Vixen Chat: Karen Civil Talks Social Media Beginnings, Business Savvy and Men
Behind every rapper rocking a pair of Beats By Dre headphones stands a woman responsible for such viral product placement.
Karen Civil has been filling her own pockets since the days of boy band standemonium, tapping into her resources and rejecting all notions of “no.” The Los Angeles transplant turned a laptop into a money-making machine by building up the digital success of others, such as Dr. Dre and Lil Wayne, but most importantly, her own. As a result, her Live Civil brand has expanded beyond top-tier co-signs in the form of her own company, website, book deal and more.
Vixen shadowed the self-made empress as she prepped for her cameo at the 2012 Global Spin Awards in New York to be included in our two-part “Walk In Her Shoes” series hitting the web soon. For now, read how Civil earned her own bread at 11, weeds out the phony people that approach her and the type of men she fancies.
What’s the first thing you do?
I just started this SoulCycle class which is really, really cool. They give you these shoes that connect with this bike and they play different music, like last week, it was Young Money day. You’re doing all these different movements on the bike and they add resistance to it, so you’re actually working out your whole body.
Are you the type to always have your phone in your hand?
Yeah, which is a bad thing. Anywhere I go, if I go out, I have to keep my phone out. I don’t try to be rude. If I turn it around, I have to check it every 5 minutes.
How do your friends feel about that?
My friends are used to it now because I’ve always been a social, not talkative, but social online type of person. They would be like, "Hey, we’re going to the party on Friday," and I would be like, "Yeah, I’m going to hang in this AOL chatroom." I had this birthday dinner and everyone was like, "Put your phone away."
Was AOL your first taste of social media?
Yeah, when those CDs used to come to the house, man! My screen names were "KCLevel1," "KCLevel2," "KCLevel3" [and so on]. The away messages were everything though. You would put a whole biography. When I had dial-up, my mom got me a phone so I wouldn’t tie up the phone. She used to really pick up the phone, push some buttons and hang it up so the connection could mess up. Now, it’s a joke with her like, '"Look, the Internet’s 24/7, I have WiFi now."
When did you start to build your business savvy?
It really started when I was 11 years old. I was going to this church when I was living in Jersey and people were selling meals. I wanted to sell stuff too, and I knew my mom wasn’t going to let me sell her stuff. I went to BJ's with my mom and bought a whole bunch of candy. I used to make these little kits, and after service, people used to literally buy all my candy. With that money, I was able to redesign my room. I priced it out. Everything I needed for my mermaid set, which was like a light switch, a top curtain piece and a lamp, was about $163. I made that money in like a month.
In school, did you take business classes to figure out how to handle your finances on a larger scale?
Yeah, I took Business and Economics courses. More than anything, I learned the proper steps and the things that need to be outlined. You have to keep your books: how much money you made, how much money you’re spending, what you profited and what you’re gonna need for expenses.
Did you have any secondary jobs when you were in high school?
Yeah, I actually lied to get a job working at Burger King because I wasn’t old enough. I was a few months off because my birthday’s in November and I wanted the job in July. They had the Backstreet Boys campaign and I had a big Backstreet Boy website at the time. I was like, If I’m gonna get a job, this has to be where I work because then I can get these toys and the cutouts, so on the application, I said my birthday was earlier than it was. I think you had to be 13 or 14.
You juggle so many hustles. How do you find time for yourself?
I don’t look at the hustle like it’s necessary with the job; it’s something I love doing and it’s just a passion of mine. For me, that’s finding time for myself. I want to see people’s careers grow. It’s turning a personal hobby into a business; I care about the music. When I do get to see [my friends], that makes it much more special. Sometimes you may take certain people for granted because you see them all the time, so I try to at least once a month to get together with my friends in L.A. We went hiking and to the beach at some place in Malibu that was really, really nice. That’s the kind of stuff I want to do.
I bet they appreciate that, knowing you have so much on your plate.
And also L.A.’s not the same vibe as New York where people just come over to hang out. I’m not a person to say, "Hey, let’s go to a bar." I don’t really like to be at a party, so most of the time, I’m okay with being by myself. But when that time comes to get together, I’m like, “Hey, let’s find a cool activity.”
Are these friends you grew up with most your life?
The friends I grew up with my whole life are scattered all over the place. They have children, some are married, some are in serious relationships. I’m the only one still single with no kids, so our lives are really different.
Do you ever feel like you’re missing out when you compare your life to theirs?
Do you ever feel like you’re missing out when you compare your life to theirs?
Sometimes I do, but I dreamed of a career. They wanted to start a family and things like that. A lot of their kids are my goddaughters, so I get to have their kids and then give them back.
How do you handle the people that know who you are, what your profession is and want to be your “bestie.” How do you separate the fake friends from the real ones?
It’s weird because I’m an anti-social person in a social world. When certain people come to me, I’m already on guard like, Are you talking to me because you want to meet Wayne? Are you talking to me because you want to meet Jeezy? Are you talking to me because you want to do business? Are you talking to me because you want to be on the site? After a while peoples’ true colors start to show, so from there I know what space I need to put people in. But more than anything, I appreciate the way people are. It’s crazy being in L.A. for two years and having four really good friends out here. That’s a lot. I know, if God forbid, I’m not doing anything anymore or I F up and just want to be Karen Civil, I know I have them.
Have you ever been star struck?
There’s this soccer player that I like a lot. Gregory van der Wiel. (shows picture) I think he plays in another country.
Are you into foreign guys with tattoos?
Somewhat. My taste in men is really eclectic. In all my previous relationships, all of the guys have been different. One was 6 feet tall, white. Another was like 5-foot-11. He had a low haircut and was really dark skinned so it just varies.
Do you even have time to date with your crazy schedule?
I wanna have time, but it’s weird. It’s hard to find a guy who understands your schedule and is secure enough to understand what you do. It’s okay if you wake me up at 3 in the morning like, “Lil Wayne’s calling you” and it’s not that type of issue. I respect a man hustling and working and doing his thing if he works at FedEx or wherever, so I want him to be okay with what I do. It’s hard to find that because I feel like, with me, guys want to be that breadwinner, which is understandable. But that seems to be my issue.
Because you’re surrounded by so many people in the industry, do you try to date someone outside of the entertainment world?
I try to date outside the industry but it feels like they don’t understand my schedule. I try to put as much time and effort into people, but I’m not gonna be able to call you every day. But then it gets weird with the industry individual. You don’t know if they’re trying to further their leverage.
Stay tuned for the two-part “Walk In Your Shoes” series with Karen Civil coming soon!