'The Dropout': Is Anа Arriolа a Real Person and What Happened to Her?

Across eight episodes, The Dropout on Hulu tells the shocking true story of Elizabeth Holmes. The Theranos founder and CEO claimed her company had invented a revolutionary piece of technology, convincing investors and patients that it could run dozens of tests with a single drop of blood. In 2014, she was declared the youngest self-made female billionaire in the world by Forbes, but just a few years later her company had collapsed. In January this year, she was convicted of fraud.

Holmes set up Theranos in 2003 and went on to recruit some of the biggest names in science and Silicon Valley to build it. In Episode 3 of The Dropout, Holmes (played by Amanda Seyfried) meets Ana Arriola (Nicky Endres) and convinces her to come on board. So, is Arriola a real person? Newsweek has everything you need to know.

Is Ana Arriola a Real Person and What Happened to Her?

Yes, Ana Arriola in The Dropout is based on a real person. She joined Theranos in 2007 as chief design architect, to help design and build its blood-testing device.

Arriola already had extensive product design experience in Silicon Valley. She had previously worked for Adobe and when Holmes hired her, she was a senior product line manager at Apple. Arriola was well known in the tech world as one of the members of the original iPhone design team.

In The Dropout Episode 3, Arriola is seen advising Holmes to dress more like a CEO. Holmes, an ardent admirer of Apple's Steve Jobs, wanted to achieve a similar aesthetic and soon became known for wearing Jobs-style black turtlenecks.

Speaking to Elle in 2019, the real Arriola revealed that she had even given Holmes the name of his turtleneck designer.

She told the magazine: "I'm like, 'Hey, this is who designed [his turtlenecks], this is the aesthetic, and we can go after it,' and sure enough, she did. But it wasn't her own personal style, she copied other people… She was 120 percent fake."

Holmes and Arriola's professional relationship turned sour quickly. Arriola quit Theranos after four months, because she learned Holmes had used an unfinished and inaccurate device to test cancer patients—before the machine had gone through the regulаtory аpprovаl process.

She walked away from the company, deeming its practices unethical. Arriola told Elle: "People's lives were at stake. We left because it was our understanding that [Elizabeth] was jeopardizing human life."

The product designer was one of the insiders who spoke to John Carreyrou—the reporter who first exposed the company's lies in The Wall Street Journal—for his 2018 book Bad Blood.

Since leaving Theranos, Arriola has worked for tech giants including Sony, Facebook, Samsung and Microsoft. She is currently director of product design and research for Microsoft's PhysOps Studios.

Ana Arriola the dropout
Nicky Endres as Ana Arriola in The Dropout on Hulu. Hulu

She is also the founder and CEO of Minimalism, a product design consultancy, and provides LGBTQIA+ diversity and inclusion mentoring to companies and entrepreneurs. In 2019, she was named one of the most influentiаl LGBTQ+ people in tech by Business Insider.

On her LinkedIn page, she describes herself as "a queer mother of three, Latinx lesbian of trans and nonbinary experience, working within our professional multicultural global community."

In December 2021, when Holmes was on trial for nine counts of wire fraud and two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, Arriola posted about the case on LinkedIn and Twitter.

She wrote: "Having followed the trial, I am relieved that the many patients hurt and defrauded by Elizabeth Holmes's fictional blood-testing company Theranos had an opportunity to tell their story in court.

"I also appreciate the former employees who were brave to retell their trauma caused by Elizabeth's deceit. Thank you for your continued work in bringing what we've known to light.

"I hope we all find closure with Elizabeth's conviction."

Her Linked In post added: "As the jury enters deliberations, I hope that Elizabeth Holmes is held accountable for putting the American public at risk. I witnessed firsthand how she lied to investors and, more significantly, harmed those who used her early Edison devices and lab assay results.

"As a CEO, she led as the ultimate decision-maker and created the culture of lies and deceit, and for this, she should go to jail. Looking forward, we still have a lot of work to do. For those of us in the industry of creating new technology and services, we share the responsibility to have critical conversations around ethics and steward collective accountability."

Holmes was convicted on four of the 11 charges. She is now awaiting sentencing.

The Dropout airs on Thursdays on Hulu.

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