This is the story of a former Mary Kay consultant who was  involved in the anti-Mary Kay community since early 2005.

One day, I was at a gathering of friends (mostly from work), when one of the women (who had been laid off a couple months earlier) came in with a treasure trove of Mary Kay make-up samples. After dinner, the lipstick samples were spread over the table, and we were having a wonderful time looking through them — trying some on, and tucking others away to take home with us. She offered us a chance to try this wonderful new product. It was an exfoliating “lip mask”. You can exfoliate your lips!? I’d never heard of such thing, but wasn’t it perfect? I had chapped lips all the time.

At the time, I was also looking for a less expensive replacement for the department store skin care I could no longer afford. We were all having so much fun over this stuff. One friend mentioned she’d been to a “Skin Care Class for Women Over 40”, given by a Mary Kay rep. She had been impressed that the rep just mentioned she sold products, then gave the class — no sales pressure.

When I got home, I thought about how I was planning to quit work and hated the idea of not contributing financially. And I couldn’t stop thinking of how much those women had enjoyed looking through the samples, and how eager we’d been to buy some of the products. (Of course, I didn’t know then that she’d paid a quarter each out of her own pocket for those samples we so casually tucked into our purses.) I didn’t like the idea of being involved in a party business, because I personally had resented being invited to selling parties and feeling pressured to buy from people out of friendship. But here, R hadn’t invited people for the purpose of selling. Most of the people there didn’t buy anything right then (although many of us did later.) And someone had been to a “class” where she felt no pressure and didn’t buy anything.

I was definitely interested, so I called R asking for more info. I knew I didn’t need to make that much, and judging by the response she got from our friends at the party, and from me (I asked HER about how to get on board!) it shouldn’t be that hard to just make, maybe $500/month, should it? Compared to my then-current take home of over $4,000/month, that seemed a small and reasonable goal.

So R’s sales director (S) called me, and invited me to a recruiting coffee. I was still a little uncomfortable with the idea of doing a party business, but I did want to check it out. At the coffee, the speaker explained to us that consultants achieved “star consultant” status by making good sales for that quarter. They had women stand up if they “are or have ever been” at this-or-that “star consultant” level. Now, I was a little suspicious at the “have ever been” phrasing, but I thought if they sold at high levels ever, then many of those would sell at significant levels consistently. And there seemed to be quite a few of them who achieved that.

Next, a sharp, classy woman who was apparently someone important and very successful (with a fancy title) got up and told me how she’d started her Mary Kay business with only a couple hours/week to spend on it, and at that time did mostly internet sales. “Did you know that if you are a Star Consultant, Mary Kay will send you referrals?” So here I was picturing myself signing up for this Mary Kay website, and occasionally getting unsolicited orders… now this was sounding pretty enticing.

Then I was informed that Mary Kay was NOT a pyramid scheme. Pyramid schemes were illegal. They were a “multi-level marketing” company. And I was informed that each consultant could run her business however she liked. We didn’t have to do parties! What a relief. And this woman told us it was a “recession-proof” business. I did not have to worry about getting laid off, and sales would be good despite the economic slump we were experiencing.

I was pretty excited that this woman was able to get started with so little effort, and she achieved so much. I did notice, however, that she never told us how much time she actually put in once she started “getting serious about [her] business”. So I waited around while many young women gathered for a chance to speak with her or ask her questions, but I lost patience with it. She was obviously a very important and much-sought-after person, and it would take forever to get my chance to speak with her.

Meanwhile, R and S were waiting for me. So I asked S how many hours/week she typically spent working, and she sort of laughed and said “Probably not enough.” Now what did that mean? Still, I was fired up by the speech, and all the things I’d been thinking about the past week. I went ahead and signed the contract. I could talk with my husband about it when I got home, and always change my mind within 3 days if I wanted. Or even if I didn’t, I could get 90 of the $100 for the kit back anyway, right?

One thing happened that morning that really disturbed me, though. Another consultant under S (someone I didn’t know) was there with a guest that morning. This consultant applied lip gloss while we were sitting at the table, and S scolded her right in front of the guests — not for applying lip gloss in public (which I did think was tacky), but for wearing a product that was not Mary Kay. (What, they’re now in charge of everything we use on our faces?) Also, the consultant made some comment (I don’t remember what), and S responded by saying “let’s see some orders from you first.” Brrrrr  So I had a good clue right up front that I didn’t like S much. But R was someone I did like, and at that moment, I wasn’t letting a jerk like S stop me. Besides, I really didn’t know her. I was probably being too judgmental. And I could run my own business as I chose. I could wear whatever lipstick I wanted. She wasn’t going to own me.

So I showed my husband the agreement I’d signed, and he was okay with it. I went on the internet, and did a little research on this “multi-level marketing”. Was this a pyramid scheme in disguise? From what I’d heard that day, Mary Kay checked out okay. They didn’t require a huge investment up front (just the $100.) My profit added up to more than the total commission for all levels up-line from me (it had to — I got 50%, right?) And there were not more than 4 levels up-line. I was satisfied with this.

Now that I was signed up, S wanted a meeting with me to discuss inventory. Now, I’d been delighted that when I ordered products from R, she’d been able to deliver them within a couple of days, so I could see some reasons for investing in one of the lower levels of inventory they showed me in a pamphlet. I wanted to offer that level of service. But I was concerned about whether I could sell enough to make it worthwhile. After all, one of my best potential markets was the same group where I had met R, so she got their business. My in-laws (who always bought from each others’ parties) were either allergic to Mary Kay, or simply couldn’t afford to spend that kind of money on skin care. And after talking to several acquaintances that already had Mary Kay consultants, I was beginning to worry the market was saturated.

So I brought my husband to that meeting to help make the decision. S assured us I didn’t have to worry about the market being saturated, and that I didn’t need to sell to friends and family to succeed. If I was “serious about this business”, I would buy inventory, and as much as I could possibly afford. A business requires investment, she said. And I could trust her to offer honest advice, because, as she said, “What is good for you, is good for me”. Somehow, neither me nor my husband caught on yet that me buying lots of product was good for S whether I sold it or not, and my husband thought I should go ahead and buy at the highest suggested level ($3600 wholesale.) And of course I wanted plenty of samples. That was what had worked so well for R, wasn’t it? And then there was sales tax. Yikes! Oh, well, we had plenty of credit, and I would be able to sell it for more than I’d bought it for anyway.

Now, of course, since I was serious about my business, I drove 1/2 hour from home and paid $6 to go to a meeting once/week (where refreshments were not offered), and began pestering people to come to recruiting events with me (which cost between $10 and $25 out of my pocket each.) Then, of course, there was my “debut”. Well, what harm to ask my friends to come out and support me just this once. And truly, they should not buy anything unless they absolutely wanted it. I was nervous about doing it, but don’t worry, S would take care of everything on this one.

S talked me into having something called a trunk show, since I would be inviting too many people for a “skin care class.” I put considerable effort trying to find out what a “trunk show” was, and how to prepare for it, since all the training materials I have from MK taught skin care classes. Well, I got a vague description, which included little more than a list of items I should have set up on a display table. So I set up the trunk show display, and then S came in and began giving me instructions to set up for a skin care class. Since I’d never found out what a trunk show was, I didn’t realize she was having me set up for the wrong thing. I figured it out about half way through the demonstration, when we were doing way more than the 2 of us could actually handle for all those guess. Whew!

I made a couple hundred in sales (retail), and booked 1 party after a really hard day’s work, which was a lot less than I’d been led to expect from the debut. (Actually, it was more than one day’s work when you consider the time I spent calling all the potential guests before the party, and trying to find out what a trunk show was…) But S thought it went GREAT, so I refused to be disappointed.

At the next unit meeting, a rather bizarre thing happened. S insisted I stand up and be recognized as a “Diamond Star” consultant, although I’d sold almost nothing. I was confused, and thought whoa, she was crazy or something. It was absurd to get recognized for buying inventory! I’d been told the stars were for selling product. At that meeting I also learned that if I was serious about my business, I would hold classes and “trunk shows.”

Now I just had to find a way to give parties and still feel good about myself. Hey, at least I was in charge of how I ran my parties. At the beginning of each event, I let the guests know that their hostess did not get rewarded for high sales. I gave her a small gift for holding the event, and then she got a 20% discount on all of her purchases. This way, people who came to the parties did not feel obligated to buy in order to help the hostesses.

So I held a few parties, and talked to coworkers, offering samples. I got people in to recruiting events. I sold Mary Kay Easter baskets to the wife of a cousin I hadn’t talked to more than twice in the last 5 years. I was so proud of myself for being brave enough to call her. I also produced some really slick color pamphlets with photos for advertising Mother’s Day Gift Sets (Wouldn’t you love to register your wish list with me, and get something you really want for Mother’s Day?) and for my charity offerings (25% of retail price goes to the organization.) I purchased all kinds of baskets and little extra goodies and made such beautiful presentations. When the response to the Mother’s Day pamphlets I distributed all over town [and an html version to all my friends via email] was negligible, I held a “Mother’s Day Boutique” at my home and invited everyone I could think of (resulting in a whopping $600 retail sales.)

I proudly entered through doors of real estate agencies, bravely ignoring “No Soliciting” signs, and got permission in 3 cases to display an example of my featured “Welcome Gift” basket, and leave a stack of beautiful color advertising pamphlets. Everyone agreed the baskets were gorgeous (and no one called me.) I left catalogs in doctors and dentists offices, and at my kids’ day care. I gave Satin Hands sets as gifts to the staff at doctors and dentists office (in one case earning a very dirty look from one of the nurses who I assume was also a consultant.) I advertised an employee discount on the electronic bulletin board at work. I entered the PCP plan, and sent a catalog to everyone in my daughters’ school directory (certainly the request made by the PTA not to use that info for business purposes didn’t apply to a little old thing like sending Mary Kay catalogs…)

I gave compliments to complete strangers in the grocery stores or wherever (well, okay I’d done that occasionally before joining Mary Kay, but I did it more frequently, and to women who were so “sharp” I’d have been afraid to talk to them before.) I didn’t have the courage to talk to them about Mary Kay, but talking to them at all was making progress.  And it was great to see they way their faces would light up when I complimented them. I had the fun of giving out lots of little gifts to my friends (all of which I paid for out of my pocket, but hey, it was fun to give these things out, and they would help encourage future sales. My director told me they would, and so did her director…)

I had a small group of friends who were getting together about once/month for regular parties. It occurred to me that they were all my friends, and could be just buying out of friendship, but they seemed to enjoy themselves and the products, so I didn’t worry about it. In this time I also picked up a few other regular customers, and 2 recruits. I ordered at a star consultant level for 3 quarters in a row (not that I told my husband I’d spent that much. After all, it wouldn’t matter once sales really started taking off. I wouldn’t buy anything else unless I absolutely needed it to replace something I’d sold.) I’d spent an awful lot on inventory, but it didn’t help me much. I kept running out of the things I actually sold, while other stuff just sat on my shelf.

At the unit meetings, I began looking around me to see how many of the women there were claiming actual sales at a “star consultant” rate. There wasn’t one every week. . . maybe at most one or two a month. I did it once, thanks to the superhuman effort I put in for Mother’s Day sales. It didn’t take long to realize that most if not all of the women who had stood up at my first recruiting breakfast as ever having been star consultants had made that “achievement” through an initial inventory purchase.

At one of our earlier meetings, one of the directors gave a talk on “networking.” She opened by asking how many of us were comfortable with networking. I raised my hand. I worked for a large corporation, where networking (the normal business meaning of the word) was a useful skill to have. I knew people from several departments. I was on friendly terms with most of the managers in my department, and a few outside the department, and I even had a contact in research. My manager felt I was good at getting things done, and I realized that knowing who to go to for help was a big part of that. Little did I know that these sales directors had a whole different definition for the word. To them, networking meant skulking in coffee bars, malls, and around select events at hotels (jobs fairs, mainly), giving recruiting pitches to complete strangers, and hoping not to get caught at it. Well, you can imagine how my stomach churned at that. I could never do such a thing.

About a month into my Mary Kay experience, I quit my real job in order to preserve my mental health. After several rounds of lay-offs there, the job had just become too stressful. I was so distracted all the time, I’d had a couple car accidents, and several near misses, so I had to quit driving until I quit that job. I didn’t look for another, since I was quitting soon to adopt a baby, anyway. I did some calculation, and realized that I needed to sell at least at the lowest star consultant rate in order to meet my now modified goal of $300/month actual income (if you could call it income, given how long it would take to catch up on my debt at that rate.)

Considering the effort it had taken to get just one month at “Star” level, I knew I could not sell that much consistently. I also paid attention to see how long everyone had been around. I wanted to talk to someone who’d been at it more than a few months, and was still excited about what a great opportunity it was. I couldn’t find any such person. The only person in any of the meetings who’d been at it more than a year was the senior sales director.

I never got one single call from over 200 catalogs I’d had mailed out via the PCP.

I did get a call from the catalogs I’d left at day care, though. I went to this woman’s apartment, and when I looked around me, I didn’t expect much in sales, since she obviously didn’t have much money. But it turned out she was very excited about Mary Kay. She ordered over $100 worth of product (mostly lipsticks.) I felt a bit guilty selling her all this lipstick she really didn’t need. But I went back to her house with the product, and in addition to selling her too many full priced lipsticks, I invited her to a recruiting event.

She signed up and became my second recruit. She held a debut, and when she fell short of a $600 milestone, I loaned her the extra money she needed to make that and get her prize. My sales director was thrilled. She told me “Wow, to tell the truth I didn’t expect much from her, but not only did you get her to sign up, you got a qualifying order. That’s BIG!” I didn’t know what that was supposed to mean. There didn’t seem to be any advantage to me if she made that size of an order. The extra $3 commission I made didn’t much matter.

But I did come to realize that she couldn’t really afford the lipstick I’d sold her, or the order she made. She couldn’t even afford a babysitter for her son; she was going to leave her 9-y/o home alone while she went to the sales meetings. The first time, I got my husband to baby-sit for the child, but he really wasn’t willing to do it again.

I drove her to meeting once while she left her son alone (asked a neighbor to look in on him, and he was scared being alone so ended up spending most of the time at the neighbor’s.) After that, she realized it was more important for her to be with her son than go to the meetings, thank goodness. After my first try at getting her to repay me, I never had the heart to ask her again for what she owed me. It was my own stupid mistake; what was I thinking loaning money to someone I barely knew?

I had another regular customer that I also felt guilty about. She was also a single mom, and she wanted so much stuff she clearly couldn’t afford. At the beginning, I sold to her eagerly, talked her into coming to a recruiting event, and repeatedly tried to talk her into becoming a consultant. But as time went on, I felt wrong for doing that. I started to sell to her only when she insisted, and usually gave her a discount out of guilt.

I also gave discounts to the people from my former job who bought from me (which was most of my clients.) Once I offered an employee discount, I didn’t feel right not giving it to them just because they didn’t know about it or ask for it.

After being involved with Mary Kay for a little over six months, and never yet getting a single referral (either through the website, or the 800 number), I decided to try the “consultant locator” on the website and see how long it took for my name to come up, Now I realize this wasn’t exactly a productive use of my time, but I was really curious. And the longer it took without my name appearing, the more curious I became.

I sat there for a full hour, repeatedly punching my zip code in and following the resulting link. This process rarely took more than 5 seconds, but lets say on average it took 10 (I did occasionally look at the site long enough to tell whether the consultant that came up was a sales director or not.) In that case, I would have tried 360 times. So in something over 350 tries (and realistically closer to 500), my name came up exactly ONCE. (I did see a handful of names that came up more than once… a couple of them 3 times… those were the times I actually looked at sites.) Now if I tried to guess how many women in the few zip codes I’d listed actually used the locator (didn’t have a consultant of their own), and how many of them would actually decide to buy something from someone they didn’t know over the web, it was pretty obvious I would never get a referral that way.

What I didn’t think about at the time was that most active consultants weren’t ordering at “star” level, so would be less likely to come up in the search than I was, and that many didn’t have a web site at all, so what did that say about market saturation in my area? Apparently some kind of mental block kept me from consciously realizing all the implications just yet.

At this point, I realized there was no way I was ever going to catch up on the huge mass of debt I’d piled onto my credit card by selling product alone. And I was not ready to come clean with my husband about how stupid I’d been spending so much money, nor was I ready to admit to anyone including myself, how miserably I was failing. So I sucked up my pride and decided I would do what needed to be done. I called up my sales director and told her I was ready to work toward become a director, and asked for guidance. I was really sick at the thought of the things I knew I’d have to do to seriously recruit, but I told her I was excited.

So S told me she was excited, and we would need to meet, just the 2 of us, once a week. Shortly thereafter, she canceled 2 of the 3 meetings we had scheduled, but for the appointments where we were to actually go out recruiting together, she showed up. We were to use a technique known as “warm chatter.” First was a job fair, and I watched her operate. She coached me that we had to be careful not to get caught, either by the people running the booths at the job fair, nor the hotel staff. (This was known as being “discreet”.)

S stopped women leaving the job fair, told them how sharp they looked, and pitched to them the “leadership side” of Mary Kay. Her spiel was that they did not have to sell… she made it out to these women that they would essentially be managers. I watched this 2 or 3 times. Then 2 women came out at once, going in 2 directions, and S sent me after the less professional- looking of the two. (Given that they trained us to target professional- looking women for recruiting, I’d say she was the one who didn’t look like such a good prospect to my director.) I went after her, but froze. I couldn’t even give her the kind of compliment that I was usually quite comfortable. In this case, it wasn’t really true and I knew what I’d have to follow it up with. There was just no way I could feel right about it.

After that I was on my own. My director had helped me all she could, and it was up to me to do what I knew must be done. I made several other tries… following women, and then chickening out. Wow, I really was a failure at this. That day I went home miserable.

My sales director assured me that everyone had a hard time the first time out and it would get easier. She believed in me (was it my imagination that her faith in me sounded half-hearted?) So I gave it a few more tries. S would tell me of an event where I should stalk (I mean, warm chat) some women. R was at a couple of these as well. She was trying just as hard as I was, and she was actually able to bring herself to talk to some of these women, and got a couple of them to come to recruiting events. Meanwhile, I got dizzy, sweaty, and shaky, and was simply unable to do it. Each time I left feeling worse about myself than the last. What was wrong with me? All these other women could do it…. look how many successful sales directors there were out there. Why couldn’t I?

Finally one day I was determined to overcome all my qualms and actually got the nerve to give the pitch to one of these women. I gave the compliment and watched her face light up. Then I introduced myself, and got about 2 words of the sales pitch out of my mouth before her face just fell. I’d made her feel good giving her this lovely compliment, and then snatched it away by revealing that I had an ulterior motive. I couldn’t finish my sentence, and she was already walking off … very quickly. I felt like crap. She looked like I’d just ruined her day. I actually ran after her, and told her that for what it was worth, the compliment was sincere. Not that there was much chance she’d believe me now (although it was true.) I was just making myself look more pathetic.

After that experience, I knew I could not be a director. I could not find enough people willing to hold parties that I would get many recruits that way. Clearly, I didn’t have enough friends to make a party business work. Let’s face it, I’d never been exactly popular. And I now knew for sure that I could not bring myself to recruit (or sell) through “warm chatter.” Obviously, I would have to step things down a notch.

I had several regular customers, and I did enjoy working with most of them. And I liked using the products myself. At the next meeting I talked to my director to explain that I was not going to continue trying for directorship. When she asked why, I explained what had happened with the woman I’d disappointed by snatching away my compliment, and I just couldn’t do that to people. S snapped back that it was her (the chatter target’s) problem, if she chose to take it that way. S had a couple more things to say (with flashing angry eyes), but all I remember is the general sense that I was wrong to be so thin skinned, and too bad I couldn’t cut it at this job; she had misjudged me. I don’t know how much of that I projected because I was feeling like a failure anyway, but I do remember the angry eyes. I didn’t project them, because they surprised me. That’s when I decided to quit going to meetings.

And of course the next step was to actually show my husband the balance on the credit card. That was unpleasant, but my husband was kind about it, and not terribly surprised. He’d known I was spending too much. What a relief to have that off my chest! I quit going to meetings. By this time I was pretty well stocked up on the items that I and my friends actually used, so I quit ordering, too.

I made an attempt to call my sales director, and got the weirdest message on her answering machine. Apparently she was now part of something called “Women Empowering Women.” I did some research and found out that was something called a “gifting club.” It was clearly an illegal pyramid scheme, and I would imagine that by now they’re no longer operating in the U.S. I was disgusted, but thought gee I shouldn’t be surprised considering the way she was operating her Mary Kay business.

A few months later, my husband accepted a job a few hundred miles away (he’d been looking around since it was obvious the office he then worked for would soon get shut down.) Since we were going to move, I thought I’d better just give up on Mary Kay altogether. I wouldn’t have friends in the new area to sell to, and I couldn’t keep doing parties with my old friends.

I looked into how to go about the product return, and was feeling pretty bad when I saw how I had to pay for shipping myself (all those glass bottle of perfumes and foundations!) And of course what I’d spent on shipping in the first place wouldn’t get returned. Then they were going to deduct the value of all the prizes I’d bought (I mean “earned”, yeah… prizes which, BTW, I was going to get taxed on.)

So I wrapped up some of my stuff as gifts for my old customers. Then I held a 40%-off sale for a couple weeks. I felt bad about offering a discount that R couldn’t match, since I knew some of her customers. But I gave her all the sales aids I’d no longer be able to use, and she was very appreciative about that. She never seemed to think I was doing anything wrong.

Finally, I was left with thousands of dollars of stuff I couldn’t even sell at 40% off, so I packed up all my stuff and filled out the product return forms. That happened later than I expected, since it took a while for the return forms to arrive. By this time, I was so busy with moving that I just sent the Mary Kay boxes with the moving van and thought I’d do the return after we moved.

At our new place, I figured out when I’d have to send off my products to get the maximum refund. It was a lot of work moving into a new home, and I didn’t even know where things were in town yet, so I ended up packing the Mary Kay boxes into my trunk on the last day I figured was safe. Of course I got lost on my way to the post office. And then the nearest parking spot I could find involved crossing a busy street to get there… more time delay, and a long way to lug all that STUFF. I looked at my watch — by this time it was unlikely I’d make it before the post office closed, and I couldn’t face the possibility of dragging all that stuff there (it’d take a couple trips), whiny kids in tow, and then having to bring it back to the car again because I was too late. I decided someone was trying to tell me something, and I took it all back home, and never did the product return. I just let my consultant number expire, and kept a couple shelves full of boxed up Mary Kay stuff in the basement.

Well, a lot of things have happened since then. One is that I did my taxes for that year. Somehow (now I am embarrassed to admit this, but I’m not stupid — I can’t be the only one who thought this) I expected that all the product I’d bought from Mary Kay, in an honest attempt to do the right thing to build my business, would be deductible. Wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

In the first place, my personal use items (which my SD specifically said would be deductible) weren’t. And then, all that inventory that I never sent back? Not deductible. There was a clause that if I had unsold product that couldn’t be used for some reason, and I could show that it had been disposed of, then I could deduct it. So if I’d done the return, the 10% + any prize deductions I didn’t get back would have been tax deductible. But since the stuff was still on my shelf, it wasn’t. Ouch.

Meanwhile, we bought a house; I went back to work; and we moved again. But the feeling of failure (and general stupidity) my Mary Kay experience left with me lingered for a long time.

About 2 years after I quit trying to sell Mary Kay, I finally decided to start doing something that had been at the back of my mind ever since I decided to quit. I thought it would be nice to put out a web site and give information and advice that none of the Mary Kay materials ever tell you. Things people should think about before they decide about inventory, for example. More realistic estimates of what kind of time commitment is involved in doing skin care classes, and what the costs and payoffs really are (for the sales end.) What my senior director had once said about how she, even as a senior director, still got over half her income from her own sales. And some words about how income tax deductions really work.

I started by poking around the internet to see if such a thing already existed. Wonderfully, I found a site that led me to some other forums. Until then, I’d always thought I’d landed in a bad unit. It had made me angry to think of the way my directors had treated Mary Kay as a pyramid scheme. I did not think that was the way it was intended to be run, and still held out the idea that I might someday try selling again part time, just for myself and a few friends, mainly for the discount. It would be fun if I could get a sales director who did things the right way. Then I began to read posts from people in different parts of the country, with different nationals, and so many of them had been told the same things in the same words that had fooled me. Phrases turned in a certain way that I’d never heard anywhere else. Little bits of manipulation — it became easier and easier to recognize.

One night I had a strange dream. I was playing a game, two teams against each other. I thought I’d caught on to how to play the game well, so I gave my teammates advice. They did as I advised, and we lost points! So I asked the moderator of the game how the points were given out. But he wouldn’t tell me. It was too complicated to explain… he could give me the rule book but I wouldn’t have time to read it. So I decided to sit out. I did not want to play a game where I couldn’t understand the rules. Pretty soon, the people who were playing the game gave me a present. I was pleased, and opened the present. It was a scarf, and it had some large words on it — they were dream words, but they meant I was a poor sport. I was supposed to laugh and wear the scarf (like a dunce cap, I felt) so they would all like me and I could be part of the group again. I refused to wear the scarf and left the room. No one could understand why I was being such a jerk after they’d been so nice and given me the present.

When I woke up, I knew exactly what the dream was about. That’s what it had been like being in Mary Kay. It was like a game where you don’t know the rules, aren’t allowed to ask, and you’re supposed to smile and take it all with a positive attitude. Trying to actually learn and think was frowned upon.

At that point, I began to realize that those personal qualities that had caused me to fail at Mary Kay were really things to be proud of. I could not bring myself to lie or misrepresent myself. If I gave compliments, I could not take them away again. I would not bring others into a situation they could not understand, where they were set up to fail. And I simply could not be quite as selfish as the job required.

And exactly at the time I was learning all this, a wonderful thing happened. My marriage, which had been getting slowly worse and worse, all of a sudden took a turn for the better. I’m not saying that was all about healing from Mary Kay — it was because my husband and I had a long talk and were working on making it better. In fact, knowing that I needed to fix myself to fix my marriage was part of what got me to finally try and do something to deal with my Mary Kay issues.

I began to realize that my Mary Kay experience had impacted my self confidence, which had a bad affect on how I treated my husband and children (it’s harder to be good to others when you feel bad about yourself.) I had begun to doubt my husband’s love for me (how could he love someone like me — just look how I treated my own family?) Finding the anti Mary Kay community had helped me to recognize where that behavior came from, and that it had a name. The same name as the kind of treatment I’d been subjected to in Mary Kay — emotional abuse.

And then I realized that my sales director, and her director, were all talking to me the way they’d been trained. I had seen signs that my sales director was an unhappy person, and they she wasn’t really doing well financially. Now I realized too, that when she’d spent so many words explaining to me why it was for my own good that she didn’t answer my questions, she was probably really trying to convince herself. I saw that she had been a victim, and I lost my anger toward her.

Somehow, between realizing what had happened to me, and where so many mysterious bad feelings had come from, and getting a better show of love and support from my husband, I’ve found it easier to be good to my family every day. I now know where my support comes from, and I truly appreciate it. And I know I am a good mother. Even when I wasn’t acting right much of the time, I still did many good things, and although I lost site of them, my family appreciated me. My older kids and my husband could see that I was acting wrong because something was wrong with me, and they’ve completely forgiven me, almost as if it never happened.

Now I understand how I got hurt (and that I did get hurt more than I had realized.) And I want to prevent that from happening to others if there’s any way I can. I am doing everything I can to pass on information so that others will be able to make better informed decisions than I did. Because nothing is as good for healing the soul as to help others.


  1. Yes, my story is similiar. I worked my business hard & as smart as I could. I also signed up poor women and ended up helping them buy their store & lost money in the process. Now I understand, it wasn’t me and it wasn’t the poor women I signed up. I was the very way Mary Kay is structured. The company & some of the top Nationals make money, the rest of us were on the treadmill from hell. A never ending cycle of ordering products that didn’t sell and having to order the little bit that was needed to replace what was sold.

    The stress of Mary Kay is hard on marriages and my husband forgave me as well and helped me heal. It really wasn’t me, and I was deceived by women who had been deceived themselves. I remember asking a National what directors actually do. She told me to just achieve it and everything will just turn out fine.

    I got to be a director and nothing was fine about it. I thought I would get to do fun director things and not have to work so hard. Imagine my surprise when I found out being a director was one long stretch of DIQ, the endless stress of having to make $4000 production every month.

    I stepped down from being a director after a year, eventually I left Mary Kay altogether. Being in Mary Kay was like being in a cult. You were supposed to just do what you were told to do. I am amazed at what I did, looking back on it now. I belong to a site that helps warn innocent women of the perils of multi-level marketing companies especially Mary Kay. I am free and I help liberate other victims. I find this healing!

  2. I’m glad that you got out. A lot of us here have gone through similar experiences. You did all you could to be successful in a MLM where no one was successful. Thanks for sharing your story!

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