Growing up in Elizabeth, New Jersey, young Karen Civil created a fan site for the Backstreet Boys that drew the attention of the teeny-bopper’s record label. The site won third place in a national competition and got her passes to meet the band.
These days, Civil, 35, routinely enjoys all-access passes to the entertainment industry’s marquee events, venues and stars. Known as the CEO and Founder of KarenCivil.com — a site dedicated to entertainment news, music and interviews about up-and-coming artists — Civil has also cultivated her brand as a digital marketing strategist for A-listers across sectors.
Civil’s work reviving the Hillary Clinton campaign and her White House visit with Michelle Obama alone are just two life goals made possible through her grit and her guts.
“I want to be an example a reference that young girls can identify with, feel that they can be, and not give up on themselves,” said Civil, fresh off hosting BET’s “No Limit Chronicles” docuseries. “When they say, ‘I don’t necessarily want to follow the norm. This girl is just doing her thing and doing it her way. I like that and I want to do the same thing.’”
Doing the work
Civil carved out her tranche in media and entertainment with KarenCivil.com, which she started in 2008 as a hip hop fansite. Many of the guests first featured on her site then went on to stardom, including Drake, Nicki Minaj and J. Cole.
As her featured artist gained fame, Civil developed relationships with big names like Lil Wayne and Nipsey Hussle and with brands such as Tiffany and Co. and Louis Vuitton. And, she gained the attention of the entertainment executives.
In a Complex industry magazine interview, Sony Music’s Brian “B.Dot” Miller said, “Civil knows how to put herself in the right place at the right time. A lot of people wanna be influencers from the convenience of their phone or their couch. [They] don’t have the hustle to go out and be with like-minded people.”
Her positioning helped Civil land roles with Dre on Beats by Dre campaigns and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
Civil also began speaking regularly at women’s empowerment events, garnering the attention of the Obama White House, where she was invited to visit by Michelle Obama in 2015. The visit was “an incredible experience,” Civil said.
Civil’s success has enabled her to give back to Haiti as well.
“Haitian culture is an extension of me, a big part of me, so I try to travel back to Haiti at least once a year to do philanthropic work, as well as for vacation,” said Civil who now lives in Los Angeles. “It is important to me that people see two sides, that I give back to a country that has provided my parents and myself so much and for them to see as well that people can go there for leisure and to hang out.”
In 2015, she built the Live Civil Playground in Pétion-Ville to give about 300 children a space to play, eat and enjoy games. Civil’s team also rebuilt the school where the playground is located to ensure that the students have a nurturing environment.
In 2017, Civil donated equipment to create a computer lab at an orphanage in Haiti.
Civil’s philanthropic organization has raised more than $100,000 for Haiti and, during the pandemic, she participated in Hope for Haiti’s Virtual Hike challenge.
Meanwhile, Haitians across the globe watching her rise continue to look on in pride, whether those successes are in entertainment, social media or philanthropy.
That’s why Jacquil Constant, founder of the Haiti International Film Festival based in Hollywood, reached out to Civil to be a panelist at his August event.
“I have admired the progression of her career from afar,” he said. “She made a niche for herself. She’s a great example for young Haitians.”