Monthly Archives: August 2012

[Inside the Pink Pyramid] Virginia In OtherWords

I was very pleased to be asked to contribute an op-ed about the Mary Kay story to OtherWords, a project that distributes progressive commentary and cartoons to 250 newspapers around the country — mostly small dailies and weeklies in America’s heartland. (AKA Multilevel Marketing Mecca.) So you can read the piece, The Lipstick Profiteers, on the OtherWords website, or look out for me in your local newspaper.

A big point that I make in this piece: We need to stop blaming the victims. A lot of critics have suggested that I think Mary Kay ladies are stupid. And they’ve suggested that I think this for a lot of different reasons: Mary Kay ladies are stupid if can’t make their businesses work. (It’s a defense only Stephen Colbert could love: There are no bad businesses, only bad business people.) But others suggest that Mary Kay ladies are stupid for falling for the sales pitch in the first place and for thinking they could be successful in this way. Or they think that I think direct salespeople are too stupid to know they’re being scammed. It gets a little confusing.

I interviewed a lot of (current and former) Mary Kay ladies for this project, and trust me, not one of them was stupid. Because this isn’t about stupid and smart. Direct sales doesn’t work by appealing to anyone’s intellect. As I wrote in the op-ed:

[B]laming the women who wind up with basements full of unsold makeup is a cheap ploy — and ignores the power of the Mary Kay sales pitch. When Ash launched her business in 1963, she knew she was selling way more than lipstick.

She promised economic independence and female empowerment with her “Enriching Women’s Lives” tagline. It was a pitch that connected with frustrated Mad Men-era housewives — and continues to speak to women today who are wondering how to support their families in a tight economy, but also chafing against corporate workplaces or low-wage jobs that deny them the flexibility or freedom to also be the kind of mom and spouse they want to be.

Keep reading (and tell me your thoughts!) over here. 


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[Inside the Pink Pyramid] MoneyWatch Interview

I did a really interesting interview this week with Amy Levin-Epstein, who writes for CBS MoneyWatch. We talked about why Mary Kay is so appealing to so many women, especially right now in the midst of our recession, which may actually be a mom-cession (so much for all that he-cession talk?).

Here’s part of what I told MoneyWatch.

The company’s founder, Mary Kay Ash, knew exactly why women were frustrated in the 1960s: the lack of gender equality, which meant they were dependent on their husband’s income and unable to make much headway in the workplace. But she also knew that a significant majority of women weren’t responding to the hardcore feminist revolution that say, Betty Friedan was advocating in “The Feminist Mystique.”


Filed under Career Opportunities, Customer Cult, Happenings, Makeup, Mary Kay, Press

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[Virginia on the Radio] WOR’s The Joan Hamburg Show

Just a quick one to share this link for the interview I did Monday afternoon on WOR’s The Joan Hamburg Show. Joan is old school radio and awesome and we had a great conversation about… you guessed it… the Mary Kay story.

(Click the link for the August 20 show, Hour 2 — I’m on for the first 20 minutes or so, then it’s the fertility doctor advertised in the blurb.)

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On The Olympics & Body Diversity

Holly Mangold, weight lifter London 2012Nastia Liukin


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[Virginia on the Radio] KUER’s RadioWest with Doug Fabrizio

Virginia Sole-Smith Stephanie Mencimer Doug Fabrizio KUER RadioWest Multilevel Marketing`


Another radio podcast for y’all, in case you missed me yesterday on NPR affiliate KUER’s RadioWest with Doug Fabrizio. The RadioWest folks invited me and Mother Jones reporter Stephanie Mencimer to talk about our reporting on the direct sales industry. As you might have heard by now, I wrote this thing about Mary Kay for Harper’s; Stephanie wrote several excellent pieces earlier this year tracing how multilevel marketing companies are funding Mitt Romney’s campaign.


Filed under Career Opportunities, Customer Cult, Happenings, Makeup, Mary Kay, Products

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[Inside the Pink Pyramid] Women Join Direct Sales For All Kinds of Reasons

Mary Kay Make Money Website Screenshot 08-01-12 at 2.19 PM

Everyone in the direct sales industry will tell you this. Last week, Mary Kay’s Vice President of Compliance, Laura Beitler told me on NPR’s On Point. Then Joseph Mariano, head of the Direct Selling Association said it. And then Mary Kay’s Vice President for Corporate Social Responsibility, Crayton Webb said it again, on KERA’s Think.


Filed under Beauty Labor, Career Opportunities, Customer Cult, Makeup, Mary Kay

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    The Eating Insinct: Food Culture, Body Image, and Guilt in America by Virginia Sole Smith

    Pre-order now!