Meet Scarlet Hernandez, creative visionary and director of member success for REC Philly
The passionate Dominican-American is the driving force behind ensuring Philly’s creative scene can continue to grow and thrive.
MORE IN THIS SECTION
As a first-generation Dominican American, Scarlet Hernandez has gone through periods throughout her life where she struggled with her identity.
Growing up between Elizabeth and Newark, New Jersey, she was often surrounded by other Latinx people.
However, at the age of 13, when she and her family moved to the suburbs, Hernandez was presented with a complete transition to a predominantly white community.
“I felt like there was a shock there,” she recalled during an interview with AL DÍA. “I think I struggled a little bit… with being too Latinx for the white kids, and being too white for the Latinx kids.”
That reality originally made Hernandez feel like she was stuck living “in that middle place.”
“But that middle place allowed me to also acknowledge and enjoy the opportunities that came my way,” Hernandez expressed.
Those opportunities grew as the years went by, and became the catalyst for her becoming the career professional she is today as director of member success for Rec Philly.
“If my parents hadn’t moved me into the suburbs, I would have never gotten into radio and done four years of radio and TV and interviewing and journalism,” said Hernandez.
“That inspired me to work with artists… and I think that being a first-generation really instills in you right away to do what you love and be the best at it, so you can provide,” she continued.
“My Two Biggest Supporters”
Hernandez would be the first to tell you that she would in no way be able to do the things she’s done without the love and support of her parents.
Everyday, Hernandez wears a necklace with a nameplate of her mother’s name.
She describes her mother as “a wonderfully smart, badass boss lady,” who “grew up caring for her family.”
A career teacher, Hernandez credits her mother for teaching and encouraging her to never be afraid of going after her dreams.
“Because I always struggled with wanting to be like the others… she was always the first one to tell me to be different,” noted Hernandez. “I love my mom, and everything I do is for her.”
Hernandez describes her father as “so strong, so kind, and so funny.”
He studied to become a lawyer with dreams of being a public defender in the Dominican Republic. However, when Hernandez was growing up, she knew her father as simply “the hoagie maker at the bodega.”
He later went on to own his own bodega, but still has dreams to eventually return to the Dominican Republic someday and continue his practice as a public defender.
“He hasn’t forgotten about that, and we continue to celebrate him everyday like that. He’s a lawyer first and foremost,” said Hernandez.
It was also Hernandez’s parents who taught her not to be afraid to take risks.
“I feel like risk has a bad name associated with it, but risk is you seeing opportunity, not seeing failure,” said Hernandez.
She continues to be inspired by her parents everyday.
“When I was growing up, they were my biggest supporters, and today continue to be just incredible people who are the first people I call for any good news, bad news and anything in between,” said Hernandez. “And I’m very, very lucky for that.”
Flexing That Creative Muscle
Hernandez knew early on that she wanted to pursue a career in the creative field.
As early as six years old, Hernandez remembers being exposed to different musicals, listening to music on vinyls, and various other forms of entertainment.
Those moments were very critical for her growing up and had a profound impact.
“Especially as an only child,” she said, “all you have is entertainment.”
“And when I noticed how it was affecting me, I let that empower me and let myself know that I can be doing that, too,” she added.
From then on, she remembers gathering the family together to see a dance she made up, pretending to interview people, making mixed CDs, recording songs on the radio — all helping to flex that creative muscle.
Entertainment became more than entertainment.
As a first-generation Dominican-American, a huge part of her figuring out that love for entertainment was also translating things for her parents to understand.
“It also really allowed me to indulge in American pop culture,” said Hernandez. “So to be connected with that, I felt like everything had a context and a reference.”
Once her parents understood her level of passion, they helped and supported her in any and every way possible.
From there, Hernandez began brainstorming ways to be a part of that industry in one way or another.
Philly Settlement through UArts
Hernandez’s first time in Philly was going to World Cafe Live in 2011.
She immediately fell in love with the city, and when it came time to select a college, she knew exactly which city she wanted to go to school in.
“I specifically came to UArts [University of the Arts] because it was in Philly,” Hernandez said.
At UArts, Hernandez majored in Music Business, Entrepreneurship & Technology (MBET) — a newly created program at the time.
She credits the program for allowing “the most liberal arts experience possible,” despite the lack of structure and continuity of a program with more lineage.
The variety of the program allowed for students to find an element within the program that could allow them to find their path.
“There were people who were musicians and their parents wouldn’t let them go to school just for music, so they took the business side, versus me where it’s like I’m obsessed with anything that doesn’t have to do with performing,” said Hernandez.
“I love to sing, I love to dance, I love all that. But I want to be the brains behind productions and stuff like that,” she added.
Throughout the MBET program, Hernandez became well-rounded in her craft, as she took photography classes, collaboration courses, produced a concert series, and even started a radio station at the university.
Her experience was aided by her overarching goal.
“It’s not about what I can do, it’s who I love to serve. And as a Latina, I feel like serving and hospitality is in our blood,” said Hernandez.
Her mindset was often: How can I bring that forward to bring a more self-aware, emotionally intelligent industry into play?
Her experience at UArts helped her develop that, and lead in her own way.
Discovering Rec Philly
While a junior at UArts, Hernandez was selected as one of two students to represent the MBET program at an alumni mixer event.
While there, she met the prolific painter George Beach, who asked her at the time what she wanted to do after college.
Her response: “Everything.”
Upon hearing that response, Beach set up an opportunity for Hernandez to meet Rec Philly co-founders Will Toms and Dave Silver, where she discussed her interests and all the extracurriculars she had been involved with in college.
She was then invited to a company meeting a few days later.
“And they couldn’t get rid of me since then,” said Hernandez.
From the start, she became enamored with the environment that was being built at Rec Philly, as a space that empowers creatives to simply tap into their creativity in a productive and personal way.
Director of Member Success
Hernandez has remained connected to Rec Philly since her first exposure to the organization in 2015.
In 2017, she became Director of Member Success for Rec Philly, where she leads membership efforts to its more than 1,000 members.
The human interaction is what keeps Hernandez motivated the most in her role.
“We get to work with some of the most talented people in the city and beyond,” she said.
“I just love artists, and when you work at a business that serves artists, the first currency that they exchange with you is trust,” she added.
Through this role, Hernandez is able to build trust and relationships with each member, and that connection is mutual.
Over the years, a number of former members often return just to share good news with her.
“Knowing that I’m someone that they look to share that with — because I’ve been there encouraging them, telling them to do it, telling them how to sometimes — keeps me going and is the entire reason why I do what I do,” said Hernandez.
To her, “this role was built for me, and I’m still learning,” she said.
As director of member success, there is no playbook for how the job is done. The same can be said for just about the entire Rec Philly team.
“We are all on this team constantly building the road that we’re walking on,” said Hernandez. “And that can be the scariest thing in the world, or that can be the most empowering thing in the world.”
Philly’s Creative Scene
When Hernandez thinks about Philly’s creative scene, Hernandez distinguishes individuals into two groups — those who have grown up in Philly, and those who have come to Philly to be a part of the scene.
The creative scene in Philly is vast; however, the goal for Rec Philly is succinct.
“Rec [Philly] can be a place that encourages people that there are enough resources for everybody,” said Hernandez.
It’s her belief that success doesn’t just look one single way and with the scene as diverse as it is, Hernandez hopes that the younger generation of creatives are inspired to collaborate with each other and share in one another’s successes.
“Philadelphia historically continues to have one of the most densely talented industries — whether that's visual art, music, even just like public figures, in our politics, food — we have amazing artists in all those factions,” she said. “So to list them all out, what I can say is that they deserve resources and opportunities.”
Rec Philly is like “a gym membership for creatives,” providing the avenue for members to gain access to all the tools and resources needed to help them achieve their goals.
When Hernandez looks at where she is currently in her career, she can’t help but feel grateful.
“When I was little, I could never have imagined having such a perfect place that reminds me of who I am and why I do what I do,” she said.
She gets to wake up and work with some of the region’s most talented artists and creatives and play a critical role in their development.
As her journey has been about dedication, branching out and being unafraid to take risks, Hernandez’s advice for those who are looking to forge their own path into the industry is often just that.
“We are here to support them and give feedback and real feedback comes from love,” she said. “So encouraging people to show up as their best selves is really the best advice to give.”
Still A Work In Progress
Hernandez’s journey has been a matter of constantly learning more about herself, and challenging herself everyday.
What may have started out as resentment and wondering why she doesn’t fit in, has since evolved into self-awareness and self-love.
“I still feel like I am getting to know myself and getting to stand up for the things that I love,” said Hernandez.
At just 28, she is still very young and continuing on the long journey ahead.
To Hernandez, that is the most exciting part about it.
“You should never fully be done with knowing yourself and feeling comfortable within yourself, because there’s always somewhere to grow and somewhere to be better,” said Hernandez.