In 1991, 23 year old Franco Stevens cashed in twelve credit cards and gambled the money on horseracing, earning enough winnings to kickstart production of the first-ever glossy lesbian magazine. Broke, living in her car, and working in a San Francisco book shop, it was a risk she was willing to take in order to achieve a dream while seeking financial stability. 30 years later, Curve Magazine still exists, and a fascinating new documentary has been released spotlighting the journey of the groundbreaking publication.
The documentary titled Ahead of the Curve explores the ups and downs of the world’s best-selling lesbian magazine of all time, an accolade it has not garnered without struggle. Originally produced under the name ‘Deneuve’, one of its first controversies was being sued by French actress Catherine Deneuve in 1996 for trademark infringement. Although there was no evidence that the magazine title was inspired by the film star, the legal costs nearly destroyed the company, and they were forced to rebrand.
During its early days, it struggled to acquire advertisements and celebrity interviews. Musician Melissa Etheridge was one of the first big names to appear on the cover, and the magazine continued to grow from there. Curve was a place to find news and gossip on the lesbian scene, fashion spreads, fiction, reviews, and much more. It was born at a time when LGBTQ+ folk were widely invisible and constantly under threat, and through this documentary, we watch its evolution up to the present day.
Directed by Rivkah Beth Medow alongside Stevens’ wife Jen Rainin, the film features interviews with the likes of Orange Is the New Black’s Lea DeLaria, musician Melissa Etheridge, and writer Jewelle Gomez, to name but a few. According to DAZED, Rainin (Stevens’ wife) said this when talking about her desire to create the documentary:
“Franco’s contribution to the lesbian community inspires me, and it vexes me that like so many stories of influential queer women, her story is largely unknown. I feel a deep responsibility to tell Franco’s story as completely and honestly as possible to honor my community and our rich history, and to tell the story of a strong female role model who, in manifesting her own dream, made space for hundreds of thousands of others to have a chance at theirs.”
Stevens sold the magazine in 2010 to Avalon Media, but during the filming of this documentary, she discovered that the publication was under threat. Throughout the film we witness the historic process of Franco reacquiring Curve on its 30th anniversary, and establishing a foundation by the same name under which the title operates. At present, those involved with the magazine are working to create an online archive of every issue, and it is yet to be seen if they will return to printing physical copies.
Watch the trailer for the must-see documentary below, and find out more about the magazine through the Curve website.
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