Cults and Mary Kay Seminar

Written by The Scribbler

We have one more year of “virtual seminar” for Mary Kay, but you can bet in 2022 they will be in person at the Dallas convention center. There is nothing more important to the cult. Indoctrinating someone through an internet connection isn’t the same as the in-person experience. The mind control begins with the revered Mary Kay dress code.

Most of the Seminar guidance put forth by Mary Kay’s leaders reads like Bible prose: “Yea, and all consultants shall appear in Dallas beskirted – yea, those that appear in pantaloons shall be made to drink of the bitter waters and shut out of the camp, unless she bringeth an unblemished calf to Mary Kay Ash’s office for a jealousy offering, Selah.”

A classic Seminar how-to document says things that are sure to make your brain rub its gray-mattered chin and ponder, “You know, some of the points sound suspiciously like writer Bob Larson’s cult identification guidelines!” So if you’re wondering why I’ve called you here today, it’s to show you a few similarities between the Mary Kay and Larson schools of thought. Ready?

“Do not try to combine this with a family vacation. If you all come early and your family leaves [before Seminar begins], that would be fine. To attempt to room with your children and entertain them is simply too much…”

I have to admit, I can’t imagine anyone dragging their family to Seminar, especially if Disney World was the second-place contender. To give credit where it’s due, though, Seminar is insanely kid-friendly, complete with parades, music, dancing, and awkward interactions with gaudily-dressed characters!

Many NSDs encourage Seminar attendees to “fly solo.” One NSD takes the idea several bolded-and-underlined fonts further in her “Conference and Event Ettiquette” document:

“If the EVENT IS IN YOUR CITY, STILL stay in a Company hotel. Driving back and forth from your home keeps you ½ in the Conference and ½ in your home life and responsibility. There is NO WAY you can have an effective ‘thought shift’ or FULL Experience that way.”

Shoot, if I didn’t know better, I’d swear that these leaders were promoting isolation from the outside, in which “a diminished perception of reality results when one is physically separated from friends.” How else to explain the strange logic of “Even if your house is three “Yee-haws!” away from the Dallas Convention Center, you should turn your powdered nose up at free home-cooked meals and a familiar bed in favor of paying for meals of rubber chicken and a game of Roomie Roulette, in which you learn which Mary Kay stranger you’ll be spooning with for the next three days.” Will your bed buddy snore, slobber, or sweat? Packing earplugs, a tarp, and a small oscillating fan is not prejudging, people – it’s all about her!

It’s important that you get your attitude in gear for Seminar, and what better way to do that than by telling you – a Mary Kay independent contractor –what kind of friends you should have? An NSD advises:

“Please remember you have paid a lot of money for this experience. In order to maximize your return remain positive and only hang around excited, positive people.

Does this sound anything like exclusivity, a self-righteous “we” versus “they” attitude found in cults? Even at Seminar – supposedly the happiest place on the planet – consultants completely into the hype are advised to shun those who are more reluctant. While I can understand shying away from the consultant who keeps muttering, “I am going to butcher the next painted hussy who talks to me,” I’d like to think that the Go-Give spirit would exercise a bit more understanding than that.

If you know your sister consultants are weary, wouldn’t you do your best to encourage them, not shun them? Whatever happened to the whole “Maybe she needs me?” mentality used in recruiting – doesn’t it apply to the Pink Sisterhood as well? Or is that kindness only reserved for those who keep the orders coming?

Who knows what your fellow consultant is going through personally that may have her on edge. But why not help or encourage her, even if she isn’t as excited at Seminar as you are? While I don’t have a sage “Mary Kay Ash always says…” quote to add here, I’ll encourage you with guidance that carries far more weight: “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers [and sisters!] of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40, NIV)

Ready for a nap? You should have done that before you left the house! The NSD says:

“Rest before you go; you don’t get much sleep, plus you’re too excited to rest when you get there.”

I don’t know about you, but sharing a room with three women (who I may or may not know) would be enough to keep me sleeping with one eye open. Do you think the lack of rest at Seminar falls under the guideline of sensory deprivation? “Fatigue coupled with prolonged activity can make one vulnerable to otherwise offensive beliefs and suggestions,” explains Larson. Bottom line: If you’re dog-tired and someone onstage is preaching “Mary Kay is never, EVER to blame!” there’s a chance that you’re going to sleepily raise a hand towards Heaven and mutter “Testify” in the hopes of shutting her up.

If a bit of sensory deprivation wasn’t enough to jimmy your moral door open, the NSD throws this can of kerosene on the fire:

“Classes end at 4:00 PM; must be back at Awards Arena at 6:30 PM for Awards Night! Whatever you do, don’t miss the opening! Be in your seat no later than 6:30 PM. Eat what you can when you can. (food is not a priority tonight). Plan on a midnight to 1 AM departure from the convention center. TRULY A NIGHT THAT DREAMS ARE BORN!

Oh, dreams are born, all right – dreams of a pallet packed with junk food. “Depriving one of essential nutrients and enforcing a low protein diet can lead to disorientation and emotional susceptibility,” explains Larson. An altered diet can make you do all sorts of wacky things. And speaking of wacky, I just got an idea! How about having an intermission halfway through the awards presentation where NSDs dress up like castle wenches and serve Seminar attendees a Medieval Times-style banquet? Hey, if Jesus can wash feet and be cool with it, then surely NSDs can stop teaching the Husband Unawareness Plan long enough to Go-Give me a turkey leg.

Finally, it’s time to head home. A relaxing airplane ride will give you the chance to catch up on some much-needed rest…or will it? The NSD wraps things up with this advice:

“Psyche yourself up to meet the real world. Write goals, study notes on plane ride home.”

I have a better suggestion. Eat two or three times and crash for the remainder of the airplane ride, because if you don’t, your family will unintentionally become the spark that lights your pooped powder keg. Think about it: as you stumble through the front door, your husband greets you with a “So, did you learn anything new?” and you lose your mind on him.

But here’s the jacked-up part: While your husband felt your wrath, Mary Kay gets off scot-free. The company doesn’t get one bit of emotional backlash because you faithfully followed your NSD’s instructions to stay happy and positive and only hang around those that are. It’s a genius setup, really; consultants pay to stay at Grandma Ash’s house for a few days, get loaded up on sugar, and are subsequently sent back home before they can crash.

Now I realize that women may be bristling at the notion that I would associate Larson’s cult characteristics with that of Seminar, so I’m going to invite you to try something fun. You like fun, right? Great! All you have to do is breeze through the article I’ve referenced in the beginning of this piece, jot down the 19 points on an index card, and take it with you to Seminar. Once you’re there, go on a scavenger hunt! Each time you encounter something on your list, cross it off and write a quick one or two word description of what it was you spied. Don’t “reach” or try to cram something into a category – just watch. How many things will your eagle eyes spot? You’ll never know unless you try!

So come, let us reason together, and have a safe trip there and back.

26 Comments

  1. Kristen

    “Please remember you have paid a lot of money for this experience. In order to maximize your return remain positive and only hang around excited, positive people.”

    This is also a veiled warning to not say or do anything that will question Mary Kay crap or YOU WILL BE OSTRACIZED!

    I almost wonder why they might not encourage women to bring their kids, say 14 or older. Brainwash them early? I’m sure they have this down to a science and have considered this and decided it wasn’t worth it.

  2. pinkboo

    Lurkers- stop and really think about what you just read. A REAL job pays for your travel, food, hotel room and training. Why are you footing the bill for this nonsense? What true “business owner” pays to sleep in a small, over priced hotel room with three strangers? How is this empowering?

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  3. AnonyMouse

    In case anyone still thinks Mary Kay is “different” from all the other MLMs, this could be literally every other MLM conference. They’re all the same. It’s a giant hype session with no actual training of value.

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    1. coralrose

      Yeeessss! On my home from my first & only Seminar, I happened to sit by a lady on the plane coming home from her Candle MLM’s National Conference (I think it was Party- Lites). Same shit, different company: music, awards, speakers, etc. But, they didn’t have the silly wear a ball gown custom. Throughout Seminar, my director gushed “Aren’t we so lucky that OUR company would do this for us?!” Sitting next to that lady took the shine right off that.

      (Candle lady was a better MLM-er than me: I tried to get her to be my customer; she tried to recruit me. ? Clearly, Seminar didn’t have the desired effect on me, since I still thought MK was about product sales, not recruiting.)

  4. NayMKWay

    If you’ve ever questioned whether an essay can be both laugh-out-loud funny and horrifying at the same time, wonder no longer: Scribbler has shown us the way. Excellent work, Scrib!

    Regarding the cult-ish nature of MLMs: I read an article not long ago where professional cult deprogrammers were interviewed about MLMs. Asked if MLMs were like cults, they replied, “No, they are not like cults. They ARE cults!”

    And as AnonyMouse says, all MLMs are like that. While they make claims about empowerment and financial freedom, all they really want is your money, and it’s easier to get brainwashed people to open their wallets.

    “Hey, you have to spend money to make money, right? Everyone knows that! What, your credit cards are already maxed out? That’s defeatist talk! Are you in it to win it, or not? Just call the bank and ask them to raise your limits. You’ll make it all back at your next skin-care class.”

    And, so on. Financial prudence becomes defeatism. Reluctance to take on unnecessary risk is brushed aside with thought-stopping clichés. It’s called gaslighting. It’s what cults do.

  5. Charlie

    “If the EVENT IS IN YOUR CITY, STILL stay in a Company hotel. Driving back and forth from your home keeps you ½ in the Conference and ½ in your home life and responsibility. There is NO WAY you can have an effective ‘thought shift’ or FULL Experience that way.”

    Wow, this is just like how they do in it Amway. In fact, for some Amway-related conferences, I don’t even think you can pay for the conference separately from the hotel, it’s all one price and you’re paying for a room whether you use it or not. Mary Kay may price things separately and allow you to opt out of the hotel if you already live in the area or just want to stay at a cheaper hotel, I don’t know. It’s just plain stupid to make people pay for a hotel if they don’t need it.

    Also, another sign of this being like Amway is mentioning how you don’t get much sleep while at the conference (at least they’re being up front here, Amway organizations still have conferences where sleeping time is minimal but don’t warn you about it). A signature element of MLM and cults. Sleep deprivation is the best way to get people to believe all this meaningless drivel they dish out. Every session goes on for hours with little or no breaks as well. I just don’t get why people would put up with that.

  6. Heather

    I remember being absolutely exhausted after my very first Seminar. The very early mornings, the late nights.

    Recruiter (who was my roomie): First event is at 9. We will want to be in line for the bus by 7 am so we can have breakfast and get to our seats. I’m setting the alarm for 5 am.

    Me (not a morning person): What the what? Are you serious?

    I’ve said before that my last Seminar was the proverbial camel’s back. I skipped out on SO MUCH STUFF, slept in, and left early on Awards Night with several unit members to go eat Tex-Mex and drink margaritas. It was glorious, and I never went back.

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    1. BestDecision

      The line for buses and the heat even at 7am!
      The extra hot restrooms.
      The room temp meals.
      Running to get a seat in Hall A.
      Sitting ladylike in a skirt for hours and days on end.
      Being lured into hot tents to shop at the vendors.
      Falling for “the thing” you need to fix everything and buying it at the vendors.
      Fake pins.
      Fake rings.
      Sashes.
      Tiaras.
      Buttons & ribbons.
      Waiting for rude people to move out of the way for a picture by a Cadillac.
      NSD autographs.
      Blisters.
      Hosiery.
      The disappointment of the new Director suit.
      Finding out they’re launching a new Red Jacket.
      Singing “Mary Kay Enthusiasm”.
      5 hour long Awards Night.

      Oh, I’m sorry. I’m sure I didn’t hog them all. Feel free to keep the list coming!

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  7. Carlene Davenport

    I like my Mary Kay business. I think everyone should go to at least 1 seminar. I’ve been a consultant for five years and I have a good customer base. I work and sale as I please. Don’t get caught up in the hype and prizes. Order what you need need what you order. I was a Red jacket for a minute and I realized that wasn’t going to work for me. At this point in my life I don’t want to baby sit and I realized I can only motivate me. Overall you have to know what you want. It’s not for everybody, but drive your own train.

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    1. TRACY

      It’s not a business. You own nothing.

      That being said, if you make a little pocket change, good for you. Unfortunately, nearly everyone loses money in MLM. Also unfortunate is that people like you participated in the MK scam keeps it going, and gives the company the ability to continue to financially abuse hundreds of thousands of women a year.

    2. BestDecision

      At least you’re not trying to convince people you’re making “executive income”. That’s the real problem most on here have with MK. Just be honest! Don’t lie about earnings, and don’t cheat. Don’t order thousands of inventory and say you “sold” your way to a ring.

      If you like selling and have no desire to chase the attainable for the very few, I support you. Stay honest.

    3. Char

      Do you think Mary Kay would keep making billions if all consultants did what you do? Remember, they are a direct selling company, they don’t have their products on shelves, and they don’t the traditional advertising.

      Are you the kind of consultant they prefer to grow THEIR business? It’s their business; you don’t own a thing, and make zero decisions regarding the company.

    4. Cat Ballou

      How many hours a week are you putting into MK? Like you, I had no experience at recruiting and I did not carry inventory. I did pretty well at sales in my short tenure as a consultant, but when I did the math I realized that I had earned next to nothing. Definitely not the “full time pay in a few hours a week” that I was promised in the recruiting spiel. It seems like it would be easier and more profitable to pick up a part-time job running a cash register at the local grocery store if you want some extra cash.

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