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Guest Post: Paul Mitchell Co-Founder John Paul DeJoria Talks Good Fortune and Giving Back

July 12, 2017
John Paul DeJoria

via Instagram/ @goodfortunemovie

Erika Stalder is good people. The Refinery29 contributor is the first to alert us to community-driven campaigns, and is always looking for new ways to bolster our cause. In her second guest post for, she covers the premiere of John Paul DeJoria’s biopic, Good Fortune, and shares a riveting Q&A with the once homeless, now billionaire, philanthropist and co-founder of John Paul Mitchell Systems.

Despite some of the negative rhetoric regarding one percenters under the current political administration, many billionaires are showing up to commit their support to philanthropic causes through funding and other resources.

Take, for example, the beauty industry’s John Paul DeJoria, an eternally optimistic co-founder of John Paul Mitchell Systems (and, fun fact: Patron Tequila) and the subject of a new documentary, in theaters now. Good Fortune explores DeJoria’s incredible rise as one of the richest people in the world and his infectious philosophy on the spirit of giving.

As the film reveals, the self-made DeJoria went from financial instability and homelessness in the 1970s and ‘80s to becoming a bonafide member of the billionaire’s club, with an estimated net worth of 3.2 billion, according to Forbes. And while we love a rags-to-riches story as much as the next girl, it’s what DeJoria has done with those funds that really inspires: He’s engaged in widespread giving in which he donates his time and money to more than 150 organizations as part of his pledge to commit 50% of his net wealth to philanthropy.

In celebration of the film’s nationwide release and DeJoria’s outstanding achievements as a community builder, mentor and motivator, Random Acts of Lipstick talked to the visionary about acting for the greater good, affecting change in the beauty business, and how to spread the wealth while still keeping your cup full.

Erika Stalder: Your philosophy on giving, which you share in Good Fortune, is steeped in inclusivity, compassion, and a connectivity that extends to those who fall outside your family tree. 

John Paul DeJoria: Philanthropy is often framed in the sense of the good it does for the recipient. After creating and donating to more than 150 charities, I always say “success unshared is failure” and it’s truly not about how much money you have in the bank but what you choose to do with what you have. As you reach personal success there’s nothing more fulfilling than also lifting others up along the way. I was homeless twice and will always remember how that felt, it keeps me humble. No matter where you are in life, you can always give back. If not with money, donate your time and volunteer. That mindset was behind me starting my Peace, Love & Happiness Foundation, which supports charities that promote environmental sustainability, social responsibility, and the protection of animals.

ES: Sometimes, it can feel like giving to others might come at a cost of depleting our own resources. But in the film, we see you successfully encouraging others to give. How do you convince others to give their time or money to philanthropic causes? 

JPD: Whenever you do something for somebody and ask for absolutely nothing in return, it’s the greatest high you’ll ever get; When you give it out, it gives back. I always tell people that we all have to pay a little rent on this planet, helping one another out. Think of our planet as a spaceship flying through outer space (as that’s exactly what the planet is); We’ve got to take care of everything and everyone on it because if we don’t take care of all the people and things on our spaceship, it will diminish, along with everyone on it. By giving back, not only are you doing something to protect the planet for future generations, but most importantly it’s the way you feel about yourself when you do something and ask for nothing in return, as it’s all about that feeling when you start doing something like that.

ES: You talk about philanthropy as being framed in terms of what it does for the recipient. What have you learned about how giving to others benefits yourself? 

JPD: I learned about the joy of giving at a young age when my mother had given my brother and I a dime to donate to the Salvation Army’s bucket (back when we didn’t have a dime to spare). It stuck with me and I’ve been a committed philanthropist ever since. For example, I founded Grow Appalachia, to help empower rural Appalachians to grow their own food and solve issues of food insecurity in their region, I’m a part of the Giving Pledge with Warren Buffett and Bill Gates’ pledging to devote at least half of my wealth to philanthropy, I’ve been a huge Sea Shepherd supporter (just purchased a patrol boat earlier this year) as they’re on a mission  to save the lives of dolphins, turtles and all other species in the sea being ruthlessly and illegally killed by poachers.

ES: It seems you landed in the beauty industry by happenstance, when selling products door-to-door for other hair care companies and in partnering with stylist and creative force, Paul Mitchell. 

JPD: Yes, I saw an opportunity and I went for it!

ES: What has nearly 40 years in the beauty industry taught you about running a beauty business with a culture of giving and in efforts to affect change? What do you think are the industry’s strengths in this regard and how can it improve? 

JPD: Well not everything in the beauty industry is always pretty- you need to work hard to make your  dreams a reality.  Be prepared for rejection, long hours and tough times… but keep moving forward. The American dream is there for those that are willing to put the work in. We’ve definitely created a community and culture we’re proud of at John Paul Mitchell Systems.

For example, with 120 Paul Mitchell schools across the country, we’ve built a tight knit family and a like-minded one at that. Since 2004, Paul Mitchell Schools have raised more than $16.7 million for charities in our communities and around the world as a result of our annual three-month FUNraising Campaigns. These efforts include grassroots, dollar-by-dollar events such as cut-a-thons, fashion shows, bake sales, and car washes. There’s always a way to get involved and give back.

ES: In the film, you talk about getting fired from jobs for overperforming and when trying to streamline company protocols. Do you have any tips for those working in companies or organizations that don’t encourage systematic improvements or excelled performance and who don’t have the power to create company initiatives to affect change?

JPD: I think it’s important to find a place that will challenge you, teach you and help you grow- where you feel at home.  Finding your tribe is key.  However we should all be prepared for rejection along the way, it’s a part of life and can eventually help us reap the greatest rewards.

Good Fortune is now playing at theaters nationwide. 

The purchase of John Paul Mitchell Systems products also helps support charitable partners. The Brand’s Tea Tree line supports Reforest’Action, an environmental organization that plants trees worldwide and in the areas where they’re needed most. Tea Tree’s Rooted in Green movement has made a commitment to plant 750,000 trees by the end of 2019.


Erika Stalder is a LA-based author and beauty writer who contributes to Refinery29 and other publications. She is the creator of PSTOL, a site for girls who want to build their own empires and aren’t afraid to break a few nails along the way.

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