The incredible life story of John Paul DeJoria — otherwise known as Paul Mitchell — is now the subject of a new documentary called “Good Fortune.”
Born into impoverished beginnings in East Los Angeles, DeJoria was, at times, homeless. He transformed his life by co-creating a wildly successful line of hair care products — John Paul Mitchell Systems — and also creating the Patron tequila brand. And between his business ventures, DeJoria also found time to become a dedicated philanthropist.
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DeJoria, now 73, recently spoke to FOX411 about his amazing life.
FOX411: Why did you decide to move forward with this film?
DEJORIA: I wanted to do something that you could send out to schools that [would] show people that America still works, no matter who you are, no matter how poor you are, no matter whether you are homeless — and here’s how it happened to me. I’ve been in debt, I’ve been homeless twice. You can still build an empire. But the underlying thing is, every step of the way, you bring others along with you. I thought that story needed to get out: that people feel good about themselves and about giving, with no ego involved.
FOX411: As a child, you were in foster care?
DEJORIA: That is correct. From Monday through Friday, for five years, my brother and I were in foster care. We would see my mom on the weekends. It was difficult, but we understood that as much as our mom loved us and wanted to take care of us, she couldn’t. During the week she had to work. And there was no way she could take care of two little kids.
The minute I turned 9 and my brother 11, she said, “Boys, I know you can take care of yourselves now,” and that’s when we came home. My brother and I got paper routes every morning before school and we contributed so my mom could have a better way of life.
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FOX411: How old were you when you first found yourself homeless?
DEJORIA: The first time I was homeless was when I was 22, with a two-year-old son. Second time is when I started John Paul Mitchell Systems.
The first time, I came home one day and my wife, she was very young at the time too, she just couldn’t handle being a mom anymore. I came home and she walked out, and there was a note: “Sorry can’t handle being a mom anymore. He’ll be much better off with you. Good luck.”
What I didn’t know is that she hadn’t paid the rent or the utility bills for three months, and she had saved that money. I was evicted in 24 hours. I lived out of an old Cadillac with a broken radiator. About five days in, a friend offered me a room.
FOX411: You give a lot of money to charities.
DEJORIA: At six years old, my brother and I were down at a department store at Christmastime and there was a guy ringing a bell. My mother gave my brother and I each a ten-cent piece, and we’d put it in the bucket of the guy ringing the bell.
“Mom,” we said, “why did we give that guy a dime?” Mom says to us, “Boys that’s the Salvation Army. They take care of people who don’t have a place to live and no food. We don’t have any money this year, but we can afford a dime. Remember boys: There’s always someone who needs it more than we do, and we give what we can.” That stuck with me.
FOX411: You were a Ted Cruz supporter.
DEJORIA: Ted was a friend of mine. Very smart man. I thought he would have been a great president, very honest guy. There are certain things we didn’t see eye-to-eye on, but still he was a good guy.
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But at the same time, I supported a Republican Congressman too, Lloyd Doggett. I’m not a Republican; I’m not a Democrat. I’m an Independent, and if I think someone can do a good job, I’ll support them.
FOX411: So you don’t agree with Trump’s campaign motto, “Make American Great Again.” You think it’s already great.
DEJORIA: America is great, and the movie that we just put out, “Good Fortune,” is a movie that shows people that America is still great. You can do it … you just have to do it yourself and not expect handouts. America is great. It has been, and will be even greater as time goes on. People have to know it; they have to know it still works. And it’s not the politicians that make it work, it’s we the people that make it work if we believe in ourselves and believe there’s an opportunity. And that’s what the film shows.