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The Business Of Being Karen Civil

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In a day and time where it seems everyone wants the title of being #goals, Karen Civil is actually living it. The digital media maven breathed fresh, innovative air onto the blogging and marketing scene back when the competition looked like there wasn't enough room for a Black Woman-led urban site that dished the latest in all things music, entertainment, and culture. And from then on, she's been an unstoppable force.


Evolving now into multiple entities, namely her branding and marketing agency Always Civil and her empowerment and motivational career-based franchise Live Civil, the New Jersey native has become and continues to be a household name and standard of excellence for those across various industries. She's also been one of my top two favorite girl bosses for YEARS. After admitting to having a long night hours before she dialed into our interview assisting on a video shoot with hip-hop artist YG, I found myself temporarily lost and intrigued at the thought of what a day in the life of my literal #career, #fitness, and all around #lifegoals would be.

From running companies to running plays with some of the biggest brands and entertainers in the nation, we wanted to know just how she manages to do and be so effortlessly on a continuous basis. This is the business of being Karen Civil.

Upon first waking up, I...

...start my day off with a conversation with myself and a conversation with the Universe, I talk to God. I light my candles, I set my affirmations for the day. I have a conversation with my dog. For me, it's all about the think, do, and be positive moments. I know I have to set the tone of my energy level and how I feel spiritually before I can go out and conquer the world and be Karen. It's me putting on all the armor before I go out and become an X-Men or Superwoman.

Courtesy of Karen Civil

"I know I have to set the tone of my energy level and how I feel spiritually before I can go out and conquer the world and be Karen."

The most hectic part at times...

...is not having enough time; even though you schedule things out a lot of things overlap. And because of the great work that I do, a lot of people and brands always want you at the forefront. It's not being able to be at everything and that goes from a business standpoint to a personal one. It's just those moments of knowing that when I am present in one situation, I am lacking in another.

My self-care looks like...

...therapy. I get Reiki healings done and I love surfing and going to the beach. I love surfing because it teaches you how to control chaos, how to control things around you and to keep calm. I'm also a big reader and, oh, my tribe! I love my good tribe of people. Sometimes in a world where you're just so busy working, you feel like 'I'm going through this alone.' It's good to have conversations with them.

What I learned in love is that...

...there are people who love me or who love the idea of me, but unfortunately they can't handle me. And for a very long time, I would dim my light to make them comfortable. But when it comes to love, they should love you for who you are and not for a part of you. I had to learn that so I let a lot of people go and realized, the person who is going to love me will love me unconditionally. They'll love me for the life that I'm in and won't feel insecure or feel like my success hinders them in anyway.

It's an ongoing process but I'm in a place where I'm not just rushing a relationship, but creating deep-rooted friendships first so we really know each other. We really know what we like, where we stand with goals; we're not just talking about what's happening in the moment. I don't want superficial love anymore so I'm taking my time with it. I'm making sure the person who enters my life understands my light, how bright it shines and that they are in love with that.

Courtesy of Karen Civil

"I'm making sure the person who enters my life understands my light, how bright it shines and that they are in love with that."

My tribe are...

...some of the most incredible people in my life; I don't even call them friends I call them family. They don't ever allow darkness to make me feel defeated in any way even when it comes from work. My tribe, they're X-Men, they're unicorns! I wish I could go down the list of them all. I have these people who are in my corner and I just love them so much. We pour back into each other, you know? We start our conversations with, "Hey how are you feeling today? Are you happy?" And it's like damn, it feels good to have friendships and to have girlfriends.

In order to take charge of my health, I...

... just decided to remove a lot of things from out of my life, which helps. I see Dr. Sebi's son, I take his medicine. I don't do any sugars, red meat, or carbs. Which is hard for us! But once you start removing those things from your body and you reset your palette, they no longer taste good to you. They're not things that you crave anymore. That's really what's been working for me.

So I'm not vegan anymore because I have to have certain fish and chicken and things like that. Even in my fridge, when my friends come over, I have like eight different waters. And I'm taking a lot of dairy out. I do a small, minimal amount of dairy. I don't do cheese or milk. And I'm not a drinker, you know some people come home and have a glass of wine--I'm cool. It just never was me.

To get unstuck, I...

...get through it by remembering who I am! I remember the greatness of my path and everything God has bestowed upon me. With every position, there's going to be naysayers so I know it comes with the territory. It's unfortunate but I move past it.

I posted something the other day that goes: 'There are two wolves and they're always fighting. One wolf is darkness and despair and the other one is light and hope. Which one wins?' You have to learn how to answer that for yourself because when I answer it, the one that wins is the one I choose to feed. And for me it's always going to be light and hope. I don't have control over anybody else's being, or how they do things but I have control over my emotions and what I give attention and life to.

Success to me...

...has many different meanings and it's changed over the course. It went from at first moving out of Elizabeth, New Jersey, to getting my first home, getting my dream car. But success now to me is being able to operate and navigate in a space that wasn't accustomed or created for a black woman to succeed. Especially on her own terms. It's being able to open up doors for other women to walk through, build tables for other women to sit at, and just being that light for other people, giving back to a world that's given me so much.

So when I talk about this women empowerment thing, I really mean it. I live it. Because I know what Angie Martinez meant for me, I know how she made me feel and she helped me strive for my career. I want to be able to do that for the next generation of women. I want to be able to help create a positive change in someone's life.

For more of Karen Civil, follow her on Instagram.

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When I was ten, my Sunday school teacher put on a brief performance in class that included some of the boys standing in front of the classroom while she stood in front of them holding a heart shaped box of chocolate. One by one, she tells each boy to come and bite a piece of candy and then place the remainder back into the box. After the last boy, she gave the box of now mangled chocolate over to the other Sunday school teacher — who happened to be her real husband — who made a comically puzzled face. She told us that the lesson to be gleaned from this was that if you give your heart away to too many people, once you find “the one,” that your heart would be too damaged. The lesson wasn’t explicitly about sex but the implication was clearly present.

That memory came back to me after a flier went viral last week, advertising an abstinence event titled The Close Your Legs Tour with the specific target demo of teen girls came across my Twitter timeline. The event was met with derision online. Writer, artist, and professor Ashon Crawley said: “We have to refuse shame. it is not yours to hold. legs open or not.” Writer and theologian Candice Marie Benbow said on her Twitter: “Any event where 12-17-year-old girls are being told to ‘keep their legs closed’ is a space where purity culture is being reinforced.”

“Purity culture,” as Benbow referenced, is a culture that teaches primarily girls and women that their value is to be found in their ability to stay chaste and “pure”–as in, non-sexual–for both God and their future husbands.

I grew up in an explicitly evangelical house and church, where I was taught virginity was the best gift a girl can hold on to until she got married. I fortunately never wore a purity ring or had a ceremony where I promised my father I wouldn’t have pre-marital sex. I certainly never even thought of having my hymen examined and the certificate handed over to my father on my wedding day as “proof” that I kept my promise. But the culture was always present. A few years after that chocolate-flavored indoctrination, I was introduced to the fabled car anecdote. “Boys don’t like girls who have been test-driven,” as it goes.

And I believed it for a long time. That to be loved and to be desired by men, it was only right for me to deny myself my own basic human desires, in the hopes of one day meeting a man that would fill all of my fantasies — romantically and sexually. Even if it meant denying my queerness, or even if it meant ignoring how being the only Black and fat girl in a predominantly white Christian space often had me watch all the white girls have their first boyfriends while I didn’t. Something they don’t tell you about purity culture – and that it took me years to learn and unlearn myself – is that there are bodies that are deemed inherently sinful and vulgar. That purity is about the desire to see girls and women shrink themselves, make themselves meek for men.

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It took me a while —after leaving the church and unlearning the toxic ideals around purity culture rooted in anti-Blackness, fatphobia, heteropatriarchy, and queerphobia — to embrace my body, my sexuality, and my queerness as something that was not only not sinful or dirty, but actually in line with the vision God has over my life. Our bodies don't stop being our temples depending on who we do or who we don’t let in, and our worth isn’t dependent on the width of our legs at any given point.

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