July 2020 Issue
by Jacie Elizabeth Millen
Photography (top and left) by Christian Lee
With the salt water behind her and her sons beside her, Paula “Pinky” Michaud meets life head on with a splash of spunk and hefty dose of determination. Paula is one woman who refuses to let others rule her world.
Born in Redondo Beach, CA, Paula moved to Hilton Head Island, the place she calls her home and heart, with her father when she was 5 years old. At age 16, the dynamics of her family changed course when her grandmother died. With a few complications with her dad and step mother, Paula was put out on her own. Fortunately, she had incredible work ethic and was able to make ends meet even at 16. Among the many jobs she has had, Paula found her passion early on as an employee at Jack Rabbit Photography. “Photography has always been my love. It’s sad these days. No one even knows what an F stop is anymore,” she said. Even though Jack Rabbit is long gone, her passion for photography has stayed in tact over the years. “I still have some unused film. We’ll see what happens,” she laughed.
Paula currently works at a popular Bluffton restaurant, where “Pinky” is everyone’s favorite waitress. Over the years she has worked a variety of jobs in the food and beverage industry, but she still raves about her time at Jack Rabbit Photography. “Long story short, one of our clients had professional pictures taken, and they accidentally got messed up. My boss looked at me, (remember I was 16) and said, “Go get a camera and take some more pictures for this client.” I was shocked and nervous, but this shoot showed me how much I found joy in photography. I think I have a knack for it,” Paula said.
At 20-years old, she married a guy in the Navy and had Ian, her first of three sons. With a needed divorce and a new trail in life, her sons JP and Remy followed shortly after. Paula thanks her lucky stars she had all boys. “I don’t think I could handle a girl. I can’t imagine raising ‘myself’, I think I would kill her,” she laughed. “Oh, and big news, I’m about to be a first time g-ma; I gotta make the name cool, you know,” she added.
Paula wasn’t always as happy as she is now. Keeping a smile on her face became tough when part of her journey was spent beating drug addiction solo, escaping mental abuse and literally fighting physical abuse. With a husband who gave her physical scars to match the emotional suffering he put her through, Paula was pushed past her breaking point and decided to rise up. She stopped allowing his behavior to rule her world anymore. Through it all, she worked hard, with absolutely no help, to survive and thrive, building a thick skin to preserve that beautiful smile on her face. Her strength became unmatchable to any and every contender in her boxing ring.
Growing up coastal, Paula relies on the salt water for her slice of peace, declaring, “It can cleanse anything—from a wound to a bad mood. Saltwater is my happy place. I truly think if I had to be away from it, I would die. It’s what keeps me sane.” If Paula isn’t at work, she is sitting in “her spot” on her screened-in front porch, staring out at her beautiful marsh view with a glass of whatever she’s feeling. “This is my favorite place to be, looking at that view.”
Not only has Paula fought for herself, but this past year, she supported and loved her mother through the dreadful process of breast cancer. Even though her mom lives in Delaware, Paula and her mom talk almost everyday. Good news, she is living cancer free! “My mom is seriously my personality twin. She’s my heart!” Paula credits her inspiration to live the “pink life” to her mother. After her mother beat breast cancer, Paula dyed her hair bright pink and has loved it ever since. “It just fits,” she said. With the pink hair and the usual pink clothing item somewhere on her body at all times, Paula has been deemed the very much loved and cherished “Pinky.”
Paula can look intimidating with her rockin’ pink hair, but she is an instant friend to all. With a badass exterior, yet such a tender heart, Paula connects with people within the first five minutes of meeting them. After my interview with her, I wanted to be her new best friend because she was so easy to talk to and get along with. “You’re always welcome to stop by and come talk anytime,” she said, as I was heading out. She is a loving mother, a true soul sister and has nothing but positivity and funny stories coming out of her mouth.
One look at Paula reveals she is a woman of independence and strength. She is not afraid to be bold, or stand up for what she believes in. She is unafraid to be herself and share her story. With every shot that is thrown at her way, she continues to defy defeat. “My only goals are to be happy and make a ton of money. I’m super happy right now. I’m so blessed. But yeah, my story’s not over yet, there’s more to me. I know it.”
Idol: Marilyn Monroe. “She is the Queen. She was a genius, a true badass.” Paula showed me one of her favorite collectables, a vintage book all about Marilyn.
Hog Wild: Paula absolutely loves riding on motorbikes. She recently had a pink one, but unfortunately it is out of commission thanks to a recent accident.