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Karen Civil Uses Her 'New Jersey Drive' to Create Her Own Lane

As a media mentor to the stars and top brands, Karen Civil has gone from managing fan clubs of pop bands to 'curating cool' for Hillary Clinton.
Karen Civil Day at Barclays Center (12.5.16)
Karen Civil Day at Barclays Center (12.5.16)Joseph Swift

As a media mentor to stars such as Nick Cannon and Nicki Minaj and go-to marketer for top brands such as Beats by Dre and Louis Vuitton, Karen Civil has gone from managing fan clubs of top pop musicians, to 'curating cool' for the first woman presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton.

Not an overnight success by any means, the Brooklyn-born, New Jersey-bred entrepreneur has been building her media brand for almost 10 years. Crediting her interest in computers and digital media stemming from bullies who made her feel like an outsider for being of Haitian descent, Karen engaged with fellow fans of some of the top music groups in the 1990s online and started managing fan pages. Karen’s road to getting exposure in the music industry
as she
competed and
came in 2nd place for a chance to be an intern with Angie Martinez who was at Hot 97 at the time.

Though she did not get the main prize, she began interning for Funkmaster Flex and the rest is history. Her own site featured artists like Nicki Minaj and Drake before they were household names. Not only does her site get exclusives with some of today's hottest artists, she also started and the Live Civil Foundation to empower and give back to the community.

RELATED: Haitian-Americans Find Ways to Help Haiti One Month Later

She recently held the second Live Civil Day at Barclays Center, the proceeds from which benefited the foundation. We had a chance to catch up with Karen about her current projects, holiday plans and more.

NBCBLK: Who is Karen Civil?

Karen Civil: An entrepreneur and a hard worker. Someone who is living life her own way.

What main projects are you working on right now?

I am the CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) of Marathon Agency, a new venture with my business partner Steve Carless. It’s a management, branding, marketing and business strategy. I’m in charge of marketing and branding clients like Nick Cannon, Nicki Minaj and more. It’s exciting to partner them up with brands. I do a little bit of everything, continuing to grow my brand turning myself into talent.

What were you most happy about as a result of Karen Civil Day?

All the love and the energy. Fab[olous] was in Miami and flew to New York the day of the game and he brought his mom and his son. My friend Ming [Lee] flew in from Atlanta that day. She went straight to the hotel, got changed and came to the game so I was happy that people were leaving work and coming into town for the event.

How did the Live Civil Foundation come about?

It was something started a few years ago to give back to a country that gave my parents (of Haitian descent) and me so much. It started with me constructing a school building and a playground. It’s starting in Haiti but I plan to do a Christmas event in LA and more in other locations. It’s all about empowering our community.

Many people think success comes quickly or easily, but you've been building your website for almost 10 years. What was your greatest obstacle to success and how did you overcome it?

Every day you go through challenges so it’s hard to name one thing. Every day you have to make sure someone does something on time, etc. At the end of the day I’m still an African-American woman in a male-dominated industry so sometimes you have to deal with people not taking your ideas seriously. But I look at it as, I’d rather have adversities in something that I love than doing something that I hate or where I am not interested.

What are your plans for the holidays?

Christmas is always a great time because I get to be around family and spend time with my brother, nieces and nephews, so that’s what I plan to do. It’s great to disconnect from everything.

I hear a lot of people say ‘I want to be the next Karen Civil?' What advice do you have for them and people that want to build influential brands like yours?

I think they should be the first and original version of themselves. I’m not going anywhere. Don’t put limits on what you can do. I tell people to use me as example of what they can do if they don’t give up. I like people to see me as a ‘girl next door’ who conquered and went after what she wanted.

What's next for you?

That’s hard to say, as I didn't know I'd be working side by side with Hillary Clinton before I did. I wake up with new ideas everyday so it’s hard to say. I will be taking part in a business program where people study for 3 months. I won’t say the name but I think people will know the school has a three-month executive business program.

What the biggest lesson you have learned in 2016?

That you have to understand people’s intention and your worth. I felt like I devalued myself just to deal with things and make people stick around. It’s ok to ‘throw something away’ if it’s unhealthy for you.

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