Gloria Noto is an artist through and through. She paints, sculpts, writes poetry and has been a leading makeup artist for more than 12 years. In 2016, she added entrepreneur to her résumé when she started NOTO Botanics, her eponymous beauty brand focused on sustainable, organic and vegan products that are fluid in gender and multiuse.
NOTO — which is Sicilian in origin and means “noted” or “notorious” — is a fitting embodiment of Noto herself, who does not capitalize on the hardships and struggles of others. Instead, she gives those who feel left out by the industry a brand to believe in.
Its ever-popular Agender oil is the brand’s first nonprofit product, raising money for organizations like Planned Parenthood, ACLU, LGBT Youth Center and more. At press time, they have raised more than $17,000. I was lucky enough to talk to Noto about her daily routines, the inner workings of her mind and how she is pushing the needle forward with a brand that strives to create impact through action.
Q: What does it mean to be a gender-fluid brand?
GN: When I launched NOTO, a lot of people were using that term in the cosmetic and skincare world. When you market something to one gender, it’s misleading because everyone wants beautiful skin. For us, being gender-neutral means having the packaging that doesn’t feel like it’s leaning one way or another, it’s literally black and white, very minimal. The scents and formulas aren’t too flowery, too dark, or too heavy, and they’re all balanced within the beauty of nature in itself. [Our products are] multiuse: they don’t only target your wrinkles because wrinkles are always targeted to women. Everything is centered around the wellness in general. [With our branding], I’m very much in authentic alignment in the idea of what type of representation we have behind our brand and a lot of the models are friends or people that I know. A lot of them are non-binary and gender-fluid. I’m not just marketing it, it’s actually my life. And that for me is the truth behind it, I’m not just trying to ride a trend.
Q: You are an activist, how important is that to your brand and what elements of the business does that activism shine through?
GN: It’s the blood the company lives off of. It comes through everything, whether it’s how we describe our product, what we support, the types of models we use and what they do in their personal activist world, the organizations we choose to support, etc. It’s vital for me to have a company that stands for certain things. It is a political brand like I said, even by the types of people we choose to use. It may be a little more common to see these days, but I’m not seeing many brands use trans or nonbinary models to that degree, or are being as transparent as we are about our sourcing, what our packages are made of, or what types of tape we are using. That’s 100 percent a huge part of it.
Q: Why was it important for you to create a nonprofit product?
GN: I think a brand that’s sustainable to the capacity that we [are] wasn’t enough. This was around the time of Donald Trump’s election and I was trying to figure out what more I can do to give back to the things that matter to me. I felt I had an opportunity as a business owner to produce that portion in my business plan. I claim I care about these things, what can I do to support these things?
Q: In terms of sustainability, how does NOTO source and package its products?
GN: It’s everything down to the type of tape we use. We use mostly glass and plastic that’s made out of 30 percent consumer recycled plastic. Our wash we’re about to launch, we didn’t want to use a glass object in the shower because that can be dangerous for people, so we ended up spending more money on a 100-percent-recycled plastic bottle. It’s unfortunate that being sustainable is actually so expensive. And we weren’t able to push a lot of our sustainable practices until we started to become bigger, because we could then afford it more. A lot of ingredients we source are sustainably harvested. Like our palo santo is made from branches that have fallen off of trees as opposed to cutting new trees down because they are endangered. We try to make steps all along the way to see what we can do.
Q: What are things everyone can do to help the environment? Is there anything people can do at home?
GN: The thing is, we’re not even properly recycling our garbage. You can try to be plastic-free but that’s not going to change the plastic problem in the world. I think one thing we can do from home is get on the phone or email and contact your local lawmakers and contact companies that you think should be changing their ways. Or not buying certain things, like not buying [from] companies that are attempting to greenwash ideas just to ride a trend. It has to be more than just going plastic-free — that’s great and wonderful, but what actually creates change is getting to the system and taking that time to reach out.
Q: What does a busy day look like for you?
GN: Every day is so busy it is crazy. Sometimes I’m just fascinated by all the moving parts that go into maintaining a business. I wake up at 6 a.m. and spend a couple of hours by myself doing things for myself. I meditate, write, read, drink my drinks, do my stretches and then I usually dive right into some emails at home just because I can’t wait. Then I’ll drive down to my flagship store and go straight into email mode. [Each day] could include working with designers, finalizing packaging details, working with social media to help figure out a content calendar, collaborations, filming in the store, printing flyers, connecting with the warehouse team and managing pop-ups and events.
Q: What wellness rituals work for you?
GN: The thing about wellness is that one size doesn’t fit all. It depends on you and the chapter you’re in your life. I would say things that give me joy I’m doing right now would be the drinks I make for myself in the morning that have adaptogen herbs, coconut milk, something really dense and really decadent. It’s also packed with a lot of nutrients. I think for me, meditation is key. I’ve gotten back into doing yoga, and it’s hard for me to stick with it, but I think as I’m getting older, I’m realizing how vital it is to me. [I practice yoga] by myself on my patio in the sun, naked.
Q: What is a book that changed your life?
GN: “Story of O.” I read that when I was younger and it opened up my eyes to a different idea of sexuality, which was cool.
Q: A lot of people say makeup is vain, how would you challenge that?
GN: I mean, what is vanity? Is wearing something by a designer that you like vain? Is going to the farmers market and making a gourmet meal for yourself vain? We as a human race have been decorating our bodies from the beginning of time, so [judging others] comes from a place of patriarchy or women judging women for being women. We have to change that mentality and stop judging people for expressing themselves, however, they decide to. It’s not vain to decorate yourself, it’s human behavior, it’s nature.
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