It seemed kind of appropriate that I would write about the Mary Kay Museum on the same day that I finished reading Gone Girl. Due to Government closure of Presidential libraries, Ruth and I sought lesser known tourist destinations in the Dallas area and ended up in Addison, Texas, at Mary Kay World Headquarters. Unexpectedly, we were there on the company’s 50th anniversary (ONE WOMAN CAN), so the employees had the day off and the highly recommended on-site restaurant was not open. But the museum was.
Before, during, and after, I had questions with incomplete answers. Before: Ruth and I visited the restrooms near the ginormous, soaring lobby/atrium. There was a clearly marked women’s room, but the men’s facility was called the “Family Room”. I asked the 2 men at the reception desk about this and was told that the Family Room was often used exclusively as a 2nd women’s facility on big occasions. There was no official men’s room nearby.
The Mary Kay Museum, which is free and self-guided, is about a female dynamo who was born Mary Kathlyn Wagner in Hot Wells, Texas. She died in 2001, age 83, presumably an accurate figure.
During: the early displays featured some of Mary Kay Ash’s motivational speeches that teemed with words like goals, achievement, plan, fortune, no limits, success. etc. There were copies of articles about her in magazines like People. The one in the June, 1985, edition of Savvy was called “Cold Cream and Hard Cash”. There were gleaming cases full of artfully arranged cosmetic jars, gift-ready boxes, glittering bee pins, etc. There are now over 200 products with Mary Kay’s name on them. It all seemed kind of overly self-congratulatory until I read about the success of the company she founded with her son Richard in 1963. I began to wonder if there was a Mr. Mary Kay.
In 1963 with $5,000 in savings Mary Wagner started a company dedicated to making life more beautiful for women. Her main goal from the beginning was to enrich their lives. That first year Mary Kay had 9 products, 41 consultants, no sales directors, and retail sales of $34,344. By 1976 Mary Kay was listed on the New York Stock Exchange. Mary Kay products were finally available in Russia in 1993, and it quickly became the largest market in the European region. There are now more than 2.5 million independent Mary Kay Beauty Consultants all over the world in places like Armenia. It’s a truly stunning success story.
Of course, there are vivid displays of pink Cadillacs, examples of Mary Kay’s attention-demanding wardrobe, smiling portraits of successful sales directors, famous friends, and lots of words of female empowerment–“Stop spending dollar time on penny jobs.”
Towards the end there’s a bit more biography. Mary Wagner had 3 children with 1st husband Ben Rogers. The marriage was described as “difficult”. Divorce happened. There were subsequent husbands, from 2 to 6 of them, depending on your source.
Her very successful autobiography was titled The Mary Kay Way. When I saw it in a display, I was reminded of Amazing, the certain best seller by Amy Elliott Dunne, the gone girl and star of the wildly successful fictional Amazing Amy series. Were Mary Kay and Amy anything alike? I couldn’t answer that after visiting the Mary Kay’s Museum, but I wondered what Nick Dunne would make of it.
After: I went back to the 2 lonely men to ask who was running the company now. Son Richard is still in charge. But the heir apparent, presumably grandson Ryan Rogers, is being groomed. I wonder if Richard will burn his autobiography after completing it.