Photographer JORDAN HEMINGWAY captures BROOKE CANDY as you’ve never seen her before. Click through the slideshow above to explore our exclusive editorial, styled by her mentor, NICOLA FORMICHETTI
Brooke Candy’s video for new tune “Paper or Plastic” depicts unbridled violence, toys with suicide, and prominently features a number of gilded machine guns. Her nipples, however, are noticeably erased. “That was a conscious choice,” said Candy, who, since making her debut in Grimes’ “Genesis” video four years ago, has had no qualms about flaunting her sexuality and naked body. “In the video, there’s gun violence and murder, which isn’t censored, but my nipples are blurred out,” she noted. “It was meant to start a discussion on censorship and where our values lie. Why is it okay to censor out a nipple before violence, blood, and suicide?” Candy asked. She has a point. (I’m looking at you, Instagram.)
This is just one instance in which Candy has woven poignant, if not cheeky, messages into her work. However, the unapologetic 27-year-old, who plays muse to her stylist and longtime supporter, Nicola Formichetti, is often accused of simply provoking for provocation’s sake, rather than, as Candy puts it, “trying to spawn some sort of revolution, where young people and women feel so empowered that they lose their sense of fear.” But as Candy slowly breaks into the mainstream, she’s steadily gaining critical acclaim, especially now that she has the endorsement of Sia, who is producing her forthcoming album, The Daddy Issues.
“I’ve never worked on a project in my life that’s taken this long to finish,” continued Candy of the “Paper or Plastic” flick, which dropped in July. “It literally took over two years for it to come full circle and make sense.” She’s not exaggerating.
Flashback to October 31, 2013, when I first met Candy in a dimly lit sushi restaurant in Tokyo’s Park Hyatt hotel (yes, the one from Lost in Translation). The young musician had been tapped as the face of Diesel’s accessories campaign, and Formichetti, the brand’s artistic director, was hosting a dinner in her honor. So it was a bit disconcerting that, halfway through the meal, she was still nowhere to be seen. We all assumed she’d succumbed to jetlag, considering she’d just flown in from L.A., but as we sipped sake and all but gave up hope, this creature descended the stairs. She wore an electric pink, waist-length wig, a matching sheer dress, sky-high heels, and black latex gloves, stockings, and lingerie. Candy was in the house.
She took a seat across from Formichetti, and settled in next to her best friend, Seth Pratt, a young designer who was wearing a button-down shirt printed with penises, because obviously. Without skipping a beat, Candy plunged into a full-on rave about her latest project, a little art film in which nude sister wives join together to gun down their oppressive patriarch. “I’d been holding on to it, and I needed content to put out for ‘Paper or Plastic,’ and the film just happened to fit,” Candy told me last week. “It really feels kind of divine or something.”
Candy has lived about twelve lives since our initial encounter (which ended with the rapper spinning on a stripper pole in an underground Tokyo club). The former exotic dancer, whose father was the CFO of Hustler magazine, launched her career with boisterous, profanity-infused rap tunes like “Das Me,” and performances that made even the most jaded onlookers blush. Now, however, Candy’s songs are more sugary sweet than rage-filled (in melody, anyway—the lyrics still have her signature bite). Her aesthetic has been ever so slightly tamed, and her outlook seems surprisingly optimistic. “I think it’s a natural progression, really,” Candy explained of the shift. “I never wanted to be pigeonholed as one specific character. I’ve experienced so much since I first released my art, and my sound and aesthetic have changed organically with my spiritual transition. But regardless of the changes, my message remains the same. I still want to be righteous and to change the planet, and I still want to motivate young girls to love themselves and stand for what they believe in and just fucking go for it. That message will always be there, and it will always be in your face.”
One could attribute Candy’s evolution to the fact that she signed with a major label, or that she has, you know, grown up a bit. And surely, those factors have played a role. But it’s Australian sensation Sia who has had the most profound impact. “I was on a lot of drugs, and she helped me kick drugs,” Candy admitted. “She found me and e-mailed me when I was squatting in this punk house. I was basically homeless and I was hustling like ten different jobs, and she said, ‘You are so weird. I want to write a song for you.’ Then I met her and she was like, ‘Fuck a song. I’m going to do your whole album, and I’m going to help you navigate this disgusting fame industry.’”
By phone from her home in West Hollywood, Candy reflected on her rise to stardom, as well as her struggles with substance abuse. “Sia had drug issues as well, and she was really the first person to make me reevaluate my life and the decisions I was making. I’d had a lot of people try to pull me out of the hole I was in, but she was the first person who was like, ‘Yeah, you might have a problem.’ She led by example, and my life today in comparison to my life a year ago is crazy. It’s like night and day.”
Fashion and Formichetti, too, have played a pivotal role in Candy’s path to self-discovery. “Nicola has really nurtured the talent that my friends and I have—the whole Fag Mob crew,” Candy said. “He’s opened so many doors for me, and the fashion industry is fuckin’ cool. There are people that exist within it that live and breathe art, and [Formichetti] is one of them,” said Candy, later adding that she is especially fond of young British designer Ashley Williams and Hood by Air’s Shayne Oliver. “I’m just a drag queen, and literally everything I wear is self-expression. I’m playing dress-up because, why the fuck not? Someone has to do it to make this planet a little brighter and more interesting, and I will gladly take that role.”
For his part, Formichetti, who has somewhat of a knack for finding the next big thing, says he couldn’t have asked for a better collaborator. “I love the way we work together, because there’s never a time when we say, “No,” he offered. “It’s all about trying new things. She’s a very hardworking artist, she knows who she is, and now she’s evolving and experimenting. She’s about to explode.”
That explosion will likely come with the release of The Daddy Issues. And while there’s no confirmed launch date for the album just yet, Candy expects the first radio single to hit in November. But about that title—does Candy, in fact, have daddy issues? “I don’t know,” she mused. “The title stems from Freud, obviously, and 99 percent of the planet’s neuroses. The title was supposed to be playful and cute, but when I made the album, I was very emotionally disturbed. I was very sad and I guess those problems stem from childhood.” That being said, Candy was quick to rush to her Daddy’s defense. “I love my dad. He’s so rad!” she yelped. “And he thinks the album’s awesome. He wants me to express myself. We fought for so long when I was growing up because I was a little shit head. Now he supports me and is like, ‘Do your thing.’ He knows I’m weird and I’m going to do it no matter what.”
Photographer: Jordan Hemingway
Styling: Nicola Formichetti
Styling Assistant: Savage
Hair: Gonn K
Makeup: Michael Anthony using rouge Dior