Paris Parker Neill – daughter of Paris Parker founders Edwin and Debra – grew up in the beauty industry, but she first realized her love for it under unusual circumstances.
Paris was eight years old, in the French Quarter with her mom on the city’s most colorful day, Fat Tuesday. They were enjoying the sights, but as all locals can empathize, eventually needed a bathroom break. Debra guided her young daughter into FiFi Mahoney’s, an only-in-New-Orleans-style shop equally devoted to salon services, costume accessories, outlandish makeup, and wigs.
The two made their way down the narrow hallways, packed with revelers, while a wide-eyed Paris took in the diverse crowd – buttoned-down businesswomen chatting with drag queens, sharing cocktails, stories, and a common experience.
Debra will never forget what Paris said to her in that hallway:
“She looked at me and said, ‘Wow, Mom…I love that New Orleans really accepts people and lets them be who they want to be. And I love that salons do that, too.’ She was eight, and she got it.”
Paris remembers the moment well. “That’s still what I love about our business. In a salon, people are accepted and encouraged to be who they really are. I love that salons provide an uplifting environment. They’re here to make people feel beautiful, and provide a place where you can be whoever you want to be.”
Guiding with love
One of Paris’ favorite salon industry memories has nothing to do with hair, but is rooted instead in the sense of self-esteem that comes from feeling like the best version of yourself.
It was a day she spent with her godfather, Horst Rechelbacher, the founder of Aveda.
“My family and I were at a hair show in New York, and I was six or seven,” recalls Paris. “Horst was supposed to go to some big meeting, but instead, he skipped out and took me to FAO Schwarz. He bought me the most fabulous pink princess dress! He insisted I wear this big, poofy dress back to the hair show…I just loved how it made me feel. I’ll never forget it.”
Horst was a champion for the opening of Paris Parker, regularly reminding Edwin and Debra that even though they were Aveda distributors, they couldn’t fully understand the salon owners’ mentality until they had walked in their shoes. So, one month before Paris was born, the Neill’s decided to open a salon. The name Paris Parker fit just right.
Home away from home
The salon industry has always been an extension of Paris’ family. From birth, a diverse cast of creatives – ranging from stylists to CEOs – has surrounded her.
“So many of my childhood memories involve Paris Parker,” says Paris. “Dinner conversations were family discussions about the business. There were no after-school activities, no daycare. It was me sitting in the office, eventually asking when we would go home,” she laughs.
Blessed with long, thick, curly hair, Paris was coerced into hair modeling more than a few times. “Everyone wanted to get their hands in it,” she says. Reluctantly, she agreed to model for hair shows, calendars, and billboards, but the attention she received in her small hometown of Hammond, LA, made her a bit uncomfortable.
“I don’t like being the center of attention,” she admits. “What inspires me is people and relationships; I love the connection people have with their hairdressers and the impact those relationships can have on their lives.”
A legacy continues
Those relationships became even more precious to Paris when her father died. She was just thirteen at the time of Edwin’s passing, and her salon family became her lifeline. Every year, she attends Serious Business (an annual convention for salon owners, held in New Orleans and sponsored by Neill Corporation), and every year, people in the salon industry come up, hug her, and tell her how much her father meant to them. Paris reflects, “I had thirteen great years with my dad, but of course I wish I had more.” To this day, Paris relishes in hearing stories about her father and his continuing legacy.
“They tell the sweetest stories about the potential he saw in people, and how he would go out on a limb for them,” Paris says. “Once my dad passed away, I really saw how he shaped this industry. It’s something I didn’t understand until I was older.”
Paris entered the industry herself when she was still a child. “Paris Parker was my first real job,” she says. “As soon as I was old enough, I was working the phones at the front desks, checking people in and out, dusting the shelves, restocking, etc.”
After college, she began working in Admissions for the Aveda Institutes, where she developed a passion for connecting people to careers that allowed them to flourish and be themselves. Today, Paris works as the Recruiting Coordinator for Neill Corporation.
What will the next 25 years bring? “I know I want to be involved in the company,” says Paris. “Hopefully one day I’ll step into my mom’s shoes, empowering hairdressers to use their relationships for the greater good.”
In the meantime, one thing remains the same: “The salon represents family in a big way. My family has always been innovative and willing to take risks, and I am so grateful for the trust that our employees have in us, because when we take risks, they’re taking risks, too. At the end of the day, I’m thankful for the people who believe in what we’re doing together.”
“We are so excited about the next 25 years, because we know that whatever comes, our big, diverse, extended family will be at the center of it.”