Gypsy Rose Blanchard’s Popularity Problem

In a Fourth of July episode of her reality show, Kim Kardashian shocked her family when she revealed that she was meeting with Gypsy Rose Blanchard with a view to helping her get involved with prison reform.

“I’m meeting her on Wednesday,” Kardashian said of Blanchard during the Independence Day broadcast of The Kardashians. “She has to get her parole officer [involved], it’s a whole thing. So hopefully her parole officer approves.”

“Gypsy Rose Blanchard was just released from prison for being involved in the murder of her mother,” Kardashian later explained in a confessional. “She reached out to me on social media. She’s expressed wanting to get into prison reform and I think that with what she’s learned being in prison herself, I just think there’s such an opportunity for her to use her platform in a really important way.”

That Blanchard was in a position to catch the attention of Kardashian and meet with her caps an unprecedented—and notably unconventional—rise to fame the 32-year-old has experienced in the months since her release from prison.

Gypsy Rose Blanchard's Popularity Problem
Gypsy Rose Blanchard has experienced a rise to fame after living through harrowing circumstances that culminated in the murder of her mother.

Photo-illustration by Newsweek/Getty

Blanchard was jailed for 10 years in 2016 for convincing her then-boyfriend Nicholas Godejohn to kill her mother Clauddine “Dee Dee” Blanchard the year prior. She pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was paroled in December 2023 after serving eight years in Missouri’s Chillicothe Correctional Center. Godejohn is serving a life sentence after being convicted of first-degree murder.

Blanchard’s case made international headlines when it was revealed Dee Dee had been keeping her daughter prisoner and abused her by pretending she was critically ill with leukemia, muscular dystrophy and other serious health issues. She kept her daughter in a wheelchair and told people she had the mental capacity of a 7-year-old. Blanchard claimed in her trial that she had 30 unnecessary surgeries at the behest of her mom.

Dee Dee likely had a “factitious disorder imposed on another.” Formerly known as Munchausen syndrome by proxy, the psychological disorder causes people to chase sympathy through exaggerated or fake illnesses of others. The Blanchards were widely supported in their community and received many charitable donations, including a trip to Disney World and meeting singer Miranda Lambert.

Rise to Fame

That pre-imprisonment brush with fame proved to be just a taste of what Blanchard herself would experience when she emerged from behind bars years later. Weeks after stepping into freedom, she had garnered almost 10 million followers on TikTok and around 8 million on Instagram.

Her every move became fodder for her ever-growing army of followers, who praised her unrelentingly. As documentaries and shows about her astonishing life filled the media landscape, Blanchard was rapidly inducted into “stan” culture, an often troubling realm of the online world where obsessive fandom resides. The scales had tipped from notoriety to celebrity.

While such a scenario would oftentimes be expected to effortlessly open the door to a lucrative career in the making at a time when social media clout and the pursuit of unfettered adulation is king, it proved too much for Blanchard. By March, she announced that she was bowing out of Instagram.

“I do my best to live my authentic life and what’s real to me, and what’s not real is social media,” she said in a TikTok post at the time. “Social media is literally a doorway to hell. It’s so crazy. I can’t even wrap my head around what social media is. I thought that once I got out of prison I’d come and I’d enjoy social media like the next person, taking selfies and just acting goofy.”

The freedom to enjoy “acting goofy” came at the price of doing so before an audience so large that it would prove to be overwhelming for any 30-something, let alone one with Blanchard’s harrowing life experiences. These factors have led to a rethinking among a faction of social media users who have started to push back against the fandom and question the deity status extended to Blanchard by her admirers. “Gypsy Rose Blanchard Shouldn’t Be Famous,” reads the title of one discussion on Reddit.

“So many people made stanning Gypsy Rose a personality trait and didn’t see how unfair and harmful that was, specifically for somebody who is just entering this depth of a digital realm,” TikTok user Kiera Breaugh said in a viral video earlier this year. “People don’t see how their obsession with the exploitation of scandal and people’s pain is a problem.”

Newsweek has contacted Blanchard via social media for comment.

A Question of Ethics

Vinnie Politan, lead anchor at Court TV, told Newsweek that there was good reason for Blanchard to have received the post-conviction support that she did from fans.

“There was a public outcry in support of Gypsy Rose because many believed our system of justice did not do its job,” the former New Jersey county prosecutor said. “Many saw her as a victim and wanted to right a wrong. The impact of that put her in the spotlight and made her a public figure, someone the public wanted to know about and someone they were cheering for to succeed.

“The problem is it can be too much too soon. So despite the public thirst for information and to see and hear everything about her, space and time to heal is probably a better choice for everyone who wants to see her flourish.”

Lauren Beeching, founder of social media agency and crisis management firm Honest London, has taken that sentiment one step further by branding any move to propel Blanchard into stardom “ethically dubious.”

“Creating a celebrity out of someone who has committed a crime like Gypsy Rose Blanchard is quite problematic,” Beeching told Newsweek. “Regardless of the reasons behind her actions, glorifying someone’s involvement in a murder is ethically dubious.

“People can have empathy for her difficult upbringing, like I personally do, but celebrating her as a public figure just seems inappropriate and bizarre to me. The media and documentary makers, driven by public interest and the changing nature of social media, have propelled her into the spotlight without adequately considering the impact on her mental health. This not only sends a potentially dangerous message but also overlooks the complexities of her situation.”

When it comes to the fans, Beeching said, they should “respect Gypsy’s privacy and avoid glorifying her actions, making her quotes into remixes and all sorts. They should recognize the complexity of her situation and perhaps focus on supporting broader issues such as advocacy for abuse survivors and mental health initiatives, rather than celebrating the crime which I’ve seen a lot of memes and jokes about.”

Mental Health

In addition to questions about the ethics of Blanchard’s fandom, there’s also the far more tangible reality of how it could affect her mentally.

Carole Lieberman, M.D., a Beverly Hills forensic psychiatrist, told Newsweek that Blanchard is highly likely “in a very fragile mental state due to all that she has been through so far.

“Gypsy Rose seems to be trying to grapple with her newfound fame, but needs intensive psychotherapy to help her discover her true identity and avoid pitfalls along the way. There are people who are ‘abusing’ her to fulfill their needs—just like her mom did—such as … [those] trying to exploit her fame.

“Ironically, she will end up becoming sick—mentally and physically—just like her mom claimed she was, unless she quickly finds a strong rudder to guide her. Her husband may help, but he’s not a mental health professional, which is what she needs.”

As of press time, Blanchard has 28 posts on her TikTok account. Between them, these videos have amassed more than 18 million likes.

While Blanchard continues to maintain her TikTok account (after initially deleting it during her online purge), Lieberman opined that stepping away from the social media bubble altogether could aid her greatly in discovering who she really is after years of subjugation and subsequent imprisonment.

“Social media fans are fickle. They will love her one day and hate her the next,” Lieberman explained. “She can’t depend upon them to shape her identity. There will be those who think she’s fabulous for surviving and those who think she’s a monster for killing her mother and for having manipulated her boyfriend to do the dirty work. She is not ready for primetime yet and should spend at least a year getting help before venturing out into the world.”

A New Life

At the start of June, Lifetime premiered the show Gypsy Rose: Life After Lock Up.

“You know my story, now let’s see what I do with my life,” Blanchard said, seemingly optimistically, to cameras in the trailer.

As B-roll footage showed photographers snapping away, people screaming her name, and fans requesting pictures, Blanchard exclaimed: “Everybody’s just gone Gypsy crazy!”

The trailer’s 72 seconds showed, however, that fame can be much the double-edged sword. Blanchard was seen facing accusations of having threatened somebody. She was also shown discussing her ill-fated marriage to Ryan Anderson, with whom she tied the knot in July 2022, while she was still imprisoned (their separation was announced this past March).

Dealing with the extraordinary nature of a life in limelight led Blanchard to admit that she was “getting a huge culture shock.”

“I do not feel free,” she later added. “I feel like I am in a different form of prison.”

Advice for Blanchard

Arduous though the task may initially seem, Honest London’s Beeching told Newsweek how she would seek to aid Blanchard in transitioning into her new life.

“Gypsy is still adapting to life outside of jail and the control of her mother, making the attention she receives incredibly overwhelming, I’d imagine,” she said. “If she were my client, I would have sat her down to ask what her goals are—whether she even wants attention or prefers a quiet life.

“I would personally advise her to avoid social platforms for now and adjust to life slowly, ensuring she is not overwhelmed by the sudden fame and its associated risks. I would also be conscious of who she is hanging out with and who is posting about her online. Advising family and friends to be careful with what they share about her is crucial, as anything can be taken out of context and shared widely.”

Beeching added that she would be “pushing for Gypsy to have the right mental health care. Simply to establish boundaries with the public and media. It’s crucial that she builds a supportive network (inner circle) and focuses on personal growth over her public persona.

“Additionally, avoiding social media can help her adjust to her new life without the overwhelming pressures of public scrutiny. PR training for interviews would also be essential to help her navigate public appearances and media interactions and avoid snippets being shared and joked about.”

The issue, Beeching noted, is not only in holding Blanchard’s hand as she adjusts to freedom, but also undoing the damage done in recent months.

“From my own opinion, there should have been a softer launch for Gypsy,” Beeching said. “She went straight from being in prison to being all over TV and social media, getting influenced and carried away.

“She should have had an adjustment period and made better, tactical decisions rather than making herself so accessible on TikTok and other platforms—her inner circle should have tried to have stopped this. Though from what was shown on the documentary, she and Ryan seem to come across as enjoying the attention. Suddenly, the internet turned on her, which was a form of rejection she couldn’t handle. She is very vulnerable and cannot manage this level of scrutiny.”

Ultimately, Beeching said, “the case underscores the importance of ethical storytelling. Media and public figures should highlight the underlying issues of abuse, mental health and rehabilitation, promoting understanding and compassion rather than sensationalism.

“While Gypsy deserves a chance at a new life, her story should be handled with sensitivity to prevent sending the wrong message about crime and its consequences. Creating a celebrity out of her case reflects how media and social platforms have changed, but it also calls for a more responsible approach to dealing with such sensitive matters.”

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