Dark Side of Mary Kay Cosmetics

Written by SuzyQ

I’ve got that Mary Kay enthusiasm down in my heart. Down in my heart! Down my heart!!!!!

This is just a small sample of the cult-like behavior you can see in Mary Kay. But is it all happiness and positivity? Of course not.

There is a dark side to Mary Kay Cosmetics. Mary Kay is a multi-level marketing scheme that has been pretending to be something different. They call it “dual marketing” or “direct sales” so they can dissociate themselves with the negative impression the MLM label brings.

MK has been using this same business model for almost 60 years.  It’s 2021, we are still in a pandemic, and the company continues the same lies year after year after year. I don’t know why this company is successful with their special brand of emotional, financial and religious abuse of the consultants at the hand of directors and nsds.

Let’s start with emotional abuse.

Women who join Mary Kay are vulnerable. They may present as competent professionals with advanced degrees and high credit scores (I am Exhibit A) or they may present as women who are in unpleasant relationships, come from boring relationships, need a break from the kids, come from non-stellar environments, want to contribute to the family income while still being present, or  need something/anything to validate their worth. There is a huge range of vulnerability.

These women (so so many of us) need someone to praise us, offer us respite from our lives, offer a sisterhood, support, love, structure, and recognition.  And make good money while we work a few hours a week? Who could say no?

It’s only $100 (or currently $30), and this could change your life! Why are you still thinking about it? If you can read and pass out samples and are capable of being taught, you can be successful.

What if you leave Mary Kay? Holy shit. This is simply not done.

I became a director very quickly after joining the company. I had lots of friends and good communication skills. I also had lots of high limit credit cards. My first order was $1,800, and I rapidly increased ordering to $,3600 because I wanted a ladder with an emerald on it. At the end of my illustrious career, I had many emeralds on my ladder.

I also earned 1 Grand Am and 2 Grand Prix (Do they make them anymore?). I was most improved unit in my national area in 2000-something and “won” (bought) a court of sales ring in 2000-something (that I sold for $50 for the gold). I went to my last director’s meeting in December wearing enemy make-up and fragrance and I was told I looked great. I told my unit in January that I was leaving Mary Kay. I had missed production that month, and I told them why.

I told them about Mary Kay Sucks (later renamed Pink Truth) and told them to read it. I gave away all my stashed prizes and gave them new product I had gotten, and I advised them to get out. I emailed all who were not local and told them the same thing.

I didn’t make production the next month and was told I would lose my unit. I returned my product the next month using the Pink Truth form and received a call from Mary Kay that they received my product, and this means I would no longer be a director. Sigh. Duh.

Then the call came to pick up my car. I offered to take it to the dealership, they said no, and sent out two tow trucks. It was overly dramatic. I left the car in the driveway with the windows open and the keys in the ignition and a nearly empty gas tank. In the meantime, my senior director kept leaving messages that I was still a team leader and could submit for DIQ again. I ignored those, and she didn’t know until June that I had returned product and she would get a big chargeback.

Meanwhile, my BFFs in MK ignored me completely. Period. I was no longer a part of any of their lives. This is after 10 years of no-boundaries relationships. It hurt terribly, and then it occurred to me that I really had nothing in common with them but MK.

All of this behavior is emotional abuse. At every step of the game – – coming in, getting out – – they are manipulating women for their own good. From buying inventory, to attending events, to topping off production with a credit card, to not returning inventory, to being advised to not tell anyone you’re leaving, to getting shunned once you do….. it is all part of a sick, manipulative scheme.

Financial abuse. This is a big one and is probably responsible for more Mary Kay divorces than anything else. We are continually told MK does not required inventory, quickly followed by  “you can’t sell from an empty wagon.” When we are recruited, we are offered inventory packages. In my day, the top of the line was emerald, $3,600. Stacy James introduced the “pearl “level at $4,200 towards the end of my MK “career.” Today some even push $4,800 wholesale packages.

As directors, we placed the inventory orders for newbies having absolutely no idea who their likely customers would be. I trusted my director and in turn my unit members trusted me. The problem was that nobody but directors knew about the product changes coming every quarter. Sometimes it was limited edition product (seasonal) and sometimes it was total product re-dos or repackaging.

Most of us were stuck with a huge amount of limited inventory or outdated product.  As directors we ordered limited edition products in 3’s. One to show, one to use and one to sell. We encouraged our consultants to do so too.  Meanwhile, the product was NOT flying off our shelves. It was steadily accumulating.

As were our credit card bills.

We were encouraged, and essentially, HAD TO order to reach goals. Working for cars, unit clubs, courts, whatever. It always involved ordering (sales are not important) and warm bodies with credit cards. Always, no exceptions.

I remember waking up at 4 AM wondering how I was going to buy groceries or clothes for my kids. I remember all the money spent on director paraphernalia, including suits, and unit prizes, expenses for events, newsletters and postage, business cards, section 2 purchases… the list goes on and on. I did not have to show a spouse where my money was going, so my relationship was never in jeopardy, but oh Lord, the convos I had with sister directors whose husbands expressed concern. It was overwhelming.

I remember Stacy James telling me that “husbands only understand two things, money and snicker snicker,” and her advice was to spread out the money after a party on the bed.

I started with an 800+ credit score and ended Mary Kay in bankruptcy court. It was so humiliating. It still causes me shame to remember it.

The only, ONLY good thing that happened with my product return is that my senior was hit with a substantial chargeback in June without her expecting it because I used Pink Truth’s product return form and did not allow Mary Kay to give her a heads up. Rumor had it that she was really really angry.  

My return was subject to MK math which means the 90% buy back is not what it seemed. But, I was out. I also called the company to confirm I was terminated because I did not want to be reactivated without my knowledge.

Just think of all this money that is spent at the encouragement of the upline. Do you think this is “just one bad apple”? Or the people who ordered products they didn’t need were idiots or not working the Mary Kay way? You’re wrong. This is systemic and MK Inc. knows it.

My personal favorite is religious abuse. We had several soon-to-be, wannabe nsds to whom I had a lot of personal access. I went to a Bible study weekly, driving 2 hours round trip for it. I didn’t have a Bible at the time (except for my childhood one, and it did not have tabs etc) so I immediately bought one with the tabs for easy access. The Bible study nsd to be referred to me as “a baby Christian.” She told her embellished I story so many times, I had it memorized.  

We read parts of the Bible during the hour we were able to “sit at her feet” and absorb her wisdom, but the best part was praying for red jackets and production. I had absolutely no idea that increased recruits and production was something someone could pray for. I remember asking my parish priest about some of the things that were being discussed and he advised me to find another Bible study group.

I think I sat in the church parking lot and cried for an hour after we talked. ANY, and I mean any, criticism of any sort of the religiosity spewed in MK was met with anger, disgust, and contempt. We were told that we were letting Satan into our lives. Satan was stealing our dreams.

Once again, Stacy James rises to the defense stating the “God holds Mary Kay in the palm of his hand.”  My senior was fond of saying that when we died, we would face both Mary Kay and God. In. That. Order. Think about that for a minute.

But the use of “The Secret,” the book by Rhonda Byrne, tipped it over the edge for me. First, we started with “The Prayer of Jabez” and it moved on to Rick Somebody’s book, and then Creflo Dollar, Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer, and so many others. I was familiar with Abraham Hicks. Abraham was the name given by Jerry and Esther Hicks for the 6 spirits they channeled. Abraham told them of many wonderful things, like asking the universe for what you wanted, avoiding negativity at all costs, and that if there is misfortune in your life, you essentially manifested that.

At my last fall retreat, “The Secret” was the topic at hand. I was aghast. My sister directors were enthralled and continually told the consultants that “The Secret” was taken from Abraham, a book in the Bible. (Unless you are Mormon, there is no book of Abraham in the Bible.) I knew about Abraham Hicks because I went on a long spiritual journey in “New Age” philosophy some years before.

There was a bit of a kerfuffle in the Mary Kay world when some nsds noted that this seemed sort of un-Godly with the universe being involved and all. Those waters were smoothed when our beloved St. Stacy of James pronounced that the universe and God were the same thing. I mean are you *&^%$#& kidding me?

I felt so much betrayal and anger. I knew I couldn’t do this anymore. I thought I would be a Mary Kay lifer and I swore I bled pink. I was challenged to google “negative mary kay” by my senior director. I did and as the Kaybots are fond of saying “I stumbled upon Pink Truth.” It was MK Sucks then, and I was riveted.

My story was being told and I hadn’t even written it yet. I kept changing my username because I was so paranoid corporate would find me out and finally settled on Suzy Q because I loved the Creedence Clearwater song and figured I would remember it. Tracy gave me my Queen of Hearts avatar and I will never change it.

My directorship ended on this blog, and I met Tracy, Pink Peace, and Raisinberry in person when we taped 20/20. I owe these women my life and my sanity.  You owe it to yourself to read often. Many of the posts were written years ago and just freshened up and posted again on the front page. Sadly, nothing has changed, which is why this old content still works 15 years later. Mary Kay was a pyramid scheme when I was in it, and it still is now. The only way to succeed is on the backs of other women who believe what is being said to them. It is all a lie. It always was, it always will be.

The emotional, financial, and religious abuse in Mary Kay are widespread amongst the directors and national sales directors, and that, my friends, is the dark side of Mary Kay.

25 Comments

    1. Char

      If Mary Kay is “dual marketing”, Amway is dual marketing. Lol. Really hope lurkers read this info copied straight from the Amway site:

      “Retail Mark-up – ABOs are able to sell their products at a mark-up (the difference between cost and retail price) to earn retail margin on the sale. ABOs can set their own prices, but Amway does establish a suggested retail price for every product we sell.”

      Anyone who says Mary Kay is not MLM is lying! Don’t let upline play you for a fool.

      Also, Amway consultants do not buy their products from their upline. They order them directly from the company on this thing called a computer.

    2. AnonyMouse

      Out of curiosity I looked up what “dual marketing” is, and it’s when a company sells their product two ways. Retail and wholesale, for example. Mary Kay is not dual marketing. Their product only flows one direction. Consultants buy wholesale and sell retail. Recruiting is not part of true “dual marketing.”

  1. Destiny Angel

    “Abraham was the name given by Jerry and Esther Hicks for the 6 spirits they channeled. ”

    I am currently not a Christian and I haven’t been a professing member of the Church of England for nearly 40 years but isn’t this kind of thing frowned on by most Protestant denominations?

      1. NayMKWay

        Not just cult, but occult. And definitely not biblical practice. It would come under the category of communicating with the dead (or attempting to), which is what “channeling” is. Strictly forbidden in both testaments.

    1. Juliet

      I am no religious fount of knowledge, Destiny, and in this world’s present climate, I don’t want to make any blanket statements that open me up to immediate challenge on matters that don’t matter except to nullify the answer !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! okay, so!!! I will say you are absolutely correct, with “mainstream” religions being the usual yardstick for what is accepted or rejected based on Biblical teachings.

      Channeling spirits is not part of the Bible at all that I recall but believe me, I may be wrong. Summoning demons – not sure where that shows up but regardless, yes, demons can be summoned and angels as well, I would think, but again, no expert. Speaking in tongues is NOT the summoning of demons, that I will state emphatically.

      What I can say for sure for religious/spiritual people, multiple voices/messages are not a method known to be used by God to speak to humans. Channeling 6 spirits is completely non-Christian as the Trinity – God, Holy Spirit & Jesus – is the only combination of entities beyond just God, and not sure all “mainstream” religions accept the Trinity as valid.

      And I WILL say it again – God doesn’t use multiple voices to communicate with us, nor does He have any need to “name” His communications with us, such as Abraham. I am not stating the as an authority but as a human who has suffered spiritual abuse and had to learn what the basic truths are so I could work my way up without all the bs in the way. So please take what works and if it doesn’t, I wish to do no harm.

  2. SuzyQ

    parsonsgreen, I really don’t know. I assume my senior is finally done with mk as she is 6 years older than me which is 10 years after nsd age limit to debut. my nsd (marlys skillings) retired several years ago, and bless her heart, for at least 5 years after I quit, I received birthday cards from her, always wishing me my best MK year yet. I finally wrote her a note and told her I had quit years before and why. No more bd cards. Like I said, when you leave, especially as a director, the shunning is very real.

  3. SuzyQ

    To clarify, the statements about “The Secret” and the use of this book throughout the entire mk world at the time was appalling. At the last retreat, journals, bookmarks, calendars, pens, cards and the book itself were available for purchase to consultants. There had been a video produced about the secret and that was shown. I remember getting so angry I walked out of the retreat with my unit members who had attended. There I go being all ungodly again. It was quite the scandal at the time.

    1. Heather

      The religious manipulation in MK was palpable. I despised it and truly struggled with all of the books, Bible studies, and more. No, I didn’t want to hold your hand and pray over a craptastic meal at Seminar. No, I wasn’t going to take God as my co-pilot because that means you’ve put God in the wrong seat! (Co-pilot is second in command in the airlines, also known as a first officer. Think Commander Riker and Captain Picard.)

      “The Secret” and prayer of what’s-his-bucket were completely off-putting, and I mentioned to a director friend that these books bordered on occult. Heck, 99.9% of the crap spewed in the name of God and religion was just that: CRAP.

      1. BestDecision

        Same here! Never felt more attacked mentally than when in MK. Constantly told I needed more self-help books, The Secret, The Prayer of Jabez. I spent SO much money trying to change myself in order to replicate what others achieved, and then I started to analyze the numbers and run the math.

        It’s alarming how much abuse of God is present in MK. Some of the most judgmental people quote scripture and claim to be so holy. (Looking at you, Pam Shaw!)

        Had enough. Resigned and gave up my unit. Sent my car back. Sold it all back. BestDecision!

  4. Autumn

    I’m Pagan, I read a tiny bit of “TheSecret” because it was on my coworker’s desk and she was on the phone with a client.

    Of all the happy ass drivel…

    If you don’t succeed at whatever you weren’t manifesting hard enough? So it’s YOUR fault if it doesn’t work? Perfect for MLM, absolutely tailor made!

    My coworker was given it by her supervisor! It was a Head Start, and that was pretty shady. OTOH the same supervisor got her a full spectrum lamp for winter time, which does have some clinical studies behind it. My coworker was struggling mostly because hers was a draining job with frustrating clients, idiotic bosses and lousy pay. We left at almost the same time for the same reasons.

    There is no way you can manifest your way out of that. There is also no way manifesting will make you a success at MK, you have to be a diamond level con artist with bats in your belfry and a dried up prune where your heart belongs.

    From what I can see they also misuse spiritualism.

    1. SuzyQ

      Funny you mention this, I had 2 Wiccan’s in my unit at one point, Lovely, kind young women. Some of my “christian” consultants were terrified of them. It was a very low point. For my attempt at education, inclusion, human rights and religious freedom, I got moved to the top of their prayer warrior list. I didn’t know there were prayer warriors in my unit. Sigh.

  5. SMLady

    Im one foot out the door of MK anyway lol so funny. I got sick after i did the try out product party online and my skin started going crazy still is and not getting better have a doctor appointment tomorrow to find out what’s wrong. I signed up as a consultant and have been researching on this site and others and had to remember this is not my cup of tea. I do affiliate marketing and it’s nowhere like this. Even my husband got on me about it and i know he’s right. I haven’t spent a dime on it but i am getting pushed even when im sick. you think mk cares if you sick. The motto not spoken don’t ever get sick seems like they push even harder. I have my director on the ignore right now cuz she’s contacting me every day. I choose to be part-time but yet pushing me to do full time. i have to invite 150 ppl and hope 50 ppl accept lol this is not a part-time business you have to sell yourself and your financing nope. I met my director on clubhouse she owns a big giant club on there nothing but women so it’s easy to get them to join and im one of them. ill be out soon because I’m a fighter and i ask questions.

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