Started From The Bottom: Meet Ent. Mogul Karen Civil, The Next Oprah
“There’s a supreme moment of destiny calling on your life, your job is to feel that, to hear that, to know that.” — Oprah Winfrey
For 30-year-old social media and entertainment mogul-in-the-making Karen Civil, her purpose in life was clear — she knew she wanted to work in the music industry in some capacity, but the path to that goal was a little less obvious.
Civil listened to that supreme moment. Her love of the Internet and its ability to intimately connect with people, particularly fans, was something that she realized and took advantage of before many others.
Civil, a self-described “social new wave entrepreneur,” “Cultural Artigé,” and music enthusiast began her career before she even knew where it would lead her.
Today, as CEO of Civil Enterprises, the New Jersey native is laser focused on what she wants and how she’s going to get it. And, above all, she surrounds herself with the right people who can help her further that mission.
But that was just the beginning…
Civil’s online prowess was cultivated at a young age.
Harnessing the exposure that she knew the Internet could bring, she started making websites related to her interests early on.
When she was just 13 years old, Civil created a website for a character in the show “The Wire,” very similarly to the thousands of fan-sites that populate the Internet today. She was soon contacted by the character’s lawyer — J.D. Williams (“Oz,” “The Wire”) — who was baffled at what Civil had created.
This contact brought Civil and Williams together when he took her to IHOP that year to celebrate her birthday. Shortly after that, she also created one of the largest Backstreet Boys fan sites, on GeoCities (a website platform, comparable to Tumblr today).
Foresight and an unwavering tenacity strengthened Civil’s resolve. She admits though that she never imagined her first industry job, an unpaid radio internship with DJ Funk Master Flexx, would turn her own personal blog, KarenCivil.com, into a hip-hop/entertainment mainstay.
Fast forward about five years to 2014, and Civil has worked with people many only dream of. Huge names in hip-hop, like Drake, Lil’ Wayne, Mary J. Blige, Young Jeezy, Nicki Minaj, Tyga, J. Cole, The Diplomats (Dipset) and a host of others have all called on Civil to lend her social and Internet expertise when they had nowhere else to turn.
She would never have guessed that all these jobs for such big names would make her the 12th employee for Beats By Dre.
For many years, Civil served as the first social media director for the entire Beats brand. In that role, she led the charge through engagement and took full advantage of her huge celebrity rolodex.
Under Civil’s leadership, Beats by Dre grew its Facebook page likes upward of six million and its Twitter followers nearing 800,000.
Civil attributes her success at Beats to “out of the box thinking, prior experience running strategic marketing, and the freedom that comes with working at a small company without a lot of push back and red tape blocking creativity.”
Finding your purpose:
“Sometimes when you’re not listening to it [your calling in life], you get off track … it’s all leading to the same path. There are no wrong paths.
There’s no such thing as failure, because failure is just that thing trying to move you in a new direction. So you get as much from your losses as you do from your victories. The losses are there to wake you up.” — Oprah Winfrey
Civil talks a lot about purpose — her purpose — which is fascinating because, as Millennials, when it comes to finding what we really love, it’s not always easy to identify our true calling in life.
There’s a lot of noise from blogs and social media. We all have so many distractions and varied interests all pulling us in different directions.
But Civil took full advantage of the Internet and turned her deep knowledge of how it works, risking her comfortable desk job for what she loved, and turned passion into a multi-million dollar business.
The majority of us are often too afraid because of that comfort that comes with an easy paycheck.
For many, what we want to become or do is also decided for us because of circumstances out of our control or the influence of friends and family.
“For so long I thought that what people thought my life should be is what it actually should be,” Civil says.
Now, with a steel resolve, unwavering confidence and a true understanding of self, Civil realizes her true purpose.
“My purpose is leaving my mark on this world,” she explains. “I wake up each day and find happiness in loving what I do. In the process of my self discovery, I fell in love with what makes me happy, that was the digital and social aspect of marketing.
And for so long people didn’t get that. Going forward, I know that using my platform to do other things outside of music and entertainment will also help me leaving that mark,” she explains.
From a blogger to a business:
“When I started [blogging], it was pretty much a hobby. There wasn’t as much music being released back then, like it is today. [When I started] this was the very beginning of digital [media] playing a large part in music culture,” Civil explains. “I was able to post eight or nine stories and let them live a little. But today, you have to post eight or nine things a day.”
While she doesn’t write so much for her blog anymore, she does reminisce about when she managed the day-to-day, “I miss it sometimes to a certain extent, but I know that my time is better served elsewhere,” she admits.
She manages rappers YG, Nipsey Hussle and Young Jeezy; she consults for Beats By Dre and employs 16 like-minded individuals who all work toward the goal of establishing Civil and her brand as a powerhouse in the music industry and beyond.
Civil says she “just can’t stop working,” but “when [she has] free time, [she] start[s] manically emailing [her]self, making sure that all the things [she] need[s] to achieve are getting done.”
Don’t get it twisted though, a career this colorful and successful doesn’t come without a healthy dose of rejection and failure.
Civil says that she doesn’t necessarily look at a mistake as a mistake.
“Everything is pretty much like a lesson learned for me. I don’t look at things as if they’re mistakes just opportunities to learn from,” she says.
“There are certain things that I just have to look at like, ‘OK this didn’t work in my favor or that wasn’t a good idea, but it’s something that I learn from and continue on,” she says.
Young Oprah and beyond:
A few years ago, despite working behind the scenes, Civil began to get noticed.
The music and entertainment industry already knew who she was, but the public was quickly catching on.
Her site was quietly exploding with traffic and after a huge campaign she led in 2010 during Lil’ Wayne’s time in jail (Civil came up with the idea for fans to interact with Wayne digitally by writing him letters and allowing him to respond to them, all online), people wanted to know who she was and how she got there.
That same year, MTV named Civil the MVP of the year, the site wrote:
Speaking of WeezyThanxYou, we have to give a special thanks to hip-hop’s ‘Blossom’ Karen Civil. The blog and entrepreneur kept us abreast on all things Lil Wayne and Young Money-related, tipping us off to the launch of Wayne’s blog, which she helped to created with Karla ‘hustleGRL’ Moy, and providing us with a direct line into YM Prez Mack Maine. Over the past 12 months she delivered for 1515 like UPS.
Earlier this month Civil visited popular New York radio station, Power 105.1. She was being interviewed by Charlamagne the God, and his other co-hosts, Angela Yee and DJ Envy.
Before saying hello, Charlamagne immediately referred to Civil as, “Young Oprah.” A quick Google search later and there are a half-dozen or so stories that depict Civil as the young version of the radio-talk show queen.
The comparisons are very flattering to Civil.
“I think that when people say that, [Young Oprah], when I think of Oprah, I see her as somebody who is powerful. She gets things done, is extraordinary, I think that’s where the comparison comes from,” Civil says.
“When you see her you don’t think of looks beyond superficial things, you just think she’s incredible. The fact that people have the same notion for me in itself is very humbling.”
Civil has no intentions of slowing down on her path to the top. In 2015, she’s looking to grow in various ways.
“I know that my voice and my platform is something I want to utilize for bigger business deals. It’s not just about getting free things, I want to continue to put myself in places and rooms with people you never expect,” she says.
And with a book deal, a New Era Fitted Hat collaboration and a charity to maintain, it seems like Civil won’t be letting up any time soon.
“Im never satisfied,” Civil says. “And it’s sad to say because people say to me that I should be satisfied, but I feel like as I continue growing and continue to be better, my hunger for doing more [and leaving my mark on the world] also grows. Of course, I’m satisfied in certain aspects of my life, but I never want to be fully content.”
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