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

Dreams, Drive, and Deception

Written by Raisinberry

From the day you start in Mary Kay, you are exposed to deception on multiple levels, and expected to accept that if you want to “move up.”

There are times when I think I have no more to say about this world of Mary Kay. I feel sorry for all those women in MK who have checked in here at Pink Truth, and have become convicted, and have begun to make changes.

I think in many ways, the free flow of information has made a huge impact on Mary Kay. Yes I know many PT readers are just starting to de-fog and anger is your most prevalent emotion. But I want to take a minute to remind us all that these women who were captured by the deceptive practices of Mary Kay have built a wall of denial around themselves that is sometimes too painful to tear down. Admitting that you have been lied to is painful.

We dropped our guard when we came through the doors of Mary Kay, and we believed in the support system and the possibilities. We trusted. And even when others attempted to talk us out of it, we defended Mary Kay because we believed in the “dream.”

We have an American capitalist work ethic that tells us if we work hard we get the reward. What we didn’t expect was the systematized manipulation that took advantage of our belief and our drive to make dreams come true. We got deception, and it was too horrible to believe. Not Mary Kay. Not the pink bubble. From your first meeting with your MK consultant, until the day you decide its over, you are under one deception after another, that slowly becomes your “truth.”

During your skin care class, your consultant is instructed to tell you she is in “her first year” with Mary Kay. It may be her 2nd class, but she is told that no one wants to work with someone so new, so just “stretch” the truth a bit… because you are in “your first year.”

On the phone, your consultant invites you to her meeting, “to be a face model.” She might say she “was chosen” to bring the model, or she has been asked to “feature” a new look. Her director will take her cue when she comes in the door at meeting and go along with whatever reason your consultant used. You won’t be made aware that this is a recruiting scenario till the end of the meeting and you have witnessed all the “fun.” The reason for your invite was to recruit you, only this deception is carefully glossed over.

During Scoreboard, you will hear about high weeks and watch women get recognition. You will find yourself clapping for women you don’t know, believing what is being told, with no idea what effort or work went into the “high week.”

The hourly wage breakdown the sales director asks the consultant to share, is absolutely deceptive. It’s a class divided by 2 hours divided by 50%. That “magic number” is deceiving, because her total hours could be many more than what she is revealing. It is designed to get the guest to “compare.” She has already “learned” to misstate the numbers by her director’s lead. Slowly, accepting deception as a way of doing business becomes “normal” for the beauty consultant.

During the recruiting interview, the director will share the Applause magazine commission figures. These are also deceptive. They are the gross commission amount that do not include chargebacks, or expenses. They are still large amounts, but compared to the total number of consultants, these commissions represent less than 2% of the TOP 2%, of the entire sales force. You will not be told that, but instead will be led to believe that this is where everyone will “end up.” This too is deception.

Facts and figures will be shared that have no bearing on the truth. Harvard does not teach our business plan. We are not the number brand to consumers, we are the number one brand to consultants! There are not 12,000 “free” cars on the road, There are not “the most female millionaires of any US Corporation,” you will not “be your own boss” because you will be subjected to mass manipulation to be at everything, and chastised and made to feel that you won’t be successful if you don’t.

The pink bubble will be sold to you and you will “buy” it. Welcome to Mary Kay.

Your first encounter as a consultant will be the “orientation” session. You will go through a series of “expectations,” hear about prize programs, asked what level of activity you want to conduct. Whatever you answer, you will be given “points” that will suggest a starting level of inventory. The questions are arbitrary and have no bearing on your success. To distract you from the money, the closing question will sound like, “what level of FREE merchandise would you like to have?” You will be told about “profit level” which is another in this series of deceptions since it has no bearing on when you “deserve” to take a profit. If you object, your director is likely to show you a box of the free merchandise and take some of it away as you go all the way down to a $600 order. You will be baited with the star prize and signing “rings” to start as a star! Your ring will appear expensive, but it will have cost from $4 to $18. This is also deceptive.

You will hold a business debut where your director will teach you product knowledge and interview your guests. She has told you she is there to help you build your business, when in actuality, she is there to help build HER business. She has been told debuts are mini guest nights. She will give commission info to your guests, which will prevent them from ordering from you and booking a class. Recruited on your team, you will be happy and grateful and completely unaware that your show lines have been cut. This is also deceptive.

Doing what was done to you, you ask guests to your meeting. Your director will take your cue, and fawn over your guest for whatever reason she was invited. The cycle will begin again, only now you are somewhat numb to the “con.” After all, “we won’t twist someone’s arm to join, but we will to make them listen.” This all seems good to you as you hope to bring more women into the pink bubble. You are now comfortable with deception.

You find yourself with 3 team members and $3,000 in production. Your Director urges you to find a way to “go on target” for your car. She tells you to tell others, “I only need one more.” You need two more, but no one needs to know that. You close your next 2 recruits who both activate and you are left needing to “top off” the production yourself with an order of products you don’t need.

How exciting for you that you get to share at meeting how it all came together! No one will know that you “finished” it yourself. In four months you will have ordered more than you could have ever imagined, and you will deceive your team into believing that it was won by all of your amazing sales effort. You pick up your car, knowing that a good portion of the production is on your own credit card, and anyone you “helped” activate. This too is deception.

Congratulated and praised, you are a top achiever in your area. Your rewards are many, and it becomes important that you maintain that enthusiasm in the world of Mary Kay, while stress and nervousness rise in your soul. You are told that Mary Kay said that you should look like a lovely swan gracefully floating across the water while your legs frantically, unceasingly paddle below. This is to be expected. This too is deception.

The crush to maintain production is at its peak on the last day of the month. Facing your computer screen, you debate yourself on whether to put through an order with a card you know will decline, or keep calling all dead and departed unit members to scrounge a $225 here and there. You hate that you only “connect” with them at month end… but you can no longer “afford” this unit. And you can not afford to let it go either! At least with director commission you have a chance of digging out. With your stomach aching from the decision you are about to make, the phone rings. It is Kerry Cash, wishing to place an order and wondering how you are doing?

“FANTASTIC” you shout. “I couldn’t be better… we are having a great month!”

And this too is deception.

The average consultant reading this article will think that none of the strategies mentioned involved that much “deception.” We all have to do things to get the job done, they reason.

But in the real world, all of this IS deception. Mary Kay could never recruit if every guest knew all the facts and scenarios ahead of time. That is why it is intentional that “inventory talks” are scheduled after the agreement is in. That is why no director ever tells us at Seminar exactly how that miracle year came together. That is why no sales tickets are collected and verified. That is why so much information is not told to you till you get to the next level.

Under the cloud of “keep a positive mental attitude”, the deceptive practices of Mary Kay are slowly transferred from director to beauty consultant, from team leader to new recruit, and on and on. Barely realizing what is happening, we are subtly trained to “make it happen” and hide the deception even from ourselves.

Mary Kay is a masterful pretense, a “positive” cult, each one dependent on the other to maintain the fraud, and this too, is deception.


  1. NayMKWay

    “Admitting that you have been lied to is painful.”

    Admitting you fell for it can be even more painful. It hurts to admit you made a bad decision which now must be undone. But the sooner you face the unfortunate truth head-on, the sooner things will go from worse to better. It’s tough to climb out of a rut, but the road is a lot smoother once you do.

  2. Pinkiu

    Wow, Wow, WOW! This was the path that I took into deception. And when I came to Pink Truth, I was one of those angry former consultants. This article lays it all out. How do I know? Because this was the tactic used on me in the 90s. That’s right, nearly 30 years ago. I think I still have that cheap pink ring that dazzled me the night I joined MK in a weekly meeting where I was invited to be a “face model.” I don’t remember what the star prize was that enticed me to order at a higher level to get ‘free’ stuff.

    I worked very hard to not use our family money in this sham of a business. It took me a long time to pay off my credit card (at least a year or more) from sales because the product did not fly off of my shelf.

    I ended up with a recruit without realizing what was happening. I followed my SD’s lead to do a practice interview. And…my friend signed up. I knew that she had less of a social circle than me, didn’t wear makeup, etc. THEN the pressure to become a red jacket hit. But I didn’t want that! I wanted to make some money selling makeup.

    I eventually stopped going to meetings and primarily became a personal use IBC selling to existing customers on the side. But even that was stressful. It’s what led me to quit after 7 years. I didn’t like the pressure to call people being all “excited” about some new product that I wasn’t excited about.

    I was SO RELIEVED when I had my GOOB sale, trashed all of my MK paperwork, and donated the leftovers to our church garage sale.


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