What an Outsider Thinks of Mary Kay

Written by An Anonymous Reader

I’m generally a lurker, but I’ve posted to the site occasionally since I joined. I’ve never been in Mary Kay or any MLM, but I found Pink Truth when looking up “MLM cult” after my husband and I were heavily encouraged to join a juice MLM. Since then I’ve gotten enough information from you ladies to know to NEVER join an MLM, and what to say to people who approach me about it! So thank you for your wisdom.

I wanted to offer my “outsider’s perspective” on Mary Kay and what normal people think of Mary Kay especially for the lurkers who think all of you are “losers.”

I have a friend who is a Mary Kay consultant. She is one of the sweetest, nicest women I’ve ever known, and this is the second time she’s joined MK. I immediately told her about Pink Truth the moment I heard she joined, but she informed me she’s not weird and she doesn’t like the meetings, so that should keep her safe. I’m frankly not sure how much she read, and she could be reading this right now.

She has given me free MK makeup (their foundation looks great on me), and she offers it to me regularly. The last time she did it, I insisted on at least paying wholesale price because I knew she was losing money. She’s a single lady making less than $30,000 annually (I think), and I have no idea how much inventory she has purchased. I have no idea why she purchased inventory, but I know she has it because I have seen BAGS of the stuff in her apartment.

Since my friend is so genuine, I asked her basic questions about Mary Kay. I asked why the eye shadow colors were so small, and she said it has more pigment… just like the scripted stuff you ladies say here! I was really surprised because this friend is so genuine, and even when she said it she sounded genuine, so I know she believes what she’s saying.

She told me she does have regular customers the second time around (unlike the first time), but I didn’t pry anymore. I told her MK is a cult and she did acknowledge cult-like behavior, but I think she still believes in the dream. The first time she joined, she spent hours in a mall bathroom giving women free samples of Satin Hands. At the time I thought that was a bold move because I knew I couldn’t do it, but after she told she had no sales, I realized it was just plain strange. Who wants to be accosted in the mall bathroom of all places?

I don’t know what else to tell my friend about how awful the MK opportunity is, so I keep my mouth shut. Some people need to learn their own lessons in life.

Now I want to tell you about my personal experience with MK. The first time I heard of Mary Kay outside of it being a regular make-up company (I didn’t know the difference between MK and Estee Lauder) was at a Target. I was shocked to hear from you all that Target is the regular store for things like warm chatter. I was a young black woman in my 20s, and as I was shopping I saw an impeccably dressed young black woman in her 20s. When I passed her in the aisle she smiled at me so I smiled back and did the “stranger acknowledgment nod.”

We bumped into each other on the next aisle and she said, “You have such a beautiful smile!” I thanked her – I get a lot of compliments on my smile so this was nothing new – and then she tells me she’s an MK consultant. She said they only bring on sharp women and that the company has really changed over the years. I wondered why she was telling me the company changed when I didn’t know anything about the company anyway.

I took her card, gave her mine, and went on my way. I felt flattered that someone considered me “sharp.” For the next couple of MONTHS, this woman called me at my work number like clockwork 2 times a week. After hearing about the opportunity the very first time, I told her I was not interested in it. I barely wear make-up and had no desire to hawk it to women. I told her that and she said it’s not about make-up, it’s about building relationships. I told her I had a demanding job and she said busy women are what keeps the company in business. At some point I realized no matter what I said, she had a comeback. She told me she’d call me back and I noted her number. Every time she called, I never picked up. She would always leave the sweetest messages, but eventually I left that job and never had to deal with her again.

After that experience, it seemed like Mary Kay was everywhere. I used to attend a mega church where on any given Sunday you don’t know exactly who you might sit next to. I was leaving the church one day with my husband and a woman I don’t even know walked up to me and handed me a lipstick in the exact color I like. I took it, thanked her, and kept on going. She never gave her name or a business card or anything. Just silently handed me a lipstick. Isn’t that strange?

Another time, a friend of mine invited me to a skin care class at her house. I had never actually done one, so I was actually looking forward to a girlfriend party. I remember all the women who were there seemed annoyed, and the consultant had driven all the way to Atlanta FROM NORTH CAROLINA to conduct the class. I asked the hostess why she drove so far, and she shrugged and said she did the class as a favor. Hardly anyone showed up, and everyone in attendance immediately went on the defensive when the consultant showed up. I was completely confused because I thought we were supposed to have fun. At the end of the class, almost every woman said, “I’m only buying one thing.” I believe I purchased more than anyone at the class and I only spent $54. I kept wondering if the consultant even made enough to cover gas to get home.

I have a co-worker in Dallas, and after I started reading this site, I asked her if she was ever approached by MK people since she lived in the MK headquarters. She simply laughed at me and said, “Dallas businesswomen don’t wear Mary Kay. We go to Sephora. Mary Kay is not considered a quality brand.”

After hearing that, I’m embarrassed to even take out my MK compact (free from my friend!) to do a touch-up. I don’t want to be associated with a brand seen as “cheap” or inferior to the brand that my peer group uses… it’s not that I want to keep up with the Joneses, but quite honestly my co-worker’s make-up is absolutely flawless, and her skin is dewy and youthful. It *does* look like a much higher quality than mine.

The last comment I want to make about MK is the marketing side of it. I am a marketing professional and I think the MK team has a huge challenge on their hands. But some of their practices are completely outrageous. Paying for training that’s full of cliches and platitudes? NEVER. Who would even dare?

I don’t understand how any businesswoman can ever get caught up in Mary Kay, knowing how a normal business operates. I don’t pay for any training with my company. We have regular training sessions and national meetings and we fly everyone in – the company pays for parking, flights, hotels, meals, absolutely EVERYTHING. Why on earth is a training conference considered an income generating tool for MK? Couldn’t they give the consultants ANYTHING at all? And how come consultants never ask for anything?

I would give up all the jewelry and prizes and stage recognition (which I also don’t understand) for a free conference. I still wonder if the Seminar agenda has a single class that talks about real issues like the effects of talc or the purpose of certain ingredients or even application on different types of eyelids, lip types or skin colors. Are they any REAL training courses like that or are they all just motivational speeches? How utterly boring.

Anyway, that’s my Mary Kay experience. It was a long message, but it’s been brewing for a very long time and I had to get it out of my system. Forgive me if I used the wrong terms on anything – I’m not a pro at it like some of you.


  1. Thank you OP. It is so refreshing to hear from a professional who can see right through the MLM BS! I wanted to respond to one thing you mentioned…

    “Why on earth is a training conference considered an income generating tool for MK? Couldn’t they give the consultants ANYTHING at all? And how come consultants never ask for anything?”

    This goes to the heart of MLMs like Mary Kay. The consultants pay for EVERYTHING in Mary Kay. With the exception of a tiny fraction of orders coming directly from customers on the web site, Mary Kay does not have any other revenue source outside of the consultants.

    In real companies, outside customers provide the cash flow for the company, and from that cash flow the company pays their bills, including facility/rent, utilities, product costs, advertising, payroll, benefits, training, conferences, employee benefits etc.

    In Mary Kay, the consultants pay for all of these things. Mary Kay does not have another revenue source to pay for anything.

    The Mary Kay consultant is the target customer of Mary Kay Corp. Nearly all of Mary Kay corporate cash flow comes direcrly from the pockets of the sales force.

  2. Thank you. The consultants have been conditioned to believe that a few ribbons and a strut across a stage (that they pay for) is generous.

    • So true. And that breadcrumbing spills across all facets of your life if you aren’t aware what is happening.

    • The true customer is the consultant which is the case in many MLMs. This is why the company has no interest in providing technical training-they know the sales people are making the major of purchases vs the “customer”



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