From Suicide Attempt To Brand Founder, Novara’s Reshona Jessamy Spreads Positivity Through Skincare
At 25, Reshona Jessamy nabbed a dream job as a lawyer, but her dream job slowly turned into a nightmare in a toxic work environment where she was undervalued and ultimately fired for no apparent reason. “That caused me to spiral into a really dark place, and I became severely depressed,” she recounts.
Unable to see through the haze of depression and a deep sense of inadequacy, Jessamy attempted suicide at 28. Surviving the attempt, she began to rebuild her self-worth by turning to therapy and an old hobby of formulating beauty products. “I started taking care of myself in new ways,” says Jessamy. “Formulating became my happy place, it helped me to forget my problems.”
On the road to recovery, Jessamy began reflecting on how she could support people experiencing suicidal ideation and depression push through to the other side. “I had a light-bulb moment,” she says. “I could use beauty and skincare as a vehicle to uplift women, to remind them that they matter, that they’re loved.”
Novara Beauty is the result, a prestige skincare brand launching this summer with six products priced from $75 to $155: Purifying Cleanser, Revitalizing Essence, Illuminating Serum, Resurfacing Serum, Ultra Hydrating Cream and Oil Free Ultra Hydrating Cream. Jessamy anticipates Illuminating Serum will be the brand’s hero product.
Novara refers to its inaugural product range as the Waterfall collection. It’s focused on hydration and laying the foundation for healthy skin. Jessamy hopes to enlarge Novara’s assortment with a brightening serum, cream and oil before branching out to body care down the line. The brand will start in direct-to-consumer distribution, but retail is on the roadmap for the future. Jessamy is eyeing luxury department store retailers like Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman for potential partnerships.
Novara describes its products as being powered by plants and backed by science, and they’re informed by Jessamy’s travels. Beauty brands tend to cherrypick inspiration from a single country or region, but she created Novara’s products to harness secrets from around the world to illustrate that beauty is a melting pot.
Jessamy recently ventured to several countries. She went to Guyana, where she emigrated from to the United States at 14, Brazil, Mexico, South Africa, Egypt, Italy, Spain, Korea, Singapore and China. While abroad, she spoke with elders in communities about the rituals and ingredients they depend on for skincare. She learned about geranium oil, lotus flower and aloe vera, for instance. Egyptians treat inflammation with geranium oil; Indians lean on lotus flower for anti-aging; and South Africans (and many people elsewhere) rely on aloe vera to soothe skin damage.
Novara’s star ingredient, however, is centella asiatica. Jessamy came across the medicinal herb in China. “It’s been known in their culture for over 2,000 years and is hailed as the miracle elixir of life,” she says. “And that’s because it has healing properties, it has anti-aging properties, skin brightening properties. It’s included in all of our products to really help the skin and give you that really glow because it also has collagen and helps with the production of ceramides.”
Novara’s products also contain well-known skincare power players like niacinamide, hyaluronic acid and collagen. They’re manufactured in South Korea. Jessamy says, “I wanted to make highly efficacious products that work, and I also wanted to source the best ingredients possible, and in my research at the time, when I was deciding on hiring a manufacturer, the research showed Korea and France were the top places where the chemists were really doing amazing work.”
Each Novara box features a unique message of affirmation. Examples are, “There’s no such thing as a late bloomer—every flower blooms in its own time,” and “In the quiet moment, when success comes, you will realize you don’t need anyone’s applause but your own.” Jessamy explains, “It seems simple, but studies show that words of affirmation or just simple messages of uplifting really help to change your mood and to get you on the right path.”
An outline of a swan graces the front of Novara’s boxes and bottles. Jessamy says the swan symbolizes women who show up every day with honor in spite of everything happening in their lives. She elaborates, “Swans seemingly glide on the water, but they’re working really hard underneath there in order to get to their destination.”
Twenty precent of Novara’s profits will be donated to the nonprofit organization American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Jessamy points out that one in five women have experienced a mental health condition in the past year, and she views barriers to mental health support as a major hindrance to living a fulfilled life. She says, “I wanted to make sure that, as a brand, we stand with women, and we help combat this crisis and provide sources for those affected.”
She adds, “Novara was really born out of a strong desire to help women on their journey to self-love so that you are the best version of yourself. Our mission is to connect beauty with mental health and emotional wellness.”