The Women Making Conspiracy Theories Beautiful

Illustrations by Charlotte Fos

A blush-colored square filled with the all-caps advice SHOW UP EVERY DAY FOR SOMETHING YOU BELIEVE IN belongs to one of the least remarkable categories of Instagram content: visually unchallenging, impossible to disagree with, pink. Even if people do not exactly know how to show up every day for something they believe in—particularly during a pandemic—the basic spirit of the message is blandly uplifting for a millisecond during a bleary-eyed morning scroll through the feed: Today, I will, in some way, demonstrate that I believe in something, somehow! Hardly anything about it would dissuade the casual follower from double-tapping her appreciation before moving on.
But this particular image, posted in March by the Utah-based fashion, beauty, and parenting influencer Jalynn Schroeder to more than 50,000 followers, is accompanied by a series of hashtags that includes the initialism WWG1WGA—“Where we go one, we go all”—a motto used by adherents of the QAnon conspiracy theory . QAnon is flexible and convoluted, but generally posits that President Donald Trump is locked in a battle with the “deep state,” and is attempting to bring down a ring of pedophiles and child traffickers that counts various high-profile politicians and celebrities as co-conspirators. Most famously, it’s the evolution of Pizzagate , the conspiracy theory that motivated a man to storm into a Washington, D.C., pizza restaurant with an AR-15 in December 2016, bent on exposing a supposed pedophilia ring in its basement, which did not exist.
When Schroeder’s feed nods to Q, it does so subtly, mostly in her stories and captions. On the grid, she posts photos of her manicures , her graphic tees , her favorite gummy vitamins , and the mommy-and-me sundresses she and her young daughter wear. She is also candid about mental health and the effects that giving birth can have on the body; recently, her followers have watched her prepare for and undergo surgery to correct an abdominal separation.
Schroeder initially responded to a request for an interview, but did not respond to further emails about scheduling it. I learned about her conversion to the QAnon cause via a 14-minute video she posted in March. It begins with the Maya Angelou quote “We are only as blind as we want to be,” written in funky orange and teal fonts. Wearing her curly purple hair in a cheetah-print headband, eyes made wider with electric-blue makeup, she then recounts watching an Instagram video sent to her by a friend, which she initially dismissed as “crazy”—but something was bothering her, and as the weeks went on, she decided to start her own research into QAnon and the global child-trafficking ring it seeks to expose. “I’m a mama of two, I have a lot of mamas following me, and this stuff has been very, very, very hard for me to digest,” she says. But she’s grateful she’s been led to the truth. “I’ve never felt more...