South Charlotte

She found her calling and a new car in the bargain

In less than a year, Dana Andrews has gone from having her car repossessed to earning a free one through cosmetics company Mary Kay.

Looking at Andrews in her shiny new Chevy Malibu complete with Mary Kay insignia, her sweet 4-year-old son and supportive husband, her life looks deceptively perfect. Only she knows the real struggle.

"When I was 15 I left home," said Andrews, 35, of Fort Mill. "I moved in with a boyfriend who physically abused me and I was kicked out of school."

At 17, Andrews had her first of many surgeries. At 18, she moved from Drexel, to Charlotte with a friend and started waitressing and bartending.

When she met Luke, now her husband of four years, things started to change. After visiting the REACH center for infertility in Charlotte and undergoing another surgery, Andrews was told she could get pregnant.

"My husband really wanted to have a baby because his father was a big influence on him, and he wanted to be the kind of daddy his daddy was," Andrews said.

Tyler, was 6 months old when Andrews attended a friend's Mary Kay debut party. Mary Kay Cosmetics was started by Mary Kay Ash in 1963.

Andrews was immediately drawn to the idea. The women she met talked openly about their faith, were uplifting and, most importantly for Andrews, nonjudgmental.

"There was drug and alcohol abuse in my past," Andrews said. "I was an at-risk teenager, but I never felt judged by those women."

It was at that first party where Andrews met Summer Carter, now a pink Cadillac-driving executive sales director with Mary Kay. Carter became a dependable friend and support system for Andrews.

"She's the best person I know," Andrews said. "She has always been there to hold my hand, push me when I needed it or love on me when I needed it."

And she did need all those things. Eleven months after joining Mary Kay, Andrews was a sales director on her way to earning a car. Then she had more surgery. Six weeks later, her husband lost his job. A month after that, Andrews' father had a heart attack.

In August 2009, Andrews stepped down from directorship with Mary Kay, feeling she couldn't be the leader of a team. Her family lost their car and were about to lose their home before her husband found a job.

"That is when I really started praying," Andrews said. "I was being humbled and God started using me in an amazing way - to inspire others."

In August 2010, Andrews returned to Mary Kay. She also started to envision "Andrews House" - a place where at-risk teenage girls can go when conditions at home are unlivable.

The house would be a place where they can live and graduate high school and have the chance to go to college.

"It gave me my 'why,'" Andrews said.

She hopes to make national sales director by age 40 and be among some of the highest-paid women in the world. That is when the vision for Andrews House could become a reality.

It was a rocky start, but Andrews feels unstoppable now. She is constantly setting big goals.

"But I couldn't do it without my family and the Mary Kay girls - they are all so supportive.

"But definitely not without God. He's the one who planted the seed."