Helen Hernandez is the CEO and owner of the North American Travel Journalists Association (NATJA). This organization represents approximately 300 travel journalists from the United States and Canada as well as Convention and Visitors Bureaus around the United States. NATJA has grown significantly under her leadership. By providing an annual conference, connecting media with destinations, developing one of the largest awards competition in the travel media industry, NATJA has gained the respect of travel industry professionals in the United States, Canada and Mexico.
In addition, Helen is the President and Founder of The Imagen Foundation and Executive Producer of the Imagen Awards. Over the last 35 years, the Imagen Foundation has honored such entertainment industry professionals such as George Lopez, Andy Garcia, Kenny Ortega, Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek, John Leguizamo, Edward James Olmos, Jimmy Smits, Rita Moreno, Jennifer Lopez and Hector Elizondo. Under her leadership, the Imagen Awards have become one of the most prestigious awards in the entertainment industry and have often been referred to as the “Latino Golden Globes”. These awards exemplify the best of what Hollywood can produce in portraying the image of Latinos and Latino culture. The Imagen Awards, for the last five years, have aired on local PBS stations nationally.
Ms. Hernandez is a recognized guest speaker as indicated by invitations to lecture from prominent universities such as Northwestern University, Chicago, Illinois; Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan; University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota; and University of Texas at Austin. Additionally, Ms. Hernandez has given testimony before the Federal Communications Commission as a conference panelist on “Women’s Ownership of Media Outlets,” the United States Commission on Civil Rights- “The Under Class,” and for the Congressional Select Committee on Aging and many other conferences.
In 1981, Helen was awarded a Fellowship to study Labor History from the National Endowment for the Humanities at City University of New York. She was presented a Congressional commendation which was read and approved in the Congressional Record for her work in the entertainment industry by Congresswoman Hilda Solis in 2004. The National Association of Latino Independent Producers honored her in 2006 with a Lifetime Achievement Award, the most recent of many honorary recognitions. In 2007, she was named by the Hollywood Reporter as one of the 25 most influential Latinos in Hollywood and was profiled in Hispanic Executive magazine in early 2014.
Helen serves in the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), Los Angeles County Arts Commission, President’s Council of Cal State LA University., Los Angeles Council for the Women’s History Museum, and the National Association for the Hispanic Elderly and is also a member of The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences which produces the primetime Emmys. Helen formerly served on the national Board of Directors for Public Broadcasting System (PBS).
Helen is married to Bennett Root and has three children: Michelle Ruedy, Simi Valley, CA; Rick Bielke, Washington, D.C. and Jacqueline Lebesnerais, Paris, France as well as seven grandchildren. Helen was raised in Azusa, California and was the oldest of 12.