Abstract: Enriching Women's Lives: The Mary Kay Approach to Beauty, Business, and Feminism

Beth Kreydatus


In 1963, Mary Kay Ash founded Mary Kay Cosmetics with the stated purpose of "enriching women's lives." Mary Kay sales consultants,99% of whom are female, work as independent beauty dealers by selling cosmetics and skin care at small parties. Sales supervisors make use of "feminist" language to encourage and enlist consultants. However, the company combines an emphasis on female self-empowerment with politically conservative rhetoric. Mary Kay also employs motivationalpsychology, "family values," and Christianity to attract and direct consultants. I have interviewed Mary Kay consultants and examined promotional literature and product campaigns to chart the company's ideological development. This paper will explore Mary Kay's surprisingly coherent ideology of feminism and conservatism, a blend that has made this company accessible to its consultants and customers for over four decades.

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