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The Business Of Being Karen Civil

BOSS UP

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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A music lover since childhood, Amira grew up in an artistic household where passion for music was emphasized. “My dad has always been my huge inspiration for music because he’s a musician himself and is so passionate about the history of music.” Amira’s also dealt with deafness in one ear since she was a toddler, a condition which she says only makes her more “intentional” about the music she makes, to ensure that what she hears inside her head can translate the way she wants it to for audiences.

“The loss of hearing means a person can’t experience music in the conventional way,” she says. “I’ve always responded to bigger, bolder anthemic songs because I can feel them [the vibrations] in my body, and I want to be sure my music does this for deaf/HOH people and everyone.”

A Black woman wearing a black hijab and black and gold dress stands in between two men who are both wearing black pants and colorful jackets and necklaces

Amira Unplugged and other contestants on Becoming a Popstar

Amira Unplugged / MTV

In order to lift people’s spirits at the beginning of the pandemic, Amira began posting videos on TikTok of herself singing and using sign language so her music could reach her deaf fans as well. She was surprised by how quickly she was able to amass a large audience. It was through her videos that she caught the attention of a talent scout for MTV’s new music competition show for rising TikTok singers, Becoming a Popstar. After a three-month process, Amira was one of those picked to be a contestant on the show.

Becoming a Popstar, as Amira describes, is different from other music competition shows we’ve all come to know over the years. “Well, first of all, it’s all original music. There’s not a single cover,” she says. “We have to write these songs in like a day or two and then meet with our producers, meet with our directors. Every week, we are producing a full project for people to vote on and decide if they’d listen to it on the radio.”

To make sure her deaf/HOH audiences can feel her songs, she makes sure to “add more bass, guitar, and violin in unique patterns.” She also incorporates “higher pitch sounds with like chimes, bells, and piccolo,” because, she says, they’re easier to feel. “But it’s less about the kind of instrument and more about how I arrange the pattern of the song. Everything I do is to create an atmosphere, a sensation, to make my music a multi-sensory experience.”

She says that working alongside the judges–pop stars Joe Jonas and Becky G, and choreographer Sean Bankhead – has helped expand her artistry. “Joe was really more about the vocal quality and the timber and Becky was really about the passion of [the song] and being convinced this was something you believed in,” she says. “And what was really great about [our choreographer] Sean is that obviously he’s a choreographer to the stars – Lil Nas X, Normani – but he didn’t only focus on choreo, he focused on stage presence, he focused on the overall message of the song. And I think all those critiques week to week helped us hone in on what we wanted to be saying with our next song.”

As her star rises, it’s been both her Muslim faith and her friends, whom she calls “The Glasses Gang” (“because none of us can see!”), that continue to ground her. “The Muslim and the Muslima community have really gone hard [supporting me] and all these people have come together and I truly appreciate them,” Amira says. “I have just been flooded with DMs and emails and texts from [young muslim kids] people who have just been so inspired,” she says. “People who have said they have never seen anything like this, that I embody a lot of the style that they wanted to see and that the message hit them, which is really the most important thing to me.”

A Black woman wears a long, salmon pink hijab, black outfit and pink boots, smiling down at the camera with her arm outstretched to it.

Amira Unplugged

Amira Unplugged / MTV

Throughout the show’s production, she was able to continue to uphold her faith practices with the help of the crew, such as making sure her food was halal, having time to pray, dressing modestly, and working with female choreographers. “If people can accept this, can learn, and can grow, and bring more people into the fold of this industry, then I’m making a real difference,” she says.

Though she didn’t win the competition, this is only the beginning for Amira. Whether it’s on Becoming a Popstar or her videos online, Amira has made it clear she has no plans on going anywhere but up. “I’m so excited that I’ve gotten this opportunity because this is really, truly what I think I’m meant to do.”

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