Karen Civil | all images shot by John Marquez | story written by Robyn Merrett

“There are always going to be people who are agitated by your light and spirit,” Karen Civil says. The media maven knows that success comes with a few haters. At this point, hers must be exhausted from seeing her win–over and over again. 

Based in Los Angeles, she runs Always Civil Enterprise, a thriving full-service marketing agency that specializes in elevating the images of brands and celebrities. Her portfolio includes work with the late great rapper Nipsey Hussle, Beats by Dre, and the hit FOX television series Star. She also is the host of the Girl, I Guess podcast with her best friend, social media star Ming Lee. Together, they discuss everything from relationships, careers, and how to navigate life as a Black woman. 

The mogul is as big a force in front of the camera as she is behind it. Brands like Rihanna’s Savage Fenty have tapped into her “It girl” cool, featuring Civil in their pieces. Her social media pages function as not only portfolios for her varied professional skillset (event host, megastar interviewer, philanthropist…) but also showcase her as a fashionista (who doesn’t love a well-balanced diet of grail-level sneakers and handcrafted European stilettos?) with a penchant for motivating all who visit. 

For every post she has rubbing shoulders with stars like Lil Wayne in Miami or popping raspberries at a brunch held by luxury fashion house Dior, there’s an empowering caption, like, “I’ll play and ride to my own rules…” and a thought-provoking chat with the likes of Steve Harvey on how to live a purpose-driven life. 

Still, there are those that graffiti negative comments about her on platforms like Twitter, attempting to blanket their blatant discomfort with seeing a Black woman succeed with trolling jabs. Civil’s cure for that is simple: “I love the Block button,” she tells me. “It’s wonderful.” 

”Every day, I tell myself, ‘I am that woman.’ I just want to celebrate myself.”

“My success should never hinder someone else’s progress or impact how they feel about themselves,” she says. Anyone who feels otherwise and attempts to dim her light is immediately banished from her sightline. 

But how does one even learn to combat negativity? Karen credits her thick skin to her Caribbean upbringing. As a kid, growing up in Elizabeth, New Jersey, Karen recalls being treated differently because of her Haitian background. She shares that she was often made fun of for how she dressed and spoke. But, being exposed to the ignorance of others at such a young age informed Karen that, as a Black woman, unfair treatment would be a common occurrence. 

“It’s kind of like a double-edged sword,” she says. “You’re a woman and on top of that, you’re Black. You’re in situations where people want you to be good and not great,” For Karen, being born with what some may consider a setback hasn’t held her down at all. 

“Life is all about challenges,” Civil adds. “The Bible never talks about killing the Devil. The premise of the Bible is to teach us how to live with good and bad. So that’s what I do.”

She truly knows how to flip negatives into positives. Back in 2010, Karen created the Weezy Thanx You website, helping Lil Wayne connect with his fans during an unfortunate stretch for him out of the spotlight. She also assisted Hussle as he pressed forward on several initiatives that helped his oft-neglected Crenshaw sect of Los Angeles.  Oddly enough, her first foray into the music business came because of her love for one of the early 2000’s biggest boy bands. 

Before she was even old enough to drive, Karen created a Backstreet Boys fansite. Her innovative destination, which allowed fans to unite and support the beloved group allowed her to come in third place in a fan site contest and she got to meet the group in person. Realizing there was something to it, Karen created a fan group for J.D. Williams, who played Bodie on The Wire, which also awarded her the chance to meet him in person. 

“I just was a fan of music. I didn’t exactly know what I wanted to do, but I knew in time that I would figure out a blueprint for myself. It took me some trial and error. I think in my early twenties is when it all started to click.” 

With accomplishment after accomplishment under her belt, Karen says she can’t stress enough the importance of building relationships — something she said helped open many doors. “I made sure to authentic relationships,” Karen says. “It wasn’t what you could do for me, but what can I do for you. I wanted to be of service.”

In addition to her work with creatives, Karen has used the past year to give back to grassroots charities that directly uplift African American people, including Black Girls Code. She also has been working closely with Hope for Haiti. With the organization, Karen has provided COVID-19 relief and built computer labs.

As Karen continues to share more of the amazing things she does, I can’t help but wonder how or why she isn’t drained. How can someone be in so many lanes and still make time to even smile? 

“I celebrate the small wins,” she says. “I celebrate the big wins. I take care of me.” She’s also big on affirmations. ”Every day, I tell myself, ‘I am that woman.’ I just want to celebrate myself.”

Story written by Robyn Merrett

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