Name: Zoila Darton
Homebase: Cali, but I’m a New Yorker forever
Tu país: I rep Panama, Jamaica, New York and Eastern Europe.
Describe your professional role(s):
I’m the founder and creative director of WORD. We are an evolving creative studio dedicated to cultural storytelling that puts historically marginalized voices at the forefront both in front of the camera and in the boardroom.
What’s been your journey to your current profession?
This journey has been rocky. After working in music for almost 10 years I wasn’t feeling fulfilled so I took all the skills I had developed over time working in music, fashion, and editorial and started WORD. There has been nothing linear about this path. I’ve had to learn a lot of things the hard way and I took a ton of losses. However, I wouldn’t have it any other way because now I’m in a position to make it just a tad easier for the next person.
What excites and stimulates you in your career? What draws you into the work you do?
I feel like I am just getting started at 36! Our culture is constantly telling us to accomplish things at a certain age and I feel like that stops people from pursuing their passions. I always think about the beautiful creations we’ve been deprived of because folks couldn’t find the will to keep going for the fear of not “being enough” or not “doing it the right way.” I’m in this stage of my life where I understand the power that lies within me and I take advantage of that daily as I move through my career.
I’m a storyteller [and understand that] there are unlimited stories to be told. There’s so much to be done. Let’s touch base in 10 years and see what’s been told.
What keeps you motivated?
My son. I want to be the example he has for a person who lived her truth. I show him that daily and hope he grows up to be someone who never questions whether or not he lived.
What advice would you tell your younger self as she embarks on her professional career?
Just keep going. Nothing happens overnight. Meditate and take care of your health over everything!
What are some ways that you continue to stay inspired in your career?
A thirst for knowledge. I’m always studying and trying to learn a new skill without the expectation of mastering it. I think this helps me understand how to be a good leader because I’m putting myself in the shoes of the people on my team. For example, right now I’m learning to edit a film. This helps SO MUCH when directing and putting together content. It also helps me understand my team’s process. Editors are the backbone of the industry and don’t get nearly enough credit!
What’s your go-to music genre, playlist, or song(s)?
Right now I’m into old-school salsa, jazz, calypso, big songs sung by women with BIG voices, and really anything from the 60s or 70s. Any rap or hip hop made before 2003 at all times. I also really enjoy listening to any kind of rock. I recently saw Alanis Morrisette, Garbage, and Cat Power at The Bowl and rocked so damn hard. I don’t know if it was because I hadn’t seen live music in almost 2 years but I went so hard. Your girl loves to rock!
Who are the people you connected with during your journey that empowered you in your career? How did they empower you?
So many women. Wow. My mom for one. She taught me how to stand on my own. I would also have to say my friend Lorena Serrano from Foot Locker. She saw me before I saw myself and I am eternally grateful for her. Thank you, Lorena.
What does Latine culture mean to you on your home turf?
Latine culture means community. It means looking back to look forward. It’s the way my hips moved almost immediately out of the womb! It’s my African ancestors making the best of a traumatic situation. It’s bonding over a song, a joke, and a head nod. It’s feeling like you’re a part of something so much bigger than you truly understand. It also feels complicated and nuanced. I often go back and forth about whether or not I feel accepted in this community. When I’m home in New York, it’s clear, but when I’m in LA, I’m not so sure! To be Latine and truly care for your community means being willing to have an open heart and mind to the deep work that needs to be done for our communities to heal.
What’s next for you?
I’m currently excited to take a little sabbatical from work. 2021 was INTENSE! In addition, to feed my creative spirit, I’m writing a short, launching a new beauty product, and have been attempting to write a pilot since 2019. Like all things in my life, they will come to fruition when the time is ripe.
For Las Mujeres Doin’ the Work, Latina has partnered with La Nueva Link, a digital and IRL community for Latinx creatives and media professionals in every intersection of the culture. LNL’s mission is to shift the understanding of US Latinxs from a monolith to micro-communities. They are a network fostering visibility and facilitating connections for Latinx professionals and creatives. Not only does their work empower a new generation of culture-makers, but also LNL pushes institutions to think critically about how they engage with Latinx communities.