By Sarah Mills
Frances ‘Franco’ Stevens was just 23 when she launched a glossy lifestyle magazine for lesbians in 1991, after raising funds by taking cash out on credit cards and betting on the horses.
The gamble paid off and now 30 years on, documentary “Ahead of the Curve” celebrates “Curve” magazine’s groundbreaking history and explores its future.
“At that time … there was nothing that showed lesbians in the positive everyday view,” Stevens, who started the magazine in San Francisco, told Reuters.
“I would say the biggest controversy we had with starting was putting the word lesbian on the front cover because that meant every time somebody wanted to buy it, they were essentially coming out to anyone standing around them, anyone who saw it in their house.”
Stevens, who was initially rejected by her family for being a lesbian, said it was a risk to bring out the magazine at the time, but she was young enough to think there would be time to bounce back if it flopped.
“It was in my wildest dreams that it would last for five years. And now here it is 30 years later,” she said.
Subscriptions soared and over time mainstream advertising deals came in and famous faces like tennis player Martina Navratilova and singer Melissa Etheridge posed for the cover.
But it wasn’t all plain sailing.
Originally called “Deneuve”, the magazine had to change its name following a lawsuit from French actress Catherine Deneuve and in 2010 Stevens sold the magazine after an accident left her disabled.
She bought it back 10 years later and it is now part of Stevens’ newly formed organization The Curve Foundation, which aims to keep giving a voice to LGBTQ women.
“After so long, to still hear women say that it (Curve) saved their lives … makes it all worthwhile,” she said.
Stevens, who is married to one of the film’s directors, said the documentary’s release is timely given movement restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“With the movie coming out in Pride month and people still feeling this kind of disjointed feeling of uncertainty, that’s what we felt in the ’90s when I first started the magazine,” she said. “We need community more than ever right now.”
‘Ahead of the Curve’ is now available on most streaming services. For more information, visit curvemagmovie.com.