to something called the Feel Good News Agency. Not only are there no other articles on E! by this entity, a google search brings up only one item. This makes them even less successful than the infamous "free lance journalist" Jason Freedman.

In addition to passing off an advertorial on a legitimate entertainment network's site as an actual article, team teal has been scaring up features in a handful of questionable publications. She has appeared in a series of magazines and websites that exist to market wannabes who are willing to pay for puff pieces that look a little like actual media coverage.

Ever hear of Writer's Life? Me neither, and I worked in book publishing. But teal got herself a glossy cover on a magazine that specializes in featuring aspiring writers you've never heard of. How do they come to be featured? They pay for it, as Writer's Digest explains on its Twitter profile: "Our Business Is Promoting Yours!! DM Us For Rates/To Find Out How You Can Be FEATURED In Our NEXT ISSUE!!!"

Similarly, the LA Wire is not a thing. Take it from Angeleno Lord Falconis.

So apparently there's an article on a website called LA Wire that wrote about Teal Swan and The Deep End. It basically tries to smear Kasbe and his documentary Team. Teal's team are spreading it everywhere. I live in Los Angeles. I've NEVER heard of this website or this news group. So I started digging around, and I found this
Although they tried to hide it, I found proof that LA Wire is one of their

None of this prevented teal from promoting her LA Wire piece as if it was a real article.

I did a little digging into a fashion magazine calling itself "elucid" that, at first blush, looked credible, boasting features with a number of big names, names like Emma Watson.

Elucid published a feature on teal and her largely imaginary modeling "career." Because I very much like Emma Watson, I dug into that issue. But despite her being on the cover, there was no interview with Watson, only quotes from previous interviews. The pictures of her, including the cover, were all from a cache of free Shutterstock images.

So where is this glossy, international fashion magazine produced? This is what it says in the footer.

6 Iroquoi Dr Parlin NJ 08859

That would be this.


Some of teal's press clippings are so obviously fake, even a few of her followers can see through them.

I'm no expert in spotting bot generated faces (although, googling the names and images from that page makes for a fun diversion on a rainy, Saturday afternoon). I do, however, know what this means.

It seems pretty obvious that this is a pay-to-play "fake news" site, but just how fake it is becomes even more apparent when attempting to track down their business address. Their contact information shows them as located in Fort Drum in upstate New York.

Google maps has no record of that address. It's unclear whether even the street exists.

Fort Drum is a closed base and accessing it is no joke. It would be an odd place to run a commercial business from. It would, however, be a great place to claim an address, if you never wanted anyone to locate your offices. It might even fool people who know nothing of military life into thinking it's associated with the military, an idea my Marine husband found hilarious. Stranger still, the phone number they list is in Pine Bluff, Arkansas.

It goes on...

New York Weekly is not a thing.

The Los Angeles Tribune hasn't been a thing since 1960.

No, HuffMag is not the Huffington Post. It's another pay-to-play, "fake news" site, trading on the HuffPo name.

Don't feel bad if any of this confused you into thinking it was real press coverage. It was meant to. But teal's recent media coverage is all buyer beware. Dig a bit and see if the venue is part of a marketing/SEO business, google it and see if their "features" are for sale.

Not every bit of coverage teal has boasted about in recent months is fake, only most of it. She recently appeared, for instance, on Today in Nashville, on the NBC affiliate there. That was a real booking on an actual show. Good for her. But it's a strange booking for a few reasons, starting with the fact that Nashville isn't a book market. It's a strange place to promote your books, which is what she did. In my years working as a book publicist, I never once booked Nashville. It just isn't a city you'd include in a book tour. Also, none of the books she was there promoting are new, the most recent one is a year old. She's not doing a book tour and would almost definitely have had to pay for her own travel and lodging, just to appear on a show that might, at most, net her a handful of book sales and few minutes of exposure in a music city. So why Nashville of all places? It does happen to be the location of her new PR agency, ZTPR. (Well, he at least has a virtual office there. There's also no phone number, which is, um, weird for a flack.) Here they are promoting a mention of teal's book on an LA affiliate.

Watch @ztprtweets client Teal Swan and her book being featured as a top gift idea this month on @CBSLA

Their Twitter feed promotes their promotion of a range of Z-list celebrities in venues you've never heard of.

The book that has had pride of place in her two recent TV spots is not new. Not only was How to Love Yourself published last spring, it's a Watkins Publishing reprint of her 2015 book Shadows Before Dawn, which was published by Hay House. So I find it kind of interesting that the new book cover bears a not so subtle resemblance to Louise Hay's breakout book You Can Heal Your Life.

Has she ever had an original idea? This is, after all, the woman who had the supreme chutzpah to plagiarize Louise Hay's obituary from her then publisher Hay House, so derivative book cover art shouldn't come as a huge surprise. But what was Watkins thinking?! And where Hay's book covers were warm and vibrant, teal's is a cold, sterile brick wall.

Rising Prices and the Shrinking Tribe

Teal's plagiarism is one of a growing number of topics no one is allowed to discuss in The Tribe.

It seems some tribers have figured out that a lot of her original practices are not, in fact, original: that the "parts work" she developed was developed first by Richard C. Schwartz; that she's appropriated ideas like the monomyth and "follow your joy [bliss]" from Joseph Campbell; that many of her methods were developed in the field of psychology that she disparages. In other words, they've stumbled onto a fact some of us have known for some time, she has no original content and only very rarely cites her sources. That people independently stumble on her serial plagiarism is inevitable, but her team ruthlessly suppresses all criticism of her tealness and inoculates them against "haters" like myself, the way Scientology warns its members to never look at Operation Clambake or any other critical media.

In December The Tribe went so far as to require approval on every single post. The backlash was serious enough that they reversed course.

click images to enlarge

The damage was done for some group members, though, who created their own Free Tribe, where they could discuss teal's work without being censored. It's a small group, boasting 82 members at the time of this writing. But then, The Tribe's membership has hovered around 2.5k for some time. Teal Tribe boasted over 27k members, when Facebook pulled the plug. That raises another important question. Where did those 20k+ members go? They can't have been too concerned over the loss of her flagship group.

The biggest bone of contention, among her remaining tribe members, seems to be her rapidly increasing prices and aggressive sales methods, some of which appear to include some very persistent salesbots.

Team teal is getting what we call "price resistance." Her followers have been registering their distress at rapidly rising costs, price increases that are substantially greater than the spiking costs of eggs and petrol.

Premium membership started out at $9.99 a month. At some point, I'm not sure when, it went up to $12.99. That sort of increase was consistent with other memberships of the type, so it didn't really ruffle feathers. But then things started to get weird... and tealers noticed.

As recently as April of 2021, it was still $12.99 a month, as seen here.

But in November of that same year, they ran a promotion that showed a pending price jump to $40 per month. And tealers were about as confused and upset as you might expect.

Some quite reasonably assumed it was a marketing tactic known as artificial scarcity, and that the $40 price tag was a scare tactic meant to push $20 membership sales.

click images to enlarge

Not only was the price increase to $40 a month very real, about a year later, it doubled again.

But don't panic just yet, tealers. As you can see, you can now become a member for life (whatever lifetime means in this context) for just $1997, aka., $2000. Don't have two grand laying around? Has teal got an offer you!

click images to enlarge

Confused? A lot of tribers are.

The Tribe has been awash in tales of hard sell tactics by what may have been bots, but were definitely not teal or members of her inner circle, that left them feeling used, tricked, and violated, only to have their feelings dismissed by teal's staunch defenders. It's been a contentious debate, that has roiled the comfort and safety of her tribe. So naturally, admin has made teal's marketing tactics another forbidden topic.

But not before a slew of conversations about the smarminess of the tealbots had done some real damage and cost them more members.

click images to enlarge
click images to enlarge

I can't decide what I like most from those exchanges, the prodigious use of heart emojis when they try to close the deal or the bot that is suddenly called away for a meeting, when the human starts to get really upset at having her vulnerability so ruthlessly exploited.

In this unlisted video, teal explains her Premium "for life" special offer. In it we learn that because "you" have been specially selected to participate, you can pay her $997, aka., $1000, to be a guinea pig, testing the effectiveness of Premium access on personal growth. Because this is a special, reduced rate offer, you will also be her product, as she can use your story as part of her marketing. And bonus! She will also pit members of this "select" group against each other in a competition over who "grows" the most.

and I'm going to give a prize to whoever has the best outcome
there will be prizes for second and third place too so
a little friendly competition that will be fun for us

Fun for whom, we ask ourselves. What is the audience for this thunderdome reality show, where the walking wounded square off against each other to see who achieves some capricious standard of emotional wellness best?! Only teal could turn a healing process into a competitive event.

Breathtaking Cruelty

Are You Trying to be Loved for What You are NOT?

If teal's sales tactics seem deceptive and heartless, and they do, that is nothing compared to the way she treats the people closest to her. The Deep End exposed her behavior toward Blake and Juliana, treatment very much in keeping with her abuses of people like Jared "Fallon" Dobson, Cameron Clark, Diana Hansen RiberaMorgan le Faye, and many, many others. In a recent Ask Teal video, teal did what she so often does with those videos, air her grievances against members of her inner circle, by creating thinly-veiled, fictional versions of them. She lets them know what they're doing wrong and how they can correct their offending behavior. Her followers know she's telegraphing these conflicts and that they can figure out who she's lambasting just makes them feel like flies on the wall, watching her daily soap opera of a life.

It's not hard to deduce that the main target in the above video (and article) is Graciela and the sheer cruelty of it is hard to stomach. Has she ever sounded more like the quintessential mean girl? She rattles off a litany of lookist judgments with the eye-rolling, exasperated derision of a queen bee just fed up with her hangers-on not doing what she wants, when she so obviously knows best for everybody. For god's sake, she didn't even bother to change the first letter of her name.

Gloria has struggled with weight all her life. She grew up in a family that ate almost exclusively junk food and meat cooked in lard. She struggled with cystic acne. She was prescribed a medication for acne that damaged her liver. Her hair has always been thin. And due to poor eyesight, she always wore coke bottle glasses. Gloria has never been considered a physically attractive woman. And this, has causes her pain all her life. Gloria has been taught by her family and by society that she will only be loved if she is pretty. Because of this, Gloria has struggled all her life to become physically attractive, so that she can be loved… Loved for what she is not.

. . .

For example, with Gloria, we might feel ourselves wanting to offer advice for how she could actually become physically attractive. Or come up with explanations as to why she has failed so far and what would have made her succeed before at becoming physically attractive. Things like “well… If she had just moved to Africa, where in some places, people do think that fat is physically attractive.” Or “she didn’t even do anything to learn about diet… come on. If she really wants to be attractive, she has to change her lifestyle.”

. . .

Instead, she looks at what she is. When she does this, she realizes that she is very stable emotionally. She also realizes that she is a very committed person in relationships. She is reliable and present with others. And she is cozy. She can be a safe space for someone because she is a safe space.

Do you get it Graciela Gloria?! Don't even think about romance. It's not for you. You have a job as teal's comfort animal, and occasional footstool. What more could you possibly want in life?! Don't even think about heading for the door again! Where ya gonna go? Africa? The only place on earth you might be considered fuckable?! (Dear GOD, she's racist!!!) Accept your lot in life. You're the fat friend, the second banana! You should be thrilled that someone as gorgeous and famous as teal is willing to keep you around!

It's not hard to figure out what's going on here. Blake, teal's original "safe space," is gone. He found real love and fled. She's convinced what's left of her inner circle to renounce dating uncommitted tealers and having children. Are some of them balking? Is Graci? Because this reeks of panic. God forbid that Graci figures out that she is, in fact, quite pretty and that not everyone is as lookist or sizist as teal. There's no reason on earth that she couldn't find a nice fella, or gal, and have a life.

I started blogging about teal nearly 10 years ago, because I thought she was a budding cult leader who displayed her shocking cruelty in a very public way. Ten years later, several high profile cult researchers have a pegged her as a cult leader, and she is still displaying her shocking cruelty in a very public way.

In the final analysis, that's what The Deep End showed the world. Are there a few questions about their editing? After watching all of teal's response videos, as well as many other discussions and context, I came away with only one editing choice that concerned me, and it was the way a different woman appeared to be Sabrina after the "waterbreathing" incident. But I will give teal credit for muddying the waters substantially. She always does. The Deep End accomplished exactly what its creators intended. It conveys the experience of being in teal's orbit. If it failed at all — according to people I know who've lived it — it's only that the truth is even more horrible and emotionally scarring than the series could hope to portray.

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