A top Disney executive ruined his life and marriage after quitting his high-powered job to become a self-help influencer, only to die of a heart attack during a drugs binge while glued to his phone.
Dave Hollis, 47, abruptly quit his extremely promising career as head of global distribution at Disney in 2018 to join his then-wife Rachel Hollis’ self-help empire, after she shot to internet fame by sharing a candid photo of her stretch-marks.
The executive once had it all, living in a lavish $3.5 million California mansion with Rachel and their four children. When she found fame, Hollis is said to have struggled with his wife’s over-sharing about their lousy sex life and her new role as the family breadwinner.
‘Now that she doesn’t need me,’ he once wrote. ‘Will she still want me?’
A behind-closed-doors rivalry for social media clout apparently ended their marriage in 2020, and a string of scandals culminated in Hollis’ death in February 2023 of a heart attack caused by a lethal cocktail. He was found with his ever-present phone on his chest after his tragic death.
With almost half a million followers and a lucrative career behind him, the executive’s demise serves as a cautionary tale over the dangers of living for shallow online attention.
Dave Hollis, 47, the former head of global distribution at Disney, was said to have descended into obsession about social media clout after giving up his high-powered career. He passed away in February 2023 from a heart attack with alcohol and cocaine in his system
The executive’s ex-wife Rachel Hollis (pictured) shot to fame after her self-help guide ‘Girl, Wash Your Face’ sold millions of copies. Dave quit his top Disney job to help build a social media empire with her, but they divorced in 2020 after an alleged rivalry over online attention
Rachel shot to fame after sharing this photo of herself with stretch marks in 2015. She quickly became a successful influencer – and her then-husband Dave decided to follow suit
During his 17 years at Disney, Hollis led a distinguished career as he oversaw the release of blockbusters including Black Panther and the Star Wars franchise
In June 2018, the Hollis family moved from their lavish $3.5 million home in California (pictured) to Austin, Texas, apparently as part of a drive to focus on their family content
Hollis spent his final years obsessing over Instagram comments and relentlessly sharing everything in his life online, in a sad decline his ex-girlfriend, reality show star Heidi Powell, described to the Wall Street Journal as living ‘like The Truman Show.’
But those that knew him remembered his old life as a loving father and successful businessman, who spiraled out of control in an internet world.
As a top Disney executive, Hollis spent 17 impactful years at the media giant, and reportedly even remarked to a friend that he was in line to someday take over from famed CEO Bob Iger.
His role included stock options, yearly tickets to the Oscars, and responsibility over the release of blockbusters including Black Panther and the Star Wars franchise.
But after Rachel released her popular, inspirational-buzzword bestseller ‘Girl, Wash Your Face’ in 2018, Hollis took a risk and quit his lucrative role to join her in building a self-help empire.
Their venture, Hollis Co., was a once-successful business centered around podcasts, media promotions and millions of followers between them.
In the years since, Rachel’s stock soared far higher than her husband’s, commanding over 1.5 million Instagram followers while hosting a number of stars on her podcast including Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rainn Wilson and Steve-O.
But behind the snazzy posts and airbrushed pictures, fans began to see Hollis cracking under the pressure of living up to his online persona, including in October 2021 in an infamous Instagram Live episode.
Streaming from a poolside area he dubbed the ‘Patio of Peace’, Hollis demanded his followers buy his second do-it-yourself guide, ‘Built Through Courage’, as sales fell flat.
‘I bled into this!’ he told his followers, dismayed at the lack of attention it was receiving.
His four-year-old daughter Noah, a common sight on Hollis’ and his then-ex-wife’s social media accounts, came into frame and asked her father to make her Mickey Mouse pancakes – only for him to say he was too busy with his ‘internet friends.’
Hollis enraged viewers as his young daughter again came into frame later in his two-hour stream, where he snapped at her to ‘get a life.’
In an infamous Instagram Live stream, Hollis begged his followers to buy his underperforming self-help book before dismissing his children for ‘internet friends’ and telling his four-year-old daughter to ‘get a life’
Hollis’ decision to move away from his glittering career saw him give up perks including Disney stock options and yearly tickets to the Oscars (he is pictured at one Academy Awards ceremony with his wife Rachel)
Rachel Hollis amassed a following of millions, however her new role as the family breadwinner and social media fame reportedly fractured their marriage
He had cultivated a fun, doting dad image online, but followers were dismayed at the outburst that became known as ‘Pancakegate.’ In an apology video, Hollis admitted: ‘I don’t recognize the person in the video.’
Within three months, Hollis had checked into rehab, according to friends who spoke to the Wall Street Journal, and the pressure of making his risky decision to quit Disney worth it was evident.
‘I am feeling completely broken from the pressure of this strange public life,’ he wrote in a post at the time of the scandal.
The ‘strange public life’ had been fueled by Rachel’s catapult into the limelight in 2018, which came after she shared a picture of herself in a bikini to show off her stretch marks.
She urged women to have confidence in their flaws, wearing her ‘belly that’s permanently flabby from carrying three giant babies’ with pride. The post, from 2015, went viral.
Rachel intended to start a new career in the self-help industry, and after publishers wanted to share her story as a relatable, everyday working mom, she released ‘Girl, Wash Your Face’ in 2018.
While her husband allegedly struggled with living up to social media standards, Rachel Hollis has since gone on to achieve success, and has recently hosted stars on her podcast including Arnold Schwarzenegger and Rainn Wilson
The book sold over two million copies, and she was suddenly making more money than her husband, who was still at Disney when it was published.
But Hollis was also bored with his 9-5, and despite telling a friend he could have Iger’s job ‘in 10 years’, he insisted he didn’t want it, and instead sought a new challenge.
He quit his job, and flew into the self-help industry. Although it came as a struggle at first, he was said to have found his niche as a responsive, down-to-earth dad who followers could see themselves in compared to other, more polished stars.
The Hollis family relocated from their sprawling California home to Austin, Texas in June 2018, and hired a team of employees to manage their social media accounts and plan content.
But while followers saw a carefully curated family life, they were allegedly living something of a double life.
In one example, a former employee recalled that Hollis ran late to a meeting, and had been posting pictures of a trip he took with his four children.
‘You must be so tired,’ she remembered saying, as it appeared he took them travelling by himself.
‘We had our nanny flying with us,’ he reportedly admitted. ‘But that doesn’t do as great on social.’
Dave and Rachel Hollis seen during an interview in New York, where they promoted her bestselling self-help book ‘Girl, Wash Your Face
In the final years, Hollis began curating his online content towards bodybuilding and fitness, and would share motivational workout posts. Behind closed doors, friends and neighbors claimed he was still battling alcoholism, including buying booze as early as 7am
Ironically, Hollis had once railed against fake self-help gurus in his first book, 2020’s ‘Get Out of Your Own Way’, where he said the industry was full of ‘charlatans, peddling feel-good mysticism to weak souls.’
Behind posts about motivation and empowerment, Hollis was struggling. He had reportedly slipped into alcoholism, and would obsessively monitor comments.
His alleged rivalry with Rachel was also showing, which included naming her own production company ‘3% Chance Productions’ – after Hollis once estimated that, before her career took off, that those were her chances of success.
In June 2020, the couple announced their divorce, and enraged followers by admitting that they had ‘worked endlessly over the last three years to make this work’ – all while seemingly pretending to be happily married.
One friend recalled Hollis grew self-conscious, and questioned to him: ‘How much more inauthentic could we have been?’
Rachel’s attempts to remain relatable had also seemingly been forgotten, as she sparked outrage among fans by branding a housekeeper as someone who ‘cleans the toilets.’
When a follower said this made her look out-of-touch, she dug an even deeper hole by likening herself to Malala Yousafzai, Harriet Tubman and the first female empress of China.
Rachel sneered: ‘Sis, literally everything I do in my life is to live a life that most people can’t relate to.’
But she later groveled, saying in an Instagram apology: ‘I’m so deeply sorry for the things I said in my recent posts’. The fun-loving, humble family image had seemingly dissipated.
By the summer of 2020, a neighbor said Dave Hollis was ‘just a puddle of sadness’, and was desperately missing his wife, kids and old, successful life.
He was sharing his new passion, bodybuilding, and would release motivational workout videos while preaching about ignoring haters and living your own life.
The father-of-four had also begun dating Instagram fitness influencer Heidi Powell, best known for her stint on ABC’s Extreme Weight Loss, and announced their relationship on Valentine’s Day in 2021.
Hollis began dating reality TV star and fitness influencer Heidi Powell (pictured together) in 2021, however she recalled his constantly-online lifestyle as like ‘living in The Truman Show’
Powell was best known for her stint on ABC’s Extreme Weight Loss reality TV show
In a 2021 Instagram post about his and Powell’s families coming together, Hollis described Powell as an ‘extraodinary and amazing human who loved me back’
Despite his own advice, she recalled how Hollis would monitor all comments on their relationship post and compulsively delete negative ones.
‘Other people feel pressure from themselves to post their highlight reel. We felt pressure from the world because we let them in,’ she said. ‘It’s like The Truman Show.’
His battles with alcoholism landed Hollis in rehab in early 2022, and those that knew him said he lost the helpful nature of his posts and instead felt the need to record and share every aspect of his life to retain an online following.
Friends and neighbors said that while he would, on the face of it, create inspirational workout videos and montages, he was also slipping out to buy alcohol as early as 7am.
When his son once saw negative reviews about his father’s content, Powell said he texted her: ‘I don’t know what to do… I hate this part of my life.’
This continued until, in February 2023, he agreed to go to Alcoholics Anonymous after a blackout – which came at the same time he was still releasing podcasts and religiously sharing social media snaps.
When he failed to show up for the AA meeting he agreed to, a family friend went to check on him, and found him dead in bed.
An autopsy found his death was accidental, and he had toxic levels of cocaine, ethanol and fentanyl in his system, which made a lethal cocktail as he also suffered from an underlying heart condition.
A friend sadly remembered how, despite Hollis having almost half a million followers at the time of his death, he died alone.
And in a final haunting detail, Hollis was said to have been found with the phone he was constantly glued to sitting on his lifeless chest.