Stephanie Santiago-Rolón has a goal bigger than herself. The Puerto Rican artist manager started as an intern at Univision, hoping to become an entertainment lawyer. Little did she know that her calling was helping others advocate for themselves within the music industry. Working with artists like Jory and Nio Garcia during her time dabbling in video production and, more recently, managing Puerto Rican rapper Amarion and singer Nohemy, Santiago-Rolón is no stranger to the game.
Born in Corozal, Puerto Rico, and moving to Orlando when she was only 4, Santiago Rolon is working to carve out spaces for other Latinas like herself in the industry. Whether advising new artists, helping them copyright their music, or even providing lawyers, Santiago-Rolón wants to educate others in an accessible way. With that, she’s the creator of the Latin Division of Take Creative Control, an organization that focuses on advocacy for artists and creators of color.
Working with not just people in Orlando but also Puerto Rico, Santiago-Rolón sees the potential in her community and wants to give them the hands-on experience to succeed. Remezlca chatted with her about growth within the industry, her hunger to always keep learning, and opening doors for other Latinas — the way they were for her.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
When was that one moment or turning point in which you felt you were in the right space?
When I saw that I’ve always really liked connecting the dots. It fulfills me that I could make something happen for someone, and it will help them out, even if I’m not involved. And I would say that moment when I landed one of the first bigger gigs for [the] first artist that I started working with, singing the national anthem at the Orlando Magic game, that for me was major because I [was] young, it was my first time – I had never really done [that] before.
And at that point, I thought, ‘I can really do this.’ I can call my actual friends up and see what opportunities are available – and I just pulled it back to the basics. I’m one of those people who will do the cold calling. I look for numbers on the internet. I like that type of work, and I know that many people aren’t doing that. They’re not thinking, ‘Oh, I want to get a contract at Adidas.’ I’m the type that I’ll go to the Adidas website and look for the corporate number.
So often, we see people advancing in their careers or making “big moves” on social media, but it’s rare we hear or see those introspective moments in which a person considers quitting or transitioning — did you ever have a moment like that, and how did you overcome it?
When I started, especially within the Latin market, I noticed many artists getting taken advantage of within contracts. It was pissing me off [and] l I was getting really frustrated. Some people [would] tell me, ‘Oh, it’s just business.’ People would talk about how the music industry is ‘just like that,’ and that ‘you have to take your feelings away.’ But I want people to talk about me like, ‘Oh, damn, somebody helped me out, and somebody didn’t fuck me over.’ That part of just wanting to help and educate.
[So] in 2020, I created The Latin Division of Take Creative Control. And within Take Creative Control Latin, we advocate for creators and creators of color to help them get with different lawyers [or] give them free consulting, which is relaunching again this year. [But] you know, a manager can have a contract and have their lawyer, but the artists should also have their own. Unfortunately, plenty of labels and management don’t advise that to their artists, and that’s why we have so many sob stories.
Were there any mentors or other women that inspired or helped you get to where you are now?
Definitely. Delia Orjuela – when I met her, she was the head of Latin Creatives at BMI, and from the moment I met her, she helped me a lot [and] put me in different rooms. Cris Novo – she’s also helped me out a lot. I would say those two are the main females, and then as far as just growing within the management space and having good artists to work with and grow, I have to give it to the artists I currently work with, which includes Nohemy.
I started with Nohemy four years ago — this year is five. She’s been that “guinea pig” for me,” and we’ve grown together so much. It’s dope to have a female artist. I have an all-female team within the company. It just happened, but I have always wanted to give that space, especially to females within the industry.
What’s one of your favorite parts of where you are now in your journey?
That I will forever be a student of the game, I’ve never felt like, ‘Oh, like I’ve made it.’ I’ve always understood that being a student is crucial because so many new things are always happening; I [even] learn from my intern. You know, it’s really important to be humble and learn from people that are starting off. I’m very big on that [because] I feel like it’s an awesome moment to be able to make certain changes and to disrupt the system. When I started, especially with Take Creative Control, I had people telling me, ‘Oh, you shouldn’t be posting those types of things,’ and I wasn’t posting anything I shouldn’t have. I was just posting things people didn’t want their artists to know because of what they’re doing on the back end.
So, I want to continue to be a systemic disrupter, shed that light, and let people know there will always be an opportunity for their voices to be heard. From advocacy to a new artist, writer, or producer — any way I can uplift [them], that’s where I’m at.
Any way I can uplift [them], that’s where I’m at.
What do you feel can be done to make the music industry feel more safe and collective for women?
Being my sister’s keeper. That’s the way. Some think, ‘I don’t want to tell this person [anything].’ If I have a friend that calls me, I’m not afraid to give a contact. I’ve never been that type of person. Like, why keep that to myself? That thought process doesn’t make sense. Providing opportunities for the younger generation, that’s what I like.
I’m trying to focus within the city, [and] continue bringing out like people from here. Even writers that I know from out here, in any way that I can bring them around [to] different studios and engineers. If I can bring them to Miami with me, I will. But mainly, being my sister’s keeper, I can open doors for someone the same way someone opened them for me.
But it’s not just men, women can also affect each other’s journey or success. Can you explain why a crabs in a barrel mentality (“if I can’t have it, neither can you”) is harmful to women?
There’s Burger King, and then there’s McDonald’s. [Laughs] I’ve definitely seen that mentality. I experienced cattiness while at Telemundo, Univision, and the entertainment industry as a whole.
But I feel like once you can put your foot down as to ‘This is what I do, and this is what I’m good at,’ people will respect it either way. I’m independent; I’m not part of a major label, and I’ve been able to gain respect from my work. I just let my work talk for itself. If anything, I’ll advise my friends and different people I’m acquainted with within the industry. For me, this isn’t ‘You can’t sit with me.’