Maggots or Mary Kay Makeup? (The answer will make your skin crawl!)

Written by The Scribbler

Some of you may have seen the Dirty Jobs episode in which host Mike Rowe visits the Forked Tree Ranch and meets maggot farm owners Dennis and Pam Ponsness.  Of particular interest is Pam’s past life, that of “a former self-proclaimed “girly-girl” who sold Mary Kay cosmetics.”  You heard that right, folks; From Mary Kay to Maggot Farming!  Don’t miss the Lifetime movie premeire this Tuesday, right after the Lifetime After-School Special, “The Lover that Love Made: Waking Ashamed.”

The whole situation’s got to be downright puzzling for hardcore MKers.  I can imagine Pam’s former leaders scratching their heads and muttering, “Why would she forsake the gift that Mary Kay Ash gave us?  Why would she turn her back on the opportunity to own her own business?  Why would she want to lose the money she could have made as an NSD, and worst of all, why would she want to lose her personal Mary Kay ministry?!

Is there any basis for the upline’s hand-wringing questions?  Let’s explore the differences between the Ponsness’s maggot business and Mary Kay and find out!

Dennis Ponsness took over the maggot business originally begun by his father Lloyd.  How many Mary Kay consultants will be able to pass their businesses on to their children?  (Hint: none).  And while the Ponsness’ have full control over who gets fired in their establishment, Mary Kay consultants cannot make that claim.  Corporate can fire a consultant “…effective immediately for any breach of [the Agreement’s] provisions…” adding straightaway “…or by either party at any time.”  That tells me that if a consultant can dream it, Corporate can fire her for it.  Remember that day you took your son to Chuck E. Cheese’s and didn’t warm-chat the sweaty sophomore in the rat suit?  Goodness, gracious, great balls o’ FIRE.

While it’s frequently claimed that Mary Kay is all about “enriching women’s lives”, let’s face it, it’s all about money and how much of it can be made.  (And not necessarily by you, either.)  Money is one of the main hot buttons recruiters look to push (“How long can you afford NOT to make money?”) and it’s a repeat offender in the affirmations that women are coached to chant (“I’m a money magnet – money is all around me!”)  NSD Caterina Harris claims that she’d do Mary Kay for free, but I can’t imagine her being passionate about overcoming women’s objections and “encouraging” them to purchase larger inventories without the promise of a hefty commission to help make those tiresome efforts worth her while.  Mary Poppins nailed it:  A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down, fo’ sheezy.

It was mentioned on the Dirty Jobs episode that the Ponsness’s maggots were valued at a penny apiece.  Around 3-4 million maggots are shipped from the Forked Tree Ranch each week.  A bit of math shows us that 0.01 multiplied by 3 million works out to 30,000.  That’s a gross income of 30k a week and 1.5 million per year.  Pam – our former MK consultant – pulls down more in a week raising maggots than some well-known NSDs did with their August 2008 commissions.  These include Stacy James ($24,267), Linda Toupin ($22,827), and Dacia Wiegandt ($20,083).

Let’s talk about the ministry issue.  One of NSD Rena Tarbet’s objection overcomers reassures potential recruits that, “In Mary Kay, you have the greatest opportunity to touch people for the Lord as well as for Mary Kay.”   If Tarbet is correct, that means that every opportunity in existence – in the eyes of God – is kitty kibble compared to the Mary Kay opportunity.  Tarbet’s claim is implying that if you want to please God and serve Him fully, you have to be in Mary Kay.

This quote from the Spokesman-Review soundly slams the toilet lid down on Tarbet’s teaching:  “Dennis Ponsness is a recovering alcoholic…the business also gives the couple the flexibility to minister to other people with addictions.  Said Dennis Ponsness: “I guess the Lord wants us to be maggot farmers.”

Uh-oh!  I can almost feel the shockwaves rippling through the pink ranks.  “Wait a minute – someone that left Mary Kay is running her own successful business, meeting the needs of others, making money, and using that business as her personal ministry?  How is this possible?  NSD Tarbet once told me that Mary Kay is the greatest opportunity to touch people for the Lord – NSD Tarbet was wrong!”

Mary Kay Cosmetics is NOT the be-all and end-all of a woman’s talents and divine purpose.  Women everywhere throughout the world touch women’s lives, minister to the hurting and hopeless, and make an honest income for themselves. And somehow, they’re able to do it without having to recruit people into the business using emotional manipulation, scripture-twisting, and corny one-liners off of the Mary Kay Ash Quote-A-Day calendar.

There’s a life after and outside of Mary Kay, friends; Pam Ponsness is living proof.  If I were thinking about getting out of Mary Kay, she is the shining star I would to hitch my wagon to.

Source articles:

(1)   Cohn, R.J. “Discovery Channel “Dirty Jobs” Films Porthill Maggot Farm.”
3 July 08.


(2)   Curless, Erica F.  “Maggot Farmers have Own Gag Lines.”
20 July 08.