Hailing from Elizabeth, N.J., Karen Civil is making her debut as an author with her new self-help book, Be You, Live Civil, and dishes on all that life has to give once you find your purpose and tap into your true potential. The media maven chats it up with VIBE to give an inside scoop on what the book is all about and what gems can be found so readers can find that little push into the right direction to motivate themselves into the light of success.
From her humble beginnings to what landed her in the position where she is now, the media maven opens up on her personal journey as she takes a trip down memory lane. Civil specifies when she decided it was time to build her own empire and take the media world by storm, one civil move at a time. She also shares the importance of a great team, taking that leap of faith in life, and staying ahead of the game to create her very own lane in the world of media.
VIBE: How did you come up with the title and what was the story behind it?
Karen Civil: Be You, Live Civil was a tour that I started and it’s just always something that I’ve been to myself. “Be you, live civil” is like “live my life.” That was my short version of saying to live my life. It really just fell from that, because when I first moved to L.A. a few years ago, I was like: “Listen, Karen. Be you, live civil.” With certain books you have to give a breakdown of what exactly it is so that was the extra edition part of unlocking your potential and living in your purpose. It was just something that I would constantly say to myself. It was my reminder.
What made you take the step forward to release Live Civil?
This has been a book I’ve been working for a couple a years now and the original deal I had didn’t go through. My birthday last year I just played around and now I feel like my birthday that it was time for me to give back and share something with the world to leave a lasting impression. So I was like, I’m going to release a few chapters of the book. I’m going to make like a workbook, make it fun and have the conversations be engaging in the additional pages in the back so people can add their thoughts on certain things. This is something that’s been ongoing for the last few years. I’ve decided to put it out on my own. They can pick it up on LiveCivil.com but I felt like I had so many people asking me that I had to do this.
What is the number one factor that you hope readers will take and gain from reading?
Really self-motivation. That and self-love. Nobody is going to love and honor your dreams like yourself. It’s really not looking for someone to be your superhero but for us to save ourselves and to really understand that. I’ve been at the lowest of lowest of my life and it took that for me to realize that I want to do better and to be better. The first step is to believe in myself and to really be my own cheerleader, to just put on my invisible cape and go.
Hailing from Elizabeth, N.J., what was the life of Karen Civil like growing up in that area?
Growing up in Elizabeth was interesting. My parents are of Haitian descent and we didn’t fit in. I was weird, I liked different things, I wasn’t going to parties or clubs so instead of getting away from who I was as an individual, my mom just made me embrace it. She was like: ‘Girl, if you like to wear the rock & roll jeans. That’s you. If you want to wear all black. That’s you. If you want to experiment, have fun with life then stop taking it so serious.’ It honestly was scary, it was very interesting. Now I look back at it and a lot of people who didn’t take to me but now a lot of them reach out to me on Facebook and say a lot of different things like ‘I’m proud’ and everything else. I’m glad that I never let them defeat me.
A few years back, you decided to take that leap of faith and go into business for yourself. What about that point in time made it the turning point of your career?
I was at a point where it was like now or never cause I put so much focus into a lot of other people and things that didn’t matter and I was like: ‘I should put all of this focus and energy into something that I love.’ Because what’s the worst that can happen? If it doesn’t work out then I just go back to doing what I was doing before. I mean, why not give it a try? If you have nothing to lose then you might as well, and that was the place that I was in. I had to have that talk with myself like: ‘Karen, you have nothing to lose so you might as well.’
How do you keep yourself aware of the type of content that you produce and deliver to separate yourself from other platforms?
I’ve now realized that you can’t do everything on your own and I have a wonderful team and they all work very hard on the site to create content, to do certain things, to bring the ideas. I want people to know that you don’t have to think like Karen. I want to hear your ideas because I don’t see it as my company, I see it as our company. I think that’s what been helping me move forward because this is just not my website, this is something that’s going to leave a lasting impression that you all are a part of. Something that I want them to treat like their baby and that’s honestly been working. You know, with the site some think that oh, you have to be the face, you have to be the everything. I give people on my team the opportunity to excel as well and I think that’s what continues to keep me ahead. I may not be able to show or do an interview, I give them the opportunity to run the show and that has been working.
When did you realize that you definitely wanted to be a part of the media industry?
Seeing Carson Daly on TRL, listening to Angie Martinez, and really Angie Martinez because I remember the “Ladies Night” video came out, she had the jumpsuit on. She’s regular, she wasn’t trying to oversell it and she was just being herself and I was like: ‘Dang, I want to be like Angie!’ I would just love her because you just know her voice, you wasn’t checking for her outfit and everything else and all this other stuff. You just love her cause she’s her and I was like, I can do the same thing. People are going to love me for the same reasons. I love to talk. I love to do certain things. So it was really Angie who did that for me.
What would you site as the foundation of your success?
The mentor strength that I had around me and that helped me grow, just so many people that helped me elevate. Just the wonderful people that I can call my friends.
If you could name a moment that you’re most proud of during your career thus far, what would it be?
Being able to know that me living my dream and having the courage so many other people. Just having that conversation: ‘Girl, because of you, I started this.’ I remember this particular R&B star that was like: ‘I remember when I sent you my SoundCloud and you critiqued it because I didn’t think that you were going to respond but you critiqued it!’ And it’s that moment, and I don’t even remember it, but that meant a lot to me. Having those conversations to know they feel like that they have someone in their corner.
With everything on your plate, how do you obtain balance to make sure everything is up to the quality that meets your standards?
It’s like a seesaw effect where you excel in one, you may fall in another so that’s always been my thing. There will be the moments where it’s like me having this conversation right now when I didn’t have chance to call my nephew. It’s always going to be a moment where you can’t be at everything and it’s a sacrifice. It’s something that I’ve learned to deal with and I’m becoming okay with. I just try to be there for the most important moments and really have time management.
With media constantly changing in the blink of an eye, how do you adapt to sudden changes in the industry?
We’re just focusing on what new companies are doing and you just have to make sure you stay ahead. And now it’s like people aren’t watching TV, they’re watching Netflix. It’s honestly where it’s going now and that’s something that I’ve been able to do. You know, with Civil TV, people watch it on YouTube so now we have it OnDemand. It’s just catering to people and giving them that easy access and making sure content is there and that is what we’re super focused on.
If you could give any advice to those who are afraid to take risks and step outside of their comfort zones, what would it be in order for them to elevate their careers?
I am big on that if you have nothing to lose then you have everything to gain. At this point, it’s just about taking that first step. I tell people that the same way that they believe in God is the way that they should believe in themselves and their dreams. And people be like: ‘Oh, that’s blasphemy!’ No, not at all. I love my religion, I love everything about it, but at the same time, I love my career and I want to do it with the same love and compassion.
Being able to keep a positive outlook on nearly everything in your life, in what ways has that enhanced your life and all throughout your career?
I think it has helped me for the better. Just continuing to keep it on the positive side and I feel like the energy and the certain things around me have been refocused. I feel like I am in a better space and I appreciate that so much more. I like the progression and the things in my life because that all keeps me happier.
What’s something that you haven’t done yet but would like to next in your career?
Oh, maybe go running with Michelle Obama. You know when she has some free time, I’ll go catch her at the gym so you never know. So yeah, go work out with Michelle.