Linda Riley meets Franco Stevens, founder and publisher of Curve 

BY LINDA RILEY

Rarely am I blown away in an interview but talking to Franco Stevens, founder of Curve magazine, I found myself sometimes speechless thinking about the uncanny parallels of our lives as publishers of lesbian magazines.

I’m interviewing Franco about her new film Ahead Of The Curve which is a remarkable tribute to an even more remarkable woman. It tells the story of founding Curve in the early 90s, the extremes she had to go to in order to fund the first three issues of the magazine, the legal battle with actor Catherine Deneuve, who sued the magazine and nearly took it down, and fighting to save the magazine and continue its legacy today. 

Franco’s story aligns so much with my own and talking to her, I’m filled with emotion. She’s one of only a handful of people in the world who know what it’s like to publish a lesbian magazine – the struggles, the triumphs, the failures and the successes. And watching the documentary brought back so many memories, too. In the early days of Deneuve, which later changed its name to Curve, I lived in San Francisco and often visited the bookshop where Franco worked. I was also friends with Rachel Pepper who went on to be the books editor of the magazine, just a few of many ways in which our paths crossed.

Many times throughout I found myself thinking, “There but for the grace of God go I”. This is Franco’s story and the story of Curve, but it could so easily be my story and DIVA’s story. Ahead Of The Curve is also the story of community, and it’s amazing to see how much support she received along the way; from starting up the magazine with hardly a penny to her name, during the legal battle with Catherine Deneuve, and today, banding together with like-minded individuals to save the magazine.

As we see in the film, the need for Curve, in some form, is clearly still very potent, but without the support of the community, it won’t survive. I feel that with DIVA too. Watching as Franco recounts struggles to find advertisers 30 years ago, I find it incredible that I’m having the same issues today, three decades later.

It was also wonderful to so many incredible women being interviewed for this documentary. Franco did so much but it is obvious that she had an incredibly talented team around her including writers and editors Victoria Brownworth, Lee Solomon, Katie Brown, Sapphire, Rachel Pepper et al. 

Franco, centre, in the 1990s

I really enjoyed the film but found myself disagreeing with some of those who were interviewed: a print magazine is important. We need one. The amount of times I’ve been told that having access to a magazine has changed and in some cases saved women’s lives is incredible, and that keeps us going when all around us magazines are folding.

It’s hard to believe that DIVA is one of the only magazines for LGBTQI women that’s still being produced in a print form and when Franco told me that she didn’t see our magazines as competitors and that in truth our magazines complement each other, I found myself encouraging her to bring back Curve as a print magazine. As Franco says, “There’s something really tangible about a magazine you can hold…”

At the Dyke March in San Francisco in 2019

On the future of Curve, Franco tells me she “isn’t ruling out” a return to print, and here at DIVA we’ll be supporting her every step of the way. After all, as she says, “If we don’t unite, we aren’t using our collective power.”

Watch the our interview now on the DIVA YouTube channel.

Ahead Of The Curve is released 4 June in cinemas and on digital platforms.

DIVA magazine celebrates 27 years in print in 2021. If you like what we do, then get behind LGBTQI media and keep us going for another generation. Your support is invaluable. 

linktr.ee/divamagazine

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