Pink Pyramid Scheme: Harper’s Magazine on Mary Kay Cosmetics

In the August issue of Harper’s Magazine, investigative reporter Virginia Sole-Smith examines Mary Kay Cosmetics in an article entitled The Pink Pyramid Scheme. It is well-written, and in my opinion, it paints a very fair and truthful picture of life as a Mary Kay lady.

In this blog post about the magazine article, Virginia talks about the dream that Mary Kay Inc. is selling to unsuspecting women under the guise of “empowering women.” She talks about my website, Pink Truth, which is aimed at educating women about the evils of Mary Kay and other multi-level marketing companies:

Most of today’s Mary Kay ladies are struggling, though, even as the company flourishes at their expense. Tracy Coenen, a financial-fraud investigator and the founder of the online community Pink Truth, estimates that Mary Kay consultants can hope to clear $25,000 per year, at best. Most who make money earn about minimum wage, while fewer than 300 of the 600,000 Mary Kay ladies in the United States net a six-figure income. The women I interviewed for “The Pink Pyramid Scheme” told me stories about struggling to patch together daycare or to survive high-risk pregnancies while working long hours scouting prospects and hosting parties without any guarantee of a sale. Debts mounted, marriages failed. They couldn’t have it all because Mary Kay’s business model (like that of any multilevel-marketing enterprise) is designed primarily to profit from, rather than enrich, its workforce.

And don’t let Mary Kay Inc. fool you. Chances are that the official response will be something along the lines of “the author spoke to a few disgruntled former consultants who are not representative of our sales force as a whole.”

Not so. I have interacted with thousands of former Mary Kay consultants and sales directors, and the failure rate in Mary Kay is astronomical. Nonetheless, the company has been successful for decades at selling a dream that almost no one in Mary Kay actually achieves. But as long as there are uninformed and unsuspecting victims, there will always be fresh recruits for the pink (or any other color) pyramid.


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  2. If anyone is a fan of the Showtime program Weeds a similar Pink Pyramid Scheme is featured that one of the characters falls prey to (until she finds life by selling drugs with the product but I digress) a pyramid scheme is a pyramid scheme and just because it is a company like Mary Kay does not mean that this should be tolerated. Where is the crackdown?

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