Cover: Zora's House Ambassador Kaydian Comer

Erica Thompson

Earlier this year, at the orientation for Zora's House ambassadors, a woman asked the meaning of Kaydian Comer's name — a question she'd never received.

“She said, ‘Your name is the first gift you receive coming into the world,'” Comer said. “It made me slow down because my mom and I have had a rough, dysfunctional relationship since I was a kid. … I'm thinking, ‘Well, if it's the first gift, how come my mom doesn't know the meaning of it?'”

But Comer was resolved to channel that disappointment into action.

“I started thinking about how I could give a different meaning to my name,” she said. “Since then, I've been on that journey.”

Comer started grappling with who she was and where she fit in after immigrating to the U.S. from Jamaica in elementary school. “I still had my accent,” she said. “I think that was the first time I realized I was different.”

She also remembers an uncle telling her she was too emotional when he witnessed her crying while watching “The Lion King.”

“There's just the various encounters where I felt like I was being told that however I was naturally needed to change,” she said.

Determined to prove herself to her mother, Comer built a decade-long career in corporate America. She neglected parts of herself, working long hours and not taking time off to fully process life events, like the passing of her grandmother.

“What mattered to me most was the work,” she said. “And so many times, especially as people of color … we're so used to functioning and surviving. You don't ever shift into thriving.”

Comer calls Zora's House a “retreat space,” a place where she can be her authentic self. She doesn't have to be “on.” She can just be.

“When you come inside the doors, you're not worried about what people are thinking about you, because everybody here looks the same,” she said. “We have more similarities than we have differences. I think that allows me to feel less pressure.”

It's a 180-degree change from the corporate world, where she said some women of color operate with “a mindset of scarcity.”

“Instead of us collaborating and saying, ‘Oh, yeah, there's space for both us; let's stick together and help each other to push each other forward,' it's, ‘I'm just going to focus on how I can advance my career,'” she said.

Through Zora's House's monthly Writing Circle, Comer has found time and space to process her experiences, including an abusive relationship that nearly killed her. “I started to recognize the magnitude of the things that I went through and how resilient I have become,” she said. “That allowed me to … be able to share the story to provide space for other women to share theirs, too.”

Having left her job last year, Comer now coaches women through her own company, The Promise Box. And “encourager” is one of the new meanings she has given her name.

“It's almost like [Zora's House] is a training ground,” she said. “You can just be your authentic self. And, the more you practice it, when you do go into other spaces, you just show up that way, too.”