Coffee with Randi Fernandez

Change-maker: Randi Fernandez

Hometown: ʻĀina Haina, Hawaiʻi.  However, she’s grown up around the world. Five years in Springfield, Virginia; one year in Oakland, California; two years in Okinawa, Japan; three years in Misawa, Japan; and back to Oʻahu, Hawaiʻi to finish high school at Kamehameha Schools.

Education: Travel Industry Management, B.S. from University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa; Human Resources Management, M.S. from University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa.

Coffee of Choice: Hot Skinny Caramel Macchiato

Career:  Randi has almost 20 years of management experience working in hotels around Hawaiʻi and California.  She has worked in Food and Beverage Management, Sales Management, and most recently as a Hotel Manager of the Prince Waikiki Hotel.  Other hotels that she has worked at include Hilton Hawaiian Village, Four Season Maui, Four Seasons New Port Beach, Four Seasons San Diego, JW Marriott Ihilani, and Four Season Oʻahu.

Why do you enjoy working in hospitality?
I originally started because I wanted to travel.  I was already doing that in my regular life (she grew up in a military family traveling the world).  That’s what got me into hospitality.  What got my to stay… Every day is different.  Nonstop challenges.  And to me, that’s fun.  I’m the kind of person that always needs to be doing something.  So, this helps to keep that crazy bug in me entertained.

What are key issues you are passionate about?
The Hawaiian culture.  Perpetuating it.  Learning about it.  Because I am.

What organizations are you involved with?
I am the First Vice President for the Prince Kuhio Hawaiian Civic Club.   It was started by Prince Kuhio himself.  The main platform is scholarships for Hawaiian kids.  It’s also a platform to be a part of political movements as the club feels necessary – specifically Hawaiian ones.  We make resolutions which, in turn, can become a bill.  And it’s all Hawaiian or Hawaiʻi related. I’m also a member of the Native Hawaiian Chamber of Commerce, Young Professionals Chamber of Commerce, and of course hālau (a hula hālau).

Can you explain more about your hālau?
20 years with Hālau I Ka Wēkiu.  You know who they are.  (We dance together. I started dancing with the hālau in 2009.)

Why 20 years?
They’ve become family.  My cousins informed me about this hālau and after trying it on the first day, I immediately felt comfortable and knew this is where I belong.  So, even when I lived in California, I would still visit.

Why do you enjoy being involved with these cultural organizations?
I’m passionate about it.  A couple of things…  One is to be in the know.  Instead of being a bystander, but to be involved and to be more educated than what you see on the media.  The other reason is because you get to meet a lot of interesting and good Hawaiian people.  I wouldn’t have met them any other way and they have the same passion.  My father got me involved.  Everything goes back to family.

What change do you want to see in the Hawaiian community?
That’s a good one.  Everybody has their differences, their different opinion, their education – I don’t mean schooling – education in what they know in terms of topics or issues.  I’d like to see everybody, no matter the differences, to listen to each other, understand each other – whether you agree with them or not. Yet, go towards the same goal with one voice.  Right now, Hawaiians have a lot of pride and unfortunately it becomes a conflict.  Rather than sticking together where everybody wants the same thing and we have the same goal.  It doesn’t really matter what the issue is.  It’s just us being a voice together.  It’s a lot easier said then done.  (She laughs.)

What is that goal in your perspective?
It’s really moving forward on the same page.  It doesn’t matter the issue.  We have to be on the same page and communicating with each other.  Let’s say we all end up choosing that we want sovereignty – we move together.  But there’s no unison.  The goal for me is that we all need to work together.

Do you think we can use social media to make that change?  Do you see social media impacting that in any way?
Oh, it definitely can help.  It may not help in every generation but I definitely think it’ll help in moving forward.  It would be a tool to get the voice out.  Getting a bigger crowd.  I don’t think it’ll solve anything but it’s a good tool to use.  It’s easier to get people’s attention in one unit through social media.

Do you see social media negatively impacting Hawaiian cultural movements?  
It depends on how you take it.  You’re gonna get people that are going to be negative on there.  But you’re gonna get that even if it’s not on social media.  A lot of people will speak up more because it’s not in your face, it’s just on social media.  In a way, it can be positive knowing what people actually think of something and trying to address it that way.

What do you think of cultural appropriation that’s happening right now?  Especially digitally.  I feel that cultural appropriation is being broadcasted more.  We are able to see people who are doing it more.  With the Aloha Poke issue especially.  We might not have known about that if it weren’t for social media.  It just would have been a shop that would have gone unnoticed for a longer period of time.  But because of social media, we’re all seeing it.

I mean, that’s the positive side of it, right.  I do think it’s helping because it’s brought a lot of things out.  And if it ends up being bad – a bad reason or a bad issue – then it’s out there.  It’s a faster approach.  Because you’re right, with Aloha Poke we would not have known.  Maybe eventually it would have been on the news but by then it would have been too late.  That’s a good example.  There’s a lot we find out through social media way before anything else.  Even when people are hurting each other or stealing, you find out faster on social media than you do anywhere else.  It’s extra eyes.

Who is your biggest inspiration?
It’s hard for me to choose one.  Of course my parents.  My dad is… I’m just like my dad, who am I kidding.  (She laughs.) My mom is very sweet.  I call her an angel – she’s sweet, nice, and does everything.  I don’t know how she does it.  At the same time she’s strong at work and she’s smart and strong-willed.  In the work force – I had an old boss that has helped me and guide me in the good and the bad.  He was a good inspiration for me on the work side. I always think of things he used to tell me.

What is the greatest piece of advice you’ve ever received?
“At the end of the day, it’s not life or death.”  Someone told me this to share perspective for our normal work issues.  Not to get stressed, not to overreact, not to get overwhelmed.  It has helped me and reminded me to keep calm during difficult times.

Where did we have coffee?  The fantastic Island Brew Coffeehouse in Ala Moana Shopping Center.  A small disclaimer: while I love their coffee, I decided to have an acai bowl after having 2 vanilla soy lattes earlier that day.  Caffeine at 7PM isn’t always the greatest idea for me.  (This was not sponsored)