IN THE CENTER RING: INTERVIEW WITH BIANCA BETANCOURT
Working in social media is both a blessing and a curse. It’s a curse because the work never stops, but it’s a blessing because I find some of the coolest people and brands – most by total accident!
While scrolling through researching for a client, I came across the page of a millennial focused publication based right here in Chicago and was captivated by not only the amazingly styled images but also the diversity of the page. After figuring out who founded the platform, the IG stalking commenced and Bianca and I were sitting down for coffee before I knew it. Once our quick coffee meeting turned into a 3 hour gab session, I knew I had to shed some light on all the amazing things this talented entrepreneur had going for her!
Keep reading to learn a little more about Bianca Betancourt and CIRCUS!
Honestly Unfiltered: How did CIRCUS come to be?
Bianca Betancourt: The idea for CIRCUS came about the winter break of my freshman year of college. I was always a magazine lover—I hoarded them when I was teenager. But as I became older and more educated I realized I was paying a lot of money for very little content. I wanted not only to read a magazine that had amazing visuals AND page-turning stories, but I also wanted a magazine specifically for the millennial generation. There’s Seventeen and Teen Vogue and then everything at that time jumped to Vanity Fair and Rolling Stone. There was a niche missing. I decided to fill it myself!
HU: What was the most challenging part when getting started?
BB: Trusting my vision and my direction. We had a larger team when CIRCUS first started and because I couldn’t pay anyone to work with me, I had to do a lot of compromising to ideas I didn’t love and knew weren’t that great in order to get the help I initially needed getting the magazine off the ground. So in the beginning, our website looked great but our content and editorial direction was all over the place. It took me two years in running the magazine (and with the help of a new creative director) to really push the publication into what I knew it could be—it also means having to do more (if not most) of the work yourself.
HU: As you approach your 4 year running CIRCUS, what’s been the most rewarding part of running the publication?
BB: The biggest reward is always when a complete stranger reaches out and tells me they read a story that either connected with them or inspired them. I really try to write and edit stories that will resonate with our readers beyond a three minute phone scroll. Let’s talk about heartbreak, let’s talk about race, let’s talk about feminism. I know I’ve been doing my part as an independent media maker in crafting a space that pushes stories from usually ignored voices.
HU: When creating a new issue, where do you look to for inspiration?
BB: I gain inspiration from other independent magazines visually (like CR Fashion Book, The Gentlewoman, V, Pop, Cherry Bombe) but also movies and everyday experiences. I love visually attractive films—especially foreign ones—that take me into another world and the minds of their characters that help me come up with new editorials, stories and concepts.
HU: Who’s your biggest inspiration?
BB: I have too many! Britney Spears because she’s been proud of being feminine and a woman since the very beginning. Frida Kahlo for being the most (emotionally) strong woman in recent history. Carine Roitfeld for breaking away from Vogue and creating one of the most visually appetizing and boundary pushing publications of all time. Jennifer Lopez for setting the standard for being a bonafide brand and business woman.
HU: Take us a through a typical day of yours…
BB: Oh dear. I hate waking up early, but I’ve been getting better at it! Now I usually wake up around 9 am, let my dog out, and then come back inside to answer emails. I never eat breakfast. I usually have 1-2 meetings a day regarding the magazine—working with new contributors or organizing the next photo shoot. Come the afternoon I usually head out to my day job, come back home, eat a late snack and maybe watch a rerun of The Nanny or a new episode of Girls or Being Mary Jane. I’m a night owl and do most of my personal writing at night—so that’s when I’m usually up late and working on my latest story either for a freelance project or for the magazine.
HU: What’s the best pieces of advice you’ve been given and how did you apply that to starting your business?
BB: Always get multiple pairs of eyes to look over your work and even your ideas. Not too many! But enough. Others can see flaws that you can’t and when I brought my creative director on to change things for the magazine two years ago he helped me see the flaws I couldn’t because I was so attached—and I’m so proud of what the magazine has become since then.
HU: What’s next for CIRCUS?
BB: Eeep! You’re the first to share this info! In the next few months we’ll be opening a brick and mortar headquarters for CIRCUS. It’s going to function as a working studio for the magazine (also available for other creatives to rent and use) as well as a retail gallery selling and promoting all the work of artists and creatives we’ve worked with in the past. We’ll be throwing way more events, diving deeper into Chicago’s art scene and this space will not only be a core center for the magazine but for Chicago. This studio will prove to the city and the rest of the world that Chicago’s artists and creatives are talented, unique and worthy and that we ARE on par with New York, Los Angeles, Paris, London—you name it.
HU: Any upcoming events you want us to know about?
BB: On February 25th we’ll be having our official west coast launch party in Los Angeles!! I’m so excited. The event is titled RIPE and is an all women, multimedia art showcase featuring some of our favorite creative talent we’ve worked with in the past. We’ll have magazines for sale, a DJ, dancing on the rooftop and of course the chance to view just some simply amazing artwork from some extremely talented women. It’s been in the works for months and I’m so ready to see it all come to fruitition. And get some beach time!
MORE WITH BIANCA BETANCOURT: Favorite Chicago Designer? Tesha Brady of Eugene Taylor Brand! Favorite publication aside from CIRCUS? CR Fashion Book. Favorite Quote? I’ve been in my feelings lately so I vote “We’ll go down this road ‘til it turns from color to black and white” —from Frank Ocean. Man, that boy has a way with words. Most used app on your phone? Instagram. Favorite food? Thai! Favorite down time activity? Watching reruns of “The Nanny” with a bottle of wine. Bliss. Top three songs on your playlist right now? “Over” by Syd, “Slumber Party” by Britney Spears, “Get You” by Daniel Caesar ft. Kali Uchis Favorite city? Barcelona. #1 travel destination? Still Barcelona, haha. Favorite thing about living in Chicago? The sense of camaraderie—we all want Chicago to stay amazing.