It Seems Elizabeth Holmes Has Stopped Using Her Fake Voice

Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes's life has changed forever. The former tech entrepreneur was once poised to be the "next Steve Jobs" of healthcare, but in 2022, Holmes was convicted on three charges of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud by lying to investors. This May, she reported to a Texas prison to begin her 11-year, three-month sentence.

But something else that's changed about Holmes since her days as the head of Theranos? Her voice. Hulu's 2022 series "The Dropout" (which stars Amanda Seyfried as Holmes) traces the backstory of the self-made billionaire's distinct baritone voice, which many believe she faked. Those who watched HBO's 2019 documentary "The Inventor" — which details Holmes's troubled history — or other recorded interviews will be familiar with Holmes's oddly deep voice. However, people who knew her before she was in the spotlight say her voice wasn't always like this. While "The Inventor" doesn't dig into Holmes's voice too much, "The Dropout," the ABC News podcast about Theranos that inspired the Hulu series, does. In episode two, "Myth-Making," ABC's Rebecca Jarvis talks to Holmes's former colleagues and professors, who describe not only Holmes's sartorial evolution as she rose to prominence (i.e. donning black turtlenecks every day), but her voice change.

"Some, like Phyllis Gardner, say even her voice also changed dramatically into a low, serious baritone," Jarvis said, referring to the Stanford Medical School professor who told Holmes that one of her early ideas was physically impossible. "When she came to me, she didn't have a low voice," Gardner said. "It was just like a typical undergrad student. When I next saw her again, she's in this low voice, and I'm like, 'Oh my god.' It was quite awkward."

Seyfried talked about the challenge of imitating Holmes's signature voice during a virtual panel at the Television Critics Association's winter press tour in 2022, saying that she tried "different breathing and tricks" to achieve the effect. "I am a little worried about what people are going to say about the voice," she said. "But at the end of the day, I'm an actor and I'm not her, and I did my best to try to capture the oddness of it." Keep reading for a deeper dive into Holmes's real voice.

What Is Elizabeth Holmes's Real Voice?

What Is Elizabeth Holmes's Real Voice?

It's difficult to pinpoint what Holmes sounded like exactly before Theranos, but several people have shared how they stumbled upon the real story behind her odd voice. "We didn't know that it wasn't her voice until much later," Ana Arriola, a former product designer at Apple and one of Holmes's first Theranos recruits, said on a podcast episode of "The Dropout." "In all my interactions with her, she never fell out of character. That was her voice. But other people that I worked with actually had caught her fall out of voice." Arriola added, "I think it was at one of the company parties. Maybe she had a little bit too much to drink or whatnot, but she fell out of character and exposed that that wasn't necessarily her true voice."

In 2019, TMZ reported that Holmes's family denied claims of the founder using a fake voice, telling the outlet that her voice is "naturally low." They also said that most people in Holmes's family, including her grandmother, have low voices, and said that Holmes occasionally changes the pitch of her voice — especially when she gets excited or passionate.

Holmes hasn't directly addressed her voice or revealed any reasons as to why she might have changed it. But it's theorized that Holmes may have thought that a deep voice would make her sound more authoritative as a CEO. "Maybe she needed it to be more convincing to project a persona within a room amongst male VCs. I'm not really quite sure," Arriola said. Jillian O'Connor, an assistant professor of psychology at Concordia University who studies the role of voice in social behavior, told The Cut that Holmes's elaborate scheme suggested "an awful lot went into [the] facade."

But in May 2023, Holmes was profiled by the New York Times, and the interviewer noted that she's no longer using the deep voice. Even her partner Billy Evans, with whom she shares two children, poked fun at her old voice. "That would be crazy, if she answered the door and said, 'Hi. I'm Elizabeth Holmes,'" he said, imitating the voice. The outlet reported that Holmes "let out the slightest of giggles" at his joke.

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Elizabeth Holmes in HBO's "The Inventor"

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Amanda Seyfried as Elizabeth Holmes in Hulu's "The Dropout"