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

“I have a weird job.”

Ask Yena Kim what she does for a living and that’s how she’ll begin as she reaches for her cell phone. “It’s futile to explain what I do,” she tells me over a video chat from her Brooklyn home on a summer morning. “The more I say, the more ridiculous it sounds. I just pull up my Instagram and say, ‘This is my dog. This is what I do.’ There’s always an immediate shock.”

The aforementioned IG account is for Menswear Dog, which showcases her 11-year-old Bodhi. More than 400,000 followers tune in to the Shiba Inu’s page to see him rock mens’ clothing. Whether he’ll be serving face in a vintage chunky turtleneck fit for a brutal winter, throw on a  chic in Saint Laurent biker jacket, or donning a Brooks Brothers blazer fit for a power lunch on Wall Street is anybody’s guess.

Yena’s long-winding path to becoming one of the leaders in the dog influencer space is a unique one, beginning with her childhood. Born in Korea, her family moved to India when she was 7, where she attended boarding school in New Delhi. At home, she owned quite a collection of Earth’s little creatures–birds, turtles, and rabbits. Kim would even bring dogs in from off the street. After a stretch of sadness due to one passing, her father began giving them away without notice once they reached their latter years to avoid young Yena experiencing the hurt again.

Due to India’s regulations, she was only allowed to spend 45 minutes on the Internet daily. She’d use the bulk of it to handle school assignments, then scramble to satisfy her jones for U.S. pop culture–ripping music off Napster and sleuthing out some clips of Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. 

It was no surprise to her friends when she headed to the States for college, choosing to attend New York’s Rochester Institute of Technology to major in Graphic Design at first. But a year and change later Kim opted out, transferring to The Fashion Institute of Technology in the heart of Manhattan. While at FIT she interned at acclaimed fashion houses like Oscar de la Renta, Calvin Klein, and Ralph Lauren, where she landed a full-time role as a Women’s Black Label Beading & Embellishments designer upon graduation in 2011.

A job fresh out of college at arguably the best American fashion brand ever is a dream come true to many. Back then Yena and Bohdi, a 2-year-old pup at the time, would hang out only when her hectic schedule permitted. Throughout our chat, Yena refers to Bodhi as “the love of my life,” cheerily recalling how they met when asked.   

During a FIT schoolday afternoon, Yena visited an Upper East Side pet shop, as she did every so often. She was “possessed” when the tiny Shiba Inu first glanced her way. “His look said, ‘You’re going to take me home.’ I couldn’t leave.” Despite the fact she was totally unprepared to have a dog, Yena left with Bodhi. “I bought everything I needed that day,” she says.  

New York City may be known for its crowded streets, and eventful, sleepless nights. Surprisingly, it can be quite lonely, too. Especially when your family is across the globe. Bodhi helped Yena feel at home away from home. When she’d get back in from a long day at work, there was a bouncing bundle of fur ready to welcome her. But the benefits of their pairing only began there. 

One rainy day she looked over at Bodhi, who was relaxing by her window. “I had menswear laying around,” Kim remembers, “and he was just being his handsome self.” She reached for her phone to snap a few pictures. It was then that Yena had a thought that would flip her life upside down: “What if I put a jacket on him? What would he do?”

She figured Bodhi would scurry away. He didn’t. Instead, “he started giving me all of these angles. I got so excited. I pulled the treats out and it was like a party.” Naturally, she posted her photos to the only forum that mattered back then: Facebook. And the results were, to be frank, humbling. Not because the snaps of Bodhi didn’t get any likes. They got a ton. Actually, the numbers her dog garnered vastly outweighed the amount of attention Yena would get when she posted pics that featured her.  

“The power of dogs,” Yena says through laughter now, “Whoa! I was like, ‘I’ve never gotten that number of likes on anything before. Nobody cares about my personal life.’ But this dog? People were like, ‘Oh, my God!. He’s so handsome! This is so cool!” Those early images of Bodhi in a cardigan and necktie springboarded Yena into action.

Her then-husband immediately set up a Tumblr page and Instagram account. It wasn’t long before GQ featured Bodhi. At the top of 2013, the magazine said he’s got “more style than some of our two-legged friends.” Almost instantly, Yena had two full-time jobs–Fashion designer Monday through Friday from 9-5 and manager to an Internet-famous dog with the remaining time. She and Bodhi suddenly were raking in interview requests and invites to private showings from fashion companies. Big brands began reaching out to her with “free” clothes, hoping that she’d put them on Bodhi. Back then the influencer market was virtually non-existent.

“No one was monetizing their Instagram posts,” Yena says. “This is before legit agencies were doing that. I didn’t even know my dog’s rate.” From the outside, it looked like she was flourishing in two worlds with her Ralph Lauren gig and a dog that was being written about by marquee publications. But she learned quickly: “Getting featured doesn’t mean you can pay your rent.”

Even with no sure path of how to turn her passion project into absolute financial gain, Yena leaned even more into the Menswear Dog business. So much so that the day job was starting to cramp her style. Just months removed from that first GQ story, Yena burned through all of her vacation and sick days at work, meaning that if she was going to keep the pace she and Bodhi were moving at the time (boasting new stories in TIME and on CNN), she’d have to make a big decision.

“Do I really want to stay at this really amazing full-time job where I could probably have a stable future,” she asked herself. “Or do I want to have the adventure of a lifetime with my dog where I don’t know what’ll happen but I’m excited about it?” She wondered how she’d pay her rent without a steady paycheck. She feared how her folks would react if she quit her hard-earned position. “Imagine explaining to my Asian parents,” she says, “that, ‘I’m going to quit my job to work with my dog.’”

With less than one month’s salary saved, Yena resigned from Ralph Lauren. Without that big job at the well-known company, she immediately felt a lessened sense of self-worth. “It was weird,” Yena recalls. “When you work for a company like that, you wrap much of your identity up in that title and role. So the question that comes when you don’t have that job anymore is, ‘Who are you?’ If I’m not the person who works at Ralph Lauren sketching, who am I?” It didn’t help that with the new-found time she had to invest in Menswear Dog, she’d come across negative comments on her posts. “I don’t know what the big deal is,” one head-scratching hater tagged. “It’s just an iPhone photo of a dog.”

Yena says the snide comments, the urgent need for rent money, and the identity crisis lit “a fire under my ass.” She kept believing. Supportive parents helped, too. “If you have confidence,” they said, “go do it.” Yena learned proper photography skills thanks to a collection of YouTube tutorials and proper school courses. She adores the memories of those days. “I was working hard and I was focused because I didn’t have a choice. Yena also shored up on the business front, learning how to maneuver in the murky world of digital celebrity.

With her accrued knowledge combined with her knack for styling and successfully surfing from the bygone era blog-era of #Menswear when simply rocking a blazer or an ascot separated the common man from the natty one into this post streetwear, almost anything goes moment fellas are thriving in now, business is booming.

Various brands reach out to her and Bodhi to use their products as he coolly sports a look that fits the spirit of the work. “I tap on the ottoman,” she says of her prep process for a photo shoot, “and he knows it’s his time to shine.” Some water, few doggy treats, and some chill electronica tracks are all he needs to be good to go. 

Though it seems like he’s a highly obedient dog, Yena reveals that such is not always the case. “He’s not well-behaved at all,” she says. “He’s incredibly charming. But you can’t control him.” Some of his lowlights include peeing on the expensive carpet of a Stetson showroom, chewing up thousands of dollars worth of shoes, and leaving “very spiteful revenge poops” when he doesn’t get enough attention.

Their love endures, “accidents” be damned. Yena’s courage to drive toward her dream of a wild career turn has not only allowed her to spend quality time with her bestie but also grow tremendously as a creative and explore “new curiosities.”  She’s a full-fledged Digital Consultant now, helping others wheel through their online endeavors easier than she did.

She may be taking on new roles, but don’t expect her to ever get off track. From time to time, Yena gets calls asking her to appear on zany new pet TV shows with potentially problematic dog moms and dads. She always declines. The only new addition to the business is that her other dog Luc is sneaking into her and Bodhi’s content. The 2-year-old Jindo Yena adopted from Korean K9 Rescue because “he’s so cute” is been showing interest in Bohdi’s shoots. Time will tell if he becomes a pro model like his bud.

“I always focus on the quality,” Yena says, “content that feels good, is about dogs and stylish fashion.” That equation has proven successful so far. Why stop now?

“Fashion can be difficult for some people,” Kim says of why she thinks Menswear Dog continues to thrive. “You kind of compare yourself with whoever is modeling what you’re seeing. There’s none of that when you’re looking at [a dog, Bodhi], who’s so different. You look at the clothes more carefully.”

When Yena first started out with Bodhi business, she was timid about sharing it with friends. “There was a point,” Kim says, “where I’d think about how my friends are doctors and I put clothes on a dog. I was embarrassed.” Those feelings don’t exist anymore. Today she knows what she and Bodhi bring to the table and provide to his fans: Happiness. One flip through the New York Times–another renowned publication the pair has been featured in–reveals that life is hard for many. We could all use a reason to smile. Enter Menswear Dog.

“Now I can talk about it joyfully,” she says. “And own it.”

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