Many people may know her as the brain behind the Karen Civil blog, which has grown to be a trusted source for all news relating to music, entertainment and the hip-hop culture. But after six years of blogging and cultivating relationships within the industry, Karen is taking her career to newer heights and embarking on new journey’s that she admits are only a testament to her growth.
With her lifestyle brand, Live Civil, the 30-year-old entrepreneur is using her platform to give back and inspire others to follow their career goals. Recently, the New Jersey native celebrated her birthday in a major way and traveled to her family’s home country, Haiti, to donate $41,000 to build the first ever Live Civil Playground with the nonprofit group, Sow a Seed.
BlackEnterprise.com chatted with Civil about her partnership with the nonprofit, using her platform to give back and the value of fighting your fears and taking risks.
BlackEnterprise.com: What prompted you to become an ambassador for Sow a Seed and partner with them for your Live Civil playground?
Karen Civil: A few months ago a friend of mine reached out to me about Pencils of Promise and the work they do in Africa. He said you know I’d like to do something with you in Africa and I said this will be great, but before I do something in Africa I should do something in Haiti. That’s where my parents are from. That’s where my family origin is and it just made sense. So I was looking up different organizations and different things happening in Haiti and I came across Sow a Seed. I went on their website and I just love everything they are doing. It’s about helping children cultivate who they are through the arts and understanding the power of play. The things that we take for granted–a toy, clean sheets, shoes–are making a difference over there. So I was sitting on their site for like two hours and I got their contact information and reached out to them. We’ve been talking back and forth for a few months and I said I really want to do this around my birthday. I feel like this is the best thing I can do for the Haitian community.
As a successful entrepreneur with a huge following, how important is it for you to use your platform to give back?
I think this was one of the many things that made sense to me. Having a large platform you can only talk about an artist putting out music and who’s dating who for so long. I just think each and every thing that I have I should use it for the greater good and for something that lives outside of the entertainment space. So starting the initiative and working with Sow a Seed and the Live Civil playground I said I’m going to use my voice to bring awareness to what’s happening in Haiti.
The other day on Instagram, you were talking about the lessons you learned in 2014 and the risk you took by leaving Beats by Dre. What advice do you have for other professionals who let fear get in the way of them taking that necessary career risk?
The belief in yourself is way bigger than the fear that you may be letting consume you. Beats was such a wonderful place for me as an individual, but people have to understand that growth is inevitable and whether you like it or not you shouldn’t want to be so stagnant and keep yourself in one place. You know in your heart when it’s time to grow, when it’s time to move on, and fear can’t hold that back. You have to take that first step, or that unhappiness comes in. That drive and everything that made you who you are starts to disappear and you just become somebody who’s living paycheck to paycheck. You become so mundane with everything that’s happening in your life and you just stop living. I didn’t want to do that. I still have a great relationship with [Beats] and now I’m doing consulting work for them, which is really better for me. So to those people, you can’t let fear dictate what your passion, dedication and heart wants. Those things outweigh and are much bigger than the fear that you are letting consume you.
Right now, you’re conducting your Be You and Live Civil College Tour. What words of wisdom would you give college-aged Karen in her early 20s?
One thing I continue to say is being a woman, an African American woman, sometimes scares people. When you have so much drive and passion and speak with conviction, that scares people. There were times when I made myself smaller to make people comfortable. There was something I said the other day, “I can’t diminish me to make you feel comfortable.” There’s this light that’s inside of you and you need to continue to let it shine. Even if someone feels like it’s blinding them. If you’re meant to shine you will shine. I feel like I’ve wasted a lot of years and a lot of time on making people feel comfortable with my drive, my success and who I am as an individual. If you were born to stand out, stand out. If you were born to be different, be different. Stop looking for the acceptance of people who never really are going to accept you for who you really are.