[Elle:] Today, we have a returning guest writer. Penny(not her real name), originally shared her multi-level marketing experience of losing a dear friend to the clutches of Forever Living. Now, she is ready to share her tale of another way that MLM has blighted her life.
Before reading Penny’s story, please remind yourself that all views presented in this blog are as told to us by the authors, and simply reflect their own opinions. Your own personal experiences with MLM companies may differ, negatively or positively. All names have been changed at the author’s request.
[Penny:] Thanks Elle and everyone at the coalition. Here goes:
This is my account of a real life extremely awkward and upsetting situation I found myself in several years ago, when I was trying to pursue my dreams of being a professional makeup artist.
I enjoyed doing my own makeup and I have always been some what hands on and creative, having previously trained as a hairdresser during my teenage years. I never pursued a career in hairdressing, however I was keen on hair-styling (in particular editorial hair and bridal hair) and I was keen to develop my makeup skills further – I wanted a career I would enjoy that also worked around my family, as I would be self-employed. It just seemed to make sense and I was certain I wanted to do this.
Having spoken to several professionals, I learned that a lot of them did not attend makeup school – they were known as self-taught artists who had a natural talent, and learned by assisting other artists; usually free of charge in exchange for the experience of working on-set. Once they had the experience, they’d collaborate with upcoming models and photographers, commonly known as ‘TFP’ (time for print) so all parties involved could use the image in their portfolio.
I decided this was the path I wanted to take, as in all honesty I was approaching the big 30 and had children to look after; makeup school tuition fees were not something I could afford. I began to take note of all the names of artists I would see posting on the makeup groups I joined on Facebook, and after studying their online portfolios and feeling inspired, I emailed a few. Some replied saying they didn’t feel they’d benefit from a assistant, but thanked me for my email and wished me luck. Others however simply didn’t reply at all, and I felt extremely down on my luck.
I decided to bite the bullet and posted on a popular Facebook group based in London, asking if any artists ever required my assistance, as “I would love to help in exchange for experience working on-set.” Several hours passed and I still had not got a response and I felt a little embarrassed, to the point I considered deleting my post.
However, I received a new Facebook message the next day from a name I did not recognise. A lady by the name of Kandy messaged me saying she would be happy to let me tag along with her on bigger jobs, “in exchange for my assistance and clean up services afterwards.” She had sent over her number and asked me to call her that evening, and I punched the air in excitement.
When I spoke to Kandy on the phone I was surprised she was so friendly, and if I’m honest she seemed so laid back – I always felt out of my depth speaking to the pros, almost like I was a nuisance reaching out to them, so when Kandy was so warm and welcoming I felt so relieved. She seemed so down to earth as she explained “it was about skills and talent, not about buying the latest product from MAC.” Kandy and I spoke for about 40 minutes on the phone, where she told me she had a job the following weekend and that I could come along and help out. I was super excited and accepted her invitation, grinning like a Cheshire Cat when I ended the call.
I clicked on Kandy’s Facebook profile after I excitedly accepted her friend request, and upon scrolling through I could only seem to find pouting selfies and pictures of her doing children’s face-painting in a older album. I was a little disheartened when I discovered the makeup she wore on herself was a little outdated; frosted pink lipstick and blue mascara!
I finally managed to find a Facebook business page for Kandy and was disappointed to see she hadn’t posted in over a year. I naively decided to push my doubts to one side; after all, Kandy told me she was “usually booked 5 days a week“, so I assumed she had a name for herself in London and didn’t need to upload every behind the scenes photo from her jobs.
The night before I was due to meet Kandy she sent me a message telling me she was excited to see me, and then told me she could “help get me a kit together at a pro-level discount,” and we could “discuss it the following day.” She sent me a link to a online shop, saying I could pick whatever I needed. I didn’t click on the link as it was late, but I planned to do so the following day.
Any doubts I had seemed to disappear as I fell asleep.
The following morning, I arrived in London at 7:30am and waited at the tube station she had told me to get to. I sat down rubbing my tired eyes, as I was up at 5am to commute in to London.
I decided to text Kandy as the clock approached 8am; she was 15 mins late. The clock eventually settled at 8:20am and I decided to call her as I was feeling very cold and tired from the waiting. She did not answer her phone at 8:40am either – I reluctantly turned to make my way back into the station, only to see Kandy strolling up with her makeup cases, an unlit cigarette hanging out her mouth.
Kandy said, “alright,” as she sparked up, threw a case at me, before walking off at a faster pace. Surprised, I picked up the case and quickly caught up with her. She told me she had left her phone in her local newsagents, and needed me to navigate to the photography studio down the road.
I attempted to find the place as Kandy tapped her heel impatiently. I nervously looked up and told her I couldn’t get Google Maps to load. She screwed her face up and said “FOR F*CKS SAKE!” loudly, so other people approaching the tube station turned to see.
I felt my face flush as she snatched my phone off me, and managed to load maps up. Kandy used my phone to navigate us to the location (which, by the way, she had been to three times before!). I began to have doubts about her after witnessing that little outburst, however, as we made our way to the studio her face softened as we were greeted by a lovely gentleman who was the photographer. Kandy introduced us and was very kind and courteous, so I dismissed her aggressive mannerisms earlier and put it down to the stress of misplacing her phone.
In the studio, she asked me to open up her kit case and the bags inside, as she started pinning the model’s hair up. I was surprised to see her bags were pretty dirty, and some of the zippers were ripped off. I also noticed that the majority of Kandy’s products were made by a company called ‘Motives’.
I’d never heard of ‘Motives’ before so didn’t really think anything of it as I unpacked her palettes and brushes (which were also not in the best state; if they were my own I would have chucked them, but I reasoned that a professional’s brushes took a lot of wear and tear). Kandy started working on the model, whenever she asked me to grab a product she went in to detail about the product itself, and kept telling me how great it all was.
I noticed Kandy seemed more passionate about the makeup products than the actual results; she was barely concentrating on her model, the makeup wasn’t anything special at all – it was a unusually simple makeup look for the first round of photos. I can’t explain it, but I felt like Kandy was purposely talking about the products so I would purchase them. I was confused as to why; I didn’t even consider the possibility that she sold them, I just presumed she was a big fan of the brand (obviously I’ll elaborate on this in part 2).
Kandy went out for a cigarette as I cleaned the brushes she used, and threw away tissues. She asked me to pass her some lipstick and false lashes, and I almost screamed when she picked glue off them – she was reusing them from her last job! I know I’m guilty of reusing my own lashes, but I would never wear somebody else’s! I cringed thinking about the bacteria as she placed them on the unsuspecting model’s eyes.
As the day came to an end, I helped Kandy pack her kit away and waved goodbye to the photographer. Let’s just say I wasn’t exactly inspired by Kandy and her unprofessional ways; I felt slightly disappointed that I had wasted my time. She came over and winked at me, telling me she “wanted to see me tomorrow as I’d done a great job.” I quickly scoured my brain for a excuse as to why I couldn’t, but not before Kandy announced we would be working on a job “involving a contestant auditioning for Britain’s biggest TV show!”
My heart started thumping as Kandy elaborated, telling me we would only be working on a contestant for Britain’s Got Talent hosted by Simon Cowell!! I jumped up and down excitedly as Kandy explained she didn’t tell me earlier as “she wanted to meet me and see if I was trustworthy first.” She explained I wasn’t allowed to post anything on social media, and that it was all to be kept top secret.
My better judgement blinded by the stars in my eyes, I squealed “I’ll do it!” as Kandy hugged me. She even held the door open for me as I carried her bags out of the studio. We excitedly said our goodbyes and made our way on to different platforms to get home.
Battling my way through bustling commuters, I eventually burst through my front door telling my partner, “I might be on TV!” He jumped up, just as excited as me. I didn’t even think about Kandy’s previous behaviour, as I was so excited and honoured to be a part of it all, at The O2 Arena in London no less!
I kept chuckling to myself at how lucky I was, and felt incredibly excited as I kissed my partner good night. I barely slept a wink, I was so nervous. Visions of myself walking alongside the talent and waving at the crowds clouded my mind, as I tried to fall asleep. If people knew I’d assisted on a massive TV show, surely they’d give me a chance and work with me? I had already planned my behind-the-scenes photos that I could use on my Facebook page, to entice others to give me a chance.
Had I finally found my big break?
I’m sure you know the answer to that – click here to continue to Part 2, where I will tell you what happened.
(Cover Photo by Makhmutova Dina on Unsplash)
[Elle:] Thank you, Penny, for kindly sharing your MLM experience. If you have any questions for her, please add them below and we
- If you find yourself in Penny’s position, take a look at this selection from our General Advice category:
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