Live Out Loud: Owning Who You Are, as Defined by You

Season 3, Episode 10

Guest: Zoe Moore, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Consultant and Founder of Moore Consulting Agency

How, as women, can we learn to consistently—and confidently—embrace who we are? Zoe Moore, diversity, equity and inclusion consultant and founder of Moore Consulting Agency, shares how she has given herself permission to amplify her strengths, redefine her own standard of beauty and show up as her authentic self.

Want to hear more from Courtney and her incredible guests? Find all Dare to Interrupt episodes here.

Want to read Zoe's many columns, and other DEI-related content, in Meetings Today? Access them here.

Podcast sponsored by Myrtle Beach Convention Center. 

Myrtle Beach Convention Center

[Listen to the previous Dare to Interrupt podcast: You Can Do Hard Things: If You're Not Uncomfortable, You're Not Growing]

Meet Our Guest:

Zoe Moore, Grow With ZOMO.
Zoe Moore

An Army veteran and self-proclaimed “Doerpreneur,” Zoe is skilled at inclusive event management, consulting, speaking and writing on topics of Equity, Diversity & Inclusion strategy in the hospitality, meetings, events and tourism industries. She engages with leaders to examine how operational biases hinder the development, enforcement and training of policies, procedures and programs.

She is solution-driven and helps to determine measurable as well as sustainable programs. Beginning with data from surveys, assessments, interviews and questionnaires, she gathers insights to guide organizations to implementation. She is an advocate for supplier diversity across the business ecosystem, ensuring that under-resourced professionals and companies in the hospitality, meetings, events and tourism industries are afforded access to professional development, procurement and opportunities that result in economic empowerment. 

Following 12 years of service in the U.S. Army, she remains a detail-oriented, diligent and persistent professional with logistical, innovative and managerial skills. She values authenticity, accountability and has a high capacity for emotional intelligence, especially during heightened moments of stress and discomfort. She lives for collaborating and engaging on team projects that are organized, goal oriented and embrace critique as a tool for sustained growth. She is committed to changing the narrative around the perception and value of the African Diaspora. 

Born into American culture, she has a wanderlust and aspiration to explore the continent of her ancestors’ origins. As a Certified Diversity Practitioner (CDP) with an M.S. in Hospitality, Recreation & Tourism, she appreciates education and plans to pursue a PhD with a foundation in human behavior and urban planning beginning in 2023. 

As founder of Moore Consulting Agency LLC, she is doing business as Grow with Zomo. Her goal is to develop courses, content and workshops that help professionals think strategically about EDI. She is seeking clients, speaking engagements and a book publisher to support her journey to becoming a book author. 

She yearns to strengthen her community of practitioners, educators, industry leaders and professionals that are committed to dismantling systems of oppression and decolonizing social attitudes, practices and operations. Moreover, she is drawn to those that comprehend the strategic intersection between history, religion, politics, economics, and human behavior that aids in developing the business case/ROI for Anti-Racism, Equity, Diversity & Inclusion.

Connect with Zoe:
Instagram: @growwithzomo

More About Our Host:

Photo of Courtney Stanley sitting.

Courtney believes that transforming past experiences into impactful conversations through raw, authentic storytelling challenges the status quo, connects people from all walks of life and results in great change for the world.

  • Courtney is the youngest member to have ever been elected to Meeting Professionals International’s (MPI) International Board of Directors
  • She is the recipient of Smart Meetings’ Entrepreneur Award, MeetingsNet’s Changemaker Award, the Association for Women in Events (AWE) Disruptor Award, the MPI Chairman’s Award and MPI RISE Award.
  • Named Collaborate and Connect Magazine’s 40 under 40 and a Meetings Today Trendsetter.
  • Recognized as one of the event industry’s most impactful change-makers.
  • Serves on the Events Industry Sexual Harassment Task Force, AWE’s Board of Directors, MPI’s Women’s Advisory Board, is a Meetings Mean Business Ambassador and is the co-founder of the award-winning movement, #MeetingsToo.
  • Named as a 2020 Meetings Trendsetter by Meetings Today

Connect with Courtney:


Courtney Stanley: Hello everybody, this is Courtney Stanley, and welcome to another exciting episode of Dare to Interrupt, a listening experience where you have the opportunity to sit in on honest, unfiltered conversations with women who are considered to be the most influential, inspiring and innovative leaders in the world of events hospitality, business and beyond. Throughout their careers, these leaders have dared to interrupt conversations, their own comfort zones and sometimes even societal norms to hustle toward their greatest levels of success.

I am thrilled to introduce you to today's guest, a woman that I had the pleasure of introducing as the opening speaker for She Means Business at IMEX America this year. Here with us we have Zoe Moore, diversity, equity and inclusion consultant for the hospitality industry and founder of Moore Consulting Agency. Zoe, it's so great to have you on the podcast. Where are you joining us from?

Zoe Moore: Well, today, let's see, what day is it? I'm in Atlanta, Georgia, specifically in Smyrna, which is about 15 minutes outside of downtown. So here in Georgia, the peach.

Courtney: Have you always lived in Georgia?

Zoe: I have not. I am an Army veteran. So, "Hooah!" is what most people say who know the Army language. 
I was in the Army for 12 years. So, I've moved all around. I grew up mainly in Northern California, some would like to say it's the "Yay Area," so Oakland, San Jose, all my life. And then I joined the military moved around everywhere. So, I've lived outside of the country--Georgia, Baltimore, Kentucky--but I reside here right now. And because I have a son that's going to Georgia State University,

Courtney: And it's nice you get to stay close by and you can see each other frequently enough. I'm sure you're traveling a lot these days, too.

Zoe: I am. But this empty nest syndrome y'all is difficult. Like I you know, my son and I are close. But you know, I don't want to, I don't want to be too close. So...and I work and I travel a lot. So, I'm here, but I'm thinking Mexico, I'm thinking new work. I'm trying to decide what's next. So, here for right now, but as it gets colder, Mexico is calling my name.

Courtney: Yeah, that sounds fantastic. Where in Mexico, would you go? And you would go to live there like through the winter?

Zoe: Absolutely. Absolutely. So, you know, of course, you know, there's the Playa Del Carmen, there's the Cabo San Lucas, there's Mexico City. I actually just I liked the idea of being a nomad, you know, just exploring, stepping outside of my comfort zone. And then I have this desire, because I grew up in California, to be immersed in Spanish. I want to force myself I know Spanish. I can speak Spanish, however, I lose that confidence a little bit when I'm not using it all the time. 

So, I feel like if I'm in a place where I can speak Spanish fluently, then I'll build my confidence. So, that's another desire. I do eventually want to end up in South Africa, Kenya as well. I've been there before. I go to Kenya in April. But I just like being a nomad, I like traveling. That's one of my favorite things to do is it's those places that I'm drawn to where there's like music in the air and good food to eat everywhere. So, traveling is my jam. I love to travel.

Courtney: Well, we definitely have the desire to speak Spanish frequently in common. That's something that I've always wanted to do more of. And I've, you know, I learned Spanish back in the day in school, and anytime that I have the opportunity to practice and to speak it, I get really excited and really invested in relearning it and getting better at it. 

But, it's something that's, you know, it's like flexing a muscle. Like, if you don't do it every day, if you're not doing it frequently enough, it just never gets to that place that you would dream of it getting to. So, I'm with you. And my second thought that I had when you were talking is you know Ashley Lawson, right?

Zoe: Yeah, yes. We just met for the first time in person. So, it's wonderful. She's an amazing human being. We wrote an article together recently on cultural competence. You know, the difference between cultural competence, appreciation and appropriation. And I love collaborating with her. So, more to come, but yes, amazing individual.

Courtney: Yeah, she's one of my favorite people. Definitely take a look. She has been writing a monthly column for Meetings Today, and she and Zoe put together a really incredible piece recently. So, take a look. Watch out for her. 
She's a nomad. So, she essentially has been living all over the world for the past almost two years now, which is pretty crazy. And she has been sharing all of her adventures, all of her learnings about different cultural experiences and teaching other meeting professionals and event professionals how to really weave in authentic culture into their events that they're planning. 

So, really interesting person; definitely somebody that makes me want to travel a little bit more and experience more and immerse myself more in cultures as well.

Zoe: Yeah. And we know...her and I...because it's really important to understand that everyone is important in this advocacy for equity, diversity and inclusion. And so, I think just like you being in my network of people that I go to and say, you know, what is your message? How do you connect with people and the way that she does it, because she's a nomad, and she can talk about these topics. 

You know, I'm an educator, I'm going to tell you about the history and the laws, and you know, how to make sure that the efforts that you do are strategic. And then I look to, to Ashley, as we talk about cultural competence. 

You know, I look at it from a supplier diversity perspective. So, it's that teamwork that I love. Collaboration is my thing. That, I think, is something that we should all lean into; more than just competition. So, collaboration, and I've worked with her, several times, but like I said, there's more to come, like there's more work to come with you. So, I'm excited to be here with you today.

Courtney: Yeah, me, too. And something that I mentioned in your introduction for today is that you were the opening speaker at She Means Business in Las Vegas for IMEX America. And you read this incredible poem. And I want the audience to at least get a little taste, especially if they weren't there to see you in person. Can you share, you know, what was the poem? What inspired you to write it? And could you even share maybe a little snippet of what you read that day?

Zoe: Yeah, absolutely. You know, I got into a conversation with Nancy Snowden. Everyone knows, or if you don't know, Nancy Snowden at MPI, you should. We get into some pretty deep conversations. And she told me about this opportunity. And as we talked, I got to this point where I was just like, I want people to understand, you know, when we talk about She Means Business, who are we talking about? Right? So, to set the stage and give some people context. 

As I read this snippet, I want your audience to close their eyes. We'll do some deep breaths, and then I'll get into reading it. So, let's just take one deep breath together. Right, close your eyes... 

Who is she? Allow your thoughts to wander your mind to see. Is there an image that appears? A voice that you hear? A vivid memory? How would you describe she? Does she look like a model? Sound like a character from TV? Does she look like you? Does she look like me? Is she here in attendance? Who is she? Nice? Sweet? Nurturer? Accommodating? Beautiful? Skinny? Thick? Long hair? Stunning, jewel-like eyes? Sexy? Plain? Mother? Daughter? Nice? Aunt? Sister? Wife? Secretary? Virtuous? Pious? Stern? Cook? Flat-chested? Big-breasted? Curvy hips? Big lips? Long legs? Thighs? Now, open your eyes. Who is she? 

I'll stop there.

Courtney: No, oh my gosh. Oh, it just gives me chills. Like, every time I hear you say those words. It's just, it's emotional. It's really emotional. So, I know you have this conversation with Nancy, and you're, wanting to take things in a different direction for this year's show and really create an experience that's different for the audience. What does it mean to you personally? Like, how are you emotionally invested in this piece that you wrote?

Zoe: You know, I'm emotionally invested. Because I think so many times our definition of who she is, of who I should be, of who you should be, is defined through this very singular lens, right? And it's...there's all these pressures--social pressures on us, to look perfect, to act perfect, to have this level of education, this level of income. 

So, I want to, as my title says, or as I like to call myself, a strategic disrupter. My goal is to disrupt people's thinking, right? To give you information that's going to help you challenge your biases. And in this work, I always like to start with self. 

So, the goal of the poem was to make you first look within who is this person that you define, as she. How do you see yourself? And then how does your identity, how does that impact the way that you show up in the world, right? And once you understand how you show up in the world, what is the experience that other women or people who identify as a woman or non-binary, how do they show up in the world? How does that interaction influence the decisions that we make, right? 

And, so really challenging our biases, challenging our understanding and making sure that we're constantly evolving that. And that's why I'm so deeply involved, because, as you know, an educator, I want to use what I've learned in school, whether that be history or laws, and bring it together. 

Storytelling is really powerful these days; bring it to a point where people want to listen. It's not necessarily something that's palatable and digestible, where it's going to make you comfortable. The purpose of it is to make you uncomfortable. If you have this image in your head that is one image, the standard of beauty that's sold to us on media and magazines and on TV; how do you challenge that? How do you dismantle that, unpack it, and explore your understanding of who she is, right?

Courtney: How do you feel like you have maybe struggled to show up? So, you're talking about, you we're going through this experience, and we're trying to, to show up, you know, as our full selves, and to not be held back by societal standards? How have you struggled throughout the years to show up? And how have you been able to learn or to teach yourself to grow? And to show up confidently and authentically?

Zoe: Hmm, beautiful question. I was actually just talking to a colleague earlier--I'm going through some training--and there's this meme that we were talking about, and the meme says, "You know, what's the difference between being assertive and aggressive?" And the person responds, "Your gender, right?" 

And so, there's this this moment where you want this meme to be funny, but then you think about it, right? I have been defined as aggressive in so many rooms, because sometimes because of my military background. You know, I was in the Army for 12 years. I've been to two tours in Iraq. I've shot a weapon, I've, you know--all kinds of stuff. And then also when I show up in different spaces, I'm very direct, and I don't mince my words if I have something I'm advocating for, I'm passionate about it. And so that has been defined as aggressive. But is it aggressive? Or is it that I'm assertive, right? 

And so, when we look at our biases, to be a man, or someone who identifies as a man, and be aggressive, that's a good thing. Like, "Oh, yeah, go get them! You're a go getter. You're hungry to succeed." And then when someone who identifies as a woman, when we show up in that same way, we get some expletives that aren't kind, you know, some terminology that is unkind, but our activity or behavior's the same. But yet, we get different words allotted at us. 

That's been hard for me and how I show up, because I always give this disclaimer, because I know how strong and confident I come across--my height, I'm five- seven, you know, medium-hue complexion--I call myself like hazel nut. I have a very strong face, very, you know, sturdy shoulders--I used to work out all the time. So, when I go into a room, my head is up. You know, I speak loudly. I enunciate. And that can be intimidating, but I'm not intimidated. 

And I think more people are intimidated, right? And I've had to wrestle with that, giving this disclaimer like, I'm just stating my opinion, I'm giving my observation. I'm not trying to offend anybody. But I observed this, and I want this to change, because it's hurting people, right? So, to be an advocate is to advocate for people and say things that challenge the status quo. And those people sometimes are in the room, and sometimes they're not in the room, but I'm always me. 

So how do I maintain my integrity? You know, when people may perceive that as being aggressive, or overly assertive, you know? So that's always been a challenge.

Courtney: Well, you're not alone, though, because...So, one of the presentations that I deliver as a speaker is around branding. And one of the exercises that I always take my audience through--and it's my favorite thing to do, because I find that the most "aha moments" happen in this particular exercise--essentially, I have people identify their top strengths. And then I have them identify one way in which people have misperceived them more often than anything else. 

I have multiple women in the room who use the assertive and aggressive example, or confident and arrogant, or a lot of times, they'll use the word bitch. And it comes up over and over and over again. And for me, I don't know that I am able to easily articulate a solution for that. I think it's very political. I think it's very circumstantial. I think it's actually very strategic; the moves that women often make to somehow slip over to the other side of the spectrum and be seen as competent, instead of an overbearing person. 

Do you have advice? If somebody were to come on here and say, essentially, what you just said: "Listen, so I'm struggling, because people see me as a bitch. And really, I'm just a confident person who knows their stuff. I don't want to change who I am." But how do I adjust? Or do I need to adjust? What's your advice to be seen in a way that's constructive? What would you say to them?

Zoe: I think it's about us controlling our own narrative, right? That these narratives that exist now, these biases, these tropes, like the trope of me being aggressive is often called the angry black woman, right? So, if I speak up in a room, or if I call out racism, or sexism or ableism, you know, I get dismissed as the angry black woman. 

So, how would I tell someone else who's going through that is to control your narrative. People are going to say whatever, right, all the time. They're always going to have an opinion. And there's this video that I wish I could recall exactly. The, you know, word for word, what she says, but it kind of alludes what I said earlier, is that, you know, I'm not intimidating, you're intimidated. And that's something you have to deal with, right? Not me, right? 

And so, if I am a person of integrity, and I have empathy and emotional intelligence, and I know that I'm moving in spaces for the greater good of not just myself, but those who work with me, for me, with me, and all that kind of stuff like that, then I need to own the fact that this is who I am I, this is a part of my story. I exude this confidence. I get my work done because I'm diligent. 

And so, for those words, like aggressive and assertive, we have the take those words back and say, "I am confident," right? "I know my stuff. I've studied this. I've educated myself. I've invested the money," you know. And so, just taking back that ownership and owning the fact that it's okay to be a confident woman I don't have to live up to, and I talked about this in the poem. I don't have to live up to society's standards, or I don't have to be defined through the male gaze and be this meek, domesticated--and there's nothing wrong with being a meek person--but if that's not me, then I don't have to apologize for who I am. 

So, stop apologizing, right? And walk in your purpose and walk in your confidence of who you are defined, by you.

Courtney: I think so. For me, I'm looking at two sides of a coin. I'm looking at one side, which I think is self-awareness and accountability. I think because though you come across as a very self-aware person, so if you know that you said something that didn't come across, right, you probably know. And you're like, "Oh, probably need to redirect or have a follow-up conversation." 

But that requires a certain level of self-awareness where there are absolutely people in the world that lack that type of awareness, where they just are who they are, for better or for worse, and they may not actually realize that they said something that hurt somebody, or that positions them in a certain light. 

So, there's that side. But then you also said something that I totally agree with. And I thought of this earlier to where it's almost an element of "that's your problem." You know, I'm not intimidating, you're intimidated. And I loved the way that you phrase that because I thought that earlier where I was like, you know, as a person that I've met in real life as a person that I've spoken to virtually, I have never once been intimidated by you. Never once to me--you're super easy to talk to. You're so authentic. You're so relatable, you're so kind. 

And so, in our conversation, I was reflecting on that. And I was like, "You know what, that's because I feel like I'm a pretty confident person." I wouldn't go into a conversation, hopefully, feeling like somebody's trying to one-up me or show off or, you know, I think a lot of times when people feel intimidated, it's because they're lacking something in themselves that they want to see more of something in themselves. And they don't have it that day for whatever reason. 

So, I love the way that you frame that. I thought that was really interesting.

Zoe: Is this the same thing with you, like when I see you and Nancy and I meet, and I mean, all these women throughout MPI. And as I network through the space, and I see this bold woman walking through in kente cloth or in a nice power suit and heels, however that person identifies--I'm drawn. And so, when people think about being intimidated, if anything, I'm like, I want to run to you. I want to, like, how can we collaborate? 

Like I said, in the beginning, if you're making these moves, how can I support you? What can we do together? And that, again, I want to preface that by saying, "You don't have to be this outspoken, bold person for me to be drawn to you." But that's who I am drawn to. And for someone who is meek, and I am drawn to you, because there are things that I can learn from you as well. 

You know, if you are someone who's more reserved, we can collaborate as well, because when I think about collaboration, what I'm self-aware of, is that I'm not 100% perfect. I have areas of weakness, areas that I need to grow. So, I'm looking for people to draw to me, so that we make this whole, you know, entity, right? And so, I know there's a quote or a scripture that says iron sharpens iron, right? And that's how I think about it when I meet people, whether they're meek or super bold, or, you know, they're outspoken or they're reserved. What can I learn from this person? 
So why spend the time being intimidated? Instead of saying, "How can I treat you to lunch, because I want to know more about you--tell me your story?" And I live vicariously through people. 

So, there's someone right now--Marty is the owner of ABC, it's the African, I'm sorry, it's the Green Book. She produced the Green Book; this woman travels all over the world. She's been in Antarctica--I just saw this video where she went on some cruise and the Northern Lights, and I'm like, let me call her and figure out how she got on that trip. I want to go, you know. Not intimidated, like, "Oh, you know, she gets to travel all over the world, I have no time." 

Dwelling in that space. I can learn I don't have to go to university. I don't have to pay for a program. I can invest right here and coordinate and learn. You're an awesome speaker. right? So, what did I do to reach out to you after we spoke on a panel together? I was like, "Teach me your ways." You know, how do I get those skills, right? 

And yeah, everyone's a teacher to me. That's how I look at people is what lesson can I not just extract, but what lesson can we build together? You know, how can we grow together?

Courtney: Yeah, I would agree that I have a similar perspective where I truly, in my heart of hearts, believe that every single person has value. Every single person has information, and they have, you know, life experience, to share. Everybody has value, right? 

So regardless of how you show up, if you are confident in yourself and what you bring to the table, that's what I'll be attracted to. A lot of times, I'm attracted to people who are very calm. They're not the brightest, the boldest, the loudest in the room. But they're people who they just know themselves and they show up and they take their time and what they say, and it's like the calmness sometimes is what I'm attracted to the most, and it makes me want to get to dive deeper. And you know that person better. 

I think for me, I'm most attracted to people who just know themselves and love themselves and know they're not perfect, but they show up and they show up proudly. And I think that it's something that everybody struggles with, even people who've built confidence over time. And I would say I'm definitely somebody who's developed and become more confident over time. 

But I just think it's if we all worked a little bit harder on becoming a little bit more self-aware, and looking at people more collaboratively, instead of competitively, what a different world we would live in.

Zoe: Yeah, it's when you talk about self-awareness, and I do teach about you know--and I'm always learning more about self-awareness, social awareness--is it leads to more emotional intelligence, right? And so, when you start to understand what you're drawn to, and also what kind of messes with your energy, what throws you off, all of that is important, right? 

And so, I know that, for me, when I'm around people who aren't good at troubleshooting, when they're just injecting all kinds of anxiety and tension into a situation, my first thing I want them to do is take a deep breath. And that's a big reason as to why before I do a speaking engagement, before I enter into a lesson plan, let's all take a deep breath together, right? Let's level set. Because what I can't handle is, you know, this mentality of the sky is falling, the sky is falling, and that energy doesn't serve me well, either. 

And so you have to know yourself so that you also can have some social awareness again, how you perceive people, and when you do perceive someone in a negative light, the responsibility that you have is to ask yourself, why, again, back to the poem Who Is She?, where does your definition come from? Where does your perspective come from? And I do this exercise really quickly. If I teach a course with Event Leadership Institute called the Event DEI Strategist, and I'm sure for a lot of people, it surprised them that, you know, the first two weeks are about self-identity. You know, it's a little bit about history, but then it gets into self-identity and your own core competencies. And we start talking about the importance of self-awareness and understanding what influences your perspective. 

And so, we do this exercise called the affinity bias chart. And it gets you to assess who was in your circle of influence, right? And we go down all the protected characteristics with our social identities that are federally protected by the law--that's a whole 'nother, you know, segment, another podcast. But, we list out those social identities and start getting you to look at your circle of influence to see what the patterns are in your circle of influence. 

Now, the majority of participants in the course are white presenting women that have engaged in the course. There are a few men. There's a low percentage of Asians and Blacks that have participated in the course. 

But for the people that have done this exercise, and understand the lesson, they realize that their circle of influence looks exactly like them, right? And so, what is the outcome of that, when there is something going on in the news, something that's a current event, or even historical event. If you're only receiving a perspective from people who not only look like you, but think you are from the same geolocation, the same social economic background, that's not going to do much to challenge your biases, it's not going to do much to challenge your thinking process. 

And so, while it may not be easy in every single city to have this affinity bias, or that I mean, this circle of influence that's very diverse, you have to ask yourself, "Where am I getting my information from? How am I intentionally educating myself on topics that I may not be privy to?" Because it's not my lived experience, right? And so, when we start to find Who Is She?, that's what it's posed to be doing is to disrupt your thinking. How do I define this image? Where does this image come from? Even how do I see myself, right? 

So, self-awareness is super important to me, and the amount of people don't connect its importance to equity, diversity and inclusion, but I don't believe you could engage in this conversation effectively if you don't identify who you are and how you show up in the world.

Courtney: I love that example. And I think even from this podcast alone, that's an exercise that people can start to think about. You can start to think about who you spend the most time with, who you ask for advice from, what information you're exposed to, who's that coming from? I think those are really easy enough questions to at least kickstart some sort of journey where you start to identify the environment that you're living in day to day. 

I want to go back to the poem, the snippet from the poem that you read earlier. A lot of what you read in Who Is She? revolved around physical attributes. Why was it important for you to include that in your poem?

Zoe: Well, in the beginning--because if we're honest with ourselves and we say Who Is She?--that's where our mind first goes to, right? I asked you, is it a model? Is it a character you see on TV? Because where does our standard of beauty come from? You know, if I were to describe myself as that hazelnut chocolate, you know, women with brown eyes? 

The reality is I'm not the standard of beauty, or at least in the '80s when I was growing up, I wasn't the standard of beauty. It was blond hair, blue eyed, thin, hourglass shape, right? And so, I wanted to address that head on, is if this image that you're seeing, yeah, I see that image, too. Okay, I see Halle Berry. I see, you know--I can't name all these--I see Jennifer Lopez. And even that is, you know, challenging the status quo, right? 

You see these models and all that kind of thing. But then it's like, now open your eyes. And as I go deeper into the poem, I asked you is the definition of she described by her character. What about a personality? What about her skills? You know? 

And then as we get more into the conversation about non-binary and transgender, are we ready to dive deeper into those conversations, when we talk about bodily autonomy. So, people often want to stay on the surface with a lot of conversations. I can't do that. I'm not able. And so that's why it's important to start with that physical image. Because let's be real, that's the first image that comes to mind. And then we have to dive deeper. 

And that's why it was important for me to open up there. because I want people to know that I am like you. That's probably what's going to come to mind. 

I'm always looking at my thighs and thinking they're getting a little thicker than I want them to be--thicker than a snicker you know? I could lift this a little higher. I wish I could raise these higher, and what am I judging myself by, right? The standard of beauty that--not to discredit models and things--but you have all these resources at your fingertips or airbrushing post-photography. And that is not realistic. 

You know, I'm saggy. I'm wrinkly. I'm curvy. And I love me. So how do I start building my confidence in myself? If I don't break away and realize that the images that I see--it's not who I am; that doesn't define me, right? I define-- it's important to start with reality--let's not push that under the rug, let's face it head on. 

And that's an important part of self-awareness. When you do that initial assessment of self, you may not like some of the things that you see about yourself. But if you don't do that work, then how will you progress any further?

Courtney: I'm going to ask you what's going to sound like a very, gosh, a very simple question. But it's incredibly complicated. And it's probably incredibly personal. How have you learned to love the way that you look?

Zoe: Oh, how have I learned? You know, my son is amazing. I have an 18-year-old son, Jordan Moore, and our relationship that's--that's my friend. You know, I love the kid. I love the young man. I try not to say kid anymore, because he's 18 and in college, and he's taught me so much about myself. 

He's taught me, you know, just to pat myself on the back to praise myself. But something he always likes to do--and he's been doing since he was younger, and I didn't really realize the value of it, until he got older--I'd be in the mirror and I'm putting on makeup and he's like, "Mom, come on, let's go, you don't need makeup." And I'd be like, "Excuse me, I want to put on this eyeliner and these eyelashes." He was like, "Mom, you're perfect the way that you are, you know, I love your skin." 

You know, and then he touched my face when he was a young kid, and even now when he hugs me and the way that he admires me, and he looks at me, and that really helped me see myself through someone else's eyes. But also, it forced me to look in the mirror and start asking myself the questions. What is he seeing that I'm not seeing? And why don't I see these things? You know? Why am I trying to look more like Gabrielle Union? You know, why am I trying to look like Halle Berry? And then I think what I started seeing probably I would say in the last four or five years, is more and more women getting vulnerable and sharing their stories. 

You know, I remember Jamie Lee Curtis coming out with an ad where she showed half of her face made up and the other was her age and her wrinkles, and then more and more women started doing that to show you their vulnerability. And you know, there's a saying among Black women, that Black don't crack, right? Like, our skin is so smooth but our body--the gravity does not…Gravity comes our way, right? And so, yeah, I think it was my son, my relationship with my son, when I began to ask myself questions, and then more women being vulnerable is what helped me reach this point of I am beautiful. And I love me the way that I am. I love the way that I was. I love who I'm becoming. 

There's phases of our life--I can love every part of me. You know, I love this curve. And I love this me, and you know, yeah, it's a journey. It's not just one day where, "Oh, bada-bing, everything's perfect. I love everything about me, I'm still working on it daily." But to reflect in a way that, yes, I am beautiful.

Courtney: What you just said is probably the most relatable sentiment ever on this podcast. And really, in most conversations that I've had, I think, truly, the physical appearance for women is probably prioritized more than anything else, and glorified and criticized more than anything else. And I will say, I feel like I become more confident every year in how I look, and I love myself and I embrace myself and how I look more every year. 

But like you, it's always been a struggle. It's still a struggle. You know, like, I am a curvier woman, and I have never been teeny tiny. And that was absolutely the trend when I was growing up. I have two sisters, and we always talk about how things have changed so much with the Kim Kardashians of the world that even if it's not all real, it's a different body type that's now appreciated, accepted and honestly lusted after, in a lot of different ways. 

And it's nice to have somebody with a different body type that is finally accepted societally and say, "Oh, I actually maybe fit a little bit more in this box." And even if it's still fitting in a box, at least that one isn't as criticized or as shamed. 

And I think, to your point around how your son has helped you through the years, see yourself a little bit more through his eyes, and therefore you've been able to see yourself differently and love yourself more over the years. My niece is doing that for me and she's only two. And I have no kids. So, she's the only, you know, child love of my life. 

And I have had conversations with my sister, her mother, about how I don't suck my stomach in when she wants to, you know, see my belly button or lay her head on my stomach or, I intentionally want her to know that it's normal to have some extra cushion in your stomach. And it sounds so simple. But she becomes my motivation to set a better example than maybe I had growing up, and I never want her to think that she's not enough or she's not attractive enough. And I don't ever want to think that she wouldn't love herself the way she could and should. Yeah. 

And so, I think it's those people and future generations and people that we love that are able to help us love ourselves more. And that's such a beautiful thing.

Zoe: And you hit it on the head, right? It's the future generations. It's this new emerging--whether there's pushback or not--emerging standard of being your whole self being authentic, right? Yes. And I want to give a hug to Lizzo. It's the physical attraction. It's the knowing yourself deeper than your physical self. It's owning our sexuality. It's owning just everything, you know, where we're gonna live out loud, right? 

And I think you know, when you talked earlier about who we're drawn to, I'm drawn to people who live out loud. Yes, yes. And it empowers me. We do Real Talk. Marquez Davidson; he leads Real Talk for the MPI DEI Committee. And him and I, we had a real conversation; we were at WEC, I think in Texas, and it was our first time meeting, and he was just going around, like connecting with people, saying, "What's up" and all that other kind of stuff. 

He was like, "Hey, so there's an LGBTQ party tonight. Where are we going? Are you gonna meet up?" And I said, "Yeah." He was like, "Yeah, I love going there because that's where people are real. They live out loud. Like, I ain't got time for all these pretentious people with the nose in the air. I need people who can dance, be themselves." And I've processed that, and I was just like, I am drawn to people who are confidently and competently--doesn't mean that it's 365 days a year--it's their finding their self, the confidence to journey and discover yourself, that takes a lot of confidence to challenge the status quo and say, "I am who I am, and I can't hide who I am." And I invite doing. By hiding who I am, I'm doing myself a disservice. So, I refuse, right? 

And my mental health, my self-care is more--I value that more. So, I'm gonna be me. And as I just always say that I feel like people that live out loud give me permission to do the same. And that's how I feel more beautiful. Because every day, the more that I learn to love me, I learned to love other people. I learned to build and collaborate and appreciate people for their stories. 

There's one more person that I watch on Instagram. Their handle is Mr. Deran, Mr. D-E-R-A-N. And I promise you, if you go, non-binary, non-gender conforming, and you go watch these videos, you will cry. I had literally the power of their words, when they're talking about identity, and how respecting them--they owe you nothing and you owe them nothing. And it costs you nothing to respect them. 

And I just, I melt every time. I literally sometimes wake up in the morning just to watch these videos. Because I connect. I connect with everything that they're saying. And our identities couldn't be any more different. But are they really that different, right? They get to the core of self-awareness. And I appreciate every single one of those videos.

Courtney: So, can you say the name again, for people to look that account up?

Zoe: Mr. Deran. Let me actually pull it up right now actively: D-E-R-A-N. I want to make sure I get it right. And if not, I will share it with you. Powerful. And then there's so many that I can share with you, just individuals who are actively analyzing, unpacking, you know, where their own mind goes to these default biases in our head. 

We've been indoctrinated in a way, and that word gets co-opted so often. But we get so indoctrinated to believe through one singular lens, through one identity. And when people start standing up and living out loud who they are, the language they speak, the food they eat, the music that they listen to. And they start honoring that and embracing that. Again, it gives us all the permission to do the same. And for those who are pushing back. 

Again, then our truth is not intimidating. People are intimidated, because like you said, they have work to do. And as I give them the grace, go ahead and do your work. Just don't put that on me.

Courtney: Our truth is not intimidating, huh? Oh, I love that. So, this has been probably one of my favorite conversations that I have ever had. I can't wait to hear and to read what our audience thinks of this conversation. And I want you to have an opportunity to say any closing words that you want to the audience--leave them with any final piece of advice. Even, as you know, we're closing the year now--we're coming to an end, we're going to start fresh, like we always do in the new year. 

But as people have maybe a little bit of extra time to reflect over these next couple of months and go into a new space, what advice do you want to leave with them?

Zoe: Oh, there's so many things. I love quotes. I love poems. You know, what's been all heavily on my mind is that I want to tell people that the expressed commitment to this work, to equity, diversity, inclusion--treating people good is easy. It's easy; easy to express it. It's another thing to act upon it. And so, we really have to be on this journey daily and make sure that our expressed commitment matches our strategic commitment, right? 

Our action, and that loving people, including people being equitable, making sure that there's diversity in the room and who's making decisions. It takes action, not just words. We have to move beyond the words and get into some intentionality. So, I'll leave it there. And that's what I want so many people to know. 
You got to take action. You gotta do.

Courtney: Well, thank you so much, Zoe, for sharing so much knowledge and your perspective with us today. I know I really, really, really enjoyed hearing it and speaking with you. And the audience, of course, thank you all for listening. 
Please share what you learned from this episode with us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, by following at #MeetingsToday, and me at #CourtneyonStage, and be sure to never miss an episode by subscribing to Dare to Interrupt on Apple podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Google podcasts, and more. 

Be bold, disrupt the things that need disrupting, and keep daring to interrupt my friends. Until next time.

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About the author
Courtney Stanley

Courtney is a keynote speaker, writer, podcaster and career success coach with a background in experience design, community engagement and leadership development. Courtney is the host of Meetings Today’s “Dare to Interrupt,” a podcast that provides a platform for the event, hospitality and tourism industry’s most influential and successful women to share their stories of adversity and success, unfiltered.