TV & Movies

Meet Elizabeth Holmes’ Parents Christian Holmes & Noel Anne Daoust

They have pivotal roles in The Dropout, Hulu’s new series about the Theranos founder.

SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA - DECEMBER 16: (L-R) Christian Holmes walks with his wife Noel Holmes, their da...
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past decade, chances are you’ve heard something about the story of Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos — it’s now been covered in a bestselling book, two podcasts, an HBO documentary, and, most recently, Hulu’s fictionalized TV series The Dropout. But for those unfamiliar with the story, it goes like this: Holmes dropped out of Stanford to launch a tech startup, Theranos, which promised to perform blood tests using only a drop, rather than a full vial, of a patient’s blood. By 2014, Theranos was a monster success in Silicon Valley, having raised $700 million in venture capital and reached a valuation of over $9 billion. Holmes became a media star, celebrated as the rare young, female tech founder; among other distinctions, she received a laudatory profile in The New Yorker. But it didn’t take long for her empire to come crashing down. In 2015, John Carreyrou reported in The Wall Street Journal that the company’s technology was fraudulent, and everything unraveled from there.

Earlier this year, Holmes was found guilty on four counts of fraud. She faces up to 20 years in prison for each guilty verdict, but these sentences are likely to be served concurrently, per NBC News; she remains released on bond until her sentencing in September.

In the meantime, The Dropout will premiere on Hulu on March 3, giving viewers a window into Holmes’ inner orbit — including her parents Christian and Noel (played by Michael Gill and Elizabeth Marvel in the series), former government workers who have remained supportive of their daughter throughout her public difficulties. Below, read more about Elizabeth Holmes’ parents, Christian Holmes and Noel Anne Daoust.

What is Elizabeth Holmes’ family background?

Though Elizabeth Holmes may now be the most famous — or infamous — member of her family, her father comes from a distinguished lineage. Her paternal great-great-grandfather, Christian Holmes, was an engineer and doctor who emigrated from Denmark to Cincinnati, Ohio, and became so successful that a hospital in Cincinnati was named after him. He married the wealthy Bettie Fleishmann, whose family had founded Fleischmann Yeast, a pioneering packaged yeast company. In that 2014 New Yorker profile, Holmes explained, “I grew up with those stories about greatness, and about people deciding not to spend their lives on something purposeful, and what happens to them when they make that choice — the impact on character and quality of life.”

Holmes’ childhood neighbor, the psychiatrist and inventor Richard Fuisz, recalls the family placing too much emphasis on their family history. “That family background was part of the con,” he told Forbes. “[Elizabeth Holmes] would be introduced and when questions were asked about her scientific knowledge or business acumen, these family members would be brought up.” (Theranos sued Fuisz and his son in 2011, accusing them of patent theft; the suit was settled in 2014.)

John Carreyrou, too, has noted how the family’s legacy affected Holmes. “I think the parents very much yearned for the days of yore when the family was one of the richest in America. And I think Elizabeth channeled that and at a young age,” he told the podcast The Dropoutthe project on which the Hulu show was based.

Who is Elizabeth Holmes’ father, Christian Holmes?

Holmes’ father, Christian, benefited from his accomplished family members: He grew up in a wealthy family in San Francisco, raised by a businessman father and a mother who worked as a model; memorably, he even accompanied one of the Hearst daughters to a debutant cotillion ball in the late 1960s. After attending Wesleyan University, he entered public service, working for the U.S. Agency for International Development and the State Department. Initially, his daughter planned to follow in his footsteps. As she explained to CNN in 2014, “My father worked in disaster relief and so I grew up in a house that had pictures of all these little children in really tough parts of the world. I was absolutely convinced that was what I was going to do. Then when I started realizing that a company could be a vehicle for having very direct impact over a change that you are trying to make, I started thinking about the concept of what could I build that could impact a lot of peoples’ lives?” According to Fuisz, Elizabeth Holmes idolized her father as a child.

Christian Holmes’ career wasn’t entirely made up of government work, however: He also served as a vice president at energy companies Tenneco and at Enron. Fuisz claims he helped Holmes in the wake of the Enron scandal and the company’s subsequent collapse: “When [Christian Holmes] came back to Washington after Enron failed, he was broke and came crying to us. He had no money. I was living in a new house a few blocks away and I told him that he could live in our first house in McLean, Virginia rent-free.” Holmes later returned to public service, working at the EPA, as the director of the USTDA, and USAID, where he served as global water coordinator. As of 2018, he was a senior advisor to The Boston Consulting Group.

Elizabeth Holmes’ parents’ money — and Christian’s connections — were instrumental to the early success of Theranos. She persuaded her parents to invest the rest of her college fund (around $100,000) in her idea for what would become Theranos, and later had them to invest more money out of their retirement fund. Through his social and political connections, Christian managed to introduce his daughter to venture capitalists Timothy Draper — a former neighbor from the family’s time in California — and Donald L. Lucas, the founding investor at Oracle, who then connected Elizabeth Holmes to Larry Ellison. Both Lucas and Ellison invested in her company.

Who is Elizabeth Holmes’ mother, Noel Anne Daoust?

Less is known about Elizabeth Holmes’ mother, Noel Anne Daoust, who has lived a less public life than her husband. Like him, however, she’s worked in government, serving as a foreign policy aide — including to Rep. Charlie Wilson, a legendary Texas politician who was the subject of the film Charlie Wilson’s War. After Elizabeth and her brother Christian were born, Noel quit to stay at home with her children.

In 2014, when Theranos was still going strong, Noel told Fortune about her daughter’s determination. She recalled a time when Holmes had decided to write a patent application for the first time, while still living at home: “I saw her sit down at the computer, and for five to six days she barely got up … I would bring her food occasionally, and she slept maybe one or two hours a night for five nights.” Later, she’d be supportive of Holmes’ decision to quit school and launch a startup. “What do you want for your children?” Noel told Fortune. “You want them to do something they’re passionate about. To follow their dream. To help people. To change the world. So we said, ‘Of course. Go do this.’”

Richard Fuisz remembered Noel having a more aggressive role in her daughter’s development; as he told Forbes, “Noel programmed Elizabeth to be like me, invent and learn a language. I am a psychiatrist and family practitioner and would tell a father and mother not to treat their child that way. She’ll be what she'll be.”

Tyler Shultz, one of the first Theranos whistleblowers, also remembers Holmes’ relationship with her parents differently. In his memoir, he describes arranging her 30th birthday party. “There was a weird situation where my parents kept telling [Holmes] to invite her parents, and they just kind of assumed that she did,” he explained. “And then my grandparents were talking to Elizabeth’s parents on the phone, and Elizabeth’s parents were completely unaware she was having a 30th birthday party, so it didn’t seem she was very close with her parents at all.”

Did Elizabeth Holmes’ parents attend her trial?

Both of Holmes’ parents have remained supportive of her throughout the collapse of Theranos and her trial for fraud. On the day of closing arguments, The Daily Beast reported that Holmes “clutched the hand of her mother, Noel, and hastily made her way past the crowd and through security.” After the verdict was read out, her father reportedly kissed her forehead, and she left the court together with her parents and her partner, the hotel heir Billy Evans.