Facts, opinions, and the real story behind Mary Kay Cosmetics.

Don’t Tell Anyone What Mary Kay Is Really Like

Written by Lillian

I have wanted to tell my story for years… the real story of what my experience in Mary Kay was like. But I never did.  You see, there is this very serious “Don’t tell anyone what it is really like” mentality, and if you do, you’ll be reprimanded, ostracized and most likely “un-friended”on Facebook from your supposed “Mary Kay friends.”

Out of fear of upsetting anyone, I stayed quiet, and that quiet nagging inside grew for years.  At the advice of my upline (both adopted and actual), I was told to “Fake it til I make it” and to never give ANYONE, a hint of what was really going on. So I listened and faked it pretty good for several years.

I have decided that terminate my Consultant agreement with Mary Kay, and I will no longer be selling the products. Many things drove me to this decision, but I won’t bore you with the logistics of why the business plan didn’t work.  And with that consultant termination, I am now free to speak of my real and true experience in Mary Kay.  I have been waiting for years to share all of my stories and experiences, and now, finally I can. It is such a freeing feeling to finally be able to speak about my experiences.

Much of this article won’t make sense for the average person who isn’t familiar with Mary Kay… and that’s fine. I am writing this more for me than for you anyways.  But to some of my fellow former MK gals, much of what I write will ring so true to them, even if they won’t admit it, they probably felt many of the same horrible things I experienced. And, it is my hope to give all those who were in my opinion hurt, wronged and misgiuded a little bit of a voice against those upline who took advantage of them.

My MK story begins like this: I signed up for Mary Kay as a consultant in early 2006,through a very dear friend of mine.  Most people who come into MK are “recruited” by someone who desperately wants them to join their team, or unit.  I was never really recruited, I showed up one day on my friend’s doorstep and said “sign me up!”

I was never given “inventory”talks by her or my new director.  But I had enough business sense to know that if I was going to start a business, I needed something to sell. So I ordered an $1,800 inventory package in addition to my $100 starter case. The next day I ordered all the supplies, and soon I had over $2,000 into my new business.

Shortly after signing up, I left my “home” Mary Kay area and thus was leaving any real support system from my upline. I moved across the country to the other side of the US, to town where I know no one. I knew that to build my new business, I would need some guidance. I asked my Sales Director for help and she found me an “adoptive” unit.

I met my  adoptive unit and attended my first MK Monday Night Meeting.  I wasn’t sure what to expect, but much to my confusion, the meeting only had three consultants and 1 Sales Director in attendance.  And, not to mention, it was held in a dumpy motel in the outskirts of town.  My first thought was that Mary Kay has such beautiful products, what are these women doing in this motel? But I let it go, and set off to learn as much as I could from these women about Mary Kay.

I asked the Director after the meeting where every one else was, and she replied “oh, they’ll be here next time, we’re building a bigger unit!”  Strange, I thought.

I began to exit our meeting and saw that there was another MK unit meeting that seemed to be moving a bit faster, was busier and a bit bigger next door, and I want to be a part of THAT unit. I inquired some weeks later if I could switch and I was notified  “no, you cannot.” That particular meeting next door was held by my director’s senior, who has delegated adoptees like me to her unit.

So I was stuck in the small adoptee unit, and that was fine. I had well over $3,000 in retail products sitting on my shelves at home and I was determined to make this business work.  These unit meetings are where we exchange sales and marketing ideas, and learned “tricks of the trade.”  Looking back, many of them are basic common sense marketing tools.  I do admit that these tools I learned during those meetings were a great stepping stone to bring me to where I am in my career now, but I now see that they were certainly not enough to sustain a successful small consultant business.

I continued “booking, selling and recruiting” as told, and attending regular weekly  meetings.  All my activity started to “pay off” and I quickly went on target for my “free” Mary Kay car, and earned it in 2007.

I was so excited, this was just a single year after beginning my business. I opted to take the cash compensation option, instead of the shiny new trophy on wheels.  I had a brand spanking new car I had purchased with cash savings and didn’t want or need another car or another insurance payment.  Taking the cash compensation option is frowned up and this was the first time I received some formal backlash from my adoptive unit. They didn’t want me telling anyone I took the cash compensation, and they couldn’t believe I actually turned down the trophy on wheels.

Business was good, family and friends were purchasing products and I was slowly building my additional customer base.  During the summer, I attended Seminar in Dallas with the rest of my national area. I walked the stage in front of thousands, picked up “fake” keys to my earned car with the other car winners and was #3 in sales in my National Area.

By all outward appearances I was a “success.” A HUGE success!  But inside I knew something was wrong. I wasn’t actually making money.  The expenses were eating my business alive, and trust me, I ran my business like a tight ship. But when you are required to cover all business expenses including gas to meetings, airfare to seminar, hotel rooms, meeting fees from upline, shipping, postage, shipping materials, samples, look books, samples, disposable materials for facials, hostess gifts, marketing materials, shopping bags for deliveries, ribbon for gift baskets, etc. The costs really add up!

That year, my business broke even. I was #3 in sales in our national area, had earned a  free MK car”and STILL my business had only broke even.

I came home from Seminar worried that my business wasn’t actually generating income and I knew I had to grow my business and grow my customer base to make any money.

A year after earning my MK car, the financial crisis of 2008 unfolds. I am still a “car winner” and attend events and hold my finger up for the number of “free” cars I “earned,” which was a very enticing recruiting tactic for people who were losing their homes and had no income coming in.

During this time, I attend an MK recruiting event hosted by a NSD. I remember part of her recruiting pitch was how lucky she was that she didn’t even pay for gas, and how awful it is for those who have to purchase it because it is so expensive. She was implying that Mary Kay paid for her ga, and I knew that she was lying.

This was the first time, in my opinion, I caught my upline downright lying.  At that moment, a major red flag in my mind went up. Why would she lie to a room full of people and say something so untrue?

I was confused and angry and left the event. I later called my adoptive director to find out just what was going on. Perhaps there was a gas compensation program and I was missing out?  If there wasn’t a gas program, why had the NSD told everyone Mary Kay paid for our gas, when it simply wasn’t true?  My adoptive director assured me that our NSD must have made an honest mistake, that she meant well, and I shouldn’t be so upset.  She continued to explain that perhaps she meant that because her car was “free,” it was like getting free gas, or that somehow because she didn’t have a car payment it made buying gas easier.

Moving forward, my business and my customer list continued to grow slowly, and I had consistent sales of between $300 and $1,000 in sales, every single week.  That level of sales earns me a “Star Consultant” award from the company.

I was invited to a Star Consultant reward event and climbed into a Pink Escalade with other car “winners” and On- Target car consultants. I was a little sour from the “free gas” comment the NSD had made at the past recruiting event but didn’t bring it up. Instead, I took the opportunity to ask her just how much her car payments were to the company when she didn’t make national unit production. I continue to say that since I took the cash compensation option, I didn’t have a co-payment and just received a reduced cash payment instead. To me, this was a smart business move and relatively risk free. Why risk driving a Mary Kay car and having to make payments on it if you missed your quota? It seemed financially irresponsible and other consultants should consider the less risky cash option instead.

The NSD’s face turned bright red, and I seriously thought she was going to kick me out of the car.  She deflected the question, and later instructed my adoptive director not to let me ask any more questions. I soon learned asking questions, was NOT okay. I was reprimanded with a stern phone call following the event for speaking up, and yet another red flag hit me… This was the moment I realized she didn’t want anyone knowing there was a possibility she was making a car payment.  She was dishonest for a second time. Got it.

The culture of “don’t ask, don’t tell,”,“fake it til you make it,” “never let anyone know our secrets” kind of mentality was in full effect.   I was not allowed to ask questions, speak my mind, or seek help to genuinely grow my business. My rational mind knew this couldn’t be healthy from a personal or business stand point, but I let it go.

I let those first red flags go, and pushed on in my business. Next, I went for DIQ, Director in Qualification.  I wanted my own unit so I could run it the way I saw fit, from an ethical and honest standpoint, with no secrecy, no dishonesty, no “silence.” My recruiter was a dear friend of mine and had long since dropped out of Mary Kay. Another friend of mine who had completed DIQ and made director had also suddenly quit.

I was instructed not to communicate with either of them and to cut them off. Looking back, I can’t believe I didn’t see this as a red flag. What a terrible and just wrong thing to do to someone!  And just like that, I was no longer speaking to my former two good girlfriends. Still, in the back of my mind I wondered if becoming a director was a smart thing to do. If my recruiter and a friend of mine who had made director had abandoned the business, what was I missing?

For some reason, I thought or believed, or convinced myself, that I was different, or perhaps better at “sales” than they were. Or maybe I convinced myself, I had a better work ethic than they did?  After all, I had had two years, of solid $300-$1,000 weeks, week after week of sales and had earned my car.  So I submitted for DIQ, came to terms with the fact I had two less “friends,” and pressed on.

At some point, our weekly unit meetings with my tiny adoptee director’s unit and her senior director and her offspring directors merged for weekly meetings. That meant we had four units meeting in one room, with lots of consultants. Week after week, I was Queen of Sales, always consistent. My heart broke knowing that my business still wasn’t really making money, and somehow I was making MORE sales than all the other women in this room… another red flag. I knew in my gut something was seriously wrong at this point.

I can now admit that part of me enjoyed being a “big fish” in these small four units. It was fun to walk in there, week after week, as Queen of Sales, being envied by all the consultants who were selling close to nothing, week after week.  My success in my sales could be chalked up to persistence, competitiveness and down right hard work ethic.  And, it helped that I had a true love of cosmetics, fashion and make-up.

The hardest part of these $300 + consistent weeks of sales or more, was that I wasn’t making a profit, and I never did. My business continued to lose money.The gas for meetings, unit meeting costs, seminar, shipping to customers,supplies, it was all taking a cut out of my profit.  I knew deep down that something was wrong, that if *** I *** was the most successful thing in these units, something was wrong. Still I pressed on.

Soon enough, the end of my DIQ came, and I was short. I didn’t make it. Mys ales were steady, but I began to realize that every recruit became my competition. Every person I recruited took away from my sales.  I re-evaluated my business, and re-purposed myself to the embarrassing role of “professional consultant.” I decided that directorship wasn’t for me, and neither was recruiting. So I stopped worrying about a team and everyone else, and pursued what worked for me!  Compared to everyone else in my adoptive and home unit, I had killer sales.  So off I went, on a mission to be the best “consultant” out there, even if it meant never being a director.

A few months passed and I lost interest in my MK business. My sales dwindled, and a few months turned into a few seasons, and a few seasons turned into a few years.  I stopped marketing my business all together.  I fulfilled basic customer requests and stopped ordering inventory to stock my shelves with. The customer refills dwindled and so did my orders.  I started working in marketing and PR and really excelled, so I didn’t mind that I had lost what little Mary Kay income I used to have.

My only orders toward the end were for friends to get them the 50% discount.  I was recently notified I will finally go inactive.  I told my director  that I was no longer going to be a consultant or ordering and that was that.  That was liberating.

I am now doing PR work professionally, representing a variety of fashion brands and a few national skincare and cosmetics brands. I have gotten editorial coverage for my brands in beauty magazines like Cosmopolitan, Teen Vogue, Glamour, etc. I recently had a business trip to New York and everything was paid for by the brands, including airfare, as really nice hotel, all meas, everything.

I have a couple of Mary Kay products that I love, and I like being simply a customer. No quotas, no drama, no meetings, no secrecy, no uniforms, no crap.  I am free.


  1. Lazy Gardens

    “That particular meeting next door was held by my director’s senior, who has delegated adoptees like me to her unit.” Because your purchases and recruiting did not benefit her, it benefited your original upline. So why waste time on someone who can’t fatten your comission check. (this is the “sisterhood”?)

    “I was #3 in sales in our national area, had earned a free MK car”and STILL my business had only broke even.” … the expenses and the lopsided seller to buyer rations make it impossible to actually make a living.

    “Why risk driving a Mary Kay car and having to make payments on it if you missed your quota? ” Now that was thinking like a businesswoman, not a Mary Kay consultant. No wonder she got upset.

    “I thought or believed, or convinced myself, that I was different, or perhaps better at “sales” than they were. Or maybe I convinced myself, I had a better work ethic than they did?” This is why they don’t want questioning and they want you to sever relationships … if no one analyses the failures, you have no way to know that they saw the same lies and hit the same walls.

  2. PeachyNotPink

    I would love for this former consultant to share her Schedule C. Or barring that, her Cash Flow statement – or whatever means she used to track income and expenses. It would be such a great educational tool to use here to help other trying to escape the Pink Fog.

  3. Char

    Some highlights:

    “She was dishonest for a second time.” – There is a reason the NSD is an NSD. She is one of the best skilled liars.

    “Every person I recruited took away from my sales.” – MLM is inherently flawed.

    “The hardest part of these $300 + consistent weeks of sales or more, was that I wasn’t making a profit, and I never did…..A few months passed and I lost interest in my MK business. My sales dwindled,” –

    Can we say again “inherently flawed” re a product re-selling business, which defaults to an endless-chain recruiting scheme in order to make significant money. And as pointed out, the “skilled” NSD, the one supposedly making significant money, must be a prolific liar to achieve that success. That’s why it’s a scam.

    “I have a couple of Mary Kay products that I love,” – Hopefully you will no longer contribute commission to the woman who lied to you and then had you reprimanded for asking honest questions – with company support. I don’t get that.

  4. NayMKWay

    The only way to reach a high level in Mary Kay is through deception. It’s an MLM company, however they choose to name it, which means it is mathematically impossible for any but a select (or lucky) few to earn even paltry money. So if you’re using the standard come-ons like “Be your own boss” and “Executive pay for part-time hours” to recruit, you’re being deceptive and manipulative.

    NSDs in Mary Kay are demonstrably good at lying and manipulation; that’s how they got to be NSDs. The behavior of the NSD in this story is not an aberration, it is the norm. Yet everyone is supposed to gush over them; to “sit at their feet,” and bask in their wisdom. Barf.

    At least they MK allows open-toed shoes, so the minions can better admire the feet they worship, while singing “Blest Be the Toes That Bind.”

  5. Cindylu

    Glad you came to your senses. Even when you are making sales, you are still not making a profit. Free Gas lol. Wow the lies just keep getting more absurd. I remember when we were told we could claim everything on our income tax. Gas, food, product giveaways etc. You name it we were supposedly allowed to use it as a write off. No wonder with the costs of gas, products, useless training, open houses etc. whatever little profits we made disappeared almost instantly. 🙁

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