October 4, 2021
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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INDI Staff October 4, 2021
October 4, 2021

Sally Boy, at Los Angeles Historic Park | all images shot by John Marquez | story written by Robyn Merrett

Erez Potok-Holmes has been reborn. 

Like many, the Philadelphia native has struggled with the concept of being his truest self out of fear of judgment and rejection. And while it’s common to combat these fears by assimilating or adapting, Potok-Holmes figured out a way to regain and maintain authenticity: He became Sally Boy. 

The moniker isn’t just an alter ego or an alias he uses he uses to put out his emotive, pop-leaning music via RCA Records. It is him, in his truest form. The name came about just before the rising artist, who recently moved to Los Angeles, released his debut single of the same name in 2020. 

“Sally Boy is really me embodying this idea of being more feminine or ‘weird,’” he explains to me. It allows him to be who he “would have been” had he not “pretended” to be someone else in high school. “It came after what feels like a lifetime of being uncomfortable with the things that made me who I am, the things I was made fun of for. ‘Sally Boy’ was the sort of push and pull I needed to get me to be comfortable enough to stick with who I really am.” 

Influenced by legends, like John Mayer, Jimi Hendrix, and Ray Charles, Erez makes feel-good music, blending R&B, soul, and rock. 

“My goal as an artist is just to make people feel happy.”

“I’m always trying to be new and creating something interesting,” he says. “I spend a lot of time filling out every aspect of my song. My goal as an artist is just to make people feel happy. That is the energy I would love for people to feel. I want my music to strike a chord within people. I want it to push them to do something positive for themselves. I want people to say, ‘That’s an iconic piece of work.’” While Sally Boy admits he wants recognition, he isn’t too pressed to be famous. 

“I think for a long time,” he starts, “I really wanted fame. And I still do–to a degree. I want aspects of it. I want to be recognized for my work because I’m competitive. But, I’m not sure I always want what comes with fame. It can be bizarre. It’s a completely different human experience.” 

We caught up with Sally Boy at Los Angeles State Historic Park for a little fun in the sun. Check it out below:

Growing up in Philly also shaped Sally Boy’s path, for better and worse. Clashes with toxic masculinity informed him of who he didn’t want to be. And the city’s knack for producing some of the most renowned musicians ever also cultivated his passion for becoming one. “I have always been around music,” he recalls. “I started playing piano when I was three. I would also perform in elementary school. I was in the theatre. I’d sing at home when we had guests over.”

He attended Lower Merion High School (the same school Los Angeles Laker legend Kobe Bryant hooped at before jumping to the professional ranks). There, Sally Boy started a band and went on to play in different shows almost “every week” of his junior and senior years. 

“I was able to witness and be a part of Philly’s underground scene,” he says. “ I met people who were much more out there to me than I saw in high school — from their fashion to their general behavior. That helped me a lot.” 

Now based in the City of Angels, Sally Boy is ready to be himself. The downtime 2020 provided him, off the road and in quarantine like the rest of us, an opportunity to focus on his craft. “I’ve gotten much better at production because of the fact that I have so much time to myself. I would just sit in my room and produce things and I’d just get better at it.” On October 29, he’ll release his new EP, LIES I TELL MYSELF.

When he’s not focused on his own work, Sally Boy is busy being a loving pet parent to his “handsome” cat and supporting other artists from his community. He’s literally a few thousand miles away from his hometown, but figuratively lightyears from the person he was in Philly. He’s confident now, pursuing his goals and living his dreams. Thinking back, Sally Boy ponders what he would tell his younger self, knowing where he is today at 22.

“Stop screaming,” he responds. “I’d tell my younger self to stop screaming and be careful with your voice. I’d also tell him to be patient and that things are going to turn out alright.”

Story written by Robyn Merrett

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INDI Staff October 4, 2021
October 4, 2021
Thalia Randolph | all images shot by John Marquez | story penned by Brad Weté

“A star is born.”

That’s what Thalia Randolph’s parents declared in local newspaper The Toronto Star when their daughter arrived in Canada. Expectations clearly were high for their first child, which makes sense. Her father George C. Randolph’s family assisted in founding the oldest Baptist church in Virginia, played tennis at Hampton University, then transitioned into dance, becoming the principal dancer with the Alvin Ailey Repertory Ensemble. Thalia’s mother Lauren Brett was a world Rhythmic Gymnastics athlete who eventually coached Canada’s national team. And together they founded a school, The Randolph College for the Performing Arts. Quite literally, the Randolphs never stood still. 

So when Thalia came along, of course, they put her on the path to not only match their achievements but surpass them. By age four she was in dance class. Then came swimming, figure skating, Tae Kwon Do lesson, and more. “Every hour was planned,” Randolph says as we sit at INDI’s Beverly Hills office, referring to her regimented teenage years. “My parents didn’t want us [she has a younger brother] just hanging out.”

By her junior and senior years in high school at the North Toronto Collegiate Institute, though, all the extracurricular activities and responsibilities proved to be more harmful than good. “I got ulcers. The doctor was like, ‘It’s stress.’ There was a lot of pressure. I was up super late trying to do school work after all of my commitments. I was really pushed to the edge at a really young age.” She recalls one day that cemented the need for balance in her life.

“I was supposed to perform in a musical, Fame. But I was so sick that I couldn’t move or get out of bed. That’s what got me into looking for ways to manage stress.” She scaled things back, which helped immediately. But bigger decisions were on the horizon as she neared graduation. Would Thalia become the triple-threat entertainer she was “groomed” to be or a woman with the life of her choosing? “My parents’ intentions were good,” she says. “But once I hit senior year, I wanted to figure out who I was and what I wanted to do. The only thing I knew was performing arts. I never explored anything outside of it.”

She took a trip to New York City to check out a few fashion school programs but almost begrudgingly still landed at her parents’ college. After graduating from Randolph College, she worked at the school, managing the children’s program while modeling on the side. She also did yoga, a practice her mother and grandmother both enjoyed. Thalia always had an interest in the healing arts and great respect for those who worked in the spiritual space but was only aware of those types of jobs at their most extreme–nuns, pastors, monks. “I didn’t know you could pursue this as a full lifestyle.”

A bit frustrated with stagnation in Toronto, she felt an itch to leave. Thalia had already studied abroad in Spain, New Zealand, and Australia, and seen many other countries because her family loved to travel. Though she’d never been to Africa. “I wanted to go to a place that had the ocean and the desert,” she says. “Those are the two places I’m most drawn to. She Googled “Cape Town” and on a mission to find her purpose, she moved to South Africa in 2012. “It checked off the boxes for me so I rented a guest house there.” On arrival, signs that she’d made a great decision appeared almost immediately.

At the airport, just before stamping her passport, a South African airport agent asked her how long she intended to stay there. Thalia shrugged her shoulders, unsure. She had purchased a one-way ticket there with no concrete return date in mind. Maybe when her money ran out of money, she thought. “It felt like one of those magical moments in the movies,” she remembers. “He just said, ‘You’re going to like it here.’ And he stamped my passport for six months.”

Once she settled in, Thalia’s self-guided retreat began. Her daily routine consisted of reading self-help books, practicing yoga, swimming, and cooking. Eventually, she made friends with locals and found her footing. “I feel like I had my awakening there,” she says of her time in Cape Town. Every evening she’d watch the sunset and meditate. It was on one such night that what she describes as “getting a download of information. I could feel it.” A unique type of abundance, a reasonless joy consumed her, along with the freedom of knowing that she was always… enough. Listen to her describe what hit her here:

“I used to think that something would have to happen for me to be happy,” she tells me. “I attached happiness to things outside of myself. I started to reclaim my own power by realizing that these qualities that anyone might seek outside of themselves, they’re already in you. You don’t need anything. Once I realized that with every cell in my body–that I’m enough and I don’t have to do anything to prove my worthiness… I don’t have to accomplish something… I thought I had to become famous. Or become a top athlete, something extraordinary in order to prove my life mattered. But none of that matters. Happiness is an internal thing.”

At that moment, her purpose crystallized: “I wanted to help people realize this.”

She returned to Toronto briefly, sharing her new goals with her family and friends, some jazzed that she found herself during her time away. Others, like her concerned parents, wanted to know how she’d support herself financially. She leaned into yoga, moving to Arizona to start teacher training at Urban Yoga in Phoenix. From there, one certification led to another. She entered the Spiritual Studies program at the Southwest Institute of Healing Arts, then studied to become a Meditation teacher at A Mindfulness Life Center in Scottsdale. That’s where she became a Reverend and picked up Reiki, a Japanese energy healing practice. “Every time I was done,” she says through a grin, “I’d go to the next.”

With a varied skillset in her bag, she moved to Los Angeles to put her knowledge to use. Up until Spring 2020, she was a thriving multidisciplinary healer, holding classes at popular studios all over the city and being featured on channels like CNN, in addition to bringing serenity to arguably the most famous TV family ever on Keeping Up with the Kardashians. Still, like many of us, her life as she knew it came to a halt when the COVID-19 pandemic arrived and forced us inside, alone.

“I’m enough and I don’t have to do anything to prove my worthiness.”

The studio she was based at the time, of course, shut down, pivoting to online classes. Thalia was tasked with managing that administrative transition, managing her peers with seemingly no appreciation from her bosses. “There was no time to take a breather or a beat,” she says. “I got very stressed. It wasn’t sustainable for me.” Unhappy and overwhelmed, she quit.

Randolph and her boyfriend skipped town for a bit, heading to Sedona, Arizona to recharge. A few days in, the George Floyd tragedy spurred a resurgence of Black Lives Matter protests. As she watched the country hurt on TV, listened to friends, and looked within, clarity came and provided a new perspective.

“A lot of companies made performative gestures as if they support equality,” Randolph says. “But they truly aren’t about what they say they are. That was frustrating to see. All those protests encouraged me to only do business with people and companies that align with my values and ethos. I can’t work with owners and companies that are problematic.”

Back then, just about everyone needed a bit of soothing, a lift. Earlier in our chat, Thalia mentioned the Buddhist term “Interbeing.” It’s basically the idea that we’re all connected. Plants, water, bugs, animals, and humans alike. We’re all one. She believes that deeply. So it’s easy to imagine her powering up during the summer of 2020, one of the most unnerving series of months in the lives of many (the pandemic, social unrest, and a divisive presidential election to come), and wanting to help guide as many people as possible to the other side of the muck, to peace and light.

And she did just that, this time independently. She launched her website. “I had to create the offerings I wanted to see out there,” she says. She began hosting her own online classes from her home in West Adams. On Instagram’s IG Live feature, she held sound bath sessions. By August she was hosting outdoor sessions where masked and appropriately distanced participants did yoga and meditated.

Thalia’s now a proper business owner who laughs at the resistance she once had about going alone. The wellness sect is a booming, billion-dollar industry, but some of its most vital players don’t see much of the action.“Teachers are always the least paid,” Randolph says. “The ones who are the faces of these practices are at the bottom. The products are at the top. So most teachers feel like they have to be aligned with a brand in order to make money and be seen as ‘legit.’ You have to have a good answer when you’re asked, ‘Who do you teach for?’ That was the thought. But all of the teachers who dared to go out on their own during that window are thriving.” Count her among them.

In times of stress, Thalia suggests that everyone meditate. The news, deadlines, traffic… They can knock even the “strongest” person off balance. Meditation, she says “will transform your life. If you do it at least once a day, there’s no way around it. It will help. We all need to take time to listen to ourselves. You can do it silently. You can do guided ones. Be still for any length of time you have and do it twice a day, anytime, anyplace, You don’t need anything. Sit and find your breath.” It’s through quiet moments with herself that she realized why she didn’t pursue the entrepreneurial route sooner.

“A part of it was not believing in myself enough,” she reveals. “[I didn’t think] that people would come to me directly. If anything, people want to support the individual. They don’t really care about supporting the business.”

Sometimes she hears from old friends who knew her when the success she’s having now was just a far-fetched idea. In hindsight, they appreciate how Thalia figured out what she wanted to do and only did the things that aligned with that path instead of the things society thought should be doing.

Back in high school, she recalls feeling like an “outcast, the lone wolf.” It’s that spirit that propelled her to be a leader in the wellness space, one who recently signed as a model with Natural Model Management and won’t ever sell herself short again–not personally or professionally. As we wrap, I ask her if she plans to ever work as a proper staffer for another studio again.

“I might do a partnership,” she answers, “or a one-off event. But there’s no reason currently to do that anymore. Once I made the decision to move on my terms, things became beautiful.“

Story penned by Brad Weté

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INDI Staff October 4, 2021
October 4, 2021

Ryder McLaughlin | all photography by John Marquez | Story penned by Brad Weté

My head is spinning with amazement overload, trying to understand Ryder McLaughlin’s mindset during those ever-pivotal junior and senior years of high school. It’s typically when most teens are fantasizing about what college will accept them, effectively beginning their transition into adulthood and, eventually, the workforce.

If I’m understanding him correctly, at age 17 Ryder’s first goal was to be a professional skateboarder. At that point, the Moorpark, California native had been kick-flipping toward the dream since the sixth grade, when a skate park opened next to the junior high he attended. That being a lofty goal, of course, he had a more-so realistic, humble, and sane Plan B. If skating didn’t pan out, Ryder thought, he’d become a … stuntman?

“Pretty much,” McLaughlin says nonchalantly over a video chat on a summer afternoon. His father did it for a stretch, so “I grew up jumping off buildings into crash pads from two or three stories up. We’d learn how to repel off the side of a building. That was one thing I always thought I would do. Even with CGI, people are always going to be needed to do stunts.” He’s not wrong, I suppose. It’s just not often that you meet someone who’s been so committed to driving on the road less traveled.

“I never thought about college,” he says. “I don’t think my parents really cared. My dad was a cowboy, more of a work ethic guy. He thought that would get me further than a degree would.”

“I do everything. I’m an artist. I don’t want to live in a box.”

As a kid in Ventura County Ryder had a wide range of hobbies, dabbling in magic, Rubik’s cube mastery, and special effects makeup. But it’s when his older brother started skating that his true passion came into view. He spent all of his free time at the skate park, where the number of friends he had far outweighed the ones he had at Moorpark High.

Back then a good day for him meant driving an hour to Los Angeles to skate with friends in the Valley or on Fairfax, which is where he eventually met Mikey Alfred, founder of skate collective Illegal Civ. “Ryder immediately struck me as original and unique,” Alfred says over email. As McLaughlin became more of a familiar face, Alfred asked him to join the crew.

In the early IC days, Alfred filmed and produced their skate tapes, mish-mosh clips highlighting well-executed tricks, massive wipeouts, and brotherly camaraderie among the homies. On the side, he also produced skits, nabbing close, albeit inexperienced buds to do a bit of acting.

When actor-director Jonah Hill brought Alfred on as a producer for the coming-of-age skate film Mid90s, Mikey helped bring Ryder on for the role of Fourth Grade, stooge friend to Sunny Suljic’s lead character Stevie.

The whole acting thing just happened. “I made skits alone as a kid,” he admits, “But never thought about it seriously until Mikey asked and I was like, ‘Sure that’d be fun.’ I joined IC because I liked the guys and to rep the company with their boards. And now we’re making movies.

This year Illegal Civ released their debut feature-length film North Hollywood, directed and produced by Alfred, who chose Ryder to star as the lead. In Hollywood Ryder plays Michael, who aims to achieve the same goal Ryder once had: skate past college and into pro stardom–despite the wishes of his father (played by Vince Vaughn).

Now 23, McLaughlin has the acting bug. He recently linked with INDI to film a short for us––Ryder’s Skate Academy. Playing an alt version of himself and showcasing his comedic chops, he teaches two eager students (friends and Illegal Civ mates Aramis Hudson and Sunny Suljic) how to be a major skateboard star like him.

Ryder with Illegal Civ friends Sunny Suljic and Aramis Hudson

Jokes aside, McLaughlin’s got another film role lined up to close 2021. Acting provides him an opportunity to explore different parts of himself. “I’m very outgoing with my friends,” Ryder says, “But I’m chill when I’m out in public. I don’t come out of my shell.” He suspects that’s why skating and acting pique his interest.  

“They give me a pit in my stomach. Acting is a whole new world. Something clicks and I’m not the same dude. I go into entertainment mode. I love that fight-or-flight moment before the director yells ‘Action.’ It’s exciting. I get to live a bunch of different lives. Everybody has these emotions and characters inside of them. It’s important to let those breathe.”

“I’m not sure how to put it in words really,” Alfred says, trying to describe Ryder’s star traits. “I feel like Ryder has that spirit, that ‘it’ factor.’ The future will tell all. Ryder is already an incredible artist in many ways. I’m stoked for him and his future.”

“Down the line, I’ll do music,” McLaughlin says, confirming his varied skill set. Quiet as kept, he spends his downtime getting inspired by production wizards like late Hip-Hop titan MF Doom or synth-pop Toronto duo Crystal Castles. Then he creates his own tunes in that spirit. Clothing is another lane Ryder’s wheeling into, taking over Illegal Civ’s merch as Creative Director and “making some stylish stuff.”

It’s clear Ryder’s only goal is self-actualization, to become all he wants to and can be at his speed, without restriction. Six years ago he wanted to be a skater. Since then he’s ollied himself into Hollywood stardom. In time, who knows? Maybe you’ll be rocking a shirt he designed or turn on the radio only to find out he produced the song booming out of the speakers. We’ll see.  

“I do everything,” Ryder says. “I’m an artist. I don’t want to live in a box. And if I do, it’s going to be a big box.”

Story penned by Brad Weté

Ryder visited our LA headquarters to see our debut EV. Seems like he’s into it, right? We’ll be able to show it to you… soon. Stay tuned.

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INDI Staff October 4, 2021