So, What's the Deal with Monat?

Alejandra Vega* started selling MONAT products only to her family and friends. She wasn’t ready to make the commitment to sell publicly until she was sure the multilevel marketing company was the real deal. “MONAT has taken me out of my comfort zone and I’ve grown a lot as a woman,” she tells Emperifollá. “There are people that say, ‘I’m a different person before and after MONAT’ and that is literally my case.”

Vega, who had been involved in a multilevel marketing company before, says she decided to opt in to MONAT to help out with the bills at home. But the satisfaction of selling products that help women “to not have a bald spot anymore” is what has kept her going for five months now. “The MONAT community is unlike any other,” she says. “It might sound cliché but it’s a support network.”

Founded in 2014, MONAT is a multilevel marketing company that sells hair and skincare products that are “naturally based, cruelty-free and vegan.”  The company is owned by Alcora Group and led by CEO Ray Urdaneta, who is Venezuelan. His father Luis Urdaneta is a Chairman of the company – both co-founded Alcora Group. 

“Our mission at MONAT is to help people everywhere enjoy beautiful, healthy, fulfilling lives through naturally based products,” Ray Urdaneta told Emperifollá via email. “It’s so much more than a product.” 

MONAT sells itself as a low-risk, high-reward endeavor that delivers good amounts of cash to its loyal network of Market Partners – or MPs – not only selling, but inviting others to join the company. Urdaneta says MONAT “has changed lives in positive, meaningful ways, and core values are part of every decision we make.”

The brand’s products focus on hair loss, growth, and strength through “rich formulations” that are all trademarked and copyrighted, such as REJUVENIQE® Oil Intensive, which is one of its core selling products. Urdaneta says the formulas are developed with the help of the Scientific Advisory Board, led by Chief Science Officer Alan J. Meyers. He adds that the products are “dermatologist-tested, made with the highest quality ingredients, meet or exceed all safety and quality standards set by our industry, and are validated by rigorous safety testing conducted by independent labs.”

In the Latin American community, MONAT is exponentially growing its network of MPs. Emperifollá team members have even been approached consecutively by MONAT MPs to buy their products or join the network. One of its most outstanding MPs is Colombian actress Ximena Duque, who announced earlier this year she had reached 2,000 women in her network. “I’m neither the owner or the creator, but this is my business,” she said on a YouTube video posted in January 2020. Duque says the company currently has 25 millionaires and reached $1 billion in sales. 

This is how MPs get started, according to Duque. 

When people join the network, they begin in the “Smart Start” period, which Duque says is vital. This two-month period allows MPs to create MONAT “neighborhoods,” which consist of three “blocks.” Each block is made up of 4 VIP clients and one MP and guarantees them $60 for each VIP client and a $150 bonus. This means that, if they get to form one “neighborhood,” they get a total of $630 for it. In addition, as a reward for creating the “neighborhood,” the company gives them a $500 bonus. This is a total of $1,130 for creating one “neighborhood.” Duque adds that, during this period, MPs can create as many “neighborhoods” as they want. 

As for products, MPs don’t carry inventory with them, says Vega. Instead, they order the products directly from the company to their clients’ house via MONAT’s website. If they aren’t satisfied with the products, she says, they have 30 days to return them “The return rate is 1%,” Vega adds. 

The promise of cashing in on bonuses is not the only mission MPs have, says Juliana Colón*, who joined as an MP this year. Colón thinks MONAT is one of the few companies where she’s rewarded for “just doing her job,” which she can do remotely – from home or her phone. “I’ve also gotten to know amazing people who have vision and dreams and want to achieve their goals.”

This entrepreneur-like spirit is what distinguishes MONAT MPs on social media, and it’s the subject of hundreds of Twitter threads parodizing their earnest business energy. Comments like “No offense but please stop contacting me for Monat because I assure you I don’t want to use it” or “I stopped someone from using Monat today and honestly I feel like a hero” are easily found on social media. Colón says MPs are trained from day one on a variety of skills, which also include “mindset” workshops, which seem to translate to the social media messaging that’s often mocked online. 

But the online bashing goes beyond mocking the MPs. While some of their products have also received positive reviews from PopSugar and Good Housekeeping, the brand has also seen a rise in negative complaints online. 

In 2018, MONAT filed a lawsuit in the United States against a former client named, Vickie Harrington. The 54-year-old is the founder of a Facebook group called “Monat-My Modern Nightmare,” which appears to have been shut down. Harrington claimed MONAT products made her lose her hair and burned her scalp. After three months, Harrington asked for her money back but was denied the refund because the 30-day window had passed. 

“If they had given me my money back [initially], we would not be having this conversation today,” she told BuzzFeed News

The skepticism around MONAT doesn’t stop there. The Anti-MLM Coalition – a group that raises awareness about the risks of multilevel-marketing companies – also speaks out against MONAT, as well as other beauty companies like Mary Kay and Avon. “Like with any MLM, the “marketing partners” are typically cooing over how amazing the products are. Similar to how an individual who has discovered the Fountain of Youth may sound,” writes one of their bloggers. The group also highlights that, while there are a lot of positive before and after photos online, there are also a lot of people sharing their negative experiences with “hair loss, scalp sores, irritation, burning.”

Urdaneta says the company has conducted an allergy test from Allergisa, which found MONAT hair care products to be “safe on all skin types for their intended cosmetic purpose.” He also added that “the company invests millions of dollars in research and conducts thousands of tests each year to ensure MONAT products meet the highest standards of quality, safety and performance.

The criticism doesn’t seem to pause Vega or Colón from using or selling MONAT products. Both agree that, while they are aware of the backlash the brand has received, they’d rather believe in the results they’ve seen for themselves. “Yes, I know they have faced legal action” says Vega. “But what successful company hasn’t been sued?”

** The names of MPs in this story have been changed as requested ** 

Frances Solá-Santiago

Born in Puerto Rico, based in New York City. She is the editor-in-chief on Emperifollá. Her work has been published in The New York Times, Rolling Stone, NPR, Glamour Magazine, Numéro, Refinery29, Remezcla, and Bustle.

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