Curve Archive and Outreach Manager Julia Rosenzweig
sits down with Curve Publisher Franco Stevens.
As The Curve Foundation draws closer to its second anniversary I’ve been thinking a lot about transitions. As The Curve Foundation’s archive and outreach manager, part of my role is to document the chronology of Curve in all its iterations: first as Deneuve magazine, then as Curve magazine, then as The Curve Foundation.
Establishing ourselves as a Foundation has required experimentation, creativity, and a healthy dose of uncertainty. To better understand how we have arrived at this part of Curve’s legacy, I interviewed founder Franco Stevens about how Curve’s institutional transitions manifested, and her intrepid stewardship of the magazine, its staff, and its community into each new era.
Julia Rosenzweig: Thank you for joining me today, Franco! Our topic is Transitions and How We Got Here. So, if you’re ready, we’ll just jump on in to the first question.
Franco Stevens: Let’s leap.
Julia Rosenzweig: So, Curve has gone through a lot of transitions, the first being when Deneuve magazine was faced with litigation in the mid 1990 and had to change its name to Curve. Can you talk a bit about how that change happened, and what that shift initially felt like for you, and for your workplace, and for your readers?
Franco Stevens: Well, for us, losing the name was kind of like losing our identity, we really did have to transition and reinvent ourselves. We only had two issues which we could reference the old name of the magazine on the cover, which didn’t give us a lot of time to inform readers that we were changing our name. And you know, in a way, I’m glad we had to change our name, because Curve is an amazing name. It’s sexy, it’s fun, it’s the curves of a woman’s body. It’s not straight. People can pronounce it. And, you know, although it was the same magazine, content-wise, it definitely had a different feel. I mean, when you look at the two magazines side by side they look different, they have a different feel, they have a different perspective just because of the name change. It’s very odd, a very odd thing. So in a way I think of like, people who have chosen to change their name. They might be exactly the same but for them, it’s a signal of “hey, I want everyone to know I’ve changed.”
Julia Rosenzweig: Yeah, like the marking of a new era kind of thing.
Franco Stevens: Exactly. I wish I would have said that. Thanks, Julia. Yes, the marking of new era.
Julia Rosenzweig: The marking of a new era! So, what was the transition? Or what was the atmosphere like at Deneuve after it’s transition to Curve, both within your workplace, with your staff, and with the community after the name change?
Franco Stevens: Well, the community really rallied behind us. There was that Alive and Kicking party where if we didn’t raise enough money from the community we weren’t going to be able to survive, and the community really came out in droves. Celebrities flew themselves in, they auctioned themselves off for dates, or coffee or tea… We had famous authors that signed books and gave us copies for a silent auction. People paid to come in, they paid to fly in and volunteer their time and their services. It was really this amazing outpour of love. And what happened at that point was the staff, a lot of the staff that were onboard at the beginning—you know, a lawsuit can be very exhausting—and after the change, once they saw it through, a lot of people said, “You know what, I am honestly ready to step down and hand my position over.” We have had some writers that have lasted the 32 years that is Curve and Deneuve, but that was definitely a transition point where people are like, “Okay, I’m tired. I got us through this hump, let’s see what fresh blood there is to move the magazine to the next stage.”
Julia Rosenzweig: I mean, that sounds exciting, like a new start, essentially,
Franco Stevens: Exciting and scary, all at once. Five years of brand loyalty gone in a flash.
Julia Rosenzweig: I imagine that that would be kind of a shock… My next question was about the Alive and Kicking event. We had in June 2022 the Celebrate Curve Gala, which followed in the footsteps of Alive and Kicking. What kind of queer joy and tomfoolery can we expect at the next big Curve celebration? Any new ideas?
Franco Stevens: Wow, you are setting this up like that’s going to happen next year!
Julia Rosenzweig: Who knows!
Franco Stevens: I think people are gonna have to wait a couple years for the next big gala. I mean, if it’s happening like, what, every 10 years, every 5 years according to this point. And I don’t know… the last party had blow up unicorn races, which were hilarious. And the overall theme is the community that comes together to support Curve. And being in community is really why I created the magazine, it’s to have a home. So I really do hope we have another big party sometime soon, maybe for our 50th. But that’s not a promise!
Julia Rosenzweig: So here’s my last question: in light of all of those major shifts, how does it feel now that the magazine is stewarded by The Curve Foundation? What are you looking forward to in this newest era of the Curve legacy?
Franco Stevens: There’s a couple of things I’m really looking forward to in this new iteration of Curve. I’m looking forward to, as always, giving back to the community. You know, giving them content is different than being able to fund projects that impact them. Being able to fund writers has always been a dream of mine—both young and hopefully, eventually, established writers, fostering that next generation of queer women journalists. Talk about unsung heroes: those people are doing the work that is unforgiving. It’s hard work and there’s not a lot of economic gain in it. So I’m really enjoying giving back to them and mentoring them through our programs.
I’m really excited to see what you bring to the Archive project. I cannot wait to see some of the exhibits and how your brain sees those topics and seeing how they resonate today is really exciting for me. You know, the one thing that I do miss about having a magazine—a print magazine—is disseminating the news in this hard copy that people can have on their coffee table or whatever. We’re so much of a digital world these days that, you know, I don’t know about you, but my attention span is like [pantomimes swiping on a phone] ohh one, ohh two, you know, like, five seconds. It’s so different. So, I know that’s not really the question you asked me, but I think it is relevant [to] how we best serve the community today. And I’m looking forward to how the Curve Foundation serves the community going forward.
Julia Rosenzweig: Yeah, that really resonates with me as an archivist because I initially thought [in my career] I was going to be handling all of these physical materials… and feeling the nostalgia and the actual physical weight of history and work and labor that has produced magazines is totally different than reading things online. So I think that meeting people halfway, in the digital world, is really exciting. And I’m glad to be part of it.
So let’s see. I’m gonna close out this interview with a quote from Deneuve magazine in December 1995. You wrote this really impactful phrase in your “Frankly Speaking” letter from the publisher that I really think applies to Curve as we get closer to the end of our second year as a Foundation. So the quote is: “What’s in a name? Deneuve Magazine by any other name will be just as exciting, information-packed and satisfying as ever. We’re looking ahead to a bright future and know you, our readers, will be with us for many, many years.”
Franco Stevens: Yes, especially the ones that have stuck with us all these years, and hopefully represent the ones that that haven’t been able to as well.
Curve Archive and Outreach Manager