This Is What Self-Care Looks Like To Media Maven Karen Civil

Finding Balance

In xoNecole's Finding Balance, we profile boss women making boss moves in the world and in their respective industries. We talk to them about their business, their life, and most of all, what they do to find balance in their busy lives.

The moment Karen Civil and I got into the questions, she said "Whew, I'm about to be 100% real with you. Let's go," and I knew there was no turning back.

Karen Civil is a woman who needs no introduction — from her countless businesses, to being a certified game-changer in the hip-hop industry, Civil is a name and face you absolutely know. Many say she's "self-made" (though Civil definitely gives shoutouts to her amazing team), and for countless women, Civil is perhaps one of the first or leading examples of a female powerhouse in what has conventionally been a male-dominated arena.

Karen is also one who needs no warm up to get to her point — she jumps in head first. The first few minutes of our conversation, I found myself receding, feeling like Karen was coming in a little hot on our late night call. Immediately, I realized that I was suffering from the very disease society has taught women, and Black women especially. I was operating out of discomfort to see a woman who was fully unapologetic in her approach and the facts she was going to spit, a woman who many could term "aggressive" or "demanding" or even "scary."

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I realized that Karen was in fact none of those things, she just knew what she was going to say and wasn't going to take the scenic route to say it, and it made me wonder why we have silenced countless women before for the same thing. That's a lesson I learned right then and there, one of understanding that a woman can be confident and say what's on her mind. Point. Blank. Period.

In this installment of xoNecole's Finding Balance series, the media maven talks health, spirituality, time management, and most importantly how to walk in your highest purpose and calling.

What does an average day look like for you?

For everything a little bit changes, but there's Always Civil. That's my marketing and branding agency. We have various clients. I'm really proud of the clients that I have right now, which is Russ. Russ is getting ready to drop his project. I have London On Da Track. I have YG, Teyana Taylor, and so many more. We do activations for people, so I just helped James Harden with his James Harden weekend. That was a big moment. I'm starting to do some work with Kamaya that I'm really excited about. That's one aspect of it.

Obviously, we have the Karen Civil brand, which is all things entertainment. I have a great team set in place that's self-sufficient and it runs. I'll peek my head in. I have Live Civil, which is all things empowering, and all things motivating. I have a team for that. I peek my head in. I have the True Women brand, which is our number one vegan based bar on Amazon. We recently launched that a few months ago, so that's something that's not in the hip hop or entertainment space. It's something that's totally different. It's very health conscious. I have a lot. I've taken a lot of calls. I'm handling the schedules, making things happen. In between meetings, because I work with other brands from Louis Vuitton to XYZ, then I'm an influencer myself. I'm a lady who wears many hats and I'm living my life that I set forth for myself. Every day is a little bit different.

Karen Civil/Instagram

How do you find time to balance all your hats?

It's that time management. I make sure I put the energy and time in what needs to be done. I have a great team around me that helps elevate and execute, because that's really what it's about. It's not me just shining. It's the people around me helping us shine together. I make sure that the clients that I work with are all like, they really want it, so I don't have to chase behind and beg and plead. So, it works.

What is the most hectic part of your week? What obstacles pop up since you are juggling so many things?

The hectic things are, you know, you have very rambunctious clients. You have people who are outspoken, so I continue walking through TSA and in four minutes, I'm looking at my phone like "What the hell is this, World War III on social media?" Sometimes, I wish people would allow me to do my job and give me a minute. Then, a lot of people I have relationships with want you to be there and you can't be there for everybody. You can't be at every single event. When you're up in one place, you're down in another. If I'm at this event making sure this person is right, I try to make sure this person is well too, but it's about managing and balancing my times. I still make it work. I do it with a smile on my face and I try to give them the best effort I can to make them feel even when I'm not there that they feel Karen's presence and she still made it happen.

What does self-care look like for you?

Listen, I'm very spiritual. I'm very spiritual when it comes to that self-care. I get reiki healing, I light my candles in my home, I sage. I need the energy to be right. I pray to my God. I follow the Muslim prayer, so it's like I'm at 4:56, 12:54, 4:33, 7:24, and 8:47. I am on my rugs, I am praying to the east, and I am talking to God. That's important for me. I'm blessing my food before I eat it.

"I'm just making sure I incorporate God through my whole day."

I don't care what I'm doing. I will excuse myself so I can go pray. People understand that, they don't take offense to that. I do my healings, I light my spiritual candles. I'm just trying to make sure that in a world that honestly feels like they don't want me to belong in an industry that is trying to break me, that God continues to keep me whole and my spirit feels intact. I just got to give all glory to God and ask him to remove. Please remove the negative people in my life who are not supposed to be there. I pray for my friends and things of that nature. I've got a therapist who I will see and I lay on the couch. At the end of the day, my mental health is more important than anything else.

How do you find balance with friendship?

Listen, I realized I did quantity over quality and then people's true colors started to come out. Now, more than anything, I reversed it. It is all about quality and not quantity, because people will burn you out. Especially being in Los Angeles. They pretend they are for you when the objective and the motive is to align... It's like spaghetti to the wall. They want to stand with whatever sticks. People want to stand in your light. Now I have a great tribe of women around me who believe in me, who uplift me, and guess what? We uplift each other, so I'm good in that space. God has helped me gravitate all these wonderful people around me that I can call friends, that I can call sisters, that are part of my tribe.

Do women find balance or do you have to settle?

When it comes to my life... I'm not settling. I'm not settling in a personal relationship, I'm not settling in my business, because I want more for myself. More than anything now, we are in a day and age where they respect [women of color] and they are listening to us. We are running the boardrooms. Forbes said we are listed as the fastest growing entrepreneurs. You think I'm not running around with my invisible cape and knowing what I'm capable of? Ain't nobody going to diminish my light. You will never diminish my life.

"Ain't nobody going to diminish my light. You will never diminish my life."

How do you find balance with love and relationships? Do you even have time to date?

I did a public relationship and I embarrassed myself. You know why? Because I wanted to pretend to have it all. And that was my fault because I wanted girls to know you could have a career and a man, and you can do this and you can support him, and you can do everything else. I knew he wasn't right for me but I cared more about what social media thought because I wanted people to be like, "Oh, perfection," and this and that. That's where I failed myself and I failed the audience and the people who believe in me because that relationship was a sham and a lie. Now, more than anything, I am dating. I'm in a great place. I have people who appreciate me, who understand me, and who want the best for me. It's me and us. It's not me, us, and social media.

How do you find balance between your sanity and haters?

People will diminish your light before you even get to turn it on. No sir, no sir. I pay my light bill on time every month. You will not have me in the dark, you will not dim nothing over here unless it's some dim sum and we eating. Nothing over here will be dim. Nothing. I walk in purpose and I walk in light. I'm not dimming down nothing.

How do you find balance in your life with exercise, health, eating?

I have an incredible chef who helps me stay on my diet. My trainer. He is like everything. His name is James Banks and James will be like like, "Karen, let's get it together. Let's get you where you need to be." From training and everything to train, [if] you want change, James is it.

When you are going through a bout of uncertainty, when you're feeling stuck, when you're hitting obstacles and whatever else, how do you handle it?

Oh, I'm got my female tribe. I talk to God, I pray to Him on it to give me clarity. I write it down. I write my thoughts down just to make sure I'm not missing anything. Then, I have my tribe of women that I talk to to help guide and understand me. Those are my three things to provide that balance and to make sure that I'm making the right things. I never want to make a decision out of a heated argument or just in the moment.

What does success mean to you ?

Success to me is living in purpose. This society and this world when it comes to people of color, the race was not set up for us to win. Not being afraid of failure, not letting it hinder or dictate where you see yourself. That is success. I don't put a monetary value on it because when you're chasing your purpose and you're chasing your goals, that comes with it.

"Success to me is living in my purpose."

Success is looking my momma in the eyes and knowing I got her a house, you know what I mean? Success is knowing that I'm able to create opportunities for the people around me. Waking up happy knowing I'm living the life that I chose for myself.

For more of Karen, follow her on Instagram. Also be sure to check out some of the other amazing ladies we've featured in our Finding Balance series by clicking here.

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.


We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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Featured image by Shutterstock

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