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

Mary Kay’s Twisted Sisterhood

Written by Raisinberry

Many years back, I stepped through the doors of my first Mary Kay event, completely uncomfortable by what I saw. I thought it was me, since they appeared to be so close and having so much fun. I must have had “issues.” They were so happy and warm and huggy and supportive. I lived outside their world, and some part of me wanted what they had, while at the same time, I distrusted what I saw.

As a child, I learned not to trust my own instincts. When you grow up in a crazy dysfunctional home, you pick whatever coping skill works for you, and denial and humor were working for me. By the end of the event, I was interested in the ca$h these gals were making, but the huggy stuff still freaked me out. Something just wasn’t right.

For some of us, the Mary Kay environment initially looks strange and kind of juvenile, yet we are curiously drawn to it, and are suspect of it at the same time. Mary Kay looks us straight in the eye and says,”You are safe here! Safer than you have ever been.”

“You can trust us… more than you could ever trust anyone in your family. You will grow here. More than you were able to grow inside, and you will be loved and supported here. More than anyone ever showed toward you, the entire time you were growing and struggling and feeling alone. You have landed in the safety net of all things good and right and noble, in stark contrast to the life you had, the stress you knew. This is the sisterhood of support. We are a family. You can trust us.”

In dysfunctional homes, appearances are everything. Nothing is as it seems. Gambling addiction, violence, alcoholism, authoritarian dominance, sexual abuse, mental illness, religious abuse, and more are all a part of the list that characterizes, “dysfunctional.” Does anyone escape this?

And today, psychologists report that one out of two families would qualify as living in a “dysfunctional” environment. If you come from a crazy dysfunctional home, you can function really well in Mary Kay. You are used to doing something for approval or attention or to avoid conflict. Since you usually are starved for attention when other family members have problems, anybody who throws you a bone gets strong loyalty and support.

In dysfunctional homes, sometimes you have to “raise yourself,” so being a strong “D” personality develops and you are used to getting things done without help. In dysfunctionalhomes, according to The Counseling Center, at the University of Illinois, children “experience “reality shifting” in which what is said contradicts what is actually happening (e.g., a parent may deny something happened that the child actually observed, for example, when a parent describes a disastrous holiday dinner as a “good time”).

In such cases, it is easy to see how a adult child, with unresolved issues from childhood, could respond to the Mary Kay environment in complete comfort… denying that her finances are tanking while those in authority around her declare how great Mary Kay is and how much money is being made.

Getting involved and participating in Mary Kay slowly makes you let your guard down. You begin to get caught up in the hoopla of a business sorority where your mentors are classy rich women who say they love and support you and can’t wait to see you at the top. You start to believe them. They are not your old life. They are faithful and true. They are women of their word… women of excellence who do the right thing, always, even to their own detriment, for the sake of honor and righteousness.

The only reason you start doubting what they say is that you start to see a few things that don’t quite square up. As long as you are doing what you are told, there are no indicators that something just isn’t right. But over time, the “pink bubble” begins to crack. Things like, a cross town director who knows you are in DIQ and encourages her own DIQ to recruit your customer. An inactive consultant friend that you know well suddenly shows up in the newsletter as your director’s recruit, when you know she has no intention of doing the business.

Your recruit is “tops” on the year to date sales leader list when you know she hasn’t held one class! You decide not to attend meeting for whatever reason, and the guilt call comes the next morning. The syrupy sweet director is asking, “I am so worried…are you ill, because surely, you wouldn’t intentionally miss a meeting?” Those creepy feelings are coming back. You remember well how manipulation and deception sounds. Oh forget it… people are human. Your denial knows how to enter right on cue.

“What do you mean I can not afford to miss it? I really have to be at my husband’s event.”

“Why would our National want to see me?”

“Really ? She has been watching me? She wants to talk to me? Okay… I will make arrangements… somehow.”

At the guest event, you listen and wait and watch until all the photos with the National have been taken, and as you approach and introduce yourself, her brief comments to you make you realize YOU have been taken. A woman who manipulates you to be somewhere so she has “numbers” to impress her NSD, or who believes her NSD will speak and appear as if she really DID want to meet you, is taking a huge chance.

She believes in her own twisted way that you will forgive her for the coercion for the sake of the motivational pop you will receive. Directors begin to believe that if they mimic their NSD, and do whatever it takes to “get people there,” all will be worthwhile. People who grow up in dysfunctional homes are very used to lying and manipulation.

They are equally good at denying the impact of that manipulation and lying as well. They prefer to believe in a world they create, rather than the one they are living in. The twisted emotional manipulation that is used, by all those on the Mary Kay career path becomes an all too familiar flashback into childhood. We don’t like it, but we can do it. We can function with it.

Directors lie to themselves and other directors. NSDs rehearse the lies and scripts we are to tell our people. Everything is supposed to “look good” on the outside, so nobody knows what’s going on in the inside. That’s what positive mental attitude (never be negative) behavior produces.

Fostering a culture where truth cannot be exposed or expressed is the hallmark of the dysfunctional, twisted family unit. Labeling “negative” situations or events as something to be stuffed inside, denied, and ignored is the power play of the abuser. Calling a deliberate abuse of credit cards “achievement” is the kind of reality shifting that is textbook dysfunctional.

What directors know that consultants do not is that Mary Kay is a dysfunctional twisted sisterhood that pretends to be the savior of women. And to the degree that many American households have some kind of operating “dysfunction,” that will determine how comfortable you are within it…a nd how long you will stay before noticing how twisted it really is.

As time goes on, you discover that your NSD encouraged a fellow director to “put in the production” over and over, so that now she is facing bankruptcy. Except the National says that the director didn’t work her business. The NSD does not want you to see any “failure” on the part of her mentoring. It has to be the fault of the director. This is twisted.

Your director tells you to “find a way or make a way” as you need 3 more to finish DIQ on the last day. You humiliate yourself begging friends and family and finally make deals to activate them. You kick in the money for the agreements and the initial orders, and your director praises you on Monday night in a big celebration. This is twisted.

The company finds out that prominent top directors have a scheme that gets large orders in, and reach large unit production goals by less than ethical means. They not only get to receive their “honor,” they get to speak before a Seminar full of bright-eyed believers and completely distort the truth. The music plays as they walk off stage and the crowd is asked to give them one more round of applause! This is twisted.

The corporate staff discovers that agreements and orders go in by people who have no knowledge an order is being placed, and they do nothing to alert or change the system, while acting incredulously that such a thing goes on. Why? Because corporate wants the production. This is twisted.

What is even more twisted is it takes a detoxification process before you begin to REALIZE just how many distortions and lies you have been told and have repeated. You have to detox from a company that works SO HARD to convince you how righteous it is, all the while lying through its proverbial teeth! You were wooed into a culture than promised to fill your greatest need, and kept you in by your greatest weakness. Denial.

Those of us who have experienced the path of dysfunction are able to stay in Mary Kay long past all warning buzzers going off. We can pretend. We had to, to cope. And we are completely comfortable with chaos and madness behind the curtain, while we smile and sing and make all kinds of appearances that all is well.

The first step of recovery is admitting you have a problem. Facing the fact that Mary Kay was not your savior and never was, you can begin the detox that will first expose our use of denial as a coping strategy, and second speak the truth (without denial) about exactly what Mary Kay is:

Mary Kay Cosmetics is a sophisticated and honed, multi-level marketing scheme, which has used recognition and praise to coerce women into pursuing the satisfaction of their deepest needs of stability, security, friendship, and appreciation, while denying the financial wreckage that is created in the process. Mary Kay uses manipulation and blameshifting to clear their own company of wrong-doing while employing national sales directors and directors to bring in the production orders by which it financially survives.

Mary Kay promotes a culture of secrecy concerning full disclosure, under the guise of being “positive” and avoiding “negative” thinking, which traps women into destructive patterns of financial entanglement and guilt. Further, Mary Kay promotes the use of spiritual manipulation to create the illusion that Mary Kay Cosmetics can be trusted.

Mary Kay is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. And ladies… that’s twisted.


    1. CDL

      I definitely can agree and relate to this article. The one thing I noticed is when I didnt put in orders I didn’t get those warm calls or texts. I begin to realize that this type of sisterhood was conditional. I connected with a lady at our meetings…as soon as I stop coming anytime I would reach out to her she never replied back. In my mind I thought i was building a friendship but that wasn’t the case. The minute I showed my face at the meetings again she would be in my face saying how much she missed me…but I messaged you and you didnt respond???? Its crazy.

  1. Cindylu

    I remember one of my last meetings where I managed to bring in two very competent women. They both trusted me and were excited with what they saw. Both were very suspicious though. My SD never ever exuded sincerity. It was the final straw for me. One lady trusted me and was very close to becoming a recruit. I just finally decided enough was enough. I got sick which made the decision to quit and return product easier. There are many signs that MK just isn’t honorable. My SD’s highest check from years ago. The loss of two DIQ’s within my unit because of my DQ. The cost of training. What lures you is the I stories by NSD’s including the MK book “There’s Room at the Top.” How wonderful that women could be successful, helpful, caring and supportive of each other. What a utopian world. I dared to dream and that got me down a very scary path. A path of lies, dysfunction, misinformation and financial quandary. I hoped it was true. How could it not be true? Such pretty little lies. Such pink packaging of friendship, fun and joy. Everything girl power had to offer. It was enough to make you tear up and be so very thankful. When that pink bubble burst from the yada yada empty MK thoughts and promises, reality sure does hit hard. Huge bills to pay, friendships broken, family knowingly thinking I was irrational and relationships to repair. So much time on my hands and guilt. Guilt that I failed at MK. Guilt at time lost with children. Guilt at the waste of finances on this impossible scheme. The embarrassment that I was lured into an mlm by a trusted former supervisor. 🙁

  2. morningstar

    Excellent! Every therapist should have a copy of this ready when a person walks in for help on this topic. This gets into the results of having coping skills in dysfunctional families.

    Dysfunction and the coping skills children use as described here can put young adults on the maximum spectrum of empath or narcissist. The spilt is obvious in MK on the spectrum of rank holders. MK directors are what is coined “flying monkeys” for NSD and corporate. Furthermore, MK chain of command and corporate are ‘gaslighting’ us, that is why rational adults can’t really figure out WTH is going on, strategy for MLM. Here are some excellent therapists on youtube that have approx. 20 minute on this topic:
    Les Carter
    Ross Rosenburg
    and many more
    Both of them are therapists that over came narcissist marriages. Thanks to pink truth, I was able to see the light years ago, but the damage and my tendencies needed more introspection.

    1. Cindylu

      Well said Morningstar. I helped a friend whose mother was a narcissist. That mother literally stole her daughter’s life. The mom died at 80. The daughter was 60. The daughter ended up with no family or friends. During the last two years the daughter cared for her mom 24 hours a day (The daughter was a nurse which the mother planned). Narcissists do indeed use, manipulate and control others. My SD and NSD were definitely narcissists. The NSD had no problem conning hundreds of women for her own gain. My SD copied her but went no wear as her narcissism was more blatant.

  3. MLM Radar

    Mary Kay shifts more than blame. They also shift risk from themselves to their sales force.

    The company is debt-free and has low credit risk. Why? Because the consultants take on the company debt when they borrow money or use a credit card to buy inventory.

    The company has low inventory risk and can afford to discontinue and replace products with little advance notice. Why? Because most of the inventory risk has been shifted to the consultants, who can’t return anything unless they’re quitting.

    MK Corporate doesn’t care that you get stuck with a bunch of inventory you can’t sell when they make a no-notice decision to replace product packaging. Why? Because it doesn’t cost them any money! They don’t have a warehouse full of products in discontinued packaging. They’ve shifted that risk to the consultants. To you!

    1. Char

      That’s one way to put it. Another way is that the “inventory” isn’t inventory at all. It’s product sold to their consumer aka the consultant. I’m sure MK has warehouses of real inventory. The method they use to move their product is to call the customers consultants and give them a fancy name. I’m sure MK doesn’t care if the customer was dumb enough to buy a bunch of product from them. That was their intention and why they are a billion dollar debt-free company. It’s a huge buying force, not a sales force.

  4. Brainwashed no more

    Raisenberry, Amazing post. So true. Narcissism sucks you in especially when you grow up with it. Thanks to this site I left MK. Unfortunately, I still have to work through the guilt, and sadness of getting pulled into this toxic system. I appreciate the validation of my experience.

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