Zarna Surti // Her Picks
Zarna Surti of Tonal Journal
I'm Zarna Surti, the founder and editor in chief of Tonal Journal—an independent print publication celebrating women of color.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Oh, and tinted lip balm with SPF!
Lip Balm w/ SPF — Burts Bees
@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.
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.