If you asked the Reader staff to raise their hands if they’d like to be Karen Hawkins when they “grow up,” you’d be looking at an awful lot of hands. Since she joined the Reader as digital managing editor in the fall of 2018, Karen has soared to the top of the masthead as co-publisher with Tracy Baim and co-editor in chief with Sujay Kumar. As if that wasn’t enough to keep her busy, she’s also the “chief rebelle” at Rebellious Magazine for Women, the intersectional feminist media organization she founded in 2012, and the cohost of two podcasts. Born in Chicago, the Homewood-Flossmoor High School graduate studied news-editorial journalism at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign before earning her Master’s degree in magazine publishing at Medill. Karen held editorial positions at the Associated Press and Windy City Times before coming to the Reader—and she says her 16-year-old self would have given that move her stamp of approval. “I’ve dreamed of working at the Reader since I was a high school wannabe journalist sneaking into the city to pick up copies. It’s absolutely an honor to get to be here leading this team of wonderful weirdos,” she says. Karen’s dedication to her craft and building a more equitable journalism industry has brought her accolades from her peers and readers alike: In 2018 she won the Jeanne Córdova Award from NLGJA: The Association of LBGTQ Journalists, and in May 2021 Public Narrative honored her with a Studs Terkel Community Media Award. A Cancer with an affinity for nature, Karen’s favorite places in the city include the Chicago Botanic Garden, the Shedd Aquarium, and Promontory Point. After years living downtown with her partner, photographer extraordinaire Samantha Bailey, she currently lives on the city’s northwest side with her cats Hala and Hyacinth, just a stone’s throw away from some of her favorite retailers (Women & Children First and Early to Bed) and gluten-free restaurants (Wheat’s End and Defloured).

Twitter: @chiefrebelle | Instagram: @chiefrebelle