Paula Kent Meehan, Co-founder of Redken, Passes Away

By Maggie Mulhern | 06/23/2014 4:39:00 PM

 

It is with great sadness that we report that Paula Kent Meehan died peacefully at her home in Beverly Hills midday today, Monday June 23, 2014, at age 82.

Meehan made an impact on the professional salon industry in the 1960’s when she took $3000 of her own money to co-found (with Jheri Redding) Redken Hair Care. Since then her efforts have touched millions of salon professionals and their clients with innovative products and techniques. Meehan established the “Scientific Approach to Beauty” based on her dedication to developing products that respect the natural pH of the hair and skin. She also pioneered the concept of teaching chemistry to hairdressers, enabling them to better serve their clients.

A life long resident of Beverly Hills, California, Meehan built an empire and earned recognition both in and outside the beauty world. She was named among the “top 50 women business owners” by Working Woman magazine; #1 on Los Angeles Business Journal’s list of women-owned businesses in LA for four consecutive years; and one of Entrepreneurial Woman’s eight most powerful business owners. Her philanthropic efforts were numerous including generous donations to industry charities as well as several animal related charities in and around Los Angeles.

According to Maggie Mulhern, Modern’s Beauty and Fashion Director, “There are thousands of reasons to love and respect Paula, but the fact that she was one of the most powerful women running a powerful company is important. She inspired so many, including working salon professionals as well as other entrepreneurs wanting to share a product, tool or technique with the salon world. She had a ‘can-do’ approach to any endeavor. “

“Paula brought more than science to the salon professional,” says Modern’s West Coast Manager, Gregg McConnell. “She brought love, passion and fun to the beauty industry.”

 

On a personal note, Mulhern adds, “One of my favorite lunches, both professionally and personally, was with Paula at a small restaurant in Greenwich Village in the early ‘90’s. It was just the two of us. We spent most of the time talking about the importance of beauty to the individual and how she was proud that she could help women around the world. She had an amazing spirit and she will be missed.”

Although Meehan was no longer involved in the day to day operations of Redken, her influence is still felt. “Today, we lost a true legend in the professional haircare industry,” says Redken US General Manager, Leslie Marino. “The legacy that she has left sustains the brand today. Paula created products and education programs that propelled the industry’s transformation. Her pioneering ways will be missed but her spirit will be in our hearts and minds forever.”

THOUGHTS ABOUT PAULA FROM SALON INDUSTRY LEADERS:

"Our industry has lost a shining star today. For so many people... And for the women in our business, Paula paved the way. She had beauty, guts, brain, and a huge energy that changed the beauty business forever. A mentor, example, and inspiration for so many of us. She paved a path we need to have the courage to follow. I'm sure she and Vidal will continue to inspire us -- always." --Beth Minardi

"I remember meeting Paula many years ago when I was still just a kid... My father took me out to California on a business trip which included a visit to Redken... Paula took us all around and showed us the entire place... I remember she was especially proud of the SES program they had recently developed... In retrospect I suspect she just wanted my dad to know how important education had become at Redken... I found out later she had asked my father to join her when she first started the company... I still wonder today what the company might have been called had he not declined... Fortunately for Jheri Redding the company would be named in honor of his namesake and hers ... Of course my father continued to grow Pivot Point and Paula continued to grow her business after buying Jheri out... Years later both my father and Paula would be honored by NCA at the Legends Ball in Chicago, a fitting tribute to two industry legends... Sadly, we've lost far too many of them the past few years... I suspect, however, they're all hanging out reminiscing about the good ol' days and contemplating the future of our beautiful industry..." --Robert Passage

"I am deeply saddened to hear about the passing of Paula Kent Meehan, co-founder of Redken. I know that Paula was well loved and respected. As we all grieve, know that we are remembering and honoring the memory of Paula Kent Meehan, a legacy in the industry. I am assured that we will be comforted by our memories and her love for the industry. May her heart and soul find peace and comfort and be comforted by the outpouring of love surrounding Paula. Our heart grieves over what is lost, yet our spirit rejoices over what you have left. Thank you for your dedication Paula!" --With love and remembrance, Sam Villa

"Paula was an inspiring leader for so many salon professionals at every level--stylist, owner, distributor and manufacturer network. She brought her vision to life time and again in ways that always centered around helping salon professionals elevate their businesses and improve their lives. She was one of a few great icons of a golden age in the salon business. She pioneered salon retailing and championed education on both in-salon and mega gathering experiences. She wrote checks to fund a partnership with MODERN to launch NAHA and celebrate artists. She had a dream to bring MBA level education to salon owners and underwrote an aggressive program to recognize outstanding salon businesses worldwide. Through it all, she brought people together and did so with class and grace. "We will miss her and are grateful for all she did and built for salon professionals." --Michele Musgrove

“When I started at Modern in sales, Redken was the hottest thing in the industry. Ken Grogan, who was a very close friend of hers, introduced me to her at the first trade show I attended. I was struck by how beautiful and gracious she was and thought it was amazing that this woman was probably the biggest executive in an industry that was so dominated by men. It's really the end of an era.” –Jan Hillenmeyer

“We will forever be grateful and indebted to Paula for her vision, inspiration and generosity while she was leading our Redken, and beyond, in the 21 years subsequent to our acquisition. She continued to support our relationships witnessed by her hosting the 50th Anniversary Reunion in 2010 for 416 returning Redken alumni at the Beverly Hills Hotel. It’s been said, ‘You just cannot out give Paula Kent Meehan’.” – Joni Rae Russell

 

PAULA'S POEM:

“A Life Truly Lived” (In Memory of Paula Kent Meehan) Here is a story, that needs to be told
For it is the story of an angel, who dared to be bold
For she came into life, and gave it her true very best
And in so doing, stood high above the rest
For she started a company, through her own personal need
And through her hard work and efforts, it soon took the lead
And the courage and insight, to take on the unknown
Is how she would build this great company REDKEN, and set her own tone
For the love that she felt, for the industry she would adore
Would come from her deep admiration, right down to her core
And the way we would look, at our skin and our hair
Would now always be different, with everything Paula would share
For we now looked at science, as we just never had
And we realized Paula’s products and teachings, were not just a new fad
For it all would make such sense, and give us all a new way
To truly enrich and enjoy, our hair every day
And Paula knew how important it was, to educate and enlighten
And she created her classes and techniques, to illuminate and brighten
And she would bring hairdressers together, in big events she would host
And she would show them how special they were, from the east to west coast
Through recognition and applause, she would point them all out
And you just saw her true adoration, there was just never a doubt
Paula would show them the skills, to excel and succeed
To operate successful businesses, even their own dreams they would exceed
And through many of these years, she would have her true love John by her side
He would be her husband she could count on, till the day that he died
And the children and grandchildren, that they cherished and shared
Would bring them both such great joy, you could just see how truly they cared
And the friends Paula had, just seemed never to end
They were of every gender and race, they were her true special blend
And the giving of her time, and her money to causes so dear
Her tireless efforts, would continue year after year
And the accolades she would receive, and the awards she would get
Could never truly show her, how much we are all in her debt
So as the mourning process starts, and our final goodbyes that we give
Let us truly appreciate the life, that Paula Kent Meehan did live
For we know in our hearts, Paula is with our dear Lord
And that she is up there in heaven, striking her own special chord
And as she looks down upon us, and day turns into night
This special lady we’ll remember, with her light shining forever bright

--By Buddy Feldshon

 

"I was particularly blessed to have had the chance to run REDKEN for three and a half years of its 54 years in existence. That's not even 7% of its life, but it was a very large part of mine. I can safely say that it was the most powerful and fulfilling part of my career at L'Oréal for three reasons: the quality of the people I met and worked with, the amount I learned from Redken and the Redken tribe, and finally because it allowed me to experience firsthand the power of a real brand.

There were many people who contributed to bringing Redken to life. As my friend Christine Schuster, who was running Education worldwide for Redken at the time, taught me, it was about having a group of talented individuals who shared a common set of de facto values, behaviors and language. It is in this element, that I feel that Redken was and remains a standout and wholesome brand. And, if there were ever a single person who was responsible for Redken, it was the "Ken" of Paula Kent Meehan.

Lasting impression

I worked for a number of brands at L'Oreal and I left the company over 5 years ago. And I can say with great alacrity that Redken is still in the (my) house. From the merchandising where Redken adorns numerous t-shirts, bags and a tenacious apron, the Redken blood continues to course through my veins. Moreover, well after leaving Redken (and then L'Oreal), I kept up my relationship with Paula. With our being some 5,600 miles apart, we would exchange the occasional email. I often marveled at how Paula's email would be time-stamped around 5 a.m. Los Angeles time. We would exchange on many topics including her love of Japan, her barge and chateau in France and, of course, the beauty industry.

Lean in

Paula Kent Meehan was indubitably the driving force behind the Redken brand for the thirty-three years she owned it. In a world of entrepreneurs and big beauty companies stacked with men, Paula was a woman on a mission. When she sold the brand to L'Oréal, Redken was turning over $160 million/year. Paula won numerous awards as a powerful and influential business leader. Despite all the wealth and fame, whenever Paula hosted you at her Beverly Hills home, she was ever gracious, entertaining and attentive. Paula was vibrancy personified. With her energy, sense of curiosity, stream of new ideas and persuasive communication skills, she was a natural leader. In the wake of Sheryl Sandberg's call to lean in, Paula should certainly be considered as a role model for women entrepreneurs and business leaders.

Paula Kent Meehan's Legacy

"Having sold Redken, Paula could easily have taken to a life of leisure. However, Paula was inhabited by a higher purpose. Her work was certainly her passion. And her work extended far beyond making money. Somehow, you knew that she never forgot her roots. She always wanted to give back to the beauty industry. Having dropped out of high school, she donated time and money to education. Having failed as an actress, she donated handsomely to the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts. For someone who bore a child at the age of 15-years-old and had to work as a gas station attendant, Paula used a unique blend of courage, determination and pragmatism to make her fortune. But, at no time, did she stop giving." --Minter Dial, former president of Redken


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Maggie Mulhern

Maggie Mulhern is the Beauty & Fashion Director at Modern Salon magazine.

 


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