Gloria Noto is an individual of many talents. Makeup artist, visual artist, poet. And with the launch of her eponymous beauty line in 2016—NOTO Botanics—an entrepreneur. We recently had the opportunity and pleasure to speak with Gloria in a conversation that covered a variety of topics from conceptions of beauty and identity, to politics, spirituality, and more. Gloria offered us insight into her creative mind and the process that led her to develop a beauty line dedicated to providing all natural, sustainable products in an all-inclusive, gender fluid manner. Gloria’s own personal mission is to bring joy and beauty into this world. After our discussion, it’s clear she is accomplishing this through her mindful approach to creativity and product development. Below are highlights from our conversation, edited for clarity and scope.
You’re a makeup artist, and yet you’ve launched your own beauty line. Can you tell us how you transitioned from makeup to producing your own product?
I still do makeup. I continue to have an agent and still enjoy that work. But professionally, I’ve cut it down to about 20% of my time. The rest of my time is devoted to NOTO Botanics. When I started out as a makeup artist, doing makeup seemed so magical—editorials, being part of a team in a real way. But the industry shifted really quickly. Everything had to be so fast, like capitalism to the extreme. I was becoming more and more successful, but I was also not feeling fulfilled in what I was doing. The irony in that, right? It reminds me of a quote from Joseph Campbell about “reaching the top of the ladder and discovering that you’re on the wrong wall.” That’s how I felt.
MC: So how did you find yourself on the right wall, so to speak?
GN: Around that time, maybe five years ago, natural beauty was coming more and more to the forefront. And clients would specifically request that I use organic or clean products. Yet they weren’t always the best to use in terms of quality. On top of that, the branding aspect of wellness products was very specifically targeted at what felt like one demographic. Cut to me as a queer-identified individual looking at this, and I just saw all these gaps that I felt should be addressed.
MC: How did you gain the expertise to develop these products?
GN: Ingredients became a big thing for me. I had really bad skin throughout my 20s, and my doctor wanted to put me on some heavy-duty drugs. I was like “f*ck this!” That day I bought some rose cream and the next morning my skin inflammation went down considerably. It was crazy! Over time I kept mixing my own things, learning about ingredients, buying books about herbs. Herbs are very powerful, not just topically but emotionally and spiritually as well. I started to slowly align those things—the emotional, the physical and the spiritual—and seeing what ingredients resonated with that. Everything I make in the collection to this day still has some sort of spark of what I personally have been interested in, so it’s very authentic to me.
MC: It sounds like you’re still very hands on.
GN: Oh totally. I’m a Scorpio—I love control! But I’ve slowly had to transition out of being the one mixing everything. My business has grown because I’ve given pieces of it to other people to manage. I still create all the formulas and the ideas behind them and then give them to my team to execute. But now my primary focus is on growing the brand.
MC: How do you find the focus to build a brand without getting sidetracked by your numerous creative endeavors?
GN: It’s really hard work. I think one thing that helps is loving the time that I spend alone. Also, practicing a mindfulness/meditation that sort of bleeds into your life so that while you’re doing one thing you’re in it. It doesn’t necessarily mean you have to do one thing the entire time. When I’m painting, I’m painting for that hour. If I’m working on a new formula, I’m working on that new formula. But it’s truly about what you don’t do with your time that actually matters. It’s the most powerful thing because that means you’re not wasting your time.
MC: What do you see for NOTO Botanics in the next 5 years?
GN: Truly I would love to expand on the flagship store concept and creating sustainability within that space. We want to introduce a recycling and refill program to reduce waste. It’s really about building a community-based experience where we can get offline and meet our customer face-to-face. We want to touch, feel and smell together. Additionally, we want to expand on our collaboration and charity work. I have too many ideas to stick to just making a product. I’m an artist, so I hope to use this brand as a platform for art.
MC: Speaking of charity, one of your products—the Agender Oil—is a nonprofit product with 100% of its profits going toward rotating organizations that focus on LGBTQIA, environmental and civil causes. What was the genesis of the idea behind a nonprofit product?
GN: I was checking myself directly after the 2016 election, and I simply said we’re going to have a product with a very politically charged name and it is going to be a nonprofit product. Each month we will highlight a charity to celebrate and collaborate with as part of the business plan. I’m no longer worried about being too gay or too queer because initially, I was trying to have the brand be for everyone [for fear of alienating a large swath of the market]. But honestly, I don’t care about that. Although I want to be for everyone, we don’t have to be for everyone.
MC: It sounds like brand activism is at the heart of NOTO Botanics.
GN: Absolutely. It’s activism through identity. What you wear, what you put on your body, who you present to the world can be taken in a way that actually shows where you stand in the world. I think that how you live your life is a political statement. That’s absolutely what we’re trying to do. In these times there is no way I could not build an activist brand. The world is too f*cked up right now to not have a message that’s bigger than “put this oil on your face.” My mission statement in life is simple, to bring joy and beauty into this world. And to me, the meaning of beauty is actually being open. In order to project that belief, this brand has to be political — it has to be activist — because inclusivity itself is very political.