PHOTOGRAPHY STEVEN KLEIN
FASHION NICOLA FORMICHETTI
TEXT PATRIK SANDBERG
MEET BROOKE CANDY, THE TRASH-TALKING, POLE-DANCING, HIGH-PITCHED REAL-LIFE MANGA DOLL PUSHING THE BOUNDARIES OF TASTE AND PLOTTING TO BECOME THE NEXT PRINCESS OF POP
I don’t know who the fuck this is but stop e-mailing me. You are bullying me and I don’t want to deal with this. Don’t ever fucking e-mail me again.
Brooke Candy’s initial reply to Sia Furler probably wasn’t what the singer-songwriter-producer was expecting. The in-demand Australian had stumbled upon Brooke’s Instagram account and discovered a few of her music videos online, and decided to contact her using the address listed on her YouTube page. “She had over a million views on this video called ‘Everybody Does,’ and I couldn’t believe that she had her e-mail address right there,” she recalls. “I wrote to her and said, ‘Hi, my name is Sia and I write for pop stars. I want to write hooks for you. I think you’re amazing, so please let me know who your manager and your label are.’ She wrote back to me and said that she didn’t have a manager or a record label, and I was shocked.”
Furler had recently penned smashes for Beyoncé and Britney Spears, and had established herself as one of the most sought-after talents in the business, with Rihanna’s “Diamonds” as well as her own duet with David Guetta, “Titanium.” In the midst of preparing her seventh album as a solo artist, Sia certainly wasn’t on the lookout for new talent to groom. “I just thought, Who is that freak?” she says of discovering Candy. “I thought, This is some sort of glam alien. When I met with her, she was such a sweet person, so interesting and dichotomous…so tough, like a sexual gangster.”
“I was poor as fuck,” Brooke recalls. “I had nothing to lose. I was being bullied, privately, by really successful musicians, so at first I assumed this e-mail was part of that. But we met that day in Echo Park and just vibed. Right then and there she decided to help me, and she has been my biggest supporter ever since.”
True to Sia’s word, Brooke is friendlier and more charismatic in person than her snarling, expletive-riddled raps and provocative image suggest. Her interests run the gamut, from the countercultural (she warns me against watching A Serbian Film, an ultra-shocking, globally controversial movie she managed to get a pirated copy of) to the very mainstream (she gets excited talking about Kanye West, whom she refers to, with adulation, as “an artist”). And despite her racy style, partially gleaned from her experiences as a stripper in L.A., her cartoonish hair, makeup concepts, and sugar-sweet stage name are 100 percent pop.
In the summer of 2012, Brooke Candy entered the cultural conversation when she appeared as a beautiful cyborg warrior in the music video for “Genesis,” by Grimes. It helped establish her cultlike fan base, who were attracted to her post-Tumblr, viral-couture aesthetic, which eventually caught the eye of fashion-world image makers like Nicola Formichetti and Terry Richardson. From Sia’s perspective, Brooke had all of the necessary ingredients to make it big. “She has a star quality. When I met her, I saw a lot of myself in her, and I wanted to protect her from the mistakes that I had made. I wanted to make sure that she worked with trustworthy people. I wanted to give her the greatest chance of long-term success. When I found Brooke, she wasn’t in a great place, and I felt like rescuing her. It was like a perfect storm. I don’t think I’ll ever do it again.”
Their fateful first encounter played out like a scene from a VH1 movie. Sia told Brooke that she could probably get her a record deal and a small band to tour, and that she could reasonably make a hundred grand per year. Her underground credibility would remain intact, but girl records are a tough market, she explained, and longevity wouldn’t be guaranteed. The alternative, she offered, would be to clean up the songs and make them palatable for radio, and turn her into a more mainstream star—with a much bigger paycheck. Brooke’s response: “I want to take over the world.”
“What I was doing before was practice,” Brooke explains with conviction. “I think the only people who know about me are underground. I’m huge in the gay clubs. But I don’t want to constantly rap about my pussy—even though I love pussy and I’m a feminist. I want to speak to everyone…not just one group of people.”
A new partnership forged, Sia executive-produced Brooke’s debut EP, Opulence, in its entirety before shopping it around to major labels, all of whom took interest due to the high-profile talent on deck. The music was delivered on signing with RCA, and will presumably see release without delay. Current fans can expect more depth and range from the artist known for a dance-floor banger called “I Wanna Fuck Right Now.” But for those just getting to know her, Brooke hopes for a fresh introduction. “I know what I am as an artist, and that’s a visual one. I have high expectations for my visuals, and now the songs have to match. I have so much to learn, and I’m working really hard at it. I’m taking singing lessons and listening to what Sia is telling me. The songs I made were fun, but with Sia’s entrance into this project, I got into making real, thoughtful music.”
Sia thinks Brooke’s talent is more natural than she lets on. “She has a Madonna-esque quality,” she says. “It’s been exciting for me to write her some more emotional work, and she really does it justice. There is the fun pop, and she still has her dirty rap, but it’s empowerment rap. She hasn’t lost any of her identity as a strong female artist. We found a cool balance.”
That balance will be tested further when RCA releases Brooke’s full-length album later this year. Brooke says she went with the label because she felt they understood her creative goals, and she was thrilled to be part of a legacy that includes two of her favorite artists, Britney Spears and David Bowie—“fucking crazy,” she says. Just don’t expect this provocative pop princess to ape any icons from the past. “So many artists have the platform I’m working toward and they speak for nothing,” she says. “If you have that power, you have a responsibility to stand for something. I stand for equality. I have been kicked out of my home for being gay. I felt that. I lived that. I want to speak out on things that I have had to deal with that have crushed me. I want to empower people and make a difference. So I’m infiltrating from the inside. You make a proper pop song to infiltrate mass minds and then you push your agenda. And you need a certain amount of shit to back up what you’re saying, otherwise what you’re saying is just going to dig you an early grave. Kanye West has gotten to that place, and he’s smart about it. He transcended. I hope to be there too.”
Click images to see them full-size.