You may know Ashley Darby as one of the Washington women on The Real Housewives of Potomac, but she’s breaking into another venture outside of reality TV: the wellness world.
Her “inspirational athleisure wear” line ZenGem is launching June 28, and her inspirational video series Gem Den will be released in July.
It’s not out of left field: Darby is an active yogi, and has led classes at Oz, the restaurant she runs in Arlington with her husband Michael Darby. (Update: Oz will be permanently closed as of June 30.) Although she was introduced to the practice at age 18, she dismissed it for several years in favor of high-intensity and weightlifting workouts.
It wasn’t until she suffered a miscarriage that she returned to yoga. (Darby is now pregnant with the couple’s first child together.) “It presented itself to me when I was just feeling so down and depressed, and it really saved me,” she says. “I realized it’s about the physical and the mental.”
Yoga’s emphasis on spirituality and meditation has also been a saving grace as Darby navigates the reality TV world, she says, especially when it comes to weathering the criticism and pressure of living her life in front of an audience.
That’s why the ZenGem T-shirts and tanks have inspirational mantras on them. “I believe there’s so much power in words to control feelings and emotions,” says Darby. “If [these practices] have had this impact on me, I’m so interested in how it can benefit other people.”
Phrases such as “Worrying is like praying for something you don’t want” and “The teacher is present when the student is ready” hold special significance to Darby and are screen printed on the ZenGem apparel.
“We’re benefitting from knowing we’re wearing something inspirational,” says Darby of sporting her line’s messages, “but it also benefits the people around [us].”
Darby is hopeful that her inspirational video series Gem Den will have the same effect. Each episode will feature Darby having one-on-one conversations about wisdom and life experiences with figures such as doulas, entrepreneurs, and nonprofit leaders.
“It’s a time to be tender and raw about real human emotions and feelings,” says Darby of the series, which will be available on the ZenGem website, her personal site, and YouTube. “It’s no-holds-barred and no topic is really off-limits.”
And, to answer the question you’ve probably been wondering: What does ZenGem mean, exactly?
Darby is a Gemini, and the name is a nod to her zen outlook, her astrological sign (the twins), and the twin-like relationship between one’s inner monologue and the surrounding world. (And the “Den” in Gem Den refers to the welcoming, warm environment she aims to create with her videos.)
“It’s about the duality, the two sides, the external and the internal thoughts we have and finding a way to help those things find balance,” says Darby of the name. “[It’s about] embracing the inherent Gemini in all of us.”
ZenGem will offer T-shirts and tanks for both men and women, although other items are in the works. The apparel will be available online, and pricing ranges from $28 to $35.
In the fall, Darby will host a wellness event to celebrate the launch of her line. Details are still unfolding, she says, but expect yoga, acupuncture, a line-up of speakers, and vegan soul food.