Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Q: Who OR What is DIAGEO?
A: Diageo is a global company that owns Bulleit Bourbon, Bulleit Rye, Bulleit 10 Year etc., and several other brands (Johnnie Walker, Kettle One, Captain Morgan, George Dickel, Ciroc, Smirnoff, Crown Royal, Zacapa, Baileys, Don Julio, Casamigos, Aviation Gin, Guinness, Orphan Barrel, Barterhouse, Blade and Bow, Lagavulin, Talisker, Oban, among many others including stake in Moet Hennessy). To understand the power of this company, they own about 1/3 of the world's liquor.
Q: Who owns Bulleit (bourbon, rye, 10year, 12year, cask strength, etc)?
A: Diageo owns Bulleit. In the past Diageo has also said that "the family and the brand are one and the same." When Diageo acquired the brand they executed multiple contracts with Tom Bulleit (covering further involvement and payment). It is unknown as to what their relationship is specifically, and if Tom Bulleit somehow has ownership over the brand in other ways contractually. Tom Bulleit performed all of the same brand ambassador duties as Hollis Bulleit™, and Hollis performed additional duties with less infrastructural and monetary access.
Q: Who came up with the original idea for Bulleit Bourbon?
A: Hollis Bulleit approached Tom Bulleit with the idea of a Bourbon that was more contemporary akin to the Absolut™ Vodka campaign of the 1980's. She also encouraged Tom Bulleit to use the family's last name instead of "Kentucky Thoroughbred Whiskey." She was involved in the original design of the bourbon and rye bottles and label.
Q: Who is Tom Bulleit (Thomas Ewing Bulleit Jr.)?
A: Tom Bulleit is a guy who sold his last name to a company as a name for a bourbon. You can see by his affidavit that by his own admission he was a part-time consultant for the brand, he has no proof of documentation of his ancestry or recipes, nor is he a master distiller. He is Hollis Bulleit's biological father, who emotionally, physically, and sexually abused her for decades.
Q: Who is Hollis Bulleit?
A: Hollis Bulleit™ is the first and only employee of the Bulleit Distilling Company prior to its acquisition by Seagrams and then Diageo. She was the only other family member to be hired by Diageo for a decade to represent Bulleit Bourbon, she had the title of "World Ambassador of Bulleit Brands". Hollis completed the same job duties as her father, in addition to others (event planning, viral marketing, V.I.P. experiences and products, boards, painted bottles, swag, and charities). Many people feel that Hollis' involvement qualifies as a "co-founder" or "co-creator" of the brand. She is the daughter from Tom Bulleit's first marriage to Stephanie Patrick Bulleit (who passed on March 3, 2009).
Q: Who owns Hollis Bulleit™?
A: Hollis owns the trademark to her likeness, image, and story.
Q: Was Hollis Bulleit an employee of Diageo?
A: Hollis was technically a "vendor". This benefitted Diageo because as Hollis was not an employee she did not benefit from the same safeguards as other employees (like HR). While working for Diageo Hollis Bulleit was on call for 365 days a year any time of day. She worked long days without breaks. Diageo did not pay her overtime, health care, retirement, bonuses, or severance. Although Diageo treated Hollis Bulleit as a full time employee not as a vendor, and by 2016 Diageo had not paid Hollis close to one half a million dollars in overtime.
Q: Does Hollis continue to benefit from sales of the Bulleit Brand?
Q: When did Hollis' last contract with Diageo end?
A: In December of 2016. Since that time and without Hollis' permission Diageo has illegally continued to use her promote the Bulleit brand positively while also disparaging her depending on the audience.
Q: Does Hollis get a portion of the Bulleit Brand Family Royalties?
A: No. These funds and bonuses have been withheld from Hollis by Tom Bulleit and Diageo.
Q: Did Hollis ask for help?
A: Yes, Hollis asked for help from Diageo and the Bulleit family for the abuse that she suffered while at work and on the job beginning as early as 2010. She was told to recant her request or she would not get another contract.
Q: How can I help Hollis?
Q: Did Diageo know about the alleged homophobia?
A: Yes. An in-house meeting was held in NYC in 2015 about the matter.
Q: Hollis alleges that Tom Bulleit is homophobic. What are those allegations based on? Does she have any proof?
A: Growing up Hollis was subjected to various homophobic slurs by Tom Bulleit. When she came out as bisexual Tom Bulleit told her she was going to hell. In 2007, when Hollis came out as lesbian, the Bulleit family began severely limiting their interactions with her, support of her in the family business, and showed no interest in her spouse. They refused her access to her sibling. She was encouraged to "stay in the closet" and not talk about it. There has been a misunderstanding that just because Hollis was "out" for several years that she did not experience rampant homophobia and exclusion. Hollis' spouse was not invited to one Bulleit/ Diageo event, while her cis-straight step-brother was invited to many events with whatever girlfriend he had at that time. No pictures promotional or otherwise exist of the family together, and when suggested that this should occur, the answer was a blatant no.
Q: Hollis alleges that Diageo is homophobic. What are those allegations based on? Does she have any proof?
A: Hollis believes that Diageo's systematic erasure of her brand while working for Diageo and after is homophobic. She thinks that Diageo's continued support of Tom Bulleit after her allegations and proof of being cut out of the family business is also homophobic in nature. Hollis bases her opinion on several experiences of personal exclusion of herself and her wife from family and Diageo run events. While working for Diageo when Hollis suggested to sell Bulleit on focused LGBTQ2IA+ consumers that was denied, and Diageo made it clear that Smirnoff was going to be their only gay friendly brand. Without Diageo's support Hollis still sought out opportunities to include queer consumers.
Q: Is Tom Bulleit a racist?
A: In Hollis Bulleit's™ opinion, yes. Hollis grew up having to listen to Tom Bulleit's racist rants, jokes, and slurs. Articles have been published addressing this matter, for example as with Ebony Major in the New York Times article.
Q: Did Diageo know about the sexual abuse of Hollis Bulleit™?
A: Hollis is aware that Diageo knew prior, but they unequivocally knew late June 2019, as per a letter sent to them by her attorney. Shortly after Hollis posted about her experience as a survivor in August 2019, she heard for the first time from the media that Diageo and Tom Bulleit had decided that he would temporary stop his brand ambassador duties. There are several examples that he did not.
Q: What are Hollis' sexual abuse allegations against her father, Tom Bulleit?
A: From a young age she was touched and fondled inappropriately, posed for photos naked against her will, explicit sexual language was used when communicating with her, she was shown age-inappropriate sexual media in several forms, and her body was mutilated and scarred.
Q: Does Hollis have any proof that she was abused?
A: Yes. She has physical scarring. She testified in court to witnessing her mother's (Stephanie Patrick Bulleit's) abuse. When Hollis was a child she witnessed the effects of her mother being beaten, one specific incident ending up in Tom Bulleit breaking her mother's nose after smashing her face into a door frame (there are hospital records). As an adult Hollis discovered several images of her as a child all the way up until the sixth grade that were unmistakably homemade child porn. Several witnesses from Bulleit bourbon events can attest to bruising on her arms from her father, behavior that continued until Hollis' 40s. As a result of Tom Bulleit and Diageo's actions Hollis suffers from C-PTSD.
Q: Is Diageo paying the press?
A: Yes. They pay for advertorials and Diageo PR guides the text of the articles on Diageo products and issues.
Q: Why is there no mention of Hollis' contributions to the brand at the Bulleit Distillery Experience and Tour?
A: In 2016, after encouraging Hollis to get a trademark in order to renew her contract, Diageo blatantly refused to pay for the use of her name. Diageo's legal department instructed that Hollis could in no way shape or form represent the brand without a contract. Thus, Hollis was squeezed out of the family business the day before Christmas 2016, and without her promised severance package. In Hollis' opinion it is easier to erase her from the history of the brand then to address the homophobia and abuse.
Q: Could Tom Bulleit or Diageo have resolved this privately and timely without causing Hollis Bulleit™ more pain and suffering or making this a public issue?
A: Yes. Tom Bulleit had over two years to sign a mutual non-disparagement contract prior to 2019. Hollis' attorney also reached out to Tom Bulleit in April of 2019 to resolve their issues in a private and safe setting. The letter offered to sign over the deed to her house, to begin negotiations on receiving her portion of the royalty, and to most importantly begin to heal the family. Instead, Tom Bulleit threatened to sue her through involving Diageo. Once again using Diageo to bully Hollis, and in her opinion forcing her to go public in order to protect her and her spouse from frivolous law suits. Diageo had several months to deal with Hollis Bulleit™ with the respect that should be given to abuse survivors, prior to Hollis going public. In tandem with paid for press Diageo violated several HIPPA laws.
Q: Did Diageo run an in-house investigation about the sexual abuse charges?
A: To the best of Hollis Bulleit's™ knowledge they did not; as she and her attorney were never contacted by any party from Diageo as part of an inquiry.
Q: Did Tom Bulleit and Diageo know that Hollis Bulleit™ was bruised and bitten in the face at a Bulleit/ Diageo World Class event in Canada in 2013?
A: Yes. She was encouraged not to talk about it because the company did not want to lose sales in Canada. She has evidence of the occurrence. Several witnesses were present and did nothing to stop the attack.
Q: Is there a podcast I can listen to Hollis recount her story?
A: Yes, on The Spirit of Rock Network on their Pretty Good for a Girl series features a two part interview "Tea Time with Hollis & Cher."
Q: What is the present day like for Hollis?
A: Hollis is focusing on her C-PTSD with the help of a trauma specialist and a psychiatrist. Brain-spotting is a rather new technique and has proven to be incredibly useful, she will also be delving into "parts work" soon, and uses "tapping" techniques for daily relief. During this stand-off with Tom Bulleit and Diageo it is healing to be believed. On a lighter note, Hollis paints, weaves, prints, and draws. She likes to run and go on long walks. Hollis and Cher vet future business ventures while sipping tea and sharing lap time with their cat, Luca.
Q: What is C-PTSD?
A: C-PTSD is short for "Complex Post Traumatic Syndrome". It is not the same as PTSD as some symptoms are similar yet C-PTSD includes additional symptoms. "Complex PTSD comes in response to chronic traumatization over the course of months or, more often, years. This can include emotional, physical, and/or sexual abuses, domestic violence, living in a war zone, being held captive, human trafficking and other organized rings of abuse, and more" (from the website beautyafterbruises.org). C-PTSD symptoms include being easily overwhelmed by emotions, difficulty in self-perception, interruptions in consciousness through intrusive thoughts/ flashbacks/ disassociation, misperceptions of their worth / mobility/ or support in life. Several physical symptoms occur because their bodies break down in response to prolonged stress.
Q: I am a survivor and I need help. Do you have any resources that you recommend?
A: Hollis has utilized many forms of therapy throughout her life from individual group therapy, journaling, creating artwork, watching media on the subject, reading several books. Some resources that have helped Hollis are below. Healing is different for every individual therefore things that might bring Hollis comfort or clarity might be triggering to others (disclaimer Hollis is not a licensed therapist).
This list will grow, but for now here are some materials with LINKS underlined:
- The Journey: A Roadmap for Self-healing After Narcissistic Abuse by Meredith Miller
- Speaking Out from Within: Speaking Publicly About Sexual Assault (free/ online) a pamphlet published by PCAR (Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape)
- The Great Work: Self-Knowledge and Healing through the Wheel of the Year by Tiffany Lazic
- Ties That Bind: Familial Homophobia and Its Consequences by Sarah Schulman
- Crappy Childhood Fairy by Anna Runkle does not take a traditional approach yet she is very clear about the lack of resources, effective strategies, and attention paid to C-PTSD. Thorough discussions on how therapists and doctors have mistreated C-PTSD patients by using PTSD methodological approaches.
- Out of the Storm Website with interactive well monitored forums, blogs, resources, etc for C-PTSD.
Documentaries **trigger warning
- Untouchable (HULU)
- At the Heart of Gold (HBO)
Fiction/ TV/ Movies
The following list deals with several different facets of trauma and healing the shows could be triggering for some.
- The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins (also movies)
- Westworld (HBO)
- Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn (also series on HBO)
- World War Z (movie)
- Unbelievable (Netflix)
- Hannah Gadsby: Nanette (Netflix)