Tag Archives: Harper’s Magazine

The Best Email I Received Last Month

Ever since my article “The Pink Pyramid Scheme” ran in the August issue of Harper’s Magazine, I’ve been getting the best emails (and blog comments and Facebook messages) from you readers. (Okay, I also get some funny and not so friendly feedback… but the positive outweighs the negative by a significant margin.)

 If I haven’t responded to your note directly, please understand that it’s only because I get such an onslaught and I am but one medium-sized person. But I love and read them all because hearing your thoughts and experiences has a major impact on the work I do. Anyway, I thought I’d share this one email, from a reader who asked to be anonymous,* because she’s in a pretty vulnerable spot. It takes a tremendous amount of courage to quit an MLM-style program and reconcile your losses (whether it’s money, self-esteem, friendships, or a combination thereof).  Her experience is pretty much why I wrote the article in the first place — to help women who have been exploited by these scams see what they are up against and get out.

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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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Backstory: How Beauty U Led to Mary Kay

Investigative Fund: Why I Went to Beauty School by Virginia Sole-Smith

 

Another coda to The Pink Pyramid Scheme — and more free online content for y’all! The Investigative Fund asked me to blog about why I went to beauty school in the first place, since that is, of course, how I met my first Mary Kay ladies and stumbled on to this story.

Regular readers here might think you already know the whole Beauty Schooled story, but this post is still worth a read — because I talk about the enormous gap between what women spend on beauty ($200 billion in 2009, the year I enrolled at Beauty U) and what women can earn when they sell beauty. As you’ve probably guessed by now, it’s not a hell of a lot whether you’re hosting Mary Kay parties or waxing eyebrows in a salon. And since beauty workers are almost always also beauty consumers, too … there is math here that is just not adding up. Read more. 

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More on Mary Kay: Why The Pink Pyramid Wants You to Have It All

Harpers.org Mary Kay & Having It All by Virginia Sole-Smith

 

As a follow-up to yesterday’s announcement about my article, The Pink Pyramid Scheme (which, annoyingly, is behind a paywall online right now — I know!), I‘ve written a companion piece that you can read for free on Harpers.org called “How Mary Kay Sells Women On Having It All.”

Because there has been a lot of talk online recently about that whole “having it all” thing — why women still don’t have it, what “it” even is and whether we want it, and so on. And Lord knows, we’re blaming feminists for plenty, but the fact of the matter is, Mary Kay Ash started promising women economic independence and empowerment back in 1963, way before power suits were trendy. But even as she built up the idea of having it all (and even later wrote a self-help book by the same name), she held firmly to the Mary Kay company motto: God first, family second, career third. Which neatly traps women in traditional gender roles, meaning your only path to empowerment is one that leaves the status quo tidy and intact.

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The Pink Pyramid: Paying to Play with Mary Kay [Harper's, August 2012]

Harper's "The Pink Pyramid Scheme" by Virginia Sole-Smith (August 2012) Cover Shot

My new cover story, “The Pink Pyramid Scheme” is out in the August issue of Harper’s Magazine.

This is a big one.

I’ve tracked this story for the past three years, since enrolling in beauty school and discovering that most of my Beauty U classmates moonlighted as salespeople for Mary Kay, Avon or another direct sales cosmetics brand. (An early report of my first Mary Kay encounter appeared on the blog back here.) “The Pink Pyramid Scheme” shares their story, along with the experiences of other Mary Kay ladies who have wound up divorced and in debt — some truly brave women who shared their stories with me even though leaving Mary Kay is, for many, like leaving a bad marriage and a religion combined. Think public ridicule, stigma, guilt, and serious emotional and financial fall-out.

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Filed under Beauty Labor, Career Opportunities, Glossed Over, Government Watch, Happenings, Makeup, Mary Kay

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