Photo: Ja Tecson for By Way Of Magazine
A content, copywriting, and editorial strategist for over eight years, one could easily call Zarna Surti a professional storyteller. With experience working for such acclaimed brands as Girlboss and Vogue India, Surti's adaptability is precisely what fuels her distinct voice and presence within media.
Diversity and inclusion being the backbone of her work, Surti recently launched Tonal, an equal parts publication and creative studio that supports the narratives of women-of-color while partnering with minority-owned businesses, respectively. A source of power for underrepresented communities, it's already clear that Tonal (and Surti herself) are a force to be reckoned with.
We spoke to the founder about everything from pursuing a creative career to what it takes to carve out your own spaces. Read on for the full interview.
on her childhood
I was always obsessed with music, clothes, and jewelry -- it was my first form of expression and I really loved it. From the little Casio piano we had in our living room to the yellow plastic purse I carried around every day, I found creativity incredibly interesting.
Photo: Benjamin Askinas
on pursuing a creative career
There wasn't a specific "aha moment" -- it was always in my DNA. Ever since I was a child, there really wasn't a question that I was a little weird and off the beaten path, especially for an Indian girl. I was, however, very inspired by my father who is an entrepreneur. He taught me being your own boss is one of the best things you can do for yourself and that you should always think big!
Photo: Carmen Chan
on launching her own brand
Tonal Journal is our bi-annual book series featuring women of color -- each issue is based on a specific tone, the first one being an exploration in nudes. There isn't any nudity, it's all personal stories and all the visuals are inspired by the colors of skin tones. It launched on April 6th!
The creative studio is a place for us to work with minority or women-owned businesses. We want to make sure everyone we work with prioritizes diversity and inclusion.
Photo: Benjamin Askinas
on preserving her voice in the midst of client work
It depends on the project -- Tonal Journal is completely and totally my baby, so that is the voice that is most genuine to me. When I do work for clients, I make sure the core of the brand is good, that they include diverse models and employees, and that their value systems align with mine. If those things are aligned, it all comes together organically.
Dancer: No)one. Art House + Directors: August Thurmer and Lauren Machen
on self-care and wellness
Equinox is my indulgence. I treat myself to a space where I can challenge myself physically, but also calm my mind. I know it sounds bougie, but I consider it an investment in my health, future, and mental wellness! I also consider skincare a huge part of my wellness routine. Over the past few years, I've really invested in great skincare products and they made all the difference.
on her go-to piece of jewelry
I'm obsessed with rings -- I have some from my grandmothers, grandfathers, parents, and brother. I've always felt that my hands are my energy centers and I love adorning them with pieces I cherish. I literally have the love of my family in the palm of my hand and at my fingertips.