BROOKE CANDY ON GOING FROM HOMELESS TO HIP HOP – EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW

The Untitled Magazine - Issue 7 - Brooke Candy
Brooke Candy Photographed by Indira Cesarine for The Untitled Magazine

Brooke Candy, rising hip-hop star and “racy new muse” of Nicola Formichetti, didn’t always lead the charmed life. She’s faced her fair share of adversity on her way up to the top, including being homeless. While we didn’t get the story behind her myriad tattoos, the two words she has etched in ink on the palms of her hands, “hard luck,” say it all. Brooke has risen above her lot and made it to where she is now, seemingly by an act of sheer, ferocious will. “I got started very organically. I’ve always liked to express myself artistically. One night out, I met a producer who was looking for female rappers to make a track with. I got into the studio with him, and we recorded a song. It turned out to be really cool, and then I was like, ‘Oh wait, I can go even further with this.’ I just kept doing it, and the ball just kept rolling, and I worked really hard just doing everything myself.”

BROOKE CANDY BEHIND THE SCENES VIDEO – ISSUE 7
Photography and Video Direction by Indira Cesarine

Although her rise to fame may seem happenstance, she is cut out for the entertainment industry. “It’s what I’m meant to do,” she says. “That’s truly how I feel, just because of the way it occurred. It’s just odd. It’s definitely hard at times, but it’s fun and amazing.” When asked who inspires this glamour icon, she named the one and only Queen of Pop. “I’m inspired by Madonna. The blueprint she laid out is absolutely genius, and she started out the exact same way, where she was poor and from the underground scene. There are a lot of parallels between the early part of her career and mine.”

Regarding other artists in the industry who move her, she is undeniably drawn to fellow rebellious souls. “I really think Kanye is incredibly innovative; he used the rules of how to make music mainstream, and then just fucking flipped it,” she explained. “I feel like he’s transcended music. He’s transcended everything. Courtney Love in her heyday was pretty badass.” Yet staying true to form, and loyal to those who are closest to her, she counts her collaborators among her deepest sources of motivation. “I love the people who I’m working with now. I just shot with Steven Klein. That was the craziest experience, because I was like ‘Oh my god, this is a fucking artist.’”

Although her main focus is music, she clearly works with heavy hitting talent from across the artistic spectrum, which comes with its attendant identity issues. “I was asked the other day doing an interview about how I identify myself, and it made me contemplate ‘am I a musician or am I an artist?’” she wonders, “because I feel like I’m okay on all mediums, and I understand all mediums of art. I am an artist in general.” This creative sensibility is undoubtedly what attracts like-minded talent to a woman like Brooke, who recently became the new face of Diesel. “Nicola really liked the way that I interacted with the camera, and he likes my ideals and my art and how I feel about fashion, because I think he’s the same way. I mean, he lives and breathes fashion, but he doesn’t take it too seriously; it’s more just fun, and that’s how I feel. I just don’t give a fuck. He’s trying to rebrand the image, he respects my art, and I respect his, so it seemed like a very natural collaboration.”

Ultimately, it is her drive that is to be credited for the enriched and diverse world she’s created for herself. Her passion transcends the music that she makes, and extends into her social consciousness as well. There was even a time in her life when her politics intersected with her creative process, though according to Brooke, she eventually had to work to disentangle the two for herself. “I still stand for the people I’ve always stood for, and I still am very vocal about it,” she claims. Yet for the time being she is simply “just focused on making pretty music”.

However, one thing about which she insists upon making clear is her oft-discussed former career as a stripper. “I grew up in a family where my dad worked for Larry Flint. Some of my earliest memories of going to his office were of seeing boxes and boxes of dildos,” she recalls vividly. “I was exposed to it at a very young age. It’s never been a hush-hush, or a weird thing. It’s always been very sex positive in my family.” She maintains a progressive attitude towards the sex industry, advocating the legalization of prostitution, although Brooke is adamant that she not be given labels. “I don’t want to be labeled as a stripper. I don’t understand why every person who’s interviewed me, or any time anything pops up about me it’s like, ‘Brooke Candy: stripper,’” she laments exhaustedly. “Strip? I don’t strip. I stripped at a time when I was homeless and down and out, and that label has hung on me. I’ve talked about it, it’s fine, but it’s just odd because I don’t strip anymore and it definitely doesn’t inform my art.” For Brooke, stripping was an alternative form of expressing the same ideas. “I’m a strong human being, and it was empowering to me. I brought home money and it taught me how to perform at my most vulnerable; it was just a job. Just like what I do now is a job, it’s just that I have more creative freedom with this one.” According to her, it’s a simple matter of letting sleeping dogs lie. “I mean it’s something I did, it was something I felt comfortable doing, and I don’t do it anymore.”

Brooke wears a bandeau top and leggings by Franziska Fox, heels by Missguided, necklace by Sally LaPointe with sunglasses by Mecura

That said, she certainly understands the art of staging outrageous, elaborate and at times even violent performances. “All my performances are fun; I’m really excited about all of them. When I perform, I pretty much black out. It’s this incredible release of energy that can’t be put into words. It’s insane.” If there was any doubt that Brooke isn’t your average musician, let her reaction to being punched in the face while performing sit as the best bit of evidence. “This girl climbed on stage, and I was like ‘Get off stage now!’ and she just punched me in the side of my face… and I was like ‘Wait that was amazing! You fucking rule!’ It was sick, I love her! She got up on my stage at my show and punched me in the face! It was fucking badass.”

Clearly Brooke loves what she does. Aside from the loneliness she often faces on tour, she sees only the good sides of her career. “I don’t see a downside other than me being absolutely insane—I get really sad sometimes. When I’m away, I feel lonely; I get isolated and sad, but other than that it’s the best fucking job in the world. I can’t complain about anything.” This mentality, along with her steadfastness regarding what she believes, is what makes her stand out against the crowd. “I speak out, and I have spoken out on things that matter to me. It can be difficult when I’m trying to be an uplifting person who is trying to support these oppressed communities, and I still get hatred. It’s like shit flying at me, and people picking apart my body, saying I’m fat and ugly, or that I have a horrible voice and that I’m an idiot. If I were to look back in 10 years at this time, I would just want to shake myself and tell myself to not give a shit, because it doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is that you put out your work to express yourself, so you don’t kill yourself, and you don’t look back.”

Regarding her own personal legends, and what it truly means to be a legend, her answer is as simple as it is profound. “I think what makes a legend is when they make their impact on the world. They make themselves known in a way that’s really, really positive. They do something innovate and different that inspires people. That’s what makes a legend. And they don’t even have to be at the level of Michael Jackson. You can impact someone’s life on a much smaller scale. I have friends living in Harlem who have inspired me, who dance, who’ve taught me how to vogue, who’ve taught me how to act, and truly taught me how to be the person I am, and to me they’re just as legendary, really. It’s a certain state of mind that makes someone legendary.”

Brooke wears a dress by Jean Paul Gaultier with jewelry by Cartier, Balenciaga, Cast of Vices and Maison Martin Margiela.

As for the future, Brooke Candy’s goal is clear and simple: “world domination,” she says. She signed to RCA Records last year, released her single “Opulence,” and then her 5 track EP in May, 2014, and is set to release her next studio album this year. Yet for her, getting to live the life she wants is already the ultimate achievement. “I’m just happy… I feel blessed to be doing any of this shit…I mean, there are people who work in coal mines, you know?”

Check out her exclusive interview for The Untitled Magazine’s Legendary Issue 7 below.


Brooke wears a dress by Alon Livne with platform sandals by Ask Alice.

Marianna White: Tell me a little bit about how you got started in the entertainment industry.

Brooke Candy: Well, I got started very organically; it just happened naturally. I’ve always liked art, and I’ve always expressed myself in that way. One night out, I met a producer who was looking for female rappers to make a track with. I had been taking photographs, but writing music was a new form of expression for me at the time. I got into the studio with him, and we recorded a song. It turned out to be really cool. Then I was like, ‘Oh wait, I can go even further with this, I can make a video.’ To me, film and music are the ultimate forms of artistic expression, so it just happened naturally. I kept doing it, and the ball just kept rolling. I worked really hard just doing everything myself, and the I got really good feedback. So it was a lot of hard work, but then it just came very naturally.

MW: For a lot of people, it’s difficult to break through in music, but for you it sounds like it’s what you’re supposed to be doing.

BC: Exactly. It’s what I’m meant to do. That’s truly how I feel, just because of the way it occurred. It’s odd. It’s definitely hard at times, but it’s also fun and amazing.

MW: You said before that you got a lot of inspiration from female rappers like Lil’ Kim. Are there any current artists you can think of off the top of your head who you get inspiration from?

BC: I’m obviously inspired by Lil’ Kim. I’m also inspired by a woman like Madonna; the blueprint she laid out is absolutely genius. She started out in the exact same way [as I did]. She was poor and from the underground scene. There are a lot of parallels between the early part of her career and mine, so I’m trying to emulate that. Then, there’s Kanye, who is incredibly innovative. He used the rules of how to make it mainstream, and then just fucking flipped it. I think he’s truly amazing and inspiring, and I feel like he’s transcended music. He’s transcended everything. Other than that, I think Courtney Love in her heyday was pretty badass. And I love the people who I’m working with now, I love working with Nicola, and I love working with Sia. I just shot with Steven Klein, and that was the craziest experience, because I was like ‘oh my god. This is a fucking artist.’

Brooke wears a dress by Mathieu Mirano with heels by Edmundo Castillo.

MW: Is fashion something you can see yourself getting more involved in, like designing your own line in the future?

BC: I mean definitely, if it made sense. I think I’m an artist in general. There was a question the other day, in an interview, which made me contemplate ‘am I a musician or am I an artist?’ I think because feel okay in all mediums, and I understand all mediums of art, I’m an artist. Fashion design is an art form itself, but then I wouldn’t necessarily think ‘I can be a fashion designer.’ Everyone is good at what they do, and I’m a good performer. But yeah, if it made sense at the time, and if I could collaborate with someone that I respected who was a designer who lives and breathes fashion, then yes, I would do it. But that’s not my every day life. I love clothes and I like to dress up crazy, but I don’t live and die by trend.

MW: You’re the face of Diesel right now. Can you tell me about that and how it’s been working for you?

BC: Nicola asked me to do it. We shot together a while back for POPwater, and we shot together for Playboy, and he really liked the way that I interacted with the camera. He also likes my ideals, and my art, and how I feel about fashion, because I think he’s the same way. He lives and breathes fashion, but he doesn’t take it too seriously; it’s more fun, and that’s how I feel. I just don’t give a fuck. He’s trying to rebrand the image, and he respects my art, and I respect his, so it seemed like a very natural collaboration for me to work with someone who’s so innovative and so strange. They’re having their first show in April (2014), and I’m going. I’ve seen what he designed, and it’s so fucking cool –  I was aghast. When I shot for Elle, I wore a lot of [the collection] and it’s fucking sick. I’m just happy; I feel blessed to be a part of it. I feel blessed to be doing any of this shit. There are people who work in coal mines, you know? People who work a desk job nine to five. I work really hard, but I’m really lucky because I get to see the world, and I support myself. I just feel so blessed.

Brooke wears a bodysuit by Alpana Neeraj.
Brooke wears a dress by The Blonds.

MW: Do you feel like your political views influence the art that you make?

BC: They did when I first started, because I couldn’t separate the two. I didn’t know how. But I think I’m able to completely separate it. I still stand firm for everything I’ve ever said. I still stand for the people I’ve always stood for, and I am still very vocal about it, but I feel like I don’t want to become exclusive of any group of people. I severely isolated a big group of people for claiming,“Fuck it, I’m for this,” but what if straight guys like my music, and then they feel like I’m excluding them? I don’t want to exclude anyone. But I still stand for all of it. It’s less about politics with the art now. But who knows; the agenda I was trying to spread, I’ll still spread. Right now I’m just focused on making pretty music. It will still come out a bit in the visuals, but I’m not making the conscious effort to integrate politics with art. I think that’s a bit odd.

MW: We know you were a stripper at one point, and we know there’s a pro-sex movement in America right now, including an imperative to decriminalize sex work; how do you feel about that? Did your work as a stripper influence your work or the way you live?

BC: Just to go back quickly to my family; my dad worked for Larry Flint, and the earliest memory of going to my dad’s office on Wilshire —it was a beautiful office- but there were boxes and boxes of dildos. I was exposed to it at a very young age. It’s never been a hush hush, or weird thing. It’s always been very sex positive in my family, so that’s one thing. I don’t want to be labeled as a stripper, because I haven’t stripped in literally a year. I don’t understand why every person who has interviewed me, or any time anything pops up about me, it’s like “Brooke Candy: Stripper.” Strip? I don’t strip. I stripped at a time when I was homeless and down and out, and the label has hung onto me. I’ve talked about it – it’s fine, but it’s just odd because I don’t strip anymore, and it definitely doesn’t inform my art. I think it didn’t affect me negatively, because I’m a strong human being. It was empowering to me; I brought home money and it taught me how to perform, and to perform at my most vulnerable. But I am not a stripper. I don’t strip. It was just a job, just like what I do now is a job. It’s just that I have more creative freedom with this one. It’s something I did, and it was something I felt comfortable doing. I don’t do it anymore.

MW: I think it’s really wonderful that this is something you can be open about.

BC: It’s crazy! Courtney Love was a stripper, Lil’ Kim was a stripper, and Trina and Lady Gaga stripped. No one has ever labeled them as strippers. The success that they’ve achieved is much greater than mine, obviously, but I’m sure they were never labeled as a stripper. It was probably just considered a job that they were doing. It’s so odd that I keep getting labeled for this thing that I just did for a while.

Brooke wears a bodysuit by Alpana Neeraj.
Brooke wears a bodysuit by Alpana Neeraj.

MW: What has been one of the most difficult performances of your career?

BC: A difficult performance? All my performances are fun; I’m really excited about all of them. When I perform, I pretty much black out. It’s this incredible release of energy that can’t be put into words. I can’t explain it; you have to do it to know—it’s insane. But I do have a funny story. I was performing in Paris, and I had pneumonia, so I was really not having it that day. I was pretty on edge; it was horrifying and I needed to take a break. I was like, gasping for air. This was maybe a year and a half ago. I was having this twerk competition on stage, and everyone was getting really rowdy. At all my shows, it still feels like a punk show. Everyone is rowdy, no one gives a fuck, people throw drinks and go crazy! And this one was starting to get like that. So I made it a point to say, “Only five people on stage, please, everyone chill out.” I turned around to look at my DJ, my best friend Jessie, and we’re getting ready to start. We’d already picked everyone, and then I saw another girl climbing up on stage. I asked her to get down, and she punched me in the face! It probably looked so funny; it was me with my mic, and she just wacked me! I was like ‘Get off stage now,’ and she just punched me in the side of my face. I was like, ‘Wait, that was amazing!! You fucking rule!’

MW: Were you impressed? Horrified? A little of both?

BC: Oh no, it was sick! I love her! She got up on MY stage, at MY show, and punched me in the face! It was fucking bad ass.

MW: That’s definitely the best answer to that question I’ve ever gotten.

BC: I don’t see a downside other than me being absolutely insane—I get really sad sometimes. When I’m away, sometimes I feel lonely, and I get isolated and sad, but other than that, it’s the best fucking job in the world. I can’t complain about anything…and I loved getting punched that one time!

MW: Do you have any motto that you use for yourself when you’re struggling, or any words of wisdom you would impart to young women who are trying to make it in this industry?

BC: I think something that really got to me was people’s comments- commenting on what I put out. I believe that I am a role model, because I speak out, and I have spoken out on things that matter to me. It can be difficult when I’m trying to be an uplifting person who is trying to support these oppressed communities, and I still get hatred. It’s like shit flying at me, people picking apart my body, saying I’m fat and ugly, that I have a horrible voice, and that I’m an idiot who speaks with my hands! If I were to look back in ten years at this time, I would just want to shake myself and tell myself to not give a shit, because it doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is that you put out your work to express yourself, so you don’t kill yourself, and you don’t look back. Never look back. I don’t feel like I regret anything I’ve done, I just want to put it out and never look back at it again.

Brooke wears a bra by Addiction, bikini bottom by Niro Castillo, mesh tank by Diesel and customized jacket by Nicola Formichetti. Jewelry by Cartier, Balenciaga, Cast of Vices, and Maison Martin Margiela.

MW: This is the “Legendary” issue, as you know. Who do you consider to be a legendary artist?

BC: The person I consider to be the most legendary artist is Michael Jackson. As far as musicians go, he’s the obvious choice. I was just watching Paris is Burning, which has a section on legends, and I feel like someone is legendary when they make their impact on the world. They make themselves known in a way that’s really really positive; they do something innovative and different that inspires people. That’s what makes a legend. And they don’t even have to be at the level of Michael Jackson. You can impact someone’s life on a much smaller scale. I have friends living in Harlem who have inspired me, who dance, who’ve taught me how to vogue, who’ve taught me how to act, and truly taught me how to be the person I am, and to me they’re just as legendary because they come from nothing. They don’t care – it’s a state of mind. It’s a certain state of mind that makes someone legendary.

MW: Last question – what can we look out for from you in the future?

BC: Can I say just one thing?

IC: Yes.

BC: World domination.

Brooke wears a dress by Jean Paul Gaultier, harness by Skingraft and feather corset by Leka. Jewelry by Cartier, Balenciaga, Cast of Vices, and Maison Martin Margiela.

Photography by Indira Cesarine
Fashion Editor: Indira Cesarine
Hair by Gregory Russell @ The Wall Group
Make-up by Stephen Dimmick @ Aim Artists
Photographed on location at James Goldstein Residence

Make sure to pick up your copy of The Untitled Magazine‘s “Legendary” Issue 7 here!

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