Young Leaders: Karen Civil Talks Fighting Female Stereotypes in the Hip-Hop & Media Industries

Branding strategist gives tips for success for young women

Karen Civil (Image: KarenCivil.com)

Karen Civil (@KarenCivil) is a media maven in the making who has built her brand and career based on three pillars: character, respect and dedication.

Working alongside music industry heavyweights including Nipsey Hussle, Pusha T, Mary J. Blige, and brands such as Beats By Dre and Carol’s Daughter, Civil is proving that you can have a successful career in the entertainment and media business through hard work, dignity and self-respect.

As a young go-getter, her efforts caught the attention of radio industry vet Funkmaster Flex, where she got an early start in the industry as an intern. Civil advanced from intern, to a show assistant, to eventually managing digital strategy and marketing for hip-hop group The Diplomats during the release of Diplomatic Immunity. With each step, she has taken every opportunity and experience that she has gained in the entertainment and media industry to create, build and grow her own brand strategy and consulting company, Always Civil Enterprise.

I had the great opportunity to hear first hand what it takes to be successful as a woman in entertainment and media, and how young women can stay true to who they are in a male-dominated industry.

What are some of the challenges you’ve faced working in the hip-hop and entertainment industries as a female?

When you’re a female in this industry, oftentimes you are easily mistaken for the girlfriend, wifey or something of that aspect—not a businesswoman. I was at a point where I realized I had to know my strengths. I could choose to let people’s assumptions dictate my career, emotions and my life, or I could let them deal with their own opinion. I had to find the strength to keep moving forward. I still live by the saying that the cream rises to the top. I knew I would have my moments and breaks but I would not let other peoples notions and opinions of me dictate what I knew I wanted to accomplish. I truly believe that I have been given this talent and driven mentality for a reason, but I realize it’s not for everyone to see and I am ok with that.

Mentors are important, especially when facing challenges. Who helped motivate and push you to succeed?

Funkmaster Flex is a person I really look up to, appreciate and who inspires me. I love [radio personality] Angie Martinez’s persona, who she is and what she embodies within the industry. Joie Manda, [former Def Jam president], is another person I look up to a lot in this industry. These are three people that I highly respect. They have told me some of the smallest things that have made the biggest impact in my life and career.

How to you communicate that you mean business as a woman in the industry?

I respect and understand the surroundings that I’m in. If I’m going to a meeting, I dress appropriately. I’m not going to give off the wrong impression. Of course, I’m going to continue to be me, but people know my character. I have built by name off the precedence that I am a woman about my business and getting the job done.

Perception is everything, and you have to be mindful of the impression you are giving off. As women, as much as we want to think that we should be able to wear what we want, technically we shouldn’t because we have to be aware of situations we are in. We have to be respectful of the situation. Understand the type of attention that you might be attracting in different settings and with different people.

What are do’s and don’ts for young women in terms of success in the entertainment business?

Do: Build and respect your brand. When you are at an event, you shouldn’t be drunk. When you attend a public event, you shouldn’t be the loud one fighting with people. You shouldn’t bring you personal business into work.

Take your seat at the table. Too often females feel like their voices shouldn’t be heard, or we talk a bit softer and sit at the end of the table. Be heard, speak with conviction and passion.

Know your strengths. I may not be able to lift a 200 lb. weight, but I know I am strong enough not to give in and quit on my career, what I’m passionate about and what I love.

Don’ts: Don’t bring negative attention to yourself on any platform, from Twitter to Instagram to Facebook. We always want to continue to carry ourselves as classy women and the queens that we are.

Never be overzealous. When you are meeting someone, always keep your professionalism. Don’t get excited and pull out your camera to take pictures and get in people’s personal space.

Don’t be the victim. Phrases like, ‘I can’t do it,’ or ‘I’m too tired,’ or ‘Nobody believes in me,’ have no place in this business. Be your own hero and make things happen.

Daron Pressley (@daronpressley) is an entrepreneur and former Fortune 500 sales and marketing executive who has been featured on outlets including Fox45 News, Black Enterprise magazine, and The Washington Post. Knowledgeable in marketing and branding, Pressley works with professional athletes, organizations, and individuals to develop strategies to create, build, and grow brands. As a speaker Daron has reached over 20,000 students, and provides dynamic insights on leadership and branding via his Website, DaronPressley.com.

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