I was recently sent a book about the cosmetic industry, and I admit that I initially thought that I wouldn’t be interested in it since I am not really one of those “foo foo” hair and nails types of women. The book is called “Ask Me About Mary Kay: The Truth Behind the Bumper Sticker on the Pink Cadillac”. However, since I am interested in female entrepreneurs, I figured that maybe I’d have something to learn by reading the book since I know that the Mary Kay cosmetics company is a force to be reckoned with. I can honestly say that I enjoyed the book.
The book is written by Jackie Brown, one of the original consultants who joined the Mary Kay line of cosmetics in its early years of formation. It was interesting to read about the plight of females in the early 1960s and the obstacles that they had to overcome in order to be successful business women. At the time women couldn’t even get loans or buy a car with their own money without their husbands’ permission, while at the same time many women who began selling Mary Kay products began to earn more income than their husbands.
There were some times where I thought that the book dragged slowly with too much detail about how the business was formed and grown, and minute details about the conventions that the company had. However, looking back after reading it I think that many of what I thought were minute details ended up being significant in a later part of the story.
Throughout the book, the author paints such an intriguing portrait of the mysterious Mary Kay. Just who was this woman who managed to build a billion dollar cosmetics empire? Was she ethical or unethical? Was she collaborative or a dictator? Was she a liar, or a thief?
For years Jackie Brown looked up and idolized Mary Kay until one day a disagreement over money and pay caused a rift between the two women that resulted in Jackie Brown opening a competing cosmetics line and a huge legal and social battle between the two women and companies.
The book struck a serious nerve with me, having been royally betrayed by one of my mentors who I had idolized for years. I can relate to the heartbreak and disappointment that one feels when someone that they trusted and looked up to turns out to be unethical and stabs them in the back. I know exactly how Jackie Brown felt when many of her “friends” turned against her and took Mary Kay’s side in the battle, completely isolating her and spreading vicious rumors about her. And I know how it feels to always sometimes have a special place in a sad little part of your heart for someone who had betrayed you.
Was Mary Kay as unethical as this books makes her out to be? Certainly many successful women have larger than life horror stories that follow their legacy and paint them out to be the big bad ball busters. Did she really retaliate in the way that Jackie Brown claims she did, by having private investigators spy on Jackie, wiretap her house phone, and throw a bottle through her daughter’s window after Jackie opened up her competing cosmetics company? Who knows. The constant “Mary Kay had seven or nine or x amount of husbands” that is frequently alluded to throughout the book by Jackie, who pretty much claims to be a super ethical Christian wife, seems to be a bit suspect. When it boils down to it, who really betrayed who?
This book was definitely interesting to read, minus the last couple of chapters that detailed the author’s new cosmetics company, because when it all really boiled down to it…Mary Kay was the mysterious star of the story. After reading this book, I am definitely going to read some of the books written by Mary Kay, a highly persuasive and ambitious woman who created a billion dollar company that made many women rich in a time when the role of many women was that of housewife or secretary.