Kerri’s Story: A Chronicle of Mary Kay Manipulation, Threats, Abuse & Bankruptcy

Kerri Cadillac 2

My name is Kerri.

I am from Massachusetts.

I was a pink Cadillac driving, Triple Court, Senior Sales Director

I was in Mary Kay for two and half years.

Now in bankruptcy, my Mary Kay “Opportunity” cost my family over $40,000 in credit card debt.

Part One: How I was recruited into Mary Kay through a raffle

I was a Mary Kay user for over 18 years when I signed the agreement. I signed up for the sole purpose of getting my products at 50% off.

I ran into a Mary Kay consultant and acquaintance at a school fair and she took it upon herself to put my name into her raffle. She called me a few weeks later to tell me, I “WON” a free facial and make over. I booked it with her because I was in need of a new consultant, since my current consultant decided to “retire” from Mary Kay just after only one year.

I went for my free facial at a local hotel. What I didn’t know was it was being held before their weekly Monday night success meeting.

After my facial, my consultant asked me to stay as her guest for the meeting. She told me  if I stayed, she would get credit towards going ‘on target’ for her free car. Of course, I couldn’t say no and I stayed.

Before the meeting started, I was welcomed with smiles, hugs and compliments from all of the Mary Kay consultants in the room.

I have to admit, as a person who suffered with really low self-esteem, it felt good to hear all those kind words said by so many women.

I stayed for most of the meeting. The meeting weirded me out a little bit. Why you ask? Because the women were just over-the-top happy.

They were all so nice, positive, welcoming and just really supportive of each other!  Not to mention most of them were dressed alike, wearing the same suits, jackets, a ton of makeup and a ton of bling!

I watched as women were recognized with prizes and praise. I watched the women give standing ovations for those being recognized. I watched as women stood for selling anywhere from $300-$1000 in a week.  But at the same time that I was feeling weirded out, the positive group of women as a whole was appealing and it was something I had never experienced.

At the time, in my 32 years of experience in life, I struggled with finding such women and I even developed mistrust for women in general. There was a part of me that wanted to be part of a group of women that really supported each other.

The meeting was running longer than it was supposed to and I really need to get back home to my husband and son who were both home sick with pneumonia.

As I got up to leave, the Director who was running the meeting stop mid-sentence, handed the microphone over to another director to finish up the meeting and followed me out the door, grabbing the new consultant on her way.

Outside the door, I was then asked for five minutes of my time (which turned out to be 20 minutes) to share the facts about a Mary Kay business. The Director told me the consultant who invited me was in a “challenge” to share the facts with “sharp woman” like myself and by me giving them 5 minutes, it would really help her out in her “challenge.”  I said I would listen but I’m not interested due to the fact that I was not the sales type.

The Director proceeded to share the Mary Kay facts, continuing to overcome all my objections and then shared the personal use program with me. She shared that I could become a consultant and get my products at just 50% off and never hold a skin care class or sell the product. That, to me, was a no-brainer.

I handed my credit card over for the starter kit and my 50% discount. What I didn’t realize was that this is just the beginning of a two and half year nightmare!

Part Two: The Manipulation

When I joined Mary Kay as a personal use consultant, I was suffering from very low self-esteem and struggled with this since I was a child. I had a wonderful husband and had been married for 12 years and in those 12 years dealt with having a husband who was ill. He was diagnosed with lupus a month after we were married.

We have a seven-year-old son who is a miracle child. We tried for three years to have him and finally conceived using IVF.

Six months after my son was born, I had to have a full hysterectomy. We were truly blessed with our son.

I was also struggling at the time with the feeling like I didn’t belong, even when it came to my family. I knew my husband and son loved me dearly, but as my son grew older, he had a lot of interests that matched his father’s and they spent a lot of time together.

They enjoyed hunting, fishing and dirt biking, all which I didn’t enjoy. I was so desperate I even bought a dirt bike so that I could be included. My husband would encourage me to find a hobby that I would enjoy but all I knew and felt that I was good at, was being a wife and a mom who ran the daily functions of our home.

At that time, my husband was also about a year and a half into a new career. He worked in the manufacturing industry and decided to become a schoolteacher.

Financially, things were rough taking a pretty significant pay cut for him to become a teacher and now having to pay for him to go to college.

We had a minimal amount of credit card debt at the time, but we never seemed to have any extra to do the fun things that we enjoyed.

I was self-employed at the time. I made good money and it paid the bills. However, with what I did, I couldn’t do anymore to make extra money.

My son and husband’s hobbies and racing dirt bikes were very expensive and I really wanted to be able to let them continue with that. But the funds were not there. All of this made me a prime target in the Mary Kay world.

These were the types of things the Director found out about me with questioning and used these “hot buttons.”

She knew what made me tick, things I was looking to change and used all those things as reasons to do more in Mary Kay. She ensured me that Mary Kay could fill these “holes” and used those to lure me further into Mary Kay.

After I joined Mary Kay, I later realized that the Sales Director and the National Sales Director were brilliant at selling the vision and the dream of a life of abundance, where I could make my own schedule, spend time with my family and put my life in the right priorities of God first, family second, and career third.

I was told that:

  • “God brought you to me, you are the one who can make the difference for your family…”
  • “You have been chosen by god to change your situation and the situation of other woman through Mary Kay…”
  • “You are going to enable your family to do the things we wanted to do…”
  • “To give your son choices in life. He can go to any college of his choosing or become a professional dirt bike rider like he wanted to…”
  • “You can give your husband the opportunity to retire so that he can focus on staying well…” and
  • “God has dropped this opportunity in front of you to change the financial future for your family. Are you going to open that box of hope given to you? Not giving this a try would be selfish!”

In a way, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing but then, of course, as someone who believed in God, I thought to myself, “I have to try this, what if it is me who needs to take this opportunity and run so that we can have a better life?” Even if it meant doing something like sales, something I was never fond of or comfortable with, I was willing to do what it took for my family.

My Mary Kay “mentors” quickly learned that I was willing to do anything, not for myself but for my family and they used this and many other personal things that they learned about me to manipulate me and help to “shift” my way of thinking throughout my career in Mary Kay.

Part Three: Having “Blind Faith” in my new Mary Kay “Family”

In the first year, I felt like I had a new family. They were supportive and positive.

I also noticed most of my relationships outside of Mary Kay becoming strained, especially when they weren’t supportive of my business or if they had something negative to say about Mary Kay.

This was obviously upsetting and I would go to my SD for guidance and, in most cases, was encouraged to terminate those relationships or keep them at a distance.

“Love them from afar,” I was told. “Their negativity will not serve me and will be toxic to my business.”

My SD would breathe bee-lief into me—something I didn’t have in myself.

She claimed to “love” me. I thought it was sincere, I thought she and the NSD wanted what was best for me and my family.

Could these two women love me this much? Did they really know what I was capable of achieving in this business ? After all, they hardly know me. They must know because they’re so successful!

“Kerri,” I was told, “if you listen to everything we tell you to do, don’t question us, be mentorable and coachable, you will be successful.  You will need to have blind faith, but I promise you, if you do, you will be at the top!”

I wasn’t about to question it, it felt good to be loved and believed in and I ate up every minute of it.

As I worked my Mary Kay “business,” I believed my mentors truly loving and caring for me, and being concerned for me and my family’s future. Well, I found out the hard way that they were only concerned with their commission checks and would manipulate anyone to increase those checks however they could.

Part Four: Life in the Pink Fog

I was very coachable, I didn’t question, I had unbelievable blind faith… I was continually stretching and growing—which really meant I was getting deeper into the pink fog, increasing credit card debt, following the leader and becoming one of their minions.

I was a new superstar, the golden child in my national area. I was made an example of, everyone was talking about the new girl and asking how is she doing it? As you can imagine, my self-esteem was through the roof! I felt like I could do anything I put my mind to and I did!

Within just four months of signing my beauty agreement I earned my first free car and became a sales director. I took the cash instead of the car because I was told by my mentors that I would be earning the pink Cadillac within the next four months.

I debuted as a Sales Director on the seminar stage in July, just like they said I would.

During DIQ, I found I was on a never-ending hamster wheel, continually spinning working! I was always a hard worker so hard work didn’t scare me. I made what I thought were temporary sacrifices to get me through DIQ.

I spent little to no time with my family, missing almost all of my son’s dirt bike races. However, I assured my family it was temporary and that it would all end once I became a Director and I was making the big money. After all, that’s what I was told and had no reason not to trust.  However, it didn’t end when I became a Director, it became worse.

I had a unit to run and I was a brand-new consultant who was clueless. When I questioned my mentors, I was told to keep being coachable and follow the leader.

“You can’t give up now,” I was told. “After all, you don’t want all that hard work to become a Sales Director to go to waste, do you? No one said it was going to be easy, hang in there and it will pay off.”

I was starting to see that it was common practice to leave out a lot of information while moving you up the Mary Kay ladder.

Things like what I was expected to do as a Director. In many ways, I was left in the dark. I was told that they would continue to hold my hand when I became a director, which never happened. Instead, I was told to “put on my big girl panties, stop playing dumb, you know what to do…now do it.”

However, I was so heavily fogged, I believed them when they told me this was tough love and they were doing this to make me a stronger leader.  So, I put my head down believing in the Mary Kay “opportunity” to help other woman. I was not a quitter. I was not going to give up. I kept telling myself, my family deserved more and I was going to give it to them!

I continued to hit goals—stretching,  which really meant putting in orders under family members  that I signed up to  make the goals happen.

I was told, “find a way, make a way.”

I was told, “it doesn’t have to be pretty, as long as it gets done! Anyone who is successful has to do it.”

“You’ve got to invest hard to be successful.”

I had the blind faith and I continued to listen because, after all, they were successful. They knew what they were talking about, right?

Four months after becoming a Mary Kay Director and earning my first car, I earned my second car which was the Chevy Equinox. Not the pink Cadillac as I had been told I’d be able to earn.  However, that didn’t stop me.  I knew I would get the pink Cadillac!

Part Five:  The Pink Fog Begins to Lift

While I was in the Pink Fog, I found that whenever I would question something that I felt was lacking in integrity, my mentors had a way of turning it around and using something that I told them about my past as to why I was feeling or thinking that way. They always had a way of making it okay and that it was my issue not theirs.

My husband was starting to question the business and our finances. When I would go to my mentors, they would tell me that it was none of his damn business!

I was told to tell him to stay out of my business because he doesn’t know how to run a Mary Kay business.

They also told me the words to say and ask him if I told him how to be a teacher? Of course, just like I didn’t know how to be a teacher, he needed to stay out of my Mary Kay business because he didn’t know how to run a Mary Kay business.

I was told that I just I needed to shift into their way of thinking and if I didn’t do that I wouldn’t be successful. So I did that. I shifted.

I asked my husband to stay out of my business and let me run it. And, that is exactly what he did.

He was the most amazing husband to watch all of this. He supported me any way he could and believed me when I told him that if I worked hard enough that I could change our lives!

To this day, I apologize for ever putting him in this situation and leading him to believe that this was even possible.

I had to stop believing that they were doing things without integrity and believe that they wanted to do the best thing for me because that’s the only way I would succeed. I convinced myself to believe that that was the case.

My unit was growing in leaps and bounds. The women in my unit were amazing. I treated them like they were amazing. I had amazing friendships with these women.

I didn’t care what they did in my unit, if they were personal use or if they were making production. I truly loved every single one of them. I never made them feel like they were less if they weren’t producing for our unit like I was told to. I just couldn’t do that.

Our unit was meeting with my Senior Sales Director’s unit and my unit members were becoming very aware of the tactics used by my Senior Sales Director that seemed unethical. Her phoniness was really shining through and it was very apparent.

I wanted our unit to leave her meetings and start my own but was convinced by my National Sales Director and my Senior Sales Director that that wasn’t the best for our future national area or for my unit. So, once again, I believed in them and I stayed in, convinced my unit that that’s where we needed to be. They all loved and respected me and they all agreed to stay.

We earned our pink Cadillac In December 2011—just 23 months after signing my agreement at the same time my Senior Sales Director lost her pink Cadillac.

As you can imagine, the animosity, the jealousy, was unbearable with my Senior and my National.

I truly believed them when they said that if I were to pass by them that they would be my biggest cheerleader. But, that couldn’t have been further from the truth.

Instead, that is when the worst of the manipulation, emotional and verbal abuse started via three way calls.

I was told I was nothing without my Senior. I was told that I was a rotten director who produced rotten offspring. I was told I was selfish because I wouldn’t conform and stretch into their way of thinking anymore.

During that time, I had four sales director offsprings. However, only one of them was one that I thought was ready.  My “mentors,” though, were brilliant at convincing women to become directors before they were ready to do so.

At this point, I was beginning to see what my journey really looked like and I didn’t want to see these women in my shoes.

The three that were convinced by my mentors to submit for DIQ and become a sales director, eventually fell out of directorship. This, apparently, was my fault because “I didn’t believe in them” and didn’t convince them to put the $4000 in production on a credit card to stay a director.

By this time, I also knew that I was in debt, but I didn’t know to what extreme.

I didn’t have time to look at my numbers. I knew I was bringing in fantastic monthly commission checks but my expenses and my commission chargebacks ate up most of that.

After all the expenses and chargebacks, there was no money left over to provide for my family. The credit cards where being used constantly. I didn’t want to see that happen to the women that I truly loved and I wasn’t going to encourage it.

The one director who I thought was ready didn’t have a credit card and she made her monthly production from investing all of her sales and from the new recruits who came in with inventory on hand.

After my third offspring director stepped down, the emotional and verbal abuse became unbearable.

My husband and son watched as I wept and, at times, believed the nasty things they were saying to me and about me.

I had lost 20 pounds that I didn’t have to lose in the first place.  My self-esteem was worse than it was when I started the Mary Kay journey.

My husband’s heart broke as he watched two women abuse his wife and finally had the courage to tell me that I was in an abusive relationship, and he couldn’t watch this happen anymore.

Part Six: A Mary Kay National Sales Director Stoops to New Lows

I had no choice but to leave my national area. I knew that is what I had to do.

At that time, I didn’t think it was all of Mary Kay that participated in and condoned this type of behavior.

I was convinced that this was just a couple of bad apples in the Mary Kay bunch that I was involved with.

I was determined to make my business work. I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but I knew the love and the passion I had for helping other women would lead me and I could do this.

When I went to my unit and offspring Sales Directors and told them that I wanted to leave the area, they all stood by me.

I expressed to them that we would be shunned and that we would not have the “mentorship” of our National Sales Director anymore. However, I told them that we didn’t need that kind of mentorship.

I was going to have to re-create everything. We needed a live skin care class on DVD, we needed a website, and we needed a way for people to hear the facts about a Mary Kay business via recording.  I knew this was going to be a lot of work, but I was willing to do it so that we could be free from these women.

In May 2012, I made the call to my National Sales Director to let her know that I would no longer be associated with her national area.

Needless to say, she was taken aback by this. After all, no one has ever stepped away from her area and stayed a Director.

I was encouraged by her to step down for year and go under a new National.  I told her I was not willing to give up my unit and everything I work so hard for in order not to be in her down line.  I told her I was just going to walk away and I was going to lead my unit and we were going to do our own thing.

This infuriated her. She began to threaten me telling me “I will take you down Kerri!”

She also told me to “be careful in making this decision” and, if I decided to make this move, she would make my life “a living hell.”

She proceeded to interrupt me every time I would try to talk, and tell me she was “going to give me one more chance to shift into her way of thinking.” Her voice was trembling with fury.

During our call, I just kept repeating “I no longer was willing to be shifted by her.” I told her that “I made up my mind.”

I told her that it wasn’t in the best interest of my unit or me to be mentored by her or my SSD.

She then told me that “I would never be successful without her” and that she would do “everything it took to take me down.”

The sad part is, is that I believed in this company and that the company would not stand by a woman who used these tactics and no way did I think that Mary Kay would let this happen. I was so sure that I could still continue my business “the right way” and go our separate ways.

Part Seven: The Mary Kay Way Gets Worse

After taking the verbal abuse and resolving to lead my unit out from under the National Sales Director, I placed a call into corporate to let them know what was happening and to get their support.

I explained the tactics that were used by my former “mentor”—the manipulation, emotional and verbal abuse, but what I heard next was shocking:

Corporate told me that they needed to support their National Sales Directors and that they needed to encourage me to do the same.

They suggested that I not part ways with my NSD and continue to support her national area.

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I was in shock!

I clearly thought that I just didn’t get in contact with the right people at headquarters  when I spoke to the head of our sales division.

So I forged on and continue to lead my unit and my offspring sales director.

My National Sales Director started to call people in my unit and my offspring Sales Director’s units to tell them lies about me.

She told them that if they follow her she would make sure that they were successful.

She told them that I was doing illegal things in my business and working without integrity.

She told them that I wasn’t looking out for their best interest and was only looking out for myself.

She told them that if they stayed with me, they would go nowhere in their Mary Kay businesses.

She then held a conference call with the other 60 directors in the National area. During this call, she referred to me as “the pot smoking kid on the playground.”

She forbid them to speak with me anymore, telling them that she is their “mother and no mother would let their child hang out with the pot smoking kid on the playground.”

During that same call, she called each director out by name, one by one (the ones who were close to me) and, with the other 60 sales directors on the call, asked them if they agreed with her and if they didn’t agree with her, she proceeded to shift them into her way of thinking.

She then told these directors if she found out that they were still in contact with me, that she would no longer work with or mentor them.

Within a short period of time, the National Sales Director went to great lengths to have production moved from one month to another—from my offspring sales director’s unit—so that she could once again contact the unit members who placed the large inventory order and her recruiter to tell them that she was going to get them on target for a car.

In fact, they were nowhere close to being on target for their car. She waited until five days before month’s end to make the switch in production and make the call to the consultants to tell them that she was going get them on target for their car if the consultants agreed to work with her.

She gave the consultants only five days to build a working team of five new consultants. Of course, the consultants were confused and didn’t know what to do.

However, in the end, they knew that I would not do anything without integrity to better myself in this business. I told them what it would take to get on target for their free car in just five days and they knew that that was wrong and that it would financially destroy them.

I called Mary Kay Corporate and pleaded with them to make the National Sales Director stop.

I told them all of the things that she was doing and, without their help, my Mary Kay business would not make it.

All of this was scaring away my unit members who signed up with a company that was about “empowering woman.” They were seeing first hand that something was terribly wrong if corporate was letting this happen.

I explained to Corporate that I sought out legal advice and that I was told I had a case of slander against my National Sales Director. I explained that taking legal action was the last thing I wanted to do, but if they don’t put a stop to it, that I would have no choice.

That is when the person in charge of our sales division at corporate headquarters told me “I’m sorry you are going through this, all we can do is suggest that she stops this behavior, but all I can tell you is to ignore her, put you blinders on and get back to work.”

That’s when I knew something wasn’t right.

How could this be?  How can they let a woman who holds the one of the top positions in their company “disempower” woman like this? The date was June 29th, one day before the seminar year ended.

I had just finished up Triple Court. I was ready to hop on a plane to Dallas the following month to walk across stage to be recognized for all my hard work. That day, I sat in my recliner and wept as a part of me was dying.

My hopes and dreams were slipping away. Everything I believed about this company was a sham.

Everything I worked so hard for wasn’t worth the emotional and physical pain that being part of this company was causing me.

Could all the things I have questioned about this company be true?

Were the things that people tried telling me about the company true?

That’s when I opened my lap top and typed in the words, that I was forbidden by my Mary Kay mentors to search for:

I read and read for hours and all of my suspicions were confirmed.

There were thousands of women with stories that were just like mine and I knew right then and there, I could no longer spend another minute supporting a company who destroys lives.

I summoned the courage to make my first post and this is what it said:

“I am brand new to this site and I am scared to death to write this post! I am currently a SD who has been going brainwashed for the last few years and is finally seeing the light…I just wanted to do this the right way! When I started to see unethical practices in my national area and decided to part my ways but keep my directorship, I never thought that woman in this company would go to such lengths to ruin my business! I think the scariest thing is that as I beg for help from the company, they continue to ignore it and don’t seemed to be phased by the actions of these NSD’s even ones that are illegal!!…..Is this really happening? Am I that stupid? How many woman have I lead into this trap? I feel like my world is falling apart around me!! Just finished up double court and I don’t even want to go to Seminar at this point…..I think I may be in denial….please help!

As I go to hit send, I cringe with fear that they will know its me….This is BAD!


I am sitting here with the my two biggest supporters….My husband and child as I read these reply’s to them, I cry as if someone has died…like someone who’s dreams are fading…I am a SSD with an offspring director who I LOVE with all my heart…How could I let this happen…I love the woman in my unit…they have become my family….How could I have put myself in such debt, believing that you “have to spend $ to make $”…Im so ashamed, I thought this was my calling by god to help other woman, but instead I’m going to break there hearts….I am currently waiting for them to tow the “Pink Cadi” out of the driveway…This is not what I signed up for…I believed in this company!! Well if they are on here, they know its me….I have lost everything already, not sure what I have to hide??”

On the last day of the seminar year, June 30, 2012, I quit Mary Kay.

It wasn’t easy telling my unit and offspring what I learned about the company and that I would not be attending seminar in July to walk my offspring across stage as a new director, but I knew it was the right thing to do. Once I knew I was living a lie, I couldn’t do it knowingly—not another minute!

It has been 10 months since I quit. It was the best decision I ever made and don’t regret the decision one bit.

I lost 60 “friends” within a week of quitting  but have gained a few back when the fog lifted for them.

I continue to struggle with the loss of some of those friends. I worry about them and pray for them every day.

I struggle with many emotions and sometimes depression. I can’t help but blame myself for bringing women into this company and putting my family through this.

My family and I are continuing to heal. We had to file for bankruptcy at the end of last year. My husband and I have learned just how strong we are as a couple and know the good lord will get us through this.

I am thankful for the support of my family and friends throughout this ordeal, I wouldn’t have been able to come this far without their support.

Note: With the exception of formatting and minor edits, the content, comments and opinions expressed in testimonials are from the original submission.

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