Music-Industry Maven Karen Civil Talks Career Advice & Giving Back
Two things she’s mastered.
We’ve been cheering on New Jersey native Karen Civil from the sidelines for years, watching her cement her place as the go-to woman for social- and digital-media marketing strategies in the entertainment industry since launching her website in 2008. Her namesake site quickly became a daily read of intimate interviews with hip-hop artists and a place where her readers could stay up to date on album and song releases. Over a decade later, Civil has expanded to own her own branding and marketing company, Always Civil, and launched Live Civil, a platform that promotes positive entertainment news and offers resources for entrepreneurs through its Civil Shop. It’s this 360-degree approach to marketing that has landed her clients like Teyana Taylor, YG, Quavo, and Mitch.
Somehow, amidst 12–24 -hour days (working in music means a lot of late nights in the studio), Civil still finds time to give back. “The world has given me so much. I’ve had situations that I’ve been able to grow from, learn from, and heal from,” she explains. “Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t have those same opportunities.” Civil started her philanthropy in Haiti creating a playground. “I like to push the power of play. I know what it felt like to be outside with your friends. All of your cares go away,” she says. In addition to building computer labs in Haiti, Civil hosts an annual Civil Day in Jersey and Karen Civil Day at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. All of the above is exactly why we called her for some career advice. That, and for her to walk us through her career path. We suggest bookmarking this page.
She always knew she was destined to be an entrepreneur:
“I remember in 10th grade we had to do a report on what we wanted to be. At that time things were limited, you were a doctor, you were a lawyer—most people put a mom, and I did my report on wanting to be free. I said I’m still an open canvas. My teacher hated that response and actually called my mother to tell her.
“When my mom came in, she was already annoyed because she had to take time off work. She’s like, ‘You brought me here because my daughter doesn’t have a limited viewpoint?’ This is the way my family was raised.”
And she dove in headfirst:
“It started out with trial and error, honestly. My first big thing was creating weezythanxyou.com, a website for Lil Wayne while he was incarcerated. [It] was his way of communicating and connecting with his fans.That’s when I really got an understanding of marketing, the digital space, and understanding your digital footprint. Mac Maine and Lil Wayne were very instrumental in my growth in this space.”
Her advice on networking:
“When you walk into that room, confidence is everything. I’ve made the mistake of walking in timid, sitting at the end of the table, not voicing my opinion. You have to remember that if you are walking into that room, you are invited—you are just as important as the person to your left and your right. Let your voice be heard. I use a lot of basketball analogy: Treat the situation like it’s fourth quarter and you are down by two and you have the ball. Make it happen for yourself, because nobody else will. Walk in that room with your head held high, make sure that you are prepared, you’re asking questions, and your voice is being heard. Put on that invisible cape and become your superhero.”
How she chooses her clients and when she decides to say no:
“I have to make sure that it feels right because I’m never going to step over a dollar to pick up a nickel. That dollar is my pride, it’s my time. It has to feel right, and it has to make sense. Your time is very valuable, you can’t put a dollar amount on it. You have to [think], Is this something that I want to allocate all of this time and energy to?
“I’m at a place where I’m really excited for the talent that I have: YG, Teyana Taylor, Quavo, Mitch. I’m so blessed, and as I’m talking to you, I have the biggest smile on my face because it’s taken a very long time for me to be in such a comfortable situation that I’m good.”
Her approach to mentorship:
“I have so many different people who reach out to me. I started Civil Shop, it’s basically resources for creatives. It teaches you about YouTube, how to be an influencer, a guide to social media ads, learning your personal branding, how to start an e-store—a workbook for social-media influencers. I want to help everybody, and I can’t, so I send people to that. My goal is to help as many creatives, entrepreneurs, new business owners, artists, whoever, as much as possible.”
What a typical day looks like for her:
“It honestly varies, because I have people I’m working with on the East Coast and on the West. I start my day giving back into Karen, so I meditate, I light my white tea candle, walk my dog, write my intentions for the day, listen to my power song, and then I get into my emails. I do that for about an hour, I go to the gym so I can disconnect, then I take a shower, and it’s usually heading out to meetings to go handle stuff. I get back home around five/six, there’s usually an event in the evening, and then the studio. My days can be from 6:00 AM to 6:00 AM.”
Some of her most surreal moments in her career:
“Surreal moment was being able to speak at the White House. I was able to deliver a heartfelt speech in the White House during the Champions of Change event, which meant a lot to me. Being able to work with Hillary Clinton on her presidential campaign and being the official rally host. The cover of LA Weekly, because that was something that I was not expecting at all, I thought they were going to put me on the inside. There are so many different moments. Taking a chance on myself and starting my business is one of my biggest accomplishments. I was a commencement speaker at my high school in Elizabeth two years ago. For them to ask me to be the commencement speaker at graduation meant so much to me. It’s full circle.”
2019 is going to be another year for the books:
“I’m working on my new book, continuing to grow my Always Civil brand, expanding it in a place where it’s not going to be so musically inclined—I may be bringing on some athletes. Continuing to do my philanthropy endeavors in Haiti, New Jersey, and Brooklyn. And the most important thing is living, living and understanding. The last seven months have been hard for me because I had a tumor, I lost my best friend, Malcom, Mac Miller, and then I lost Nipsey [Hussle]. But God continues to keep me going and to keep me in a positive space. The fact that I get to get up every day and do what makes me happy is something that I don’t take for granted.”
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