Empowerment Series: Founder of WORD Creative, Host of “Feel Everything Podcast,” Zoila Darton Shares Community with AW
Panamanian-Jamaican and Jewish Founder of the WORD agency, Zoila Darton is building spaces for people of color by using cultural storytelling. She believes in creating content that reflects our community and history. The Creative Director says “Community is the foundation of a great brand.” The highly successful entrepreneur has worked with big brands like HBO, Nike, Converse, Meta, Rare Beauty, Shea Moisture, and many more!
AW interviewed the Latina powerhouse. We talked about community, Latinidad, motherhood, and legacy. Her energy is infectious, and her candid disposition is admirable. The importance of community translated during the conversation and will inspire you to seek your tribe.
In an interview on the Latina to Latina podcast, you briefly talked about identity being a separate silo. You said, “There is no one way to be Latina.” What does it mean for you to be Latina? How do you express your Latinidad? First of all, I loved the interview with Alicia, she is a queen. I am grateful. It was an honor to sit with such a master of the craft. This is a loaded question for me at this moment. During Hispanic (Latinx, Latine, Latino) Heritage Month, I’m feeling a lot of things about my identity. What it means to be Latina, and claim it, personally. Also, what it feels like to be included in the community at large.
I founded Word at the end of 2017, the goal was to create a space where people show up as their fullest selves. Recently, I’ve been asking myself questions about my own Latinidad. I am Panamanian-Jamaican but I don’t know if I am Latina. This has nothing to do with the actual culture because as Caribeñas, Black women, and women of color, our culture is so rich. It is the “sabor” that shapes what Latinidad looks like as a whole, even if other people don’t see us. I have my family in Panama and New York and for me being Latina has been about culture and community. It’s embracing and feeling powerful in it, it is the music, food, and all those things but it is not my full identity.
You spent years working in the music industry and then decided to start your platform to share stories that reflect our community and history. I can imagine this may have felt like swimming against the tide. Today, your client list consists of major brands. You are having success while staying true to yourself and telling the stories of your community. I believe the way we grow up and our experiences help shape us in countless ways. Can you think of a moment in your life that impacted you and helped you embrace or understand the significance of sharing stories? My whole life has been, me feeling like I am misunderstood. Growing up, I felt like a fish out of water, even in my own family. As a highly intuitive person, I had something telling me to be myself from a very young age. I truly never tried to be someone I wasn’t and it showed. I loved clothes, musicals, flamenco, movies like “Clueless” and shows like “Seinfeld.” I wanted to work in fashion and design but at the age of 5-6, I remember not seeing myself in magazines like Vogue. No curly hair, no actors that looked like me, and this impacted me. The combination of these things taught me that people need to be able to show up and be their true selves. These experiences coupled with the feeling of being misunderstood brought me here.
You believe that community is the foundation of a great brand. You create campaigns that reflect diversity and inclusion. We need more of that in our future. There is a Maya Angelou quote, “Your legacy is every life you touch.” You are young, and still working on your legacy. When you envision the future of the WORD agency, what do you hope to leave as a legacy to your children and ours, as part of a better tomorrow? There are a couple of things I would like to do with this company. Eventually, I’d like to bring someone else in to do this job. Someone who I have been able to nurture, support, and train. I’d like to see him or her blossom and hand over the reins. It does not have to necessarily be my kids because that would mean working another 20 years and I am not interested in doing that. The other piece, which I’m transitioning into is touching more lives through stories, ideally, doing television and films. When I do that, it will be the legacy because I can tell all our stories, including those of mothers, and first-generation immigrant children, specifically, from the 80s and 90s.
You are an entrepreneur and mom of two. You have experienced burnout. How does personal community play a role in your life? How does having that support improve your mental health and success, bringing more joy into your life? Personal community is everything! Some of my friends, I’ve had in my life since I was 13 years old. I lived across the hall from Chelsea, who has been my best friend since the age of 3. When my baby was born, she was with my son, while I gave birth. I’ve had the same mom chat group for the past 6 years. The life changes we have gone through together in that chat make up countless books to be written. One of the reasons that I am so passionate about storytelling is because one of the most heartbreaking atrocities done to women and mothers is not allowing us to be our full multidimensional selves. We are not allowed to show up in all the different ways we are capable. What I know of women is that the level of intelligence, innovation, and creativity inside us is such a threat to modern society that we have all been buried. It hurts my heart that we’re missing out on so much innovation due to the lack of opportunities to express ourselves, entirely. I would be nowhere without the women in my life.
We like to end interviews with a piece of advice, quote, or mantra. Can you share some wisdom for anyone seeking to build their community, whether personally or professionally? If you are seeking to build anything – it starts inside. You need to understand what is going to make you feel your best. How can you attract anything, if you are not feeling good? If you are empty, you will have nothing to radiate back. You must nourish yourself. I live by this philosophy and it is the foundation of the brand, Piu Mas, that my husband and I are working on. We are offering practical, harmonious, luxurious tools and resources to help bring more good into your daily lives. We owe it to ourselves to pour into ourselves so that we can radiate that energy onto people. It can help show others how to treat you and get the positive energy back.
Zoila’s vigor and passion come through, as she navigated our conversation about the things that matter to her. It’s important to show vulnerability and be open to speaking on difficult topics. The creator did a stellar job of expressing thoughts and experiences in a way that drew me into her story. AW is incredibly grateful to Zoila for sharing part of herself with us.
One of the best ways to create community is by building social connections. Having a network of support reinforces our sense of belonging. Don’t be afraid to find your tribe. Once you know who you are and stick to your values and beliefs, the right people gravitate toward you. Life’s journey is less taxing when we have people to hold us accountable and remind us of our purpose in the world. Community is everything!
To learn more about Zoila on Instagram and TikTok@zoiladarton or visit Word. agency
If you want to learn about the new brand, find it on Instagram@piu.mas
*This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
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