Mary Kay: an abusive business model?

Like most people on WordPress I’m sure, I’ve become an addicted reader of Mary Kay Sucks (now moved to, and originally this post was a series of musings on multi-level-marketing in general and MK in particular. However, it morphed half way though into one single Great Big unaMusing on the subject which, to be honest, has spooked me. I’d welcome any thoughts from any ex MKers, or anyone else for that matter.

You see, it seems to me that the dynamic of Mary Kay is very similar to the dynamic of abusive relationships.

I’m reminded of the character in Terry Pratchett’s book Guards! Guards! who ends up enslaved to a mind-reading dragon. All he can do is mouth “help me” in silent desperation to the head of the Assassin’s Guild. And what sort of help can an assassin provide? Quite.

Taken as a whole, posts and comments and all, it would appear that the entire organisation is made up of just such people; women who know that they are destroying their own lives and who are actively destroying the lives of others, but who are caught so deep they dare not think for themselves and cannot escape.

This is so like an abusive relationship that there is a doctorate in sociology or psychology right there, waiting to be done.

  • Testimony from women who were in too deep to leave? – Check
  • The realisation that their thought processes were not their own? – Check
  • The experience of being lied to?
  • The conclusion that they had been brainwashed?
  • A history of being alternately praised and damaged and praised again? Check, check, check.

In an abusive relationship, the abuser isolates the abused person from friends and family members and strips away the abused person’s sense of self and their sense of self-preservation. Once the abused person is stuck in the situation, then the abuser creates and fosters guilt and duty and, more than anything else, creates and feeds a fear of leaving. Meanwhile somewhere in the back of the abused person’s brain there is one part which whispers “help me”, but it has to whisper it silently in case the other part of the brain hears.

I am not for a moment suggesting that the people currently still involved in MK realise that this is the dynamic that they are presenting to the world, and everything I have said here is my opinion only. However, the more I consider my own experience of relationships and of MLM, and compare it with what I read on MKS and on the internet, the more the thing chimes in my head.

Really nasty, isn’t it?

I’ve got other thoughts on MK, but this was the Great Big Hairy one.

13 responses to “Mary Kay: an abusive business model?

  1. I’ve been addicted to watching the MK implosion and feel very sorry for the women. Iagree it’s fascinating.

  2. Someone posted a comment on my blog that Mary Kay Sucks has the compelling fascination of watching a train wreck. I agree.

    I’m another recent Mary Kay Sucks addict. That blog has become a sort of therapeutic outlet for some MK consultants and directors who have already quit, or who are beginning to question the things the MK system has been preaching and deciding what to do now that the light is dawning.

    The MK system is an MLM scam, and in order to lure in recruits and keep them chipping away at an impenetrable rockface, the company runs a system of serious emotional and mental manipulation that amounts to abuse – as you have detailed.

    I don’t think those pro-MK harpies who screech about how awful that MKS blog is, have a clue how much the world has just shifted under their feet.

  3. I’ve read some of what you’ve written about MK Suz with respect for your analyses. It is fascinating watching the memes spread among the MKS users, for example more and more of them now realise that the MK consultants are the true customers of the company.

    To be honest, I feel rather sorry for the pro-MK harpies, they are victims who have not yet accepted the fact that they are victims. But of course you are right, they are also harpies. It is frightening to see people who have disengaged their critical faculties to that extent. I think this is why I find the relationship so like domestic abuse, the fact that so many of these women know that they are in a bad situation, but are not yet ‘ready’ to leave.

    Thanks for reading and thanks for commenting.

    *Waves to Z*


  4. Pingback: Mary Kay II « Aphra Behn - danger of eclectic shock

  5. I also am addicted to MKS. Pulled me in off my dashboard, it did. Not a mary kay ex person. But I have been an Amway/Quixtar distributor for around 10 years. Don’t make any money but get great soap.

    The discussion of cult and brainwashing practised by these organizations is scary and true. true. true

  6. I am a Mary Kay consultant!! I have been for some time now and I have a ton of REAL friends that are way up there in Mary Kay – even driving free cars!! I just love how you can sit back and talk about a company that you know NOTHING about!! You go on and on and on and on about things you know nothing about!! So I will explaine this in plain terms that you may never understand!! We are absolutly NOT a cult but I will however say that there are some bad consultants and directors. Not very many but it happens – look around you there are some bad people everywhere. Just as race it isnt fair to put anyone in a catagory all together. This buisness does not work for anyone that doesnt work!! That doesnt make room to grow!! That doesnt have faith!! You can sit there and be you and I will sit here and be me!! I will tell you that Mary Kay has changed the lives of my whole family! Mary Kay didnt do it but because I have made the choice to find something more – to change and work on me. You may not want to make you better – some people dont like change and that is okay!! That works for you but not for me. I do suggest that if you are going to tell a story you should at least have all of the facts. You do not know what you are talking about! You can sign a contract and even buy inventory but if you do nothing – you know nothing and……………….you are the only one you can blame for doing NOTHING!!!

  7. Hi Stacee, and thank you for commenting

    First off, I am glad that Mary Kay is working for you. There are different personality types, (eg the different Myers Briggs personality types), and some are more suited to sales than others, and some are more suited to MLM than others, so I am glad for you that you have found something which works for you. But if it does not work for other people, that does not make them bad people, it just means that they are better suited to other ways of earning a living. Please remember that, and be kind to and about those people who end up trapped in the wrong place.

    I did not say Mary Kay was a cult.

    I am glad that you know that there are bad consultants and directors.

    Yes, there are bad people “everywhere”. But fewer “bad people” end up as teachers, for example, because we check out the personalities and backgrounds of people who work with children. Mary Kay does not do these sorts of checks, so there will be a higher proportion of “bad people” in Mary Kay.

    You say that the business does not work for anyone who does not work. But are you 100% sure it is laziness? Isn’t it also personality? You see, lots of people are working very hard at it but not succeeding despite their hard work, so how hard people work is not the only thing that makes a consultant successful, your personality and abilities are very important too. But it is very hard to change who you are, and in a free society you should not have to. Should be able to be yourself, in a free society? Isn’t that the definition of what a free society is? Mary Kay consultants and directors recruit everyone they can, so Mary Kay ends up with a lot of people who are much better suited to other kinds of work.

    I am glad that you have found a business that has changed your life and that of your whole family. That’s great, if the change is for the better.

    I am offended when you say to me “you may not want to make you better – some people don’t like change”. What do you know about me and my life? What do you know about what I have done in my life? What do you knwo about the changes I have made in my life and to myself? Stacee, if you answer that question honestly, you have to admit that you know nothing at all, except that I was once in a long-term relationship, that I have run a successful business, and that I have friends who have been involved in MLM. That information is in the two things I have written about Mary Kay. But you don’t know anything else about me, and it is rude of you to assume that I don’t “want to make me better”. If I thought you will ever read this, I would ask you to apologise to me for that rudeness.

    You say that if I am going to tell a story, I should at least have all the facts. Fair point, if I was telling a story and if anyone other than god can ever have “all” the facts. What I was doing was taking the facts that I had and think about them. So what you read was not a story, it was a theory. It would be nice if you had discussed what I wrote, and the thoughts I put up there, but you didn’t. As you would probably say “That’s ok!!”

    Wishing you good luck with your business, and with your future.

    Aphra Behn

  8. Good morning all,

    All of your opinions on whether MK is a good or bad thing is great for the thought-provoking information that is being provided. But, I think you are all missing a very important point.

    That is, MK, Inc. is doing nothing illegal. If they were they would not be in business. Some of the consultants and directors may do things that are unethical. But, do not be so egotistical to think these websites are going to bring down this company without many people with the same verifiable complaints.

    If any of you have legitimate complaints, why not get together and file a class-action suit? Just curious.


  9. Thank you for commenting, Rita. I would also say “thank you for reading” but I don’t think you have read the post or the comments that follow it.

    You ask “If any of you have legitimate complaints, why not get together and file a class-action suit?”

    If you’d read my piece, you would know that I have never worked for Mary Kay and cannot get together with anyone to file a class action suit. My post says: “…. the more I consider my own experience of … MLM, and compare it with what I read on MKS and on the internet…” The key word there is “compare”, Rita, which tells you that I don’t have direct knowledge of MK.

    However, I will pay you the courtesy of reading what you’ve said, and replying to it.

    You say that MK Inc is doing nothing illegal. I am not competent to judge whether or not they are, or to comment on your statement that they are not.

    You say that if they were doing things which are illegal, they would not be in business.

    That statement shows a certain naivete, if I may say so. Just being in business is not proof of innocence. Think how long it took for the frauds at Enron and Drexel Burnham Lambert to come to light. Yes, Skilling is now in jail. Yes, Milken and Boesky served jail terms. But it took a long time to get them there. As I said, I am in no position to judge MK Inc’s actions. All I am saying is that your statement is naive and illogical and does not prove MK Inc’s innocence.

    I am glad that you admit that some of the consultants and directors may do things which are unethical. They and MK Inc are hardly alone in that, by the way.

    >> But, do not be so egotistical to think these websites are going to bring down this company

    I have no ego on the line here. “These websites” are not my websites. You are addressing the wrong audience. I suggest you go over to Pink Truth. Here is a post on that site might be a good place to start a debate about whether or not illegal things are being done in the name of Mary Kay.

    You ask why I don’t get together and file a class-action suit? Again, you are asking the wrong person darlin’. Ask the former MKers, not me.

    Since you are “just curious”, let me be “just curious” in return, and ask

    1) what is or has been your involvement and interest in MK, Rita?

    2) what is your opinion on my contention that the MK model manipulates women’s emotions in the same way that men in abusive relationships manipulate women’s emotions?

    3) since you admit that some consultants and directors act unethically, what do you think would be an ethical and appropriate way for MK itself and for people outside MK to stop this unethical behaviour?

    4) did you actually read my piece, or just google and comment at random?

    Kind regards anyway

    Aphra Behn

  10. One Angry Sista

    Stacee, there is no such thing as a “free car” in Mary Kay. Get your facts straight. But then again, if you’re a Kaybot , you’ve been trained to say things like that. Sorry you’ve been played for a fool.

  11. Direct Seller

    Negative sensationalism; that’s what this is… MK is a PROVEN, BRANDED and SUCCESSFUL business model, the same as any other business you regular spend your money with. At the gas pump business, and the grocery store business, the retail mall business, the food and drink business, the entertainment business, the salon/spa/beauty business… wait. Oh, yeah, huh, those brands too. Wow, what a revelation! Hey, don’t waste cyber space with this garbage please, and get a more positive LIFE!

  12. The business model is vastly different from the other businesses I spend money with. Tescos doesn’t have a multi-level marketing model, it’s a centrally controlled grocery and consumer-goods supermarket. The independent green-grocer where I buy my fruit and veg goes to the wholesale market, buys stuff and sells retail. No multi-level marketing there. I’m not sure how or where Sainsburys and Morrisons buy their fuel – probably from an oil company like BP or Esso – but they sure as hell don’t operate their petrol stations as Multi Level Marketing outlets. I don’t go to retail malls voluntarily, but I have never once found a Multi-Level Marketing outlet in any of them. Amazon buys from publishers and sells to people – no Multi-level Marketing there. My hairdresser just rents a salon and cuts hair. It is just conceivably possible that some of the toiletries she sells are MLM products – I’ll ask her tomorrow when I have my hair cut.

    Don’t confuse brands with business models, dear.

    Oh, and if you check out my blog you’ll find that only two of the 421 posts here are about Mary Kay, though I do agree with you I should spend more time on analogue activities like painting my stairs and reading books.

    I wish you no harm “Direct Seller” and in fact hope that one day you’ll learn the difference between a brand and a business model.


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s