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

A Sales Director’s Moral Compass

Written by SuzyQ

I want to talk to you about being a Mary Kay sales director. We are not all monsters. There are some who are monsters… and those women should not be allowed to work with people anywhere. But for the most part, something happens to a normally decent, smart and loving human being when she becomes a director with Mary Kay Cosmetics.

There is so much stress in achieving the position of director in addition to learning new things about how the company really works and pays. There are many things that are not discussed.

For example, I don’t believe we are ever told directly to reinstate inactive consultants. But enough information about this common practice comes through so we can figure it out, under the guise of “doing whatever it takes.” And the hope of a better month next month. There is a gradual moral erosion, the deeper we are in the pink fog, the less accurate our moral compass becomes.

In this process of being a Mary Kay sales director, we lose sight of people as people and they become numbers. We are constantly extolled to do more, be more, work harder, work smarter. We begin to equate Mary Kay with God.

We are continually reminded that our Mary Kay business is our “mission field” and the symbols of THE SUIT and the sizzle are used as enticements to draw others to us. We are told we have the power to change women’s lives. We are told we are making a difference in women’s lives. We are commonly held in some sort of awe by consultants who want to be like us and therefore have all we seem to have. We begin to believe our own press and armed with God, there is no way we can lose.

“I” stories are tweaked to deliver more of a punch. Exaggerations become standard fare at events and meetings and interviews. Just a little extra here and a little extra there. Name it and claim it, goal posters, affirmations, belief, and fake it till you make it become our mantras.

We pray about production, about using the right words with new recruits, before the interview pitch, before individual consultations, before approaching someone in a store for warm chattering. We ask God to place sharp women in our paths, for women with resources, for women who will be like us.

The friends we had prior to Mary Kay fade into the background. They can’t help our businesses and we are driven meet the next goal. We surround ourselves with positive Mary Kay women.

Our entire vocabulary changes. People outside the “Pink Bubble” don’t understand our work and don’t value our societal impact. We quit engaging in non-income producing behavior and stop watching television except for evangelical programs. Our former hobbies and activities that gave us pleasure are put on hold. We tell ourselves that when we become national sales directors, we will have all the time in the world to read, to cook, to needlepoint, to nap. We are making short term sacrifices for long term gains.

We are cut off from the world as those outside the pink bubble see it. The world is negative, and negative information is to be avoided at all costs.

We cannot discuss our fear about our ability to be as successful as the woman ahead of us in the director line-up. As we cut off negativity, we also cut out reason, logic, analysis and our families. We are told Mary Kay did not like her directors to have JOBS so we quit our full time employment. We are told that so long as we have bridges to our past, we will never work hard enough to insure our futures.

Our only source of information is our sisters in pink. Only when it is late, and we are drinking in a hotel room do we consider asking a roommate if she is having trouble making this whole thing work, too. We justify any of our expenses as tax write-offs. We look for answers everywhere in the bubble. If anyone has anything to read, to promote, to listen to, to “help,” we include that as a necessary expenditure for our personal growth.

The “truth” as we know it comes from the company and the directors who are more successful. We need bigger units. We need more people. New blood. No more “dead reds.” Better meetings. More models. Different promotions, different prizes.

We are told we are the ones in our own way. We are told to never give up. Women who do “step down” are losers and didn’t work their businesses. We are told that the speed of the leader is the speed of the gang and that you can’t follow a parked car. We are told that God placed this dream in our hearts, and to not follow it means certain damnation.

We hear stories of other women who had more issues than we do who made it happen. We then feel guilty. We are told to never prejudge anyone, and are reminded of the 3 foot rule. We are told we are the highest paid business women in the US. We are told we can have it all. We are reminded that we are the only Bible some people may ever read. The only Mary Kay people may ever meet.

Inventory talks are tweaked to perfection. We are reminded that Mary Kay never intended for anyone to be a personal use consultant. We rarely inform the new consultant that an $1,800 wholesale order is really more like $2,200 out of pocket, but we do include all of the bonuses they will earn.

We admire and are slightly in awe (and more than a little jealous) of those who can routinely pull $3,600 inventories and up. If we question (albeit gently) that we heard they don’t “work” with consultants with less than that, we are told to worry about our businesses, not theirs. They are in Cadillacs and we are not.

When we express dismay at recruiting tactics, we are told to turn the other cheek. To ask ourselves, what would Mary Kay do? We are reminded of karma as a sort of comfort measure. We are told that one recruit will not make or break our unit.

So we persist, year after year, event after event, I story after I story. Mary Kay sales directors continue the process, working the numbers, trying to stay on the razor thin wire as we walk across the abyss of failure, economic ruin, relationship issues and time constraints doing as we were taught.

We cheat, lie, exaggerate, fluff, hide behind God and co-god Mary Kay Ash, tweak, rewrite, revamp, reinvent, redo, replay and eventually, we find ourselves filled with unbelievable despair and profound depression as we finally come to terms with the fact that it can’t work if we do it ethically, with integrity and with honesty. We have an in-depth soul searching and we leave Mary Kay. Some with grace, others with rage. All with profound self-loathing and depression.

Or…we continue the illusion. There is no going back after a certain point in this journey. To go back, to permit truth or reality, is to acknowledge the damage to the very core of our being. The erosion of our moral compass. Our lack of integrity and candor. We look back at the lives we changed in the worst possible of ways. The abusive manner in which we used God for our personal gain. The sometimes irrevocable damage we caused to the relationships we held dear. The financial costs to us and those who trusted our business acumen.

To look deeply within causes too much pain. The pink balm soothes a troubled soul. Pushes back the questions, stops the bleeding, and closes the wound. Those who persist in questioning are shunned, avoided, and are told they “don’t get it.” Prayer and Power Groups are formed to keep the illusion alive and well and intact. Events are planned at careful intervals to maintain an appropriate level of pink in one’s blood.

So are we monsters? No. The process of director indoctrination is subtle and seductive. The process of reclaiming ourselves is incredibly painful. We are haunted by the things we said and did in pursuit of our “God-given dreams.” We did not reinvent this wheel. We taught you as we were taught. All of us were doing the best we could with the information we had available to us at the time.

To the posters and many of the lurkers, we here can’t begin to know how to undo the damage that was done to us personally, let alone the damage we did to you. Are we victims? Hardly. We knew, but we would not see. Or we saw, but we did not act. The good news is that we have this opportunity to discuss, to share, to process and to begin the moving on and away from Mary Kay. With integrity and with heads held high.


  1. PurpleH

    Had coffee today with another escapee and we talked a lot about this. Even when you see people doing things that you know are shady and tell yourself you’d never do, it’s a slippery slope. You learn ways to justify behaviour that otherwise you’d find deplorable. “Well, I signed up someone else’s customer because she hadn’t offered the opportunity. She was being selfish.” “I know the product is changing next quarter but I got the new girl to buy inventory. She’ll be motivated to sell it and then introduce her customers to the new product. How exciting!”
    And people who genuinely want to do business in an ethical way and fail become convinced it is their fault. It’s a lose-lose proposition.

    1. BestDecision

      “Escapee”! Exactly what I felt the first weekends I wasn’t holding appointments or hosting guest events. My life is forever better now that I don’t have that junk bogging me down!

  2. Heather

    When you have a “sister” director question your integrity (especially when you are having one of these moral dilemmas), that is when you know that you are in the right.

    Projection much?

  3. NayMKWay

    “…we find ourselves filled with unbelievable despair and profound depression as we finally come to terms with the fact that it can’t work if we do it ethically, with integrity and with honesty.”

    It can’t work if you do it ethically. This is the problem with the MLM model itself. While Pink Truth, with a few exceptions, focuses on Mary Kay, Tracy’s articles in her business site sequenceinc ( https://www.sequenceinc.com/fraudfiles/category/pyramid-schemes-mlm/ ) make it clear that the MLM model is a fraud in and of itself. If it were not, no one would sign up. Imagine this interview conversation:

    Prospect: “How much money should I expect to make?”

    Interviewer: “None at all, really. More than likely you will lose money; ninety-nine percent of people do. All you’re liable to get out of the experience is lost time, frustration, and maybe some overpriced products gathering dust in your garage. Hey, where are you going?”


    They chain-recruit because they thrive on fresh wallets and front-loading,
    recruits find the market is oversaturated with sellers,
    and the market is oversaturated is because there are too many recruits.

    It’s the Circle Of Fail.

    Oh, a few at or near the top will do well, and they will flaunt their money and belongings to keep baiting new recruits. They will perpetuate the half-truth that everyone has the same chance to make it as they, neglecting the hidden truth that “same chance” means “near-zero.”

  4. raisinberry

    Such a great article. And what is so tragic is, when we are in it, we can not believe that all those sharp women who mentored us, could possibly be lying. No! Not a chance! Come On!

    Isn’t it nearly impossible to think that every teaching class, every speaker, every NSD from the stage, even Laura VP to the 20/20 Camera, looks ya dead in the eye and LIES.
    The mind swoons.

    And here’s how you know, they know. They do not record RETAIL SALES. They have ZERO IDEA how much product consultants are loaded down with, They DO NOT use advertising to enhance the job of the consultant. They do NOT CARE if the consultant builds a legitimate cosmetics business. They do NOT teach money management (60/40 is a joke) and their weekly summary sheets do NOT accurately portray actual profit and loss. Is there anywhere on your summary to deduct meeting room costs, gas, packaging, product loss, sales loss, freebies to guests/models, etc?

    That’s all you need to know. Directors are not trained to help you grow a business. THEIR BUSINESS hasn’t grown! The illusion of growth is by RECRUITING. They do not know how to build a business, so they repeat exactly what was said to them. And you, Miss DIQ will do exactly the same. Pretty tight scam.

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