Karen Civil’s website has grown to be the most trusted source of hip-hop news “ushering in a new generation of lyrical phenomenons.” She discovered rising stars such as Drake, Nicki Minaj and J.Cole, who were first featured on KarenCivil.com.
The “Digital Renaissance Woman” of her time, Civil was born to stand out — every part of her story demonstrates that from her struggle as a Haitian-American born in Brooklyn and raised in Elizabeth, New Jersey to her unique rise to fame in the social media world.
She has mastered the art of social networking by utilizing almost every media platform possible to create several online communities, advertise her brand and pretty much make a lot of money. Last year, Civil says she earned over $500K through social media and her website. Civil tells Rolling Out magazine how she made it all possible.
“Growing up was very interesting for me,” Civil tells Rolling Out Magazine. “If you were Haitian, people just automatically assumed that English was a second language. So they had a special class for my brother and I, but we spoke proper English. The Black kids didn’t really get us, the Haitian kids didn’t really think we were one of them, and White kids didn’t take to us either, so it was weird. But my brother got through it better than I did because he played all the sports and was super intelligent. He eventually went to a different school than me and I just basically had to fend for myself.”
She did the exact same thing in high school for J.D. Williams who played Bodie on The Wire and met him as well. At that point, she realized the power of technology and eventually landed an internship with Hot 97’s Funkmaster Flex and worked as an A&R and tour manager for DipSet.
She realized she could monetize off of this platform if you understand how to engage your audience. And her blogging career soared from there. By 2008, she began to brand herself with the creation of KarenCivil.com, which had a mostly male readership, and then become the Social Media Manager for Beats by Dre in Los Angeles.
“When I first started blogging, it was about getting out new music and capturing artists working in the studio,” Civil says to Rolling Out Magazine. “This was before artists were so social. They weren’t so hands-on then. But now, it’s much more difficult for blogs because you have artists with their own SoundCloud pages and they are dropping music on their own social platforms. For blogs today, it’s really about content creation and partnering with a brand.”
Karen has since learned how the many different platforms can be used not only for networking but to generate revenue for herself.
“At first, social media was just about networking,” Civil says. “But now that I have to network, I make sure that every platform makes money for me. You can do something on Facebook. You can do something on Twitter. You can do something on Instagram. You can create a piece of content and do product placement on YouTube. So, I like the fact that there are so many different options, especially for social media. In 2015, those platforms made over a half of a million dollars for me.”
With success comes problems — false accusations, rumors and some disadvantages in the relationships and friendship department. Civil claims all of them.
“It’s not easy for every man to be comfortable with his wife or his girlfriend working around men who are rappers and have certain lifestyles,” she says. “Having this type of career, people may see you as aggressive and may not view you the same and I’m OK with that. I know it is very difficult to go out on a date, to do certain things, to tell people what I do. But sometimes I find myself giving guys a very short version of what I do. Other times, I just find myself trying to guess if the person is really for me, or if the person is interested in business. Because you never know what people’s motives are so you just have to be very careful. I recently had my very first public relationship and then it went sour. There are things that I would do different. But, it’s just a situation where it didn’t work out. As much as you love a person, as much as they may love you, if they don’t see the potential for themselves, then they are never going to see it for you.”
But she says that to say despite the challenges, she isn’t perfect, she just does what it takes to make her dreams happen.
“This is someone who did not limit her potential, who loved her life and lived her life without regrets. Someone who used her platform and her voice to create some sort of change and to help the next person move up. So it’s just about being looked at as someone who is bright, who created some sort of change and who wanted to be that change.”
Civil now operates a consulting company, Always Civil Enterprises, and has recently published a book, Be You & Live Civil, which is currently on her website. She travels nationally and internationally as a motivational speaker. And if you’re still not amazed, her next project will do it. Recently, Civil was selected to be featured in the upcoming Girl Power Tour (along with Sabrina Peterson and Toya Wright), in Birmingham, Alabama, on April 23.
Written By: Taylor Bennett