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The Beauty Industry Mourns the Loss of Paula Kent Meehan

Paula Kent Meehan: 1931-2014

Paula Kent Meehan—an actress (77 Sunset Strip) and entrepreneur who went on to found Redken in 1960—died peacefully at her Beverly Hills, CA, home. She was 82.

Long before “breaking the glass ceiling” became a catchphrase for women, Meehan was hard at work, paving the way for future entrepreneurs. In 1960, she founded Redken Laboratories—a fledgling company situated in Southern California’s San Fernando Valley—whose name eventually became synonymous with scientific beauty breakthroughs and high-performance products and retailing. Meehan’s company may have been small at the time but she had plenty of big ideas for it—one of which involved signing on Vidal Sassoon to tour the country. When I interviewed her for a Historymaker profile that ran in American Salon’s 135th year of print, Meehan told me her bold move had helped enhance education in the industry and attendance to skyrocket at Redken shows. It had also solidified the company’s artist network and fashion heritage. This was major for the industry.

Throughout her career, Meehan nabbed a number of achievements, including being named among the “top 50 women business owners” by Working Woman; earning top honors on Los Angeles Business Journal’s list of women-owned businesses in Los Angeles; and being named one of Entrepreneurial Woman’s eight most powerful business owners.

In 1993, Meehan sold her company to long-time suitor, Cosmair, the U.S. licensee of L’Oréal. Rather than settling into retirement, she delved into a number of her pet projects; including real estate acquisitions and creating the Beverly Hills Pet Foundation (pets90210.org), a Southern California-based animal advocacy organization that offers support for other local groups, produces numerous adoption programs and promotes saying and neutering. Above and beyond those activities, she also established the Global Salon Business Awards, which encouraged, fostered and helped advance business skills among salon professionals. In May of this year, she acquired the Beverly Hills Courier newspaper.  

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

Paula touched so many, me included. She gave me my first job in the industry—doing PR for Redken—mentored me and taught me everything about the professional beauty arena that she adored. We remained good friends and collaborated on many projects after Redken was sold in 1993 and I had moved on to the magazine—for that I am truly blessed. As my good friend Ann Mincey always likes to tell me, “You can leave Redken, but Redken never truly leaves you.” Paula Kent Meehan was a big part of the reason why. If you’ve got a favorite memory of Paula, a true industry icon, please drop me a line and share it with me at kdonahue@questex.com. —Kelley Donahue

About the Author

Kelley Donahue

As Editor in Chief of American Salon, Kelley Donahue reports on all aspects of the professional beauty industry, including salon business-building strategies, seasonal hair and fashion trends, salon services and techniques, and timely issues impacting manufacturers, schools, salons and distributor principals. In addition to conducting photo shoots--one of which was the recipient of an ABBIES Award for Best Magazine Cover--Donahue also travels extensively throughout the U.S. and abroad, sourcing out new trends and representing American Salon at major industry functions and educational events.