Los Angeles-based artist and musician Brooke Candy is aptly named. Visiting her world is sort of like visiting a dazzling candy store, but one filled with sex.
But make no mistake. This Candyland is not one that exploits female sexuality -- it empowers it. In fact, the message that permeates most of the artist's work is quite clear: taking control of one's sexual agency. And she delivers it dripping with style. You'll often see her tattooed and pierced body covered in latex or tied up in Japanese Shibari rope bondage (if covered at all), all sharply contrasted by her Victorian doll-like features. And it's not unusual to see a joint hanging from the 29-year-old's pouty lips. (Don't you want to hang out with her already?)
Though Candy does give us amazing visuals, her work runs deeper than just, well, eye candy. In fact, the artist is so dedicated to her feminist ideals she walked away from a lucrative contract with Sony because she had difficulty creating the art she wanted with "old men that are breathing down my neck."
Candy grew up around the sex industry (her father is the former CFO of Hustler, Tom Candy) and eventually worked as a stripper. One might think that, having seen the good, bad, and ugly of that world, it would have pushed her away from overt sexuality in her music. But Candy insists female sexuality is something to be celebrated, not hidden or controlled -- and encourages women to put that pussy right in the patriarchy's face with songs like "My Sex" (which literally stars a large, artistically simulated vulva in the video) on her debut album, Sexorcism.
"Well, I definitely have had a lot of negative experiences," says Candy of her time in the sex industry. "It wasn't always just fun and glamorous, which some interviews I did [portrayed it as]. It was just a way for me to practice, or a way for me to learn to be more uninhibited, and that would make my performance as a musician better -- because I always knew I was going to be a musician."
It also led her to dive deeper into feminism and advocating for sex workers, she explains. "Like, the women who do that work -- just being a voice for them, because, it's a really, really, really strenuous job. It's physically demanding, it's mentally demanding. If you're not thick-skinned, it can just eat you alive, you know what I mean? You have to be really confident, you have to feel like you're in control, which is a hard thing to do in that industry. And I just think it's so stigmatized."
Candy is not only transparent about her sex-industry past, but also about her previous issues with drugs and mental health, topics she addresses in Sexcorcism's single and video, "Happy." Upon watching the video, we are very grateful for her bravery to leave Sony -- as this dark, edgy, and beautiful piece of art may have never been made. "Bitch, you are happy," she repeats, with the song building to a climatic end that includes Candy's real recorded crying while shouting statements of self-loathing. (Warning: most of Candy's videos are not quite safe for work.)
"You know, if you look at pop culture in the '90s, it was a lot of rock bands and a lot of very transparent vocals," Candy explains. "Like Kathleen Hanna, for instance. She was very vocal about being raped and she would sing about it. And Kurt Cobain was very vocal about his depression. And now, there's this weird stigma to it because it's not a beautiful thing to talk about, it's not a glamorous thing to talk about. For me, it's important to discuss it for my own journey. So I can get it off of my chest and I can move on."
"I am depressed. I have all of it. And it kind of gives [my fans] hope," adds Candy. "I've gotten messages from kids, maybe 13 or 14, who have told me, 'I was planning on killing myself until I listened to your song with Sia.' Life is so meaningless unless you're helping others in some way, shape, or form." (Sidenote: Candy credits Sia as her mentor and as the person who helped her get sober.)
Still, Candy says "Happy" is by far the darkest track on the album, which is otherwise filled with fierce, feminist positivity. "I kind of look at that as like an unofficial single because I made that with [well-known fashion photographer and filmmaker] Rankin. That video is more like an art piece."
With Candy receiving high praise from publications like Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, Nylon, Pitchfork, and Vulture, it seems we're not the only ones that appreciate her artistry, which extends far beyond music. She recently directed her own high-art, intersectional, conceptual adult movie entitled I Love You, which was premiered by Pornhub and shown at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Barcelona in its own exhibition. In the fine art world, Brooke has been involved in collaborations with Brooklyn Museum of Art, Miami Art Basel, and MOCA, to name a few.
Aside from the darker "Happy" single, Candy says, "I wanted to make an album that was the opposite of when I was with Sony and what they were trying to have me create -- an album of sadness, which is what I felt at the time. Now I feel so blissful and so comfortable with myself. I wanted to create an album that just made people feel really good and it's just really fun. And it's definitely aimed for the gay community."
Sexorcism also includes collaborations with many queer and female artists, including Charli XCX, Iggy Azalea, and hot new female rapper from the Bronx, Maliibu Miitch. In addition, "My Sex" features underground icons Pussy Riot, Mykki Blanco, and MNDR. Oh, and there's a couple drag queens on the album too (Aquaria and Violet Chachki).
"It was important for me to have a collaborative effort of all women," she says, "And also, I consider myself almost to be like a female drag queen."
A comparison easy to see if you do a Google image search of Candy. She is certainly of that chameleon-like, club kid variety -- effortlessly going from black bobs with one-inch bangs and two-inch lashes to glam Marilyn-esque looks with light, dewy makeup. It's no wonder the queer artist has been embraced by the LGBTQ community. And Candy wouldn't have it any other way.
"That is the community that raised me," says Candy. "I think that they are special communities... that all perspectives and all humanity should respect."
Sexorcism will officially release later this year. Check out the video for Candy's hot new single "XXXTC" from the album, which premiered today: