A legend in the multi-level marketing world, Jessie “Boss Lee” Ward, vice president of Pruvit, a ketone supplement multi-level marketing company (MLM), has died after a brief battle with colon cancer.
Ward, who claimed to have recruited more than 12,000 sellers who worked under her, was also well-known in the direct selling industry for her business coaching courses, where for a tiered monthly fee she offered to teach people to increase their incomes and become coaches themselves.
In the world of anti-MLM activists, however, Ward was a deeply controversial figure.
In March, Ward shared with her hundreds of thousands of followers that she had been diagnosed with stage four colon cancer after routine blood work.
Ward’s oncologist advised her that aggressive chemotherapy could extend her life by two and a half years; otherwise, she would be “dead by Christmas,” Ward said in a podcast appearance in July.
“My surgeon and the oncologist are one hundred percent pimps. Not of women, of chemo. They love that hoe,” Ward said in an Instagram video, suggesting her doctors just wanted commissions. “I have never in my life seen such a strong and compelling sales pitch. They really should go into sales.”
Instead, she chose a different route.
“I’m very anti all of that,” Ward said in another TikTok she made from her hospital bed following surgery to remove part of her intestine. “I didn’t even give my dog chemo when she had cancer. I took a holistic route.”
She then detailed the regimen she would be following: sessions in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber, “magnetic” treatments, “ozone” treatments, and “red-light therapy.”
Activists and bloggers in the anti-MLM world immediately took notice.
In April, Rebecca Watson, a blogger and founder of the Skepchick Network, made a video entitled “This MLM Influencer May Get Someone Killed.”
“She genuinely seems to believe that chemotherapy does not work and that her unproven alternative therapies will work and that she will beat this. She is stating this all to her huge audience of devoted followers. So not only is this likely going to kill her, but there’s a good chance it’s going to kill someone else too,” Watson said in the video. “Someone is going to get a cancer diagnosis and they are going to see these videos and say, ‘Oh, wow, she looks so healthy and happy. She’s beating cancer. I’m going to do that too.’”
Another anti-MLM YouTuber, Savannah Marie, said in a video posted in July about Ward’s social media posts.
“She has a huge audience,” Marie said. “If she was anybody else who didn’t have the platform that she has, I would be like, whatever, if you want to decide not to do chemo and do coffee enemas instead then, fine, that’s on you. But the fact that she’s broadcasting all of this wild stuff that she’s doing is so dangerous.”
It was not the first time Ward had been the center of a scandal. In Jan. 2023, a group of her followers paid to attend a “retreat” with the business coach in Cartagena, Colombia. Ward later admitted that she tricked the attendees into going on a 15-mile hike in high heat, taking a boat ride in the middle of the night, jumping into the sea, and sleeping wet on a beach.
“I opted for a mastermind crash course of breaking down every single one of these people through seeing them where they are to help bring them to where I see them in the future,” Ward wrote in an Instagram post about the debacle.
Following her cancer diagnosis, Ward said she would bring her followers along through her cancer journey, but pushed back on the idea she was giving anyone advice.
“I’m not telling anyone what to do. Do what you feel like is right for you,” Ward told her mentor, motivational speaker and podcaster Ed Mylett, in July.
She described undergoing a series of unscientific alternative treatments for cancer, including drinking eight to 12 juices a day (“I’m just overdosing my body in nutrition”), spending time every day in a hyperbaric chamber, using a “biocharger” machine, and taking high doses of vitamin C three times a week.
In her final TikTok video posted on September 5, Ward said she was continuing to heal “holistically,” but had been posting less to social media because she was “in pain.” She said she had received good news from a recent pet scan, showing improvements in her condition.
“All of this is working. All this holistic stuff is working,” she said in the video.
Then, on Sept. 15, a Facebook account for Ward posted asking followers to join an online prayer session for her recovery. “She is fighting harder than ever and we need your help,” it read.
Two days later, the account confirmed Ward had died.
“Jessie Lee’s love was a powerful force that touched each of you deeply. She instilled unwavering belief, undeniable faith, and a strong desire for you to transform your dreams into reality in every heart she reached,” a post on the Facebook page read. “The legacy of Jessie Lee lives on forever through all of us guided by the invaluable lessons she taught us.”