mary-kay-cheatingWritten by Raisinberry

Here on Pink Truth, we have daily contact with women from all over who have become victims of this MLM cancer. It entered their lives under the guise of being something good and right and noble. After all, Mary Kay was started by a woman, for the benefit of women, and focuses on “enriching lives,” right?

That is probably what infuriates me the most. If an enemy comes straight at you with a weapon and you allow it into your home, you’re stupid. But if the enemy holds a bouquet, smiles widely, offers never ending friendship and support, and you let it in (yes, we mean Mary Kay)…. and then that enemy robs you blind. How do you feel?

Something about the way Mary Kay packages itself as our noble and just redeemer, while creating the conditions to erode integrity and ethics in the name of “find a way or make a way” is a level of hypocrisy that I simply can’t ignore. I have discovered a common denominator in all things that abuse women. There is a thread that stretches out over churches, relationships, politics, careers, societies, that ties women together in easily exploitable scenarios.

I have discovered that one of our greatest gifts is being turned against us: our trust. This robs us of a deep personal affection. We awaken from our exploitation deeply harmed, almost detesting ourselves for our foolishness, our vulnerability, our naiveté.

Like little children, wishing for the best in people and things, we get goosebumps when the music hits the crescendo, tears when love and appreciation are shown, courage when the obstacle is overcome, compassion when pride gives way to brokenness, belief when the miracle appears, and give grace when chastisement would be expected. We want what we are told to be true, and look for reasons to exonerate those who tell us lies.

We rationalize in the name of positive mental attitude and deny any “bad intention” shown to us as misunderstanding. We trust. We want to trust. We want to believe the best in people, and that vulnerability is exploited by various “societies” who, knowing how easily our trust is acquired, have perfected the staging, music, lights, action and actors to create a believable con for which we fall.

When I found out that much of Mary Kay’s methods were identical to a vast array of other multi-level marketing product  pyramid schemes, the scales as they say, came off my eyes. I considered my recruiter and director and NSD with the words, “Surely she could not have known… Surely she could not be living under this level of denial… Surely she is just deceived… Surely she is brainwashed, not acting…”

There was no way I could believe that they were intentionally deceiving me. No matter what we see, we do not want to believe that our recruiter conned us, our director conned us, our NSD conned us and every player in the upline chain, and at every Seminar and Leadership and Career Conference, conned us. Surely that is not possible? They are all liars? It can not be? The thought overwhelms and leaves us looking for an alternative answer.

And then it hit me. The biggest enemy of our souls is not evil, or hatred, or war. It is denial. Denial is the band-aid on wounded trust that prevents us from facing the truth. We see what we see, and yet we pretend it isn’t so. We defer to authority around us, rather than to measure with our own intellect and experience. Something in us believes that we are not fully reliable, that our perceptions just couldn’t be right, and we seek out others to validate our concerns. We have trusted and we have been wrong in the past, and so we bring our shaky legs to every new situation, deferring to whoever seems more knowledgeable, dynamic, charismatic, powerful.

Failing to acknowledge the truth within you, within all of us, and taking heed of that internal “discerning spirit” has placed more women in harms way than any manufactured bait has done. Look at the West Texas compound recently liberated by authorities. Can any woman say in her heart of hearts that she believes her own daughter should be a sexual partner of her father? Can you fully grasp the levels at which discernment has been silenced to accommodate Denial?

Likewise, from the beginning of the Mary Kay journey, we see staged and choreographed images designed to get us to let down our guard and believe, unquestioningly, the words of the “authorities” around us. We attend our Unit meeting, believing the “high sales week” of the woman who rushes upfront with no sales ticket evidence. We believe the Director’s “Mary Kay math” on her hourly wage.

We are taught bait and switch tactics to get a “face model” to attend, who will be cornered to hear marketing, and since it happened to us the same way and we joined, we say, “No harm no foul.” We read newsletters promoting Seminar Year to date Sales Leaders, knowing full well that these ladies at the top show no such weekly evidence… they are kicking in car production or becoming “Stars” to win a luncheon or head table seating.

We are “trained” to never be negative, and that to do so means “outcast”, so we fill our minds with tapes and talk and affirmations, so that no objective information can get through. We learn to “tolerate” our husbands who “don’t get it” and fail to see the ever widening chasm being created by this “opportunity”. We are shown the queen on her Seminar throne with her husband at the microphone, extolling her praises, and his undying appreciation, and we swoon in hopes of someday earning the same praise from our own.

We are fed inspiring music and themes and speeches from women who would never in a million years tell you how the miracle year was ACTUALLY achieved. And all the Directors keep silent, acting as if it is all true, because they need the next generation to believe.

Denial is so much easier than to face that you have believed a lie, a con and perpetrated the same. You have been dragged into the game and now are as guilty as those you once believed in. You trusted them and trust just could not take another hit. “Surely she could not have known and lied anyway?”

Many Directors make excuses for the atrocities of the Mary Kay marketing plan. They still believe that a new consultant needs $1,800 to $5,400 wholesale to start her business when clearly she does not. They see that actual retail sales in their units are virtually non-existent, yet will present a “full store” anyway. They know that the base unit is made up of all the women who had big dreams, petered out and became personal use… proof that what they sell as an “opportunity” is only that. The balance of the Unit production comes from new people and Career path consultants, so churning out the replacement consultants becomes the critical job, as the Future Directors get sold on the secret sisterhood.

The Area Production list reveals all the lower rung directors making up the production with their own order, to hit the unit-saving $4,500 minimum wholesale. Directors deny the reality that “Premier Club” directors make a pitiful $20,000 a year if they’re lucky, thereby making directorship a minimum wage job, flashed out with cubic zirconia, a slammin’ hairdo, fake nails and an Academy Award performance.


The directors who have refinanced their homes to fold in past debt, who sit at the computer screen at month end sweating bullets and in torment over what they are about to do… again, who can not seem to face that their income is being made on the con job and credit card debt of all the women they are pretending to “enrich” speaks to the tentacle-like purpose that denial has to band-aid another breach of trust.

They look to those farther up the pyramid, and say to themselves, “See, if she can do it I can do it” without ever counting the cost of the hundreds of consultants who have come and gone, who finances are ruined and whose trust was also violated.

The happy consultant who holds her class, makes her $50 to $100 profit periodically and who really is not expecting much more will never know the depth of denial that exists for those who can not face the fact that the women who stand at the podiums, pretending to speak with spiritual enlightenment and business acumen are nothing more than equally deluded victims of denial. The difference is that they are in so deep; the light of day will not be able to reveal how well denial hides self preservation.

To deny what you see every month and every year, in the faces of the women you let drift away, in favor of new meat, in favor of your own paycheck, is to deny the very heart of womanhood. And how utterly tragic, that it is in these predatorymulti-level marketing schemes, that women turn on women, exploiting trust, and deny the cost. In all this they have the audacity to declare they are “enriching women’s lives”. I suppose you can wrap up any despicable behavior in denial, as long as you can promote some good you have done. Didn’t those West Texas housewives get food and shelter? See? It’s not all bad.

When you have lost your ability to evaluate, when you live a lie for the sake of convincing others to join you, when you omit the realities of your circumstance and defer to others to tell you how to act and behave, you are living in a cult-like state of denial because you are too afraid to have your trust exposed and dashed to the ground one more time.

The facts are these: Your director needs you to order as much as possible and has to use every tactic she knows to accomplish it. She is trained in over 20 different strategies/reasons for you to order, and based on her own conscience, will use them. She needs race horses like “on targets” and DIQ’s to cover $4,500 of what she needs so she will never tell you the realities of directorship because that would discourage you. She will wait till you get there when you won’t want to give it up after all you had endured to get there. You will go to DIT week and discover the vast majority of new directors are paralyzed in debt, from “finding a way” and multiple attempts. No one will come home and share this with the unit. It is of course forbidden.

You will be coached what to say and how to say it, and you will defer to everything your senior director and NSD say, having discovered how lost you really are. You have been bred for dependence, and you will fall in place parroting the lines of the Big Girls Club. You will get mind controlled at every event and over time will lose your ability to see clearly. You will work to move up and find yourself going back in a never ending “up ride” on the down escalator. And you will rationalize that you aren’t working hard enough because that is your programming. You will never realize how little help you get, because that would give you sufficient data for blame. No, you are on your own! Just do more.

And when you poop out, spent and exhausted, frustrated at all the pretense, all the lack of consultant success that you preside over, and all the exaggerated claims and you risk one honest moment with another director who risks one honest moment with you, the house of cards comes crumbling down.

Mary Kay’s great fear is that you will talk to one another. That you will break the cardinal rule and share the negative thing you know. That you will step out of denial and into truth. And that is when it is all over. Mary Kay never deserved your trust, but you gave it anyway. You were conned by the theater of it all, and the pretense that is preserved by all the women afraid to face how much like Eve, they wished to believe.


  1. Raisinberry, that was awesome. Falling for a scam is one thing, and can be forgiven. Once the exploitation is known, staying in is another matter entirely. Denial becomes required to ignore one’s conscience. Mary Kay has this in spades.

    Thanks for another word we can add to the long list of words misused in MLMs like Mary Kay: “Enriching”.

  2. Thanks for this post, Raisinberry. It’s a mic drop. And it’s given me some much needed insight into my own behavior and a badly needed prod to have some sympathy and compassion for the people stuck in the abusive, manipulative MLM system. It’s also helped me understand why the huns tend to hop from one MLM to another because, hey, it’s the devil you know, and you’ve been indoctrinated into believing it’s a perfectly cromulent way to make a living. Once you normalize and internalize the toxicity, it’s very difficult to recalibrate your sense of what’s normal.

    Warning: long, rambly, and personal. Consider yourselves warned.

    I sometimes wonder why my run-in with the PITA hun that led me here bugged me so much. I’ve worked in public-facing jobs since 1998 and random encounters with weirdoes are as normal as breath.

    I was raised by an emotionally and verbally abusive mother who was also manipulative and and controlling and gave me hell if I tried to go against her. She questioned and criticized every decision I ever made and undercut my confidence at every opportunity. Failure or even just poor grades were treated like mortal sins. Outside the home, of course, everything was sunshine and buttercups and it seems like everyone who knew her thought she was a living saint. It wasn’t all that different from the veneer of toxic pink positivity that MK has.

    There was abuse of trust in a big way. I learned early on that I can’t go to mom with a problem because she’ll tell me I’m lazy, or doing something to antagonize the bullies, or she’s not going to give me advice because oh no I always know better so she’s not wasting her time, ad infinitum. A very familiar refrain around here: IT’S ALL YOUR FAULT.

    You normalize that toxicity because, well, it’s normal for you. People you’re close to are too close to the situation. Just go along with it. It’s just how she is. People outside the situation can’t see the carefully hidden truth. You’re too afraid to change because fear of the unknown has been instilled into you as well. So you slap on the band-aid of denial and pretend everything’s fine.

    I got stuck taking care of her in her final illness, and as her mental and physical health declined it blasted away the few remaining filters she had and my life was a constant misery. When she died I was 42 and had never lived life for myself before. Even then, denial kept me from understanding how toxic she’d been. The band-aid was still stuck, harder than ever.

    I can remember the exact moment my band-aid was ripped away: it was late December (she died in August) and I was at work idly reading a workplace blog entry by someone who had one of the same issues I did, and part of the reason was abusive, toxic parents.

    The ripping hurt like one of those stupid videos of hairy guys waxing themselves. I’d developed so many toxic coping behaviors in order to live under my mother’s often contradictory rules and I was carrying them over into every aspect of my life, and it was affecting my job performance and my health. The realization sent me into a tailspin and 5 years later I’m still working through a lot of my issues but on the whole I’m a much calmer and happier person than I’ve ever been.

    This article helps me realize that I’m taking my own lingering anger out on the MLM system. I’m not mad that I ended up here because you people are pretty awesome and I’m certainly not going to quit exposing MLM bullshit for what it is. But I needed the hint to separate my own feelings and not be so harsh all the time. And I’m not going to quit starting sentences with conjunctions. Sorry, English majors :p

    • Gosh, Popinki. Thank you for sharing. You’re right–once you’re aware of the abuse and toxicity in one area of your life, you become hyper-aware of it elsewhere. And things that shouldn’t bug you so badly irritate you to no end.

      I left directorship four years ago, and completely ended my business a little over three years ago. I am just now able to start extricating the good that came from those 14 years from the bad. Positive affirmations, which truly help my anxiety and keep me grounded, for years have sent me into spirals of toxic positivity. I am almost over that.

      I can’t imagine extricating the good from the bad when it’s wrapped up in a person you love. I’m glad you’ve found some kind of outlet here with us!

      • Yeah, it’s like the arrow in the FedEx logo: you can’t unsee it once you’ve seen it.

        It hasn’t been easy and it’s taken a lot of work, both therapy and on my own, to work on letting go of the anger and resentment. I’m finally able to start remembering the good times and appreciate the many good and valuable things she taught me without bitterness.

        I tend to think that people are more alike than they are different, and by talking about our shared experiences we help each other. It’s important to know you’re not alone and that your feelings are valid.

        • Popinki, you & I have lived the same life! My mother was just like yours; e.g., emotionally, verbally & mentally abusive, & it still affects me to this day. She’s been gone since I was 39 years old (I’m 75 now) & I didn’t shed a tear or attend her funeral. I had a successful career despite her assertion that I wouldn’t amount to anything, I’ve been married 48 years to a terrific guy & have 2 children & 3 grandchildren who make me proud. I swore I would never treat my children the way I was treated as a child, & they weren’t.

          I do agree that women who were raised the way we were are vulnerable to the hype & lies of omission & commission that define MLMs. However, when I became a MK consultant in early 1992, I swore that I would not go into more debt than I could repay in 6 months, & I stuck to my guns. I sent my inventory back 6 months after I signed up because I saw the handwriting on the wall & decided to get out while the getting was good.

          Thanks for a terrific article, Raisinberry. And thanks, Popinki, for sharing your insight.

    • I mostly lurk, and although I’ve never been in MK, I was in Melaleuca with my (abusive) ex husband for 20 years. I just wanted to say, omg, are you me? This is exactly how I grew up, too. My mom is declining now, but thankfully my sister is the one keeping an eye on her. The trauma bonding/Stockholm syndrome issues are real. Thank you for sharing!

  3. The one “small” bait and switch that opened my eyes to not recruit was the face model lie. Yes, I took their before and after photos and put them in a photo album. Yes, I told them they were a “model.” But it was when I brought one person to a weekly meeting event as my model and I saw in person the bait and switch, that I determined to never bring another person. I was embarrassed. It was the one thing that kept me from wanting to go up the ladder to Red Jacket. I still lingered in MK for years trying to sell, sell, sell without recruiting. I could see the lie, but I didn’t internalize that by supporting this company, I was guilty by association.

  4. Excellent article!

    “There was no way I could believe that they were intentionally deceiving me.”

    Yes. It’s hard for me even now to think this is not true. But, our trust is manipulated by people that we think are our friends. My recruiter and director was someone that I thought was a friend. It was really a con. That hurts that I don’t know if she’s a friend. But I was asked for orders at the end of the month when she was stuck. She would say that she’s trying to hold on to her directorship and we wouldn’t want to have her director as our director. She said her director would pressure us now and that she’s protecting us from her. She would remind me about the prizes that I wanted so that I place an order. She would say “of course, you’ll sell it.” On and on. Almost every month she needed help and I got sick of it. Lots of pressure from her to order. It was under pressure for me to earn prizes or for her not to lose her directorship. But this started because her recruiter recruited me. And I got sucked in. It looked like a fun way to make extra money.! In reality lots of pushing for orders. How could she deceive me? In thought she was my friend.

  5. “You must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.” — Richard Feynman

    People are experts at fooling themselves into seeing what they want to see, and MLM take full advantage of it.

  6. This was so spot on!! Well done. I’ve lived every moment of that experience. Yes, we were brainwashed for sure. Why else would we constantly fall prey to purchasing those dang 60% off bundles that would never sell! The constant unit turn over was dizzying. What clinched it for me was when I lost my unit. My director and NSD insisted on coaching we on how to tell my unit the news. They knew how outspoken I was and were petrified that I’d have contagious negativity.

  7. “There was no way I could believe that they were intentionally deceiving me.”

    “Denial is the band-aid on wounded trust that prevents us from facing the truth.”

    This explains why my loved one still calls herself a MKLifer, even though she lost her unit years ago and has been paying off debt forever.

    It was her NSD that groomed her. Admitting the charade and the NSD’s complicity in it, would shatter the trust and friendship. It’s easier to deny reality than to admit the people you trusted lied to you.

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