Zarna Surti // Her Picks

Zarna Surti of Tonal Journal



Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I'm Zarna Surti, the founder and editor in chief of Tonal Journal—an independent print publication celebrating women of color.

What does a day in the life look like for you Zarna?

I love morning rituals, and starting my day the same way gives me a sense of balance. Things can get crazy after that, but anchoring my day is so special to me. I start my day with a cup of lemon water and a hot cup of black coffee, then I take 30 minutes to listen to music and read. (A few years ago, I realized I needed to make time for reading, I was getting so busy, and I needed to make time for what I loved.) Then, I like to get in a 30-45 minute workout, get ready, and start my day. I also run Tonal Studios, a Los Angeles-based creative studio, so my day can be client meetings, work sessions, or working with my team, or it can be photoshoots, coffee meetings, or writing for Tonal Journal. Every day is so different, and I truly love that.




Where did the idea for Tonal originate from and how did you bring the idea to life?

I came up with the idea for Tonal Journal on an airplane! I had a cocktail napkin and I was scribbling the world “tone” on it, and eventually wrote down the word “tonal.” When I looked up the definition, it said “relating to the tone of music, color, or writing.” Those were my three favorite things, so it felt pretty serendipitous.  

From there, I spoke to Tonal Journal’s art director Esther Choi about it and she was in. We spent two years creating our 288-page magazine/art book hybrid and we’re so incredibly proud of it. It’s here to celebrate women of color and each volume will be based off of a different tone, the first being nude. It’s no nudity, rather, it’s an exploration in skin tones and cultures.

Bringing this idea to life was truly the hardest and most challenging thing I've ever done, but I wanted to get it out into the world. My biggest piece of advice is to pick a project and see it through to the finish—we all start so many projects, but the ones you finish are so incredibly rewarding.

What is one of your greatest defining moments within your industry?
The day tonal came out—April 6, 2018. I will never, ever in my life forget that day. I thought there would be 5 people at our launch party and there was a line before it opened and it was backed the entire night, I couldn't believe it! Seeing people take the book home was like sending out a piece of my heart with everyone who walked out of the door. It was such an emotional moment for me.

Also seeing people respond to it and getting featured in publications I've admired for decades (Business of Fashion, i-D, Coveteur, Refinery29, Essence, etc). It's just wild to me that our little project is being talked about on a global scale—I just hope it translates to women of color feeling more celebrated, feeling more included, and feeling all the love.


What advice would you give a career girl looking to advance in her profession?

Work harder (and smarter) than every one else. While you're working your 9-5, don't be afraid to freelance or create your own project you want to work on. This advice is mainly for entrepreneurs, because that's my experience, but start a project and truly see it through. It's such a gratifying process and an incredible learning experience.

Also, reach out to people! You'd be surprised at how many women want to help other women.

Beauty product you can’t leave the house without?
There isn't just one! I'm such a skincare addict—I need to have my hydrating serum, eye cream, and SPF on at the very least, and a touch of concealer around the eyes (I'm prone to dark circles), and a few coats of mascara.

Oh, and tinted lip balm with SPF!

Here's what I like to use:
Serum — Dr. Roebucks Hydrating Serum
Eye Cream — La Mer
SPF — SuperGoop Glow Stick Sunscreen
Tinted Moisturizer w/ SPF — Laura Mercier
Concealers — Nars Creamy Concealer
Mascara — Telescopic

Lip Balm w/ SPF — Burts Bees



Which three Instagram woman do we need to follow? 

@NOOR — We just recorded a podcast together recently and I was blown away by her intelligence, confidence, work, and beauty. She's a true inspiration.

@BABBUTHEPAINTER — I love that she shows the world what it's like to be a modern Indian woman. She mixes old school and new school, and creates this haven for first-generation Indian-Americans that I find so incredibly inspiring.

@VIRGOMOOD  — It's my favorite place for fashion inspiration—they find the best throwback imagery and LEWKS.

We’re all about woman empowerment here at Haati Chai. Which woman has made a significant impact in your life?

My mother and grandmothers—the Indian culture tends to have a very patriarchal structure, and I was lucky to grow up around such inspiring and strong women. My paternal and maternal grandmothers were just such bosses—when I was young, it felt like they both ruled the world, and did it adorned in beautiful saris and gold jewelry every single day. My mother is also so incredibly strong and is the most resilient and brave women I've ever met. She inspires me every single day.

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