The trailblazing true story behind ‘Ahead of the Curve’
(Credit: Netflix)

Documentary Flashback

The trailblazing true story behind ‘Ahead of the Curve’

When it comes to LGBTQ+ representation in media, we may have made progress, but it is crucial to remember the role of the pioneers who broke barriers. Ahead of the Curve, a documentary released in 2020 and recently released on Netflix, shines a spotlight on one such story—the remarkable journey of Frances ‘Franco’ Stevens, the founder of Curve magazine. 

The documentary offers an intimate look at Stevens’ pioneering spirit and the impact of her groundbreaking publication on lesbian visibility and community. Directlesbed by Stevens’ wife, Jen Rainin, and co-directed and produced by Rivkah Beth Medow, Ahead of the Curve traces the extraordinary life of Stevens, the origins of the influential magazine, and examines where it stands in the current sociopolitical zeitgeist. 

Through a blend of archival footage and interviews with Stevens, early staff members, and notable figures within the lesbian community, the film captures the essence of Stevens’ legacy and the magazine’s enduring influence. 

The documentary follows Stevens’ journey from her humble beginnings to the founding of Curve in 1990. Read on for more on the magazine’s genesis and eventual rise.

The inspiring true story behind Ahead of the Curve

At just 23 years, facing rejection from banks unwilling to finance her venture, Franco Stevens took a daring gamble on her future. She applied for multiple credit cards, cashed them out, and headed to the horse tracks. Miraculously, her winning streak provided the seed money to launch what would become a leading international lesbian lifestyle magazine.

Initially named Deneuve, the magazine was ultimately renamed Curve. It quickly became a beacon of hope and empowerment for lesbian women worldwide. In an era when LGBTQ+ representation was scarce and societal attitudes were often hostile, the magazine provided a platform for visibility and community-building. By featuring diverse voices and stories, it challenged stereotypes and celebrated the richness of lesbian experiences.

However, Curve’s journey was not without its challenges. Legal troubles arose from the magazine’s original name (Deneuve literally means ‘pound of flesh’), and Stevens faced personal hardships, including a debilitating injury that led her to sell the publication. But that was not the end of Cruve and Stevens’s leadership at the jet-setting culture magazine. She eventually reacquired Curve and launched a new foundation dedicated to LGBTQ+ visibility and advocacy.

Navigating the present and future 

Ahead of the Curve navigates beyond nostalgia, prompting reflections on the present and future of lesbian visibility. In an era dominated by digital media, the documentary raises pertinent questions about the relevance of print publications like Curve. Stevens engages in candid conversations with younger activists, discussing the evolving landscape of LGBTQ+ identity and representation.

While the documentary acknowledges progress, it also confronts ongoing challenges, including the need for greater inclusivity within the lesbian community. Ahead of the Curve also underscores the importance of honouring lesbian history while striving for a future that embraces all queer women.

In the words of poet and educator Denice Frohman, who also appears in the documentary, “It’s so incredibly important for us to be connected to our lineage…those who walked through a door and cracked it open wider so that we could walk through it after them.” 

You can watch Ahead of the Curve on Netflix for a glimpse into a piece of queer history.