Zella Brown was born in Denham Springs, Louisiana on May 12, 1914. She was diagnosed with the tuberculoid type of Hansen's Disease (leprosy) at age 14. Her home became the Gillis W. Long Center of Hansen's Disease, or better known as Carville.
One of her greatest attributes was her faith and love of community through her church in Denham Springs where she attended church services for years. In her later years, the pastor would visit her at Carville to support her with uplifting prayer and spiritual sessions.
When photojournalists would visit, she loved having her picture taken, regardless of how famous they were. Zella always told them how and where to take her photo, as she states, "Because this one time this man photographer came to shoot my picture and it was very good."