Seven Phases of Mary Kay Denial

Written by Raisinberry

You have landed here, on Pink Truth. You’ve read a bit and you are outraged. You are a Mary Kay consultant at any level on the career path, and you want to straighten us out. You want us to stop being so negative, and possibly influencing your future recruits or current team. Here are your seven phases of denial about this “opportunity” they call Mary Kay.

Most of us believed in this opportunity as you do. We have gone on record saying we thought Mary Kay the person would have never accepted the “current state of affairs.” But the facts are that Mary Kay herself did devise this “system.”

Phase One: Welcome Aboard

This system flourishes because women such as yourself, who are brought into the business. You can sell to friends and family pretty easily, initially. This requires a good amount of product. Once that first batch of people are sold, the typical consultant reorders for many reasons:

1. She thinks her good fortune at selling will continue.
2. She is encouraged to finish a “star” quarter.
3. She gets into a Pacesetters type of promotion that requires a 600 wholesale order for her to be recognized.
4. She wants to be paid 13% commission on her team instead of 9%, again requiring a $600 order.
5. She makes a monthly order to be a part of the Consistency Club for a year end prize.
6. She is told to order $3,000 to get “Awards Seating” at Seminar.
7. Her Unit is going after a big goal and her Director needs her help and begs for an order.

You will notice that NONE of these reasons have to do with restocking actual product sold. If Mary Kay or its independent sales directors cared about actual sales success, the prizes and free bonus product for new consultants would be tied to ACTUAL RETAIL SALES, verified by sales tickets and weekly summary sheets.

The truth is, sales directors are told to pump you up at 6 and 7 weeks into your Mary Kay journey, because that is when you are most likely to bail on your business. This is about the time you run out of friends and family and you start getting more postponements than bookings.

From there, you will be trained to love the recognition of an occasional good week, and you will be encouraged to recruit. The real reason your sales director wants you to recruit is because she needs you to replace yourself. She knows that most likely, in 6 months you will be gone. She wants your recruits to take your place.

If you are not gone by then and you are working the career path, you will place orders for a number of different reasons: to save face, keep current limited edition product on hand, or stay active. Slowly your DEBT from product ordering, events, conferences and Seminar will be more than you ever imagined. You will then NEED to become a Director in hopes you can make more money and pay down your accumulated debt.

Phase Two: The Suit

The “suit” is the symbol for the getting to the title of “independent sales director” in Mary Kay. Let’s say you achieve this.

You will most likely have achieved this by cannibalizing your customer base so that you have many recruits, but few customers. You will arrive at DIT week in Dallas (director-in-training), and you will be using your credit card to pay for your week of training, the suit, and additional business expenses.

Now that you have a Unit, your “missed production months” (months in which your unit fails to order at least $4,000 wholesale) will come out of YOUR pocket as you give your commission check back to Mary Kay to keep your Unit afloat. (i.e. You’ll be using your commission check to purchase products to make the minimums, so you’ll have no income.)

You will try to sell and warm book to meet more people, but you won’t be interested in customers as much as recruits because at 6 months, most of your Team will be gone and you need to build your unit to 50 or more.

You will get into a cycle of holding appointments only to present the Mary Kay opportunity, and you’ll lose the sale of products because “why should she pay retail if she is going to be a consultant.”

You are in a vicious cycle, trying to hold appointments to make money, but you need team members and cash to work out of your hidden debt. You are pretending you make “an executive level income” because every multi-director guest event requires you to tell your highest check (even if it was a long time ago).

Some days you win, some days you don’t. You will spend whatever time you have in Mary Kay trying to race ahead of your unit’s attrition. A 5 consultants drop off, 2 to 5 come in. If you’re luck, you will find another race horse who will build quickly. She will add tons to your monthly production, and you will say “See, this is working.”

But then your race horse debuts as a Mary Kay sales director. You are back in the crap heap, trying to meet minimum production numbers. Yes, they told you to recruit right along with her as she was going for directorship. You did some of that. But unless you keep finding race horses over and over, you will return to square one.

You will continue in this cycle, slowly building, with intermittent selling, getting a bit ahead, then getting behind. Each corporate event will add more to your debt load. You will try to hold appointments, but you’ll rarely be able to do more than one class a week. You just can’t find enough women to hold the three to five classes per week. You end up having facials here and there.

You will preside over a unit with barely 5 to 10 attending weekly sales meetings. You will live off each recruit’s initial inventory order, and their 6 to 7 weeks of enthusiasm, and then their $200 wholesale order once or twice a year.

If you are one of the few sale directors who get to Grand Achiever, it is likely you will experience a co-pay. No one will know about that co-pay when you mention your “free car”. And if along the way you recognize what you are doing (your exaggerations, omissions, and false claims)… If you can no longer parrot all the crap you swallowed while you wanted to belong to the big girl’s club and become a top director… Your unit will slowly start dissolving, since consistent selling by even the best consultants is hard to come by since Mary Kay prohibits normal retail selling practices.

Phase Three: Try Harder

Your ship is sinking. You are terrified and unmotivated but you know you must continue on. You have 3 to 5 credit cards with high balances and a few bad months put you into double digit interest rates. If your husband knows, he supports the idea of refinancing the house and rolling your Mary Kay debt into it. Clear the slate. Vow to never let it happen again.

You go to Leadership Conference and a top director shares how to get to the top quickly and all the ways she made it happen. You begin again, focused and determined. You revamp your meeting, revamp your promotions, buy sashes, get new music, new prizes, jazz up your Unitnet site. After all, Dacia did it. Alison did it. And you compare yourself to all those super achievers!

You cut-and-paste Gloria’s promotions, trying to get some of the magic. You download [random so-called successful diretor]’s training. Surely everyone else knows how to do this better, since it is working for all of them! 3 plus 3 plus 3. That’s what you need to do!

You call your 18 remaining customers (those who will still answer your calls, that is) and you try to shake the bushes for a skin care update class. No success. One will call you back. Off you go to a coffee shop to book the cashier. Success! She says she will be a model. You get 4 more, and 4 stalking hours later you go home to make more calls. No one is home. One more week passes. $184 in retail sales.

3 weeks later you are back where you started. And then it dawns on you.

Nobody is doing what they say they are doing. Not the way they say they are doing it. Not with any kind of consistency. All you have to do is 3 plus 3 plus 3 ??? That’s all?? Disgusted and frustrated, you turn to Google.

Phase Four: Awakening

You “stumble across” Pink Truth. (We know you were searching for something negative related to Mary Kay!) Up until now you have been (mostly) clueless. It seems that tons of people knew about the site but didn’t want to tell you.

A quick trip to Pink Truth reveals nasty, bitter women. They obviously have all the time in the world to play on the internet, but no time to book Mary Kay skin care classes. These women must be corporate types who resent the playful sorority atmosphere of Mary Kay, because they mock the prizes and the suits and just about everything.

You sarcastically surmise that they have received tons of quality prizes at their other jobs. Clearly they have been unsuccessful and are probably “C” personalities because all they do is complain and criticize. We all know Mary Kay works when you do. As caustic as they are, it is no wonder they couldn’t sell anything.

Except for that one story. The one about the huge credit card debt. Trying to hit the next bonus level. The one about being duped into a contest to win a charm for selling 13, 26,or 39 TimeWise Miracle sets. (Only to have the formula change that left her with a boatload of “classic” TimeWise that isn’t even in the Look Book) What a nice liquidation ploy by Mary Kay Cosmetics. Get rid of the old product by clearing their shelves and loading up ours.

Nah, that wasn’t intentional. Mary Kay Inc. looks out for us. They have our best interests at heart. That TimeWise change was just to keep the product as current and quality as possible.

You adjust your thinking and tell yourself, “Here’s the proof that what you think about you bring about. All of these negative women are bailing on their dreams. They think we have market saturation when everybody knows we only have 10% of the market! How could so many women be making an executive income doing Mary Kay if it wasn’t legitimate?”

It’s time to straighten out your unit members. You might need to separate your new consultants from the old. You don’t want your “Dead Reds” poisoning your new people.

You just have to win the [fill-in-the blank] challenge so you can go to the [Whatever is Clever] Party at Leadership Conference! That’s not going to happen if you sit around reading Pink Truth!

Phase Five: Gnawing Doubt

You must have a sick and twisted curiosity, because you return to that awful website more than once. You want to know if there is any scoop. You see a headline that reads: Mary Kay sales directors lie about their income. The post is an analysis of commission versus business expenses. You realize you haven’t tracked your income very well, since you are always looking to a future income. But you are so excited about your tax deductions every year that help you get back most of your husbands withholding tax! It doesn’t really dawn on you that the tax refund is coming to you because you’re actually losing money in Mary Kay.

No matter, you know you are averaging a good wage for part time work. So many women make executive-level incomes in Mary Kay. That’s where you are headed. You do not believe the Pink Truth article about sales director income. You look at the Applause Magazine and count up the names of all the Directors listed with commission checks of $6,000 a month and up. There are about 332 of them, including the National Sales Directors.

Wait! Only 332? You must have counted wrong. You count again. 332. All seminar divisions. 332. Making $6,000 a month or more.

$6,000 a month in commissions would be $72,000 per year before chargebacks, room rentals, prizes, director suit, travel, office expenses, advertising, supplies, gifts, packaging, newsletter, postage, internet, phone, and all the little stuff we tend to overlook. After expenses, that $6,000 per month director is probably only making $50,000 to $60,000.

332 out of 14,000 sales directors.

Wait a minute. 332 is only 2% of the 14,000 directors. Less than 2% of the top 2% are making an executive level income??? So 98% of sales directors in Mary Kay are not making this executive income?

Gee, it looked like more than that on the Applause pages!

You decide you better keep reading. There must be a secret to this. Those top directors seem to really get the job done! What miracle stories they have! What about the sales director who had $40,000 wholesale production on the last day of the seminar year?

What were you thinking? All of those women on stage at seminar aren’t feeding you a line of crap. They stand for ethical behavior and doing it the “Mary Kay Way”. If they can do it, so can you?

Denial is a powerful state of mind.

Phase Six: Critical Mass

You’ve read too many stories on Pink Truth. They reminded you of too many things you forgot or denied. Your memories come flooding back as you read more stories. You tell yourself to stay off the computer. To walk away.

You remember DIT week in Dallas. You asked the entire lunch table if they went into debt to “make it happen”. Their faces go white. Are we allowed to talk about this?

You “helped” your on-target car driver by suggesting she sign up some friends as “personal use” consultants. She could activate them herself, but shouldn’t do it while in DIQ.

You applauded the consultant who was seeking attention. She ordered over and over to get 4 quarter star status. She sold next to nothing, but got a ribbon at Awards Night for being #2 in retail “sales”. Smile. Nod.

Your DIQ follows the “speed of the leader” rule, and finishes directorship with people you’ve never heard of, never seen, and never will see. At her debut, only 9 out of 30 consultants show up, and you tell the audience that many of the team members are out of town because we have no territories in Mary Kay! (The truth is that many of team members are six feet under, but you conveniently forget that you taught her this.)

Your National’s newsletter breaks down unit production, director recruiting, and director wholesale. You start noticing that the $4,000 wholesale production of the lower tier of directors includes the $2,300 personal order of the director. She surprisingly becomes number one in sales for the month, when she’s really just number one in “collapse prevention”.

What have you done? How did you get here? Right under your nose. You looked away, pretended, did what you were told, believed in the mass message of an entire group of liars, who believed in the mass message of an entire group of liars before them.

Only they weren’t liars, were they? We aren’t all liars, are we? We are dream builders. We are story tellers. We are “I story” tellers. We weave a thread of personal testimony to draw women in. It is so credible, so possible. We are selling the hope, selling the possibility.

After all, it is a formula. And it is not a reality unless you make it so. There’s the hook. You make it so. So if isn’t so for you, then it is you who makes it not so! The trap is sprung. Responsibility deflected. No one ends up guilty but you.

You just didn’t work hard enough. Your Monday meeting started for you at 1:00pm, copying fliers and handouts. You had Wednesday orientation, Thursday new consultant training, Saturday muffins and makeovers, and pizza and possibilities. You met team members for lunch interviews and did Saturday afternoon business debuts.

You answered emails, sat on conference calls, produced a newsletter, researched new ideas, tried to hold a few personal appointments, interviewed potential recruits, warm booked every female on every errand you ran, revamped your New Consultant training, updated your Unitnet site.

But you just didn’t work hard enough. It’s about your personal business, don’t you know?

Somewhere in the windows and cracks in your life you were supposed to squeeze out more time to book and hold personal appointments. But the problem seemed to be that you couldn’t find any customers available when you had the time to call. (You knew but didn’t want to admit that the caller ID screened you out of their lives, and the warm books didn’t know you well enough to feel obligated to return calls.)

Oh my God. Oh my God. Pink Truth is true.

Phase Seven: Crash and Burn and The Day of Rest.

You are sick. You are sick, sick, sick.

What do you do now?

You decide to do it right! That’s it! You don’t have to frontload. You don’t have to lie. You don’t have to exaggerate. You don’t have to omit information. You can tell them you have a co-pay on the car. You can allow your consultants’ guests to hold the class before you give any opportunity information, so that your consultant can earn some money on product sales.

You can cut the fluff. Teach real sales training. Teach business management. Define real profitability. Encourage weekly summary record keeping with actual expenses a part of the whole picture. Sure! That’s the way. The Mary Kay way! Ethically. Honestly.

Four months after your decision to “do it right”, your unit is barely making the $4,000 minimum wholesale. You find yourself unable to recruit until you become convinced that the honest way will work.

It doesn’t. It can’t. Production depends upon a base unit minimum ordering and the influx of new star level orders. Your whiz-bang orientation speech is hollow. A “real business plan” makes the inflated inventory worksheet form completely bogus. A turtle could get 13 points on that worksheet and “need” a ton of inventory.

It’s time to get out. The time has come to remove your name from the endorsement of this business. Your pain is huge. You are ashamed, but clear headed. Your grieve for your unit, who you know will not be able to handle a complete exposure of what you have learned.

But you left them knowing the should never order to win a prize, never order to win a car, never order for any other reason than you need to replace the product that was already sold. And to learn the words: “That is not a good business decision for me at this time.”

Send back your products? It is hard to do. The product is good. But you have to pay down your debt. And you will need a car. Yes. Send it back. Its over.

Hold your head up. Try to ignore how happy your senior director is when you tell her you are stepping down and she figures out how it will benefit her. She calculates how many will now be in her unit and asks who your next DIQ is.

Remind yourself that coming out of the Pink Fog is a process, a journey she hasn’t begun yet. And it is a journey that you are finishing. A journey in 7 phase, one that ends with getting back your soul. You are among many other who have shared the same awakening. You can meet with them occasionally on a website, knowing that they want nothing from you other than to support one another and be friends.

Take a deep breath. Your life awaits!


  1. Iescaped

    It has been well over a year since I walked away from Mary Kay.

    Raisinberry, you have made me cry again. The healing process is a long one, but I’m so happy to be on it.

    You are so very right. I wanted Mary Kay to work so badly. It didn’t have to happen overnight either. I was willing to work hard (short term sacrifice for long term gain!) and build up a business where I could have the flexibility I so craved.

    But I kept looking at the other SDs in my former Area. Some had been SDs for a few years. Our weekly meetings were held in groups. Six or seven SDs on a Wednesday night and 6 or 7 others on Thursday night. But the majority of people in attendance were Unit Members of my SD/NSD. Barely anyone from the other Units and sometimes you only saw them once or twice in the beginning. Where did they go?

    At Career Conference, SD of five years had 3 Unit Members attend! What? Where was her Unit? Or was that her entire Unit? Seeing this multiple times with ALL the SDs in my former Area made me realize one important thing. Hard work, Bee-lief and praying was never going to be enough. Everyone was building a business in quicksand and you always would have to keep running or your business would sink.

    I saw FESDs go to just SSD overnight because a SD dropped off before they were replaced. SSD became just SD. And the once exalted SD who drove the Mustang, could only re-qualify for the Chevy Cruise.

    You built nothing in Mary Kay, you are always in a constant state of building. Nothing is ever done and hard work is never paid off.

  2. raisinberry

    Yeah, this is painful to read…(and not just for the typo’s! LOL-sorry!)
    It is the very real re-telling of too many Director’s I have talked to, who woke up from the nonsense and stupidity of participating in this predatorial and manipulative scheme.

    If you try and run a Unit without the ploys, manipulation, overt lies and lies of omission…you’ll tank. What does that tell you about “the Mary Kay opportunity”?

    And how tragic is this fact: You compare yourself and your struggling Unit, to the perfected con job of women who can look you straight in the eye and lie, right from the stage. Oh, and thank GOD for their “miracle year” while they do it.

  3. pinkpeace

    Oh Raisin, you’ve done it again. I don’t know whether to applaud or cry, so I’m doing a little of both.

    When I was reading this, I all of a sudden remembered a consultant I had in my unit who I haven’t thought of for probably 15 years. In retrospect, I’m sure she had mental illness issues, but at the time, I confused her manic behavior with “Mary Kay enthusiasm.” She placed TWO Emerald Star Orders ($3600 wholesale) within a month, assuring me that she had sold almost everything in her first order. I was completely impressed – what a sales woman! And what a month for Pinkpeace!

    Of course, all she had done was max out a credit card so that she could receive all kinds of recognition at unit events. There was no way I could verify that she had sold anything at all, and of course I was hit with a $7200 chargeback within a couple of months.

    It’s all an illusion. It’s all a manipulation. It’s all so sad.

    1. Iescaped

      Pinkpeace, this is a great example of why MK is a no win for anyone.

      I’m sorry that you were hit with a charge back (heaven knows you probably needed that commission you got to try to dig out from the MK hole), but even more sorry that this company preys on women searching for some type of validation. There are probably thousands like her that didn’t send it back and are still in debt.

      So very sad for everyone:(

  4. Melissa

    This is so awful and so beautiful at the same time. I burst into tears at my desk
    reading this, and I’ve been out of MK since 2013. Four years and it still hurts.
    Raisinberry, this is so very powerful. One of the most powerful posts I’ve read on here, and that’s truly saying something because ALL of these posts are powerful.
    Simply amazing. Thank you.

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