Gloria Noto, the Makeup Artist Defying Traditional Beauty Standards

Gloria Noto, the Makeup Artist Defying Traditional Beauty Standards

With her all-inclusive line NOTO Botanics, the makeup artist is breaking down societal norms.

With her all-inclusive line NOTO Botanics, the makeup artist is breaking down societal norms.

Text: Danielle Combs

It’s undeniable that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but for renowned makeup-artist Gloria Noto, beauty goes far beyond than just appearances. As a leading makeup artist for over 11 years, Noto has been on a mission to defy archaic beauty standards and instead usher in a new era of self-expression, starting with her eponymous line NOTO Botanics. Packed with natural and organic ingredients sourced from nature, the line — multi-use, minimal and fluid in gender— spreads a message to embrace your own individuality. In an interview with V, Noto sits down to discuss how she founded her line, why makeup is empowering, and the ways we can start to witness real change amongst the beauty industry.

What drew you to become a makeup artist?

When I was a child, I would sit and watch my older sister and my mother decorate themselves. I am a first generation American—my mother is from Sicily.  The Italian culture is very adorned. The hair, the makeup, the clothing, the attitude is always full on. I didn't realize I wanted to do this right away.  I knew that I loved fashion because as a 10 year old, I would race home to watch Fashion TV and the Twilight Zone. I ate up magazines. I remembered learning about sex at about 12 from Seventeen Magazine and how to dress from Smashing Pumpkin music videos.  I went to art school to become a conceptual furniture designer. As time grew [while] in art school, I knew I didn't want to [pursue] being a fine artist as my career path.

While I was working at a thrift store sitting up at the register, someone dropped off these Kevin Aucoin books. I opened them up and my world changed. I had no idea that I could do makeup as a job in that way. Back in the ‘90's and early 2000's, being a makeup artist generally meant you worked at a makeup counter—which wasn't so bad either—but I didn't realize that I could be part of a shoot in that sense or part of a collaborative effort in terms of creating fantasy and fashion in that way. Those books made me quit art school and dive head first into whatever steps I needed to take to be on set.

What do you find to be empowering about makeup?

I find the ability to be able to alter is powerful, be it in food, clothing, information and makeup. If you have the ability to turn something into what you believe in, or feel truth to, that is power. It's always about finding your truth, and if today your truth is painting oversized red lips, bleaching out your eyebrows, and painting a black sumi brush stroke over your eyelids, then do it. If tomorrow’s truth is tinted moisturizer, lip conditioner, and eyebrow gel, then amazing. The power lies in the ability to choose because it's what feels right for you.

Through your own personal experiences has makeup used as a medium allowed you to fully express your true identity, and how?

It definitely has. I used to be painfully goth and punk as a teenager, and when I realized that I could use makeup as a form of identity, I went nuts.  I painted masks, sunken in eye contour, rainbow colored lips, pigments splattered over my entire face and so on. Then as I got older I wanted to see my face, have thicker eyebrows, and be minimal. Makeup helped me create that clean line, seamless look.  When I want to dress in drag and have a mustache for the night, I can use eyeliner to give the effects I seek out. If I want my girlfriend to pay attention to my lips on our date, I can paint them crimson, forcing her to notice every word that leaves my lips. I can be whatever I am feeling on the inside on the outside. As I've said, it's a form of communication without saying a word.  

The use of makeup and how beauty is perceived is still a challenge many still face today in society. In your opinion, what are ways we can combat this issue? How can we break down archaic standards?

I think ways of combating this issue of judgment and fear is by first opening up the mind. The change has to start from within, as we all know. We as a collective need to remember that society is a tribe. We are together in this, your neighbor is your family, and that stranger down the street is your friend. There is no reason to judge so harshly or to ridicule as a projection of personal fear. First start there and open up to change and embrace what is different. Next, I think that the more displays there are of bravery in self-identity that will help to shift culture to understand and feel more comfortable. Consider gay rights. If all of the brave humans who stood up for they [believed in] never spoke out, our society would never develop and become understanding to the needs of equality and respect. In a way, it's similar that the more we are open about who we are, the more we can change how we are seen.

Describe how you started your own line NOTO Botanics and what it means to share your take on beauty with the world.

It started—to be totally honest—when I felt incredibly lost. I wasn't sure about anything in my life at the time it seemed. My sister was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer and I didn't feel that my work was making any helpful change in the world—I felt emotionally depleted and confused. So I took off to Thailand for a month and I went to learn Muay Thai where I got my mind off of everything that was part of my normal world.  There I got deeper in meditation and quietness. The one thing in my life that I knew I wanted to do was make change and make it beautiful. The one thing in my life that I knew I loved was the Earth and how magical it is in its ability to take care of all of the living creatures on it.

For a while, I had been making my own products to use on myself. I was making scents with oils and learning about herbalism. I had always thought I wanted to make my own line but felt that the last thing the world needed was another cosmetic brand.  But when I really thought about it, I knew there was something much bigger that I wanted to do with a line if I should make one. I wanted to expand on the ideas of what wellness was normally considered to look like, share the imagery and the stories behind those who didn't fit into the cookie-cutter looks of wellness brands, and also push the point of the importance of knowing that what you use on your skin holds value to not only your health but the ripple effect that consumerism has on the globe.  I had a lot I wanted to share and felt that this was not only the perfect platform but also something I felt incredibly passionate and educated in. After all, I had been in the beauty industry for a decade at that point.

What are some of the most essential products from your line? And what tips would you offer to those trying it out for the first time?

The beauty of my line is that everything is multi-use. So you can use one product for a million things. So I think that they are all essential in the sense that you get to choose what you like best, and use it however it works for you. The tips I would suggest are to not be scared to play and to use the product not only as an external benefit but an internal one too. Each product has a specific scent that is meant to relax, ground, and bring up all of the good feels from inside. Use these products as that one time of the day you give yourself to love yourself.

Your line incorporates a plethora of multi-use products that are beneficial for all skin types and are unisex. When creating your line, was your plan to create an all-inclusive line?

Indeed, my goal was to show that beauty has no gender, that minimalism is not only sexy but helpful to the environment, and to create branding that shows the diversity of gender, sexual, and personal identity.

Can you share what the next phase for NOTO Botanics will be?

I want to do more collaborative projects and I want to be known as a brand that works with artists to create its culture. Similar to how Helmut Lang pioneered that movement, I would love to be a beauty line that does that as well. I also hope to bring in more video and more abstract ways of showing product. I also plan on working with more charities and fundraising.  So far we have raised over 15k for organizations like Planned Parenthood, LGBTQ Center of LA, and AKASA, to name a few. I want NOTO to be a brand that is not only focused on looking good, but also doing good.

Credits: images courtesy of ford

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