Tiffany Tavarez is a true advocate in our Philadelphia community for many different area organizations. She defines the role of a true connector, always bringing people together so that progress can be made. Her heart is big, just like her personality. Good luck getting a coffee date with her. You’ll have to plan ahead three months in advance to get on her jam packed schedule! Her answers to our questions are pretty enlightening. The perfect end to this rainy Tuesday.
Name: Tiffany Tavarez
1) What neighborhood in Philadelphia do you call home? I live in Bella Vista with my awesome dog, Buster. I love it – it’s near the Italian-Mexican market, good places to hang out and I have friends in the neighborhood. It’s a win-win.
2) Tell us about what you do professionally: I’m part of PECO’s corporate relations team. As corporate contributions manager, I’m part of a team that manages over $5 million in charitable giving & sponsorships in the Philadelphia five-county region. I manage relationships with non-profit organizations that work in arts & culture, education, environment and community development, with a focus on diversity and inclusion.
My professional career has evolved from grant-making to fundraising to corporate philanthropy & community relations. I started volunteering in this city when I moved here in 2000. I got to see what our communities do from the ground up which greatly informs my approach to working with organizations on program development, communications & audience outreach. It also informs my own personal development of what social good means to me. It’s an achievement to have built such a connection between my personal and professional passions.
Some of the organizations I volunteer with are PHLDiversity, Mural Arts Program, Union Benevolent Association, Tyler School of Art, Second State Press and Tequila Interchange Project. Most recently I was named LEADERSHIP Philadelphia’s Top 55 “Connectors & Keepers,” I really love connecting good opportunities to good people.
3) What makes you happy? 1. Good timing 2. Good connections 3. Good karma 4. Good art 5. Good food 6. Good dog 7. Good business 8. Good riddance 9. Good people 10. And doing good.
4) Who inspires you and why? Creative thinkers & innovative doers; the people who embody the concept of paying it forward in their professional and personal lives. They thrive on moving forward no matter what. That is a very hard thing to do. One must know how to pick and choose their battles as well get rid of doubt & uncertainty at times when it can flourish the most. The first person who set her path on fire so I can see what I was going is my mother. She is the real thing. She taught me to recognize that quality in other people. I am mindful of the company I keep and that company happens to inspire me the same way.
5) What’s your biggest regret and why? I don’t have any regrets except for the fact that I don’t have a more profound answer to that question.
6) What is your life motto? It’s cliché and it’s 100% accurate: what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Tragedy and struggle have not been rare encounters for me. I decide whether or not my story is going to be a dramatic, theatrical saga or an uplifting, triumphant tale that gives people hope, inspiration and most importantly, perspective. All of my experiences have diversified my “perspective portfolio” which makes me even better equipped for the next barrier or challenge. After you realize something didn’t kill you – your spirit, your ability, your goal –you keep going and without realizing, you were stronger than you were before. If you happen to teach others along the way, then all the better for those behind you.
7) Name a guilty pleasure: I enjoy my pleasures too much to feel guilty about them!
8) On what occasion do you lie? When I want to get off a phone call that’s run its course.
9) What’s in your purse right now? I rock the following items: A Blackberry (no judging please); lipgloss; a small wallet; keys; pocket notebook with a pen for my thoughts and a sharpie for my drawings; my business cards (inside of a Wonder Woman case); sunglasses; Advil; floss; monthly SEPTA pass and a cocktail of receipts from the week’s excursions.
10) What is your greatest extravagance? My biggest extravagance is traveling. I don’t get to do it as often as I’d like so when I do, I really go for the full experience. I immerse myself in the culture, people and the pace. From listening to jazz at Café Alto in Amsterdam to visiting my family in Santo Domingo to seeing the Menil Collection in Houston, my most valuable experiences are a result of that extravagance. It is a significant way to learn about yourself and connect with others. Not everyone has that luxury; that’s why it’s my greatest extravagance.
11) Where is your favorite travel destination? I don’t have one specific place I go back to again and again; that would only be New York City, Miami and Dominican Republic, where my family lives. I love the planning and daydreaming of a trip. Barcelona, Dublin, Amsterdam, Madrid, Paris, Tulum, London…. all of it! I cannot get enough history, art, architecture, music & local fare of any place I go to. I enjoy the culture where leisure is a necessity and people-watching is a sport.
12) How do you take your coffee? With open arms, some cream, some sugar and usually with another cup following.
13) What is your most treasured possession? My brain. If it weren’t for my brain, I would not be able to store memories, keep knowledge, learn & develop, operate day-to-day or use my five senses. It is a blessing that I am healthy enough to do those things and live an environment that is conducive to it.
14) What advice would you give your 20-something self? I wouldn’t.
15) What is your favorite magazine? I go through phases of obsessively reading from my regular rotation which includes The New Yorker, National Geographic, ArtNews, Saveur, Time, Oprah, Harvard Business Review and Psychology Today. I’m all over the place.
16) Where can we find you on a Friday night? You can find me at home with my dog, listening to some good music, catching up with what’s on my DVR, reading the pile of mail I accumulated all week with a good meal. Since majority of my Fridays involve events or meetings, I take the Friday nights I have to myself pretty seriously. It’s my decompression time before my busy weekend. Despite how extroverted I am in my professional capacity, the way in which I restore my energy and stay connected in my personal life is very introverted. Those who know me best have figured that out.
17) What motivates you? Many things motivate me. Those same things I carry with me also keep me grounded and inquisitive about the world around me. Ignorance motivates me – my own and my desire to educate others. Lack of opportunity for our communities motivates me – for those women, minorities and youth who are unaware of what is possible. Children motivate me – those I know and those I don’t. I want my little cousins, Angelina and Adriana, to know someone tried for them. Lastly, my desire to learn motivates me. I am a first-generation college student and I keep going to make sure that was only the beginning of my many firsts.
18) What’s something unique that we can find on your desk or around your workspace? There is a postcard I bought at the Picasso Museum in Barcelona years ago. It’s a drawing he did of Françoise Gilot, one of his many muses. It is one of my favorite drawings. Very simple, painfully elegant and striking. It reminds me of my mother. I’m not one for photographs in my work space so this is the closest I’m going to get to seeing her face regularly.
19) What’s the best relationship advice you’ve ever gotten? I’ll get back to you on that one.
20) What’s your favorite thing about Philadelphia right now? The energy. There’s always a “quiet before the storm” feeling to the city. Yes, there are many great things going on but there is also a growing roar of the greater things to come. It’s nice to see all of us on board for “it.” The brilliant minds and inspiring lives in this city do not just live in their silos. They are looking to connect and go outside of their comfort zone in order to get their goals accomplished. That kind of energy is contagious, and what I think has brought so many people to this city.
21) If you could be any superhero, who would you be and why? Imperator Furiosa. I recently saw the movie, Mad Max: Fury Road. I was totally enthralled by Charlize Theron’s character. She is a survivor who is determined to do what she can to save the very little humanity that is left in her world. Despite the dire circumstances, she still carried a dangerous little weapon called hope.
22) Do you have a fashion icon? When I think of fashion icons, I think about the way in which one wears their confidence, more than their actual clothing. My two personal ‘confidence icons’ are Nina Simone and Frida Kahlo. They were beautiful, their styles distinct and they were revolutionary on a number of levels. They could wear anything well and carry anything the world gave them, beautiful or not.
23) If you could go back to one decade in history, which one would it be and why? Ancient Egypt, 1473 BC. It was the year Hatshepsut came into power, Egypt’s first female pharaoh. The country prospered significantly under her rule and the country, and in comparison to her predecessors, experienced a peaceful period. This is why she is considered one of the most successful pharaohs in history. Since there were no words or images to portray women in such a high status, she had artists depict her in the traditional king’s garment, crown and even a fake beard to convey her power and assert her authority. I cannot imagine what that was like. I have been fascinated by Hatshepsut for a long time. I really hope to visit Egypt one day because she influenced the way I think about legacies.
24) Where’s your favorite place to eat? We have so many good options! I’ll start with any restaurant part of the Garces Group. Followed by Royal Tavern, Hawthorne’s, The Plough & the Stars, Le Viet, Taqueria Veracruzana, Capital Grille, Fergie’s, Abyssinia and Victory Brewing Company. These are places I can always walk into and love my meal (and drink) each and every time.
25) How do you stay sane balancing your life and career? 1: Is anyone considered sane anymore?
2: I don’t think true balance exists; I function more in a place of integration. As I’ve told others before, “”life”” and “”career”” are simply streets that run parallel to one another, sometimes merging, other times intersecting but the same road nonetheless. Of course that may change at some point but for now, I’ve just become very strategic about using the words yes and no. I just make sure they really count for the right reasons at the right time. I also don’t deny myself the things I enjoy, even if they are menial. Joy is joy wherever it comes from – whether it be career or life. I aim for joy; not balance. I can at least guarantee the first one.
26) What’s your favorite drink or cocktail? Depends on the day of the week and where I am in the world. Let’s just say I’m all-inclusive.
27) What is your favorite movie? The first thing that popped into my head was Kill Bill (Volumes 1 & 2) and everything with Javier Bardem and Will Ferrell in it.
28) Tell us about an embarrassing moment you recently had: Embarrassed is not a feeling I encounter much. Not because I don’t experience a moment that may be considered as such but more so because I fully embrace my ridiculousness in all its forms, even in the worst of moments.
29) What’s your favorite app right now? The first thing I thought was chicken wings and Uber. Probably not what you meant but I enjoy both equally.
30) If you could, what would you say to yourself fives years from now? I hope you don’t have any regrets either.
#30Over30PHL is a month-long series highlighting Philadelphia’s most ambitious women. Created in collaboration with Melissa Alam of Femme & Fortune and Alex Kacala of FaymeProblems. #30Over3PHL is being presented with support from Hard Rock Cafe Philadelphia.