Lala Kent recently made the stunning revelation that she earned enough money from a single piece of merch – her now-infamous “Send It To Darrell” sweatshirts – to cover the entire downpayment on her gorgeous $1.35milllion home.
Stars selling branded clothing and accessories is nothing new – and at this point, even reality stars and podcasters have been at it for nearly a decade. But – while we’ve reached a point where a single item can make hundreds of thousands of dollars – it’s also become a crowded and competitive market, and cashing in requires a lot of things to go right all at once.
But the “Vanderpump Rules” star and her business associates have told Page Six how Kent took an apparently unremarkable phrase, slapped it on hoodies and turned it into a small fortune: by being so in-tune with her fans that she could spot “the snowball when it [was] still small,” making such lightning-fast decisions that the goods were on sale within four hours, and then harnessing the huge power of Bravo to snag tens of thousands of dollars worth of free promotion for her wares. But, perhaps most crucially, having the natural talent as a reality TV entertainer to come up with it in the first place.Lala Kent says she made enough money from her “Send It To Darrell” to pay the downpayment on her new Palm Spring, Calif., homeInstagram/@lalakent
Back on March 7, as “Scandoval” – the frenzied fallout from the affair between her castmates Tom Sandoval and Raquel Leviss – was first erupting, Leviss sent cease-and-desist legal letters to several “Vanderpump” co-stars. The letters claimed that a recording of an X-rated FaceTime call between Sandoval and Leviss had been making the rounds among the cast, and it warned anyone who might have the tape that they’d face legal consequences if they shared it.
Kent, who claims she never so much as saw the clip, was appalled – both by the letter and the way it was dispatched. And she recorded a tense, stinging Instagram video about it, addressing Leviss directly.
“Anyone who follows me knows that I do my best work when I’m in the bed in my bathrobe,” Kent recently told Page Six, “That’s when the tangents really just hit different. And I woke up that morning, and the first thing we all do is check our phones, right?”
“And that was at the top of my email – this legal letter from Rachel’s attorney,” she said, “And it just did not hit right. I was pissed. So I go on this tangent.”
“Raquel, tell your little Mickey Mouse lawyer that if he has stuff to send over [in future], he can send things to my lawyer,” Kent said in the video. “I’ve never in my life had a lawyer contact me [before] in my personal email.”
She added that, should Leviss’s attorney have any further correspondence, they should “send it to Darrell,” referring to her lawyer of some six years, L.A.-based entertainment attorney Darrell Miller.Kent name-checked her attorney, Darrell Miller, in her attention-grabbing comments.Variety via Getty Images
Kent tells us she only left the clip online for perhaps seven minutes before deciding that her somewhat combative response might inflame the already-tense legal landscape among the cast. But she says that, because there was so much focus on the cast’s online activities at the time because of the unfolding scandal “everyone and their dog screen-recorded my tangent, and I didn’t realize that it was as funny as people thought it was.”
“I call it lawless tangents, because I just get on and [say] whatever comes to mind – like at that point, I feel like I [was] a little out of control, you know. Someone else has taken over my body,” she said, “It’s a different force. And that’s how I felt.”
Kent said that soon after she took it down, she noticed that fans had picked up on one particular phrase from the screed – “Send it to Darrell.” “As I’m looking through socials, people are saying, ‘I’m gonna [make] this is my new, like, sign-off when I go to work.’ And I start seeing Bravo fan accounts making this merch [with “Send it to Darrell” written on it] and I was like, ‘Hell no!’”Her “send it to Darrell” line was part of a rant about “Scandoval,” the dramatic fallout from the affair between Tom Sandoval and Raquel Leviss.Instagram/ Raquel Leviss
The phrase fed the public’s frantic need for “Scandoval” content, seemed to vindicate Kent’s longstanding and vocal belief that Leviss is a simpleton (her lawyer, at least in Kent’s view, doesn’t even know how to send a simple cease and desist properly!) and to convey a satisfying sense of Kent’s call-the-shots sophistication – all in one quotable line.
Kent tells us that even if she’d recognized something marketable in her “tangent” on her own, she wouldn’t have known what to focus on if she hadn’t paid close attention to her fans.
Kent says she believes the conditions for viral success are so ephemeral that even her loyal attorney’s name was a vital component. “If I said ‘Send it to John,’ it would not have hit the same. [If my lawyer’s name was] John, a completely different story. We wouldn’t even be having this conversation.” (She thinks “Darrell” is a sufficiently unusual name that it caught fans’ ears, plus her Utah accent gives it special spin.)
“I called my merch team and said, ‘I don’t know how we make this happen before the day is over, but like this has to happen now. I don’t care how it gets done. Make it happen,’” Kent says, “And they freaking did it!”We’re told Kent and Homemade had the goods available to purchase within about four hours of Kent posting her diatribe.Instagram/@lalakent
She tells us her “merch team” is Homemade Merch, a company based in Los Angeles, Ca., that specializes in producing hoodies, tee shirts, mugs, totes and so on, for major acts and media personalities. It works with comedics Ali Wong and Sarah Silverman, “Pass That Puss” TikTok star Jake Shane, “Queer Eye” superstar Jonathan Van Ness, musicians including Young The Giant and Iann Dior, and podcasts including “Crime Junkie,” “Tiny Meat Gang,” and “Fast Politics with Molly Jong Fast,” among others.
Kent tells us that, at first, she sent the company a design that she made up herself, but the Homemade team said it was “too basic.” “[Then] they sent me three different versions,” she told us, “One [of them] I thought was amazing. Especially because it says ‘Send It To Darrell’ huge on the back. And I just gravitated toward it. I knew that I liked it.”
“I know what I like and what I don’t like, even when I go into a shop,” Kent told us, “I’m not someone who takes hours on end to look through things. I go in, I scan. I know when I love it.”
Justin Collier, one of its co-founders, tells Page Six that after he got the call, he and his team managed to have the shirts designed and available for sale within four hours, in part because of Kent’s speedy decisions-making.Sales of the “Darrell” sweatshirt alone filled the hole in Kent’s bank account made when she wrote a check for the downpayment on her new pad.Instagram/@lalakent
Collier says that his clients – often musicians planning tours with specific dates where they plan to sell the merch – usually order thousands of shirts at a time. Typically Homemade produces them, he said, holds them in a warehouse until it receives online orders from individual fans and then ships them out to the buyers. But he says that with the “Darrell” shirts, time was of the essence because they wanted to capitalize while the phrase was still hot online – so Homemade took online orders for shirts that didn’t yet exist, then produced them at top speed to fill the orders.
“By the time we got to the office the next morning, we had sold so many we were like, ‘We can’t make people wait five weeks or whatever before they get their stuff.’ So we just prioritized that and made them pretty quickly,” he said.
Meanwhile, Collier says that they also printed up a handful of “Darrell” shirt so that Kent could wear it on TV, which could also drive sales. “Lala was like, ‘Hey, I’m filming tomorrow.’ So we pulled [blank shirts] that we had in stock and first thing on Wednesday morning ran samples of them, and Uber packaged them to her house,” he says, “So when she walked into ‘Vanderpump’ filming that day, she was wearing the hoodies. And everyone was like, ‘You just said that? How do you have that printed?’” When the final episode of the season aired on May 17, she could be seen wearing the sweater to dinner.
Collier told us that the business deal works like this: After Homemade recoups the cost of buying the blank shirts, the printing materials and other overheads, the profits are divided between Homemade and the client at an agreed percentage, somewhat like a record company pays its artists royalties. But he says different clients are able to negotiate different percentage splits, depending on their industry clout. (He wouldn’t reveal the specifics of the deal between Homemade and Kent). The “Darrel” shirts sell for $50 each, plus tax and shipping.
He says that sometimes creators come to him with phrases or other ideas for merch, but his company also monitors social media and if there’s a phrase or image that might work well for a particular client, they flag it. But he warned that a quote going viral online doesn’t guarantee sales.
“I don’t know what the batting average is, but it’s, honestly probably pretty low,” he said.
“I think Lala puts a lot of things out there. But she’s smart enough to know, like, ‘Alright, I just said this, and it’s already [getting traction online],’” he said, “She can see the snowball when it’s still small. And she knew to jump right on it. And that’s why [the “Darrell” merch] went so crazy so quickly.”Kent thought it would take years to make back the money she put down on for the property.Instagram/@lalakent
“I think a lot of other creators would have spent a lot of time toiling over, ‘Is this the right design?’ and whatever. And she’s like,’ No, that looks great. Let’s roll with it,’” because she’s that smart and gets the space,” he said, “So that’s a huge part of the success. She knows her business and she knows what works.”
(Kent’s co-star, Scheana Shay, may have provided herself as an example of how not to do it. She said on a recent episode of her “Scheananigans” podcast that her “Justice is Now Served” merch – also addressing the legal fallout of “Scandoval” – will be out “soon.” “I know it’s been like a month [since she first said the phrase], but I’m not ‘Send it to Darrell,’ Lala. I don’t do things overnight. I need some time to figure out the colors and the fonts and all of that.”)
The modern merch phenomenon took off around 2015. “When people were just starting to do that, you could kind of put anything on a shirt or on a hoodie and people would buy it because… they were the only people making merch like that,” he said. YouTube sensations Jake and Logan Paul were among the first to see the money-making potential in merch and market it hard (For example, Jake released a holiday track in 2017, “All I Want For Christmas” with the lyrics, “Buy dat merch. Buy dat merch. Buy dat merch. Buy dat merch. Buy dat merch.”) The Paul brothers’ early loot tended towards prints reminiscent of traditional band merch – names and slogans – with a long shelf life. For example, they pitched fans on shirts that simply said “J. Pauler” or quoted Jake’s catchphrase, “It’s everyday, bro,” referring to his schtick of posted videos daily. But, these days, Collier says, “Everybody has a product line or their own brand or whatever. So there has to be something about it that makes it special.”YouTube star brothers Jake and Logan Paul helped usher in the modern merch industry.Instagram/@jakepaul
While in the old days, fans might buy a tee with, say, the name of a favorite band on it. He says that phrases that only make sense if you already know what they mean are popular now because they work like a password to a secret society. “If you know, what ‘Send it to Darrell’ is, if somebody on the street knows what it is, then they know all about the drama and the show and everything,” Collier said, “So it’s kind of like you’re in the club if you’ve got [the merch].”
He said that another reason for the extraordinary success of “Send It To Darrell” is that the underlying storyline – the “Scandoval” itself – has dragged on in the media for far longer than a normal story arc. “Usually a viral moment like that is like a real flash in the pan. If we put it up on a Wednesday, by Monday it’s gonna be dead,” said Collier, “You almost can’t get it to people fast enough to have them be able to live the moment with it. And this one is definitely unique in that it’s still going. [It’s] still trucking and selling.” In fact, just last week Kent added mugs, totes, water bottles, t-shirts and various other items to the “Send It To Darrell” line. “It’s definitely an outlier situation for sure,” Collier said.The ongoing drama surrounding “Scandoval” has kept sales of the shirts lively, we’re told. Instagram/@scheana
It is, however, not Kent’s first merch foray. Her line “I’ve taken up reading books” from Season Four has also sold sweatpants, sweatshirts and totes, and an image of her amended tattoo – once a tribute to ex-fiance Rand, which now reads “bRand new” – has also shifted some units too. She’s even cashed in on her disdain for Leviss before. After memorably dubbing her co-star and foil “a Bambi-eyed bitch,” she released a makeup pallet of that name for her beauty line, Give Them Lala.
She’s not the only one to make it work lately. “Real Housewives of New York” legend Jill Zarin and her daughter Ally have a popular “Future Reality Star” shirt on their Jill & Ally line, for example.
Meanwhile, “Send It To Darrell” has been a life changing moment for Kent. In March she invested in a $1.35million three-bedroom, three-bathroom home in the Escena gated community in Palm Springs, California, according to the U.S. Sun. She expected the 20% downpayment – which we estimate to be around a quarter million dollar – to leave a lasting hole in her savings. But, stunningly, she said on her March 29 episode of her “Give Them Lala” podcast that a single ad libbed phrase and some decisive action filled it within weeks. She told Page Six that even Bravo honcho Andy Cohen’s “mind was blown” by the figures when she told him the details. (And Cohen is hardly a stranger to monetizing drama).
“I go back and watch [the video of the rant] because it is surreal for me to take out [from my bank account] the amount of money I took out to purchase a home for me and my family in Palm Springs, knowing you know it’s gonna take some time to make make this back,” she told us, “And then for this to happen. I just want to go back and kind of appreciate my mouth.”