We’re in the homestretch now with our #30Over30PHL campaign! Today we’re featuring Amber Hikes. Not only is she one of the co-owners of the largest bi-monthly lesbian parties of the city, she is also the director of the Upward Bound program at UPenn, which helps underprivileged youth by mentoring them through high school and getting them into college. A great friend and philanthropist, Amber Hikes is definitely one of Philadelphia’s most inspiring women!
Name: Amber Hikes
1) What neighborhood in Philadelphia do you call home? Graduate Hospital
2) Tell us about what you do professionally: Director of University of Pennsylvania Upward Bound Program – I help get underrepresented, first-generation, low-income high school students into college. My job is the gift that keeps on giving.
Co-Founder, Stimulus Productions – By night, I host massive women’s nightlife events in clubs in Philly. Also coincidentally the gift that keeps on giving.
3) What makes you happy? I am happiest helping people find community, tap into their purpose and/or supporting them to achieve their dreams. I try to touch on each of those aspects in all of my work
4) Who inspires you and why? My students are my greatest source of constant inspiration. They are intelligent, excellent critical thinkers and resilient beyond measure. They remind me that success is so much more fulfilling when you’ve had to work hard for it.
5) What’s your biggest regret and why? My mother passed away suddenly a month before my 25th birthday. We were very similar people and incredibly close up until her death. The biggest regret of my life, however, is that I didn’t get more time to just talk with her. She was a profoundly accomplished woman who inspired so many, and I just wish with all my being that I was able to have more time, as an adult, to talk to her about her life, her challenges, her successes, her advice. Our time was cut entirely too short.
6) What is your life motto? In my room, I have a framed scrap of paper with a Joel Osteen quote in my mother’s handwriting. It says “25% of people you meet: will never like you; 25% of people you meet: won’t like you, but could be persuaded to; 25% of people you meet: will like you but could be persuaded not to; 25% of people you meet: will like you and always be there.”
I cannot tell you how many times this simple reminder has carried me through. I spent too much of my 20s wasting my time and living my life for the wrong 25%. When I stopped being preoccupied with their acceptance, that’s when I started creating, accomplishing, living.
7) Name a guilty pleasure: Silly, goofy 90s comedy films. When I say silly, I mean borderline stupid. Tommy Boy is my favorite. I know it by heart.
8) On what occasion do you lie? I truly value honesty in others and in myself. I work so hard at being honest that the most common criticism I receive from those close to me is that I’m honest to a fault. That being said, if I ever lie, it’s to encourage someone or make them feel better about something. So perhaps an event was ill-attended or people did not seem to be enjoying themselves while there – I’d most likely tell the host that the event was a great time and I felt like there were plenty of people present. In those moments, an event producer can feel like a failure. Even if I have to lie a bit, I want to encourage them to try again and hopefully the next event would be more successful.
I’d probably follow up with a suggestion or two about how the event could be more successful next time though (honest to a fault).
9) What’s in your purse right now? I pride myself on traveling light and I only carry a purse to work. I’ve got a wallet, keys, a pad of paper, pen, and an IPad mini.
There’s probably some fruit snacks and candy in there somewhere too…because I’m an adult.
10) What is your greatest extravagance? Travel, undoubtedly. I’m so frugal in my everyday life – always searching for a killer sale at Macy’s or the best happy hour in the city – just to save a few bucks. When it comes to travel though, I spare no expense. My theory is that when I’m working, I’m working. When it’s time to relax and take a break, I just want it to feel like a true vacation, with all the luxury that entails.
11) Where is your favorite travel destination? Internationally – it’s a tie between Tokyo and London. They’re very different cities but their similarities in terms of cleanliness, nightlife, and history are what put them on the top of my list
Domestically – There is no rival. I love Miami.
12) How do you take your coffee? I actually don’t drink coffee. I haven’t even had a single cup a day in my life. I know, weird.
I’m told though, that it’s probably for the best. I’d be a tornado of energy with any caffeine in my system.
13) What is your most treasured possession? My elephant collection. My mother collected small elephant figurines her entire life and when she passed, I inherited that collection. Since then, I have taken to searching for elephants anytime I travel. People even bring me elephants back from their own travels. They are such beautiful animals and a constant reminder of not just my mother but other women in my life who have passed on.
If anything ever happened to my house, that’s what I’m running back inside for.
14) What is your favorite magazine? Essence. I read it almost religiously. I find it very validating and uplifting to see images of black women accomplishing wonderful things and inspiring each other to continue achieving.
15) What advice would you give your 20-something self? Three words: Know Your Worth.
16) Where can we find you on a Friday night? I’m often hosting nightlife events at Voyeur Nightclub with Stimulus Philly. If not, I’m probably doing the exact opposite: cooking dinner at home, having a glass of wine and reading a good book. My life exists in polar opposites from time to time
17) What motivates you? Making the people close to me feel loved and proud. I think if we spent more time in the world taking care of those around us, we’d all be so much happier.
18) What’s something unique that we can find on your desk or around your workspace? There’s a lot of Batman memorabilia: Pez dispensers, Post It Notes, a Mr. Potato Head, pens. Looking at it now, it’s actually probably a little excessive.
19) What’s the best relationship advice you’ve ever gotten? Come From Love.
And that advice works everywhere. Specifically in romantic relationships when things get difficult, it’s so important to remember that you’re on the same team. You are there for each other. All that’s left is putting in the extra work to make sure your words and actions match that reality. Come from love.
20) What’s your favorite thing about Philadelphia right now? The energy in the city now is electric. There’s so much growth, more events, more shows, more creativity. It’s just contagious.
21) If you could be any superhero, who would you be and why? That’s easy. Batman. I’ve loved Batman since I was 10 years old. I could write a dissertation on why but if I’m being brief, I’ll say that I’m inspired by Bruce Wayne’s commitment to his city and his dedication to using his own resources to make it a safer, less corrupt place for its citizens. He struggles constantly with a community of people who simultaneously love and hate him/appreciate his sacrifice yet wish he’d leave and never return. It’s fascinating writing and tells a story worth reading. Bruce is also a very complicated person with flaws he doesn’t choose to mask. To me, Batman is the realest, most genuine superhero of them all. He also has the best cars.
22) Do you have a fashion icon? It’s hard to pick one but in terms of personal style, Naomi Campbell. She is fearless in her personal choices and wears every piece as if it was designed and crafted exclusively for her. She also made history by being the first black woman on the cover of French and British Vogue – an incredible feat. I’m a sucker for a dynamic woman of color who has no time for the naysayers.
23) If you could go back to one decade in history, which one would it be and why? My preference would be to go into the future but if I had to choose a decade in the past, it would be the 90s. The music, the television, the energy..the 90s were everything.
24) Where’s your favorite place to eat? Valanni. The ambiance is lovely and the tapas/drinks usually hit the spot perfectly. Service is great and food comes out quickly
25) How do you stay sane balancing your life and career? I’m balancing but who said I was sane?!
26) What’s your favorite drink or cocktail? An Old-Fashioned. Or skip the fanciness and just make it a whiskey (double).
27) What is your favorite movie? Anything Meryl Streep is in. She is just phenomenal. (Well maybe except Mamma Mia. That was a mess)
28) Tell us about an embarrassing moment you recently had: Honestly? I cannot believe I’m admitting this publicly. Recently I was having a heated conversation with an acquaintance and I walked off (stormed off) in a huff. Since I was frustrated, I didn’t take the proper precautions that one should take while stomping around in wet grass in stilettos. And in the middle of my dramatic exit, I tripped…full on face planted in the grass (while this person looked on). Arguably the most embarrassing moment I’ve had EVER. haha I can’t help bursting into laughter every time I think of it. I’m a classy broad.
29) What’s your favorite app right now? Canva. It’s an incredible design app that makes my social media work so much simpler. It’s revolutionizing my process and time spent creating. Anything that saves me time and encourages me to be creative in new ways is a win-win in my book.
30) If you could, what would you say to yourself fives years from now? See? I told you the best was yet to come. We’re just getting started.
#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.