Moana Beauty creator Diana O’Donnell sat down with us recently to chat about the company’s history, her skincare routine, what product she would want with her if she was stranded on a desert island (see what we did there?) and more!
BettyConfidential: How did you become a maker of skincare and bath products?
Diana O’Donnell: When I was in college at the School of Visual Arts in New York, I had a hobby of mixing up skin care products at home. I would shop at some of the old-style apothecaries downtown and buy herbs, clay, oils, and flower waters to concoct my own beauty potions. I bought my first bottle of Monoi Oil back then, and I loved it. I remember opening the bottle and taking that first whiff of fragrance, and poof! I was in the tropics. It was amazing! On the rare night I’d be home during those days, I’d love nothing more than whipping up some toner, a French clay facial mask made with Monoi, and some rice bran cleansing scrub and giving myself an all-natural facial. I’d also make bath salts using the Monoi Oil.
BC: Can you tell us a little about the history of Moana Beauty?
DOD: I had always wanted to visit Tahiti; years later, I was finally able to go while I was on my honeymoon. I had the opportunity to talk to some local women about Monoi and how important it was to their culture; I even bought some homemade Monoi at Le Marche created by a Tahitian Mama. The Mamas are the matriarchs in Tahiti, and they are especially well known for making incredible homemade Monoi by hand according to family traditions and specific island traditions. French Polynesia is made up of 118 islands, many of which have their own style of making Monoi.
It was an incredible learning experience, and when I went home, I couldn’t get it out of my head that I wanted to make this line of products using Monoi. As you can imagine, I hoarded Monoi in my suitcase like they were going to stop making it! I did a lot of research and it germinated in my head for a couple of years. I even returned to Tahiti on my own in 2009 for Monoi Here, which is an annual cultural festival celebrating Monoi de Tahiti Oil. Then, a year after my husband’s and my daughter was born, we moved to Florida and I was finally in a position where I could begin creating Moana Beauty. The line launched in 2010 and the business has been steadily growing ever since.
BC: What does “moana” mean?
DOD: Moana means “ocean” in the Tahitian language. I love the way the word looks and sounds, and the ocean is a natural symbol of French Polynesia.
BC: What’s your background like? Had you ever dabbled in making body products or in other types of design before creating Moana Beauty?
DOD: My background is actually in art & design. I grew up outside of New York City; and later, I moved to the city itself to study painting at the School of Visual Arts. I played around with making products for myself at home as a hobby during my college years. After I met my husband, we moved to Los Angeles where I worked as a freelance web and graphic designer. During that time, I created and sold a small line of all-natural bath and body products based on essential oils. I learned a lot from that experience and it helped me greatly in the development of Moana Beauty. My background in fine arts and graphic design did, too—all of the artwork and packaging design for Moana Beauty was created by me.
Up next: Diana dishes about her skincare role model and more!