When Makeovers Go Bad: My Mary Kay Experience

I don’t know what I was reading lately that reminded me of Mary Kay, the direct sales cosmetics company, but it brought me back to a teenage memory of the worst makeover I’ve ever gotten — and I gave it to myself.
During high school, my best friend, C., lived in Massachusetts while I was living in New York City. Every few months, one of us would ride the bus for a long weekend at one of our homes. On one particular trip I made to Massachusetts to see her, C. was excited about introducing me to a woman she met, a Mary Kay saleslady who said she would give us free makeovers. That C. had randomly stricken up a conversation with a 50-something woman didn’t surprise me. C.’s the type who is always talking to people and accepting offers to see what she can learn. I was reluctant to go, but C. had already told the lady that we’d be arriving with another friend.

C. had recently gotten her license, so driving anywhere automatically felt cool. I wasn’t so sure about the whole excursion, however, when we turned onto a dirt road and drove up to a small A-frame cabin in what felt like the middle of the woods. Inside the woman’s home it was cold and filled with tacky decorations. She had set up three places at the dining table for us, each with a paper towel, q-tips, and some makeup samples.

I can’t recall the lecture she gave us about skincare and cosmetics, but I do remember that we weren’t actually getting makeovers—we were doing them ourselves. The first thing we had to do was take an eyeshadow strip, a pre-powdered piece of paper with a base color and highlight, and apply it to our eyelids by rubbing it on. Next came a rouge, and last a bright red lipstick, which went on messily with the dry Q-Tips. While we applied our samples, the house was silent. I was both creeped out and on the verge of laughter.

When I looked at the final result in the mirror, I tried to subdue the look of horror that spread across my clown face. “It’s nice,” I managed to say, “But, um, I guess it’s not my style.”

We weren’t obligated to buy anything, but I could tell C. felt bad about the whole thing, so she walked away with a lip gloss.

Back in the car I shrieked and searched for tissues. “Oh my God, C., I look crazy. I have to get this off!”

“Really, Leo? I think it looks really good,” she told me. (Trust me, it didn’t.)

What’s the worst makeup counter makeover you’ve ever gotten? Share your stories in the comments below!

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