'She tells it like it is': Best-selling author Rachel Hollis speaks to sold-out crowd in Fargo

Best-selling author Rachel Hollis leads a sold-out crowd of 4,000 in a motivational exercise during the Chamber's Women Connect event Tuesday, Jan. 22, at the Sanford Health Athletic Complex in Fargo. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor
Best-selling author Rachel Hollis leads a sold-out crowd of 4,000 in a motivational exercise during the Chamber's Women Connect event Tuesday, Jan. 22, at the Sanford Health Athletic Complex in Fargo. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor Michael Vosburg

FARGO — With infectious energy, best-selling author Rachel Hollis hit the stage dancing to Beyonce's anthem of women empowerment, "Run The World," and incited a dance party at the Sanford Health Athletic Complex.

"I want you to pretend that you're 20 — not 21 — you're 20, but you got your big sister's ID. And you're headed to — what's the Fargo club? Every city has one that's kind of dirty," she said listening for a response. "OB? As in obstetrics? Like OB? All right, North Dakota. Y'all are freaks."

Hollis often came off as a stand-up comedian when headlining the fifth annual Women Connect event Tuesday, Jan. 22. Laughter erupted to her stories of pregnancy, motherhood and messiness of life. Her intention is uplifting women and instilling truth, rather than believing lies like not being good enough, and comparing to others online.

She shares her wit and personal accounts in her book, "Girl, Wash Your Face," which sold 2.7 million copies in 2018. Women of all ages had copies, and many took notes between dancing and laughing.

The 36-year-old entrepreneur and lifestyle expert from Austin, Texas, has created a massive following made apparent by the sold-out crowd of nearly 4,000 women in Fargo.

It's the biggest event ever hosted by the Fargo Moorhead West Fargo Chamber of Commerce — even bigger than when all-star Shaquille O'Neal spoke at the SHAC in 2017.

“It's a testament to the reputation she is building and obviously the latest book is still on the New York Times best-seller list,” said Chamber CEO Craig Whitney. “Virtually any woman and quite a few men I mentioned her name to, virtually everyone knew about her and the book.”

Women traveled from across the region to attend, like Chelsi Hansen, of Minot, who held her 7-month-old son, Noah, while listening to Hollis. Morgan Stewart, of Grand Forks, said she cried when reading the book on a recent flight, and it left a big impact on her as a young, single woman "still finding my place in this world."

Kirsten Zachman, of Bemidji, said her book club read Hollis this past year and she continues recommending the book to others. Friends from Fergus Falls, Jennifer Eisenhuth and Tina Haugrud, said they hoped to come away from the event with positive energy.

"Being a 40-some-year-old woman with children, I can really relate to her," Eisenhuth said. "It's crazy, sometimes you think you're the only one that's going through some of these things whether it has to do with your spouse, work or your kids. But she tells it like it is."

Zandbroz Variety in downtown Fargo was out of stock of the popular book that manager Josie Danz said is timely and appealing to women during this movement of empowerment seen in the last few years, such as with #MeToo. Danz said Hollis’ writing is similar to authors Brene Brown and Anne Lamott, whose books sell well at her store.

“I've seen a lot of young women going toward books like these and finding value in them,” she said. “To really use their strength and not be afraid to step out and try things and not be afraid to fail. What she has captured really speaks to that group of people.”

Hollis’ next book, “Girl, Stop Apologizing,” comes out this spring, and Danz expects it to sell just as well, if not better, than “Girl, Wash Your Face.”

“When we first started selling it, it wasn’t creating the conversation it is now,” she said. “It’s pretty interesting to see how quickly that took off.”