Like most cool queer people, Gloria Noto was a goth in high school. “I would paint masks on my face and make myself look sick or like I had done a bunch of drugs,” she explains, laughing. “I would just look messed up.”
Makeup was the perfect conduit for Noto’s obsession with punk art and music, as well as a revolt against the heightened glamour of the Sicilian women in her family. The beauty she was drawn to didn’t fall in line with the way she was taught women were supposed to look. She learned that being a woman was “always having to edit yourself, to make yourself look more presentable.”
But even Noto’s goth rebellion started to feel oppressive eventually, so she pivoted to a more natural aesthetic. “I hit a point where I wasn’t happy with how I looked without anything on—if I didn’t have a bunch of shit on my face, I wouldn’t feel pretty in my own skin,” she says. So, she channeled her artistic impulses into painting other people’s faces, learning a whole lot about the industry through trial and error.
In the early 2000s, Noto moved from Detroit to Los Angeles with $500 to her name and started doing makeup wherever she could—working for exposure and practice until she could support herself as a freelance makeup artist. “It was an undeniable fact for me that I would make this happen,” she says. “There was no question; there was no other option. I wasn’t gonna let [anyone] tell me I couldn’t do it. ”
During her years on set, Noto developed a passion for using clean and natural products, but she didn’t see herself or her friends reflected in what would be considered wellness goods. She had already begun developing her own products to use on friends, on set, and on celebrities with whom she’d worked. The first was what would eventually become Noto Botanics’ Rooted Oil, a smoky fragrance so compelling a friend once texted to see if Noto was at a party so she could come take a whiff. “It was actually hard for me to put it out there for others; it felt like it was my particular smell and [I] didn’t want to share it...until I gave in.”
The artist launched Noto Botanics in 2016, a wellness-centered beauty brand that puts the focus on natural products. The launch of the brand coincided with the cosmetic industry’s incredible post-Instagram boom, and, in only three years, she’s gone from making small batches of her products to a full operation, including consultants, a production space, manufacturers, suppliers, and retailers like Free People and Need Supply Co.
Whether you’re living your glam goth fantasy or experimenting with blush for the first time, Noto sees the impulse to explore beauty as universal. “We all have the same need, and it’s to feel good about ourselves—but what that looks like is incredibly unique and diverse,” she says. “I want to create a product that fits the mold of making you feel good, but allows you to make it your own, whatever way you choose.”
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