Women’s History Month at D.C.’s Hotel Zena


Hanging on a wall at Hotel Zena, a new D.C. hotel that celebrates all things women, is a portrait, more than 13 feet tall, of the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg — made entirely out of tampons. The word “notorious” is spelled out to her left, playing on Ginsburg’s nickname, “Notorious RBG.”

Located in Thomas Circle, near 14th Street’s many restaurants, bars and shops, the hotel opened last October. Hotel Zena is all about female empowerment, through wellness, food and drink, activism and design.

“One thing we’re super-proud of is our art,” said Natalie Vachon, area marketing director for Viceroy Hotel Group. “We brought to life over 60 original pieces of art, not just ones from around the globe, but quite a few artists and muralists from D.C.”

Of course, opening in a pandemic wasn’t ideal. However, Vachon said people are still traveling, whether it’s for health and wellness, business or government-related reasons. They are prioritizing safety and social distancing, mask wearing and hand sanitizing, much like every business is these days. “It has been an eye-opening experience, and I’m very proud of our team,” Vachon said.

Despite the pandemic, Hotel Zena was not about to let Women’s History Month fly by without planning lots of events, both in-person and virtual.

Vachon was happy to report that the week before we spoke, the hotel held a virtual reading and Q&A with author Roxane Gay. The night we spoke, there was a virtual screening planned for the documentary “(In)Visible Portraits,” directed by Oge Egbuonu. There have also been virtual cocktail classes, an introduction to a brand-new menu — with drinks featuring women’s history — and a virtual fireside chat with NBC4’s Juliana Valencia.

For in-person events, the hotel works with the company A Tour of Her Own, the first female-led tour group in D.C. Vachon is also excited about an upcoming Ruth Bader Ginsburg-themed paint-and-sip event.

“Everything leads up to the reopening of our rooftop bar, Hedy’s, which will reopen April 2,” she said. “We’re going to have a fresh new look and menu.”

Post-COVID, the hotel will be a venue for bigger parties, but right now people are interested in smaller, more intimate events, according to Vachon. The current “sweet spot” is 25 to 50 people, she said. In the coming months, Hotel Zena will boost its creative vibe with spoken-word poets and other live performers who may need a space to share work.

“For the last couple of years, people have been looking for a more individualized and personalized experience,” Vachon said. “People have been gravitating toward more boutique experiences.”

One of Vachon’s favorite bits of feedback is when guests say how excited they are to bring their children to the hotel. They want to make them aware of the stories the hotel amplifies.

“I think people gravitate toward feminists and people who want to support the story of female empowerment,” Vachon said. “They gravitate toward faces who celebrate and uplift women and people who feel marginalized.”

Vachon added that, when guests connect with a story at Hotel Zena — whether it’s through the hotel’s art or food and beverage menu (with ingredients sourced by female-led businesses) — the staff members want them to find the hotel to be a comfortable space, one that celebrates them and sparks conversation.

Hedy’s, the rooftop bar at Hotel Zena. Courtesy Viceroy Hotel Group.

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One comment on “Women’s History Month at D.C.’s Hotel Zena”

  • So proud of my mom, Andrea Sheehan, at Dawson Design Associates who designed every element of this incredible space and curated this phenomenal collection. Her vision and creativity inspire me everyday. She is a true champion of female empowerment. I couldn’t be more proud of her for the work she has done in amplifying the voices of female artists, and for her own work developing this iteration of RBG with the talented Julie Coyle. I hope in the spirit of Women’s History Month that my mother is celebrated for her achievement and commitment to amplifying female voices and female power — let’s build a more compassionate, more thoughtful and more balanced world together. So proud of you mom!

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