Human Interest

Look up the term “self-made millionaire” — or billionaire in this case — and chances are you’ll find John Paul DeJoria.

While his name may not be familiar to some, the businesses he’s helped create are familiar to most. And as a result of his success, in recent years he’s pledged to give away a large portion of his $3 billion fortune to those in need. That’s something he knows a thing or two about as he twice found himself homeless before turning a $700 dream into a business empire.

DeJoria is the focus of a documentary titled “Good Fortune,” which will be shown at the Sedona International Film Festival. DeJoria will be on hand to introduce and talk about the film during a screening on Saturday,

Feb. 26, at 6 p.m. at the Sedona Performing Arts Center. There, he will be joined by the film’s directors, Josh Tickell and Rebecca Harrell Tickell. The documentary is narrated by Dan Aykroyd and features Arianna Huffington, Cheech Marin, Danny Trejo and Michelle Phillips.

DeJoria is best known for being the co-founder of Paul Mitchell hair care products. But he’s also the co-founder of Patrón Spirits, including its flagship tequila, and owns a variety of other businesses. In 2011, the billionaire signed The Giving Pledge, which was created by fellow philanthropists Bill Gates and Warren Buffet. It says that they will give back in order to help others and the planet. Since then, he created JP’s Peace, Love & Happiness Foundation.

In an interview with the Sedona Red Rock News, DeJoria talked about the documentary and his rags to riches success.

Q: How do you feel about being part of this year’s Sedona International Film Festival?

I’m very excited. I’ve always heard about the healing vortices in Sedona but I’ve never been there. So I’m looking forward to not only the festival but visiting Sedona as well.

Q: Did the filmmakers approach you about doing a documentary and if so, what was your first reaction?

They approached me. At first they wanted to do a television show but I suggested we start with the documentary and go from there. It’s about being able to build something from absolutely nothing while living the American dream. The timing is perfect.

Q: Did you have much of a say in the finished product?

I had a little say — just to make sure everything was accurate. I’d say about 98 percent was Josh and Rebecca and 2 percent me. They did a magnificent job. It’s my life story as someone who, after a couple of failures, found success. It’s a fun film. When it premiered at the Zurich Film Festival, I’d say about 90 percent of the audience both laughed and cried. I couldn’t have been happier with the response.

Q: How do you feel it turned out?

I’m very pleased with the finished product.

Q: What do you hope people take away from the film?

I think the film shows that no matter what happens in life you can overcome it as long as you believe in yourself. It shows that the American Dream is available for everyone and that success unshared is failure.

Q: Your life really is the epitome of rags to riches. How does a former gang member who was homeless create a hair care empire? Was it pure drive and determination?

That’s exactly what it was. It started with our financial backer dropping out. I had $700, I was sleeping in my car, selling door to door. It took two years before we could even pay our bills on time. The fact I started with nothing really makes me appreciate what I have as opposed to having it handed to me.

Q: Your business ventures are very diverse. Was that intended as a way to avoid putting all your eggs in one basket?

It just happened that way. I’d love to say that I was some business genius and planned it that way. Little by little, things built up to where they are today.

Q: You’re known for Paul Mitchell products. Are people surprised when they find out that you are the co-founder of Patrón?

A lot of people know since I’ve been on CNN and Fox talking about it [in regard to proposed import taxes with Mexico] but many people are surprised. Luckily, I have great people running the company. We started it in 1989 with the plan of having something unique and the result was the smoothest, highest-quality tequila in the world.

Q: As a philanthropist, what is your goal?

I feel as though I’m on planet Earth to do as much good as possible, hopefully for millions of people. I think of it as paying a little rent for all the good fortune that’s come my way.

Q: Knowing where you came from, how does it make you feel being able to help others?

It’s the greatest high — even better than those we had in the 1960s. When you do something for someone else, without expecting anything in return, that’s the greatest feeling there is.

Q: When all is said and done, do you hope to be best remembered as a successful businessman or successful philanthropist?

That’s easy — philanthropist. If nothing else, I’d like people to say, “He did something while he was here.


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