Redken Founder Paula Kent Meehan Passes Away in Beverly Hills
Paula Kent Meehan, the founder and leader of Redken Laboratories, passed away Monday, June 23 at her home in Beverly Hills. The former actress created and led what became one of the first, modern, U.S. professional haircare companies. Redken served as a template for distribution, marketing and education for the many companies that followed, and countless beauty industry professionals began their careers at Redken or with associated organizations.
“We have 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, as a young actress and model, Paula Kent joined a chemist named Jheri Redding and created Redken Laboratories in California. In search of products that she could use on her sensitive hair and skin, Kent and Redding pioneered “The Scientific Approach to Beauty,” setting out to develop formulas that would be gentle and naturally compatible with hair and skin. Their research led to the three guiding principles of the company—protein technology that mirrors the hair’s natural composition; an acidic pH of 4.5-5.5, which complements the natural pH of hair and skin; and products recommended exclusively by licensed cosmetologists in professional salons. Redken was launched with three products and an intensive education program for hairdressers about the chemistry of hair and skin, which enabled them to better serve their clients. As a result, Paula was instrumental in elevating hairdressing from a career to a profession.
“I had dinner with Paula several times at her house and in fact, met Vidal Sassoon for the first time over dinner while I was serving as a worldwide judge for the Global Salon Business Awards. Paula was such a trailblazer. There was never a woman before her, and will never be a woman after her, that will change our industry the way she did. She made a huge impression on me. She was smart, bold and opinionated—she was a legend,” notes BTC’s Founder and Creative Director, Mary Rector-Gable.
In 1971, Paula Kent married John Meehan, an advertising executive for trade magazines. They met when he paid a business call to Redken. After they married, 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 ‘70s and ‘80s, the company was a leader in product technology in the U.S. and abroad.
In 1993, L’Oréal USA purchased Redken Laboratories, Inc., and following the Northridge earthquake, relocated the headquarters to Fifth Avenue in New York City.
“We have lost a guiding light today. Paula Kent paved the way for so many of us in the beauty industry, recalls Beth Minardi, Founder of Beth Minardi Signature. “A woman with guts, smarts and courage, I learned so much from her. Many changed lives will be her legacy—and her guiding light will continue to shine if we all continue what she has begun.”
After selling the company, Paula remained active in a number of Beverly Hills-based business ventures and founded the Global Salon Business Awards. She was also a notable philanthropist. Her 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.
“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 she has left behind,” says Sam Villa, Redken International Artistic Director.
Details of a memorial celebration of Paula’s life will be forthcoming.