Category Archives: Beauty Labor

Heavy & Healthy [Marie Claire, August 2014]

Getting back to my roots here, with a new feature for the August issue of Marie Claire that asks: Can you be heavy and healthy?

Longtime blog readers know that my gut response on this would be yes — but it turns out there is a decent amount of science to support that idea. Of course this is a pretty controversial claim, so let’s go over some ground rules right now:

  • No, I am not saying that every overweight person is healthy (or vice versa).
  • No, I am not saying that every thin person is unhealthy (or vice versa).
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The Sea Horse Is Named Bubbles [Mermaids]

Thanks so much to everyone who has emailed, commented, or Tweeted about The Last Mermaid Show! I spent the holiday weekend at a friend’s wedding, so I’m behind on replies but I so appreciate every note. (Except the dude who wrote in to argue that “real mermaids don’t wear bikini tops!” Sort of making my point, thanks.)

And since a lot of you asked nicely…

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There’s Nothing Mickey Mouse About These Mermaids [Times Magazine, July 7, 2013]

In my last post (about my essay on fitness motivation for Elle), I mentioned that I traveled on another assignment in April and the experience inspired me to learn to swim.

That story will make more and less sense now that I can tell the whole thing, because the article in question is finally online now and will be in this weekend’s Times Magazine.

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Girl Model: Scouted

Girl Model

Regular readers, forgive me: I know I’ve already told you about why you need to see the documentary Girl Model (like when I said that here and also here). But New York-area readers, attention: The film is currently playing at the IFC Center through next Thursday, so you should totally go. It’s provocative, heart-breaking and beautifully made, and if you don’t believe me, go read this lovely post by Kate on Eat The Damn Cake.

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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.

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[Virginia on the Radio] NPR’s Marketplace with Tess Vigeland

Virginia Sole-Smith Tess Vigeland NPR Marketplace Mary Kay

 

And one last radio update for you before the weekend! This interview with Tess Vigeland aired on NPR’s Marketplace yesterday evening. It’s just five minutes — much shorter than my other segments and tightly edited (we taped in the afternoon) but if you want a great, fast digest of my Harper’s story and everything we uncovered about Mary Kay, you’ll get it here (transcript and podcast both available).

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[Virginia on the Radio] KERA’s Think with Krys Boyd on The Beauty Business

NPR KERA Think with Krys Boyd: The Beauty Business with Virginia Sole-Smith and Crayton Webb

I spent a fun hour on NPR’s KERA this afternoon, as a guest of THINK with Krys Boyd. The show airs live in Texas, where 30,000 Mary Kay consultants are currently gathered for the annual Seminar in Dallas.

Plus, Mary Kay’s Director of Corporate Social Responsibility, Crayton Webb, comes on for the second half of the show and things get… spicy.

You can listen to the podcast here (click “The Beauty Business” link), and also head over to the show page to add your comments.

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[Inside the Pink Pyramid] But Of Course, Our Products End Up With the Retail Consumer

When I spoke with Laura Beitler, Mary Kay’s Vice President of Compliance, on NPR’s On Point on Monday, she was quick to emphasize that “absolutely, the majority of our products end up with the end consumer.” But when we pressed her, she also had to admit: “We can’t and don’t track retail sales.” 

How can both those things be true? 

To avoid falling into the Federal Trade Commission’s official definition of a pyramid scheme, it’s very important for Mary Kay — and all multi-level marketing companies — to insist that their primary goal is getting their products out to retail consumers. But to avoid being exposed as a business where the vast majority of the sales force is losing money, all of these companies have to claim that they have no idea what those end retail consumers are spending.

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[Inside the Pink Pyramid] But You Aren’t Required To Buy the Inventory…


Industry Claim #1: Nobody is required to buy inventory. 

This is true. Antonella even told me so when we did my official Mary Kay orientation: You’re not required to purchase a single thing from Mary Kay beyond your $100 starter kit.

“But,” she said. “There are some advantages.”

Just because you aren’t required to buy inventory in Mary Kay, doesn’t mean you won’t get the hard sell about why you’d be crazy not to buy inventory. My experience and the experiences of the women in my story suggest that you’ll be pressured heavily to buy inventory “if you’re serious about your business.”

In fact, Mary Kay is set up so it seems like the only way you’ll ever make money is through large inventory purchases. If you’re not spending enough on products, the company finds other ways to cost you money, like charging you shipping and only shipping to your house — meaning you spend time and money traveling around to deliver your orders yourself. As Lynne explained on yesterday’s edition of NPR’s On Point, to stay active in Mary Kay, you have to place $200 in wholesale orders every month. [EDIT: Per Lynne's comment below, it's once a quarter, not once a month. — VSS]

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[Virginia on the Radio] NPR’s On Point Investigates Mary Kay

NPR On Point Virginia Sole-Smith Investigating Mary Kay

In case you missed it live yesterday, here’s the podcast of NPR’s On Point, which devoted its second hour yesterday to Investigating Mary Kay, inspired by my Harper’s article.

The show was guest-hosted by Wade Goodwyn and in addition to me featured Lynne (one of the women profiled in my story) and Douglas Brooks, a practicing attorney who has litigated numerous class action suits on behalf of victims of multi-level marketing schemes over the past 20 years.

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