Remembering Paula Kent Meehan, Co-Founder of Redken

Paula Kent Meehan, co-founder of Redken, passed away peacefully in her Beverly Hills home at the age of 82. Ms. 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.

“Today, we lost a true legend in the professional haircare industry. The legacy that she has left sustains the brand today,” says Redken US General Manager, Leslie Marino.  “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.”

In 1960, Kent launched her business career, founding with Jheri Redding a small California based company, Redken Laboratories, Inc.

Ms. Kent pioneered the “Scientific Approach to Beauty” based on her dedication to developing products compatible with the natural elements of hair and skin. Her highly sensitive skin and hair reacted adversely to many products on the market. Her quest was to discover why. Redken began with three products and an intensive education program for hairdressers about the chemistry of hair and skin thereby enabling them to better serve their clients and generally elevating a career in hairdressing to that of a profession.

The formulas were developed based on three principles;

  • Protein technology (since hair is composed primarily of protein)
  • An acidic pH of 4.5-5.5 complementing the natural pH of the hair and skin
  • Products recommended exclusively by licensed cosmetologists in professional salons

Redken Laboratories, Inc., also designed programs and trained hairdressers to successfully market Redken products in the salon, something unheard of at the time.

In 1971, Kent married John Meehan, an advertising executive for trade magazines, including publications that covered the fashion and hair care fields. They met when he paid a business call to Redken. She took his last name, becoming Paula Kent Meehan, and he brought his experience to bear in helping her grow the company. He became chief executive officer while she served as chairman of the board. During the ‘70’s and ‘80’s, the company was a leader in product technology in the US and abroad.

In 1993, L’Oreal USA purchased Redken Laboratories, Inc., and following the Northridge earthquake, relocated the headquarters to Fifth Avenue New York City. Now 54 years later, REDKEN is a global leader in professional hair care, styling and hair color products and services as well as business education. The company is energized with talented people strong partnerships with the best salon professionals and superior research and development. REDKEN products are available in professional salons globally.

For the last 21 years, Ms Meehan has been headquartered in her Beverly Hills KenQuest building which will serve as a tribute to her memory.

Paula created the Global Salon Business Awards through the B.E.S.T. Foundation to honor leading salons in the world for their strategy, globalization, brand and lifestyle marketing, creativity, inspiration and entrepreneurship. Three events, from 2004 to 2008 were hosted by Paula in Barcelona, London and Hollywood. There she welcomed industry icons to celebrate the creative art of business.

Paula Kent Meehan has received countless industry awards including “Hall of Leaders” given by the North American Hairstyling Awards and Intercoiffure’s Lifetime Achievement. In 1992 she was named one of Entrepreneurial Women magazine’s “Eight Most Powerful Woman Business Owners” and was selected as one of the “Top Fifty Women Business Owner” by Working Woman magazine. #1 on Los Angeles Business Journal’s list of women-owned businesses in LA for four consecutive years; also named 2003 “Woman of the Year” for California’s 42nd assembly district.

Meehan’s wide-reaching philanthropic work most recently included major donations to the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts and the Beverly Hills 9/11 Memorial Garden. She served as president of a pet rescue and adoption foundation she opened in Beverly Hills called Pets 90210 – The Pet Care Foundation. An avid animal lover, Meehan was also a supporter of Woofstock. In May 2014, Paula purchased and became the Chairman of The Beverly Hill Courier and The Beverly Hills Fine Arts Theater.  

One message Paula would leave to us would come from the pen of her favorite poet, Ralph Waldo Emerson, “That which should come to you will come to you through open and winding passages.”

Paula's legacy greatly impacted the beauty industry and its leaders, while her spirit touched many individual lives.

Says Andrew Biazis, COO Keune Haircosmetics, “Anyone that worked with Redken when the family owned the company knows that Paula created the most special workplace in the industry. It was truly magical due to the culture she established from the collectible 'Redken Loves You pins' to the intensity of her passion for the industry which flowed through every employee of the company. Her approach to life was asking 'what if,' and that made her a true visionary in anything she addressed. Her good work will continue on as a result. It was the most special time that all Redken Alumni fondly remember as their absolutely best time spent in the industry.”

Wayne Grund, President and Co-Founder of Surface Haircare, states, "Paula's commitment to education and the science of hair care led our industry and set the high standards of today. I was honored to begin my career as an educator with Redken."

Says John Paul DeJoria, Paul Mitchell co-founder and chairman of the board, “Paula Kent Meehan, one of the greatest icons of the professional beauty industry, has left her earthly body, after really enjoying her human life… and rejoined her spiritual realm. May we celebrate her life with peace, love and happiness.”

Kristin Firrell, John Paul Mitchell Systems Vice President of Product Development, added, "Paula Kent Meehan was an extraordinary entrepreneur and vibrant visionary. Her humble beginnings led her to believe that anything was possible, and she proved it. As a women starting a business in the 1960’s, she had style, grace and street smarts that led her to create one of the leading salon companies in the world.
"Along with her brilliant business acumen, she loved to entertain, travel and had a love for animals second to none. A generous heart, a welcoming smile, the willingness to step out of her comfort zone, Paula had a passionate love for all things business, and she loved a good challenge. Nothing excited her more than a P/L to analyze!   
"I had the great fortune to work with Paula for nearly 25 years, first at Redken and then at Kenquest. She was, for me, an amazing icon, a brilliant mentor, an exceptional travel companion and my beacon of light. I’ll miss her every day but am grateful that I had the great fortune to call her friend. Paula always said she was 'the luckiest person in the world.' I’m sure it was all of us who were lucky, to know and love her."

Sam Villa, Founding Partner of Sam Villa and Redken Education Artistic Director, stated, "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!"

Says Van Tibolli, CEO and Founder GKhair & Tibolli, “[Paula was] a person who made an unforgettable impact on our industry; I appreciate very much the work she did, especially opening so many doors for women.”

Adds Kelly Pullins VTB National Sales Director, "An inspiration to all that meant her and a true Matriarch in the beauty industry."

Joni Rae Russell states, "Paula was well lived and loved, treasuring each day with enormous spirit and joy. A gifted leader with grand vision, Paula created out-of-the-box and ahead-of-the-curve ideas and actually executed them! Her charm and contagious energy, motivation and genuine desire to make people happy literally changed lives, including mine. Our industry and her community will feel the void for a long time to come. Paula is one irreplaceable friend. I miss her dearly."

Says George W. Schaeffer, Founder of OPI and CEO of Aloxxi Salon Color and Care, "Paula Kent Meehan was the first lady of the Professional Beauty Industry. She not only understood the importance of the Professional but it was her passion. Her commitment to this industry and her entrepreneurial spirt is what we at Aloxxi strive to carry on. She is an icon and inspiration to all of us and we will sorely miss her."

[Images courtesy of Redken]

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