Brooke Candy on Sex Positivity and Self-Love as a Survivor of Abuse

Words by Ellen Atlanta

“Performing naked, bound in a corseted gown, tied and wired to a 3-D body scan machine, in 8-inch stripper heels and 10-pound pigtails. Easy lol…” reads a caption on one of Brooke Candy’s latest Instagram posts.

The LA-based rapper, singer, director and artist is known for her provocative performances and pop club beats. Singing while tied up in Japanese shibari bondage, posing back-arched in mesh bodysuits or latex corsets, Brooke Candy has become an unapologetic ambassador of sexual and artistic freedom. The tattoo on her neck that once read ‘opulence’ is crossed out — ‘never mind’ now placed above the X — because this isn’t all about self-indulgence and a need to be seen. This is a fight. For many, Brooke Candy represents a refusal to be silenced and a refusal to be shamed. As a survivor of sexual abuse and a proponent for the LGBTQ+ community, Brooke subverts what it means to be a female performer today.

Despite its playful tone, her music blares brash and loud in a political climate increasingly trying to suppress LGBTQ+ voices, and to a society that continues to shame female sexuality. In the haze of the Trump era, Brooke Candy is a beacon of radical self-love. A self-proclaimed ‘freak princess’ — existing in a plane of her own.

Her aesthetic is one of complete self-expression — a subverted 1950s pin up vibe with a glitter encrusted stripper heel nailing down the patriarchy. Tattoos cover her skin, the words ‘lovely’ and ‘flower’ written next to etchings of spider webs and a noose. It’s Marilyn Monroe meets Marilyn Manson. It’s a craving to challenge convention.

Working across multiple mediums, from stripping to music and performance art, Brooke’s latest venture saw her direct ‘I Love You’, a film collaboration with Porn Hub that celebrates the queer community. Featuring full-length lesbian, gay, and trans scenes, the film is a sensual love letter to those often unrepresented in mainstream media.

We spoke to Brooke about directing her first porn film, promoting sex positivity and learning self-love as a survivor of abuse.

Photography by Charlie Denis

How would you describe your relationship with your body? How has that relationship evolved over time?

My relationship with my body is very interesting. I think now I’m getting older, I’m just becoming so much more comfortable with things that made me so deeply unsettled and uncomfortable in the past. For instance, I have big breasts and they’re natural, and so they hang in certain places. They’re not the perkiest or the most perfect and I always hated that. I hated the size of my nipples, I hated the stretch marks on my legs — there are so many things that I couldn’t stand when I was younger. Now, those are the things that I love the most and that I think are the sexiest. I think I just learned to embrace those parts of myself and learned to tell myself that I love my body. I’ve gotten a lot of tattoos, and that’s helped me in this really bizarre way to just seriously love what I see when I look in the mirror. I think the body type that we’ve become accustomed to now is so homogenised. It’s this perfect Barbie image, and it’s a standard that’s impossible to reach. 

How did body and sex positivity become such fundamental aspects of your work?

I think body and sex positivity became such a crucial part of my work because those were two things that I felt the most shame for my whole life. I have been raped many times, and I never really accepted it. Growing up, no one was really open about sex — I was never allowed to date and I learned to hate my body at a very young age. As I grew up, I was in an industry where I’d eat something on a photo shoot and someone would slap my hand to make sure I put the food down.

I think a lot of artists tend to focus on the subjects that eat them alive. For me, it was definitely those two things — they caused me a lot of pain. I needed to face them and I needed to accept them and be a proponent for them – just to learn to love and accept myself. I got rid of my pain through my music and my live performances, it just changed my life. I feel really proud of everything I once hated, it’s pretty powerful. I wish I could tell every woman that they’re beautiful and perfect just the way they are. Well…I guess I just did.

What in your life has had the biggest impact on your relationship with your body?

Working in certain fashion industry jobs, being in the fashion industry and being around certain people. I don’t want to say the fashion industry as a whole, but certain people I worked with on a consistent basis made me really hate my body and really have a severe delusion of what I looked like. I starved myself, I made myself puke, I did so many self-destructive things and I really didn’t take care of myself. 

How did you heal from that? How do you practice self-love and self-care now?

I don’t starve myself or punish my body anymore – I accept my body for exactly what it is, and my mind and my heart and my soul for exactly what they are. I’m a unique individual on my own unique path. The faster I learned to accept that, the sooner I was able to find real inner peace and real love, and attract true friendship and true love. 

You are important and you are of worth, and you deserve to be alive and you deserve to love yourself and feel good. That goes for every single human being.

Brooke Candy

Something that I do that’s helped me a lot with self-loathing and past self-hatred of my body, is while I’m showering, I’ll rub certain areas of my body and tell them that I love them and that they’re beautiful. I’ll rub my chest and tell it that it’s beautiful, or rub my legs and tell them that they’re beautiful. Oddly enough, it really helps. I also get massages and I take long baths with essential oils. I’m very healthy and I’m vegetarian, but I treat myself to nice meals. Just treating yourself and understanding that you’re important and you’re of value, regardless of how many followers you have, or if you have a loving family or if you have a significant other. Regardless of whether or not you have those things, you are important and you are of worth, and you deserve to be alive and you deserve to love yourself and feel good. That goes for every single human being.

What do you love most about your body?

I love how feminine it is. I think I’m built like a 1950s pin up model. I’ve looked at pictures of my body and pictures of Jayne Mansfield and they’re so similar. I have hip dips where my hips don’t come out perfectly and I love that, they’re like little handles. I have dimples in my back which I think are pretty sexy. I just love everything about my body. I’m really short and I’m dating someone who’s like 6’2” and it’s really fun because he’s a foot taller than me and I think it’s pretty cute. I can jump on him like this little elf. I love my tattoos obviously, and I’m going to keep getting them until you can’t see skin, until I’m completely covered. I really love everything about my body – I’m so grateful to have it and I’m so grateful that it’s working. My eyes are open and I can see, I can hear and I can smell things – I’m grateful for things that everyone, including myself, takes for granted. I love it all.

How were you able to get to this point of complete self-confidence? What advice would you give to those struggling with their body image or sexuality? 

I got confident because I just had to be. I felt so much self-hatred and I was around a lot of misogynistic men. I’ve been raped and I’ve been in situations where I felt so powerless and so gross and violated, but it also made me feel disgusting in myself. I think because of that, and because of feeling so low, I just thought, ‘Fuck it! I’m just going to embrace every single thing that I’ve been told is wrong with me, and I’m going to stick it to every single person who has ever taken advantage of me, and I’m going to be the most confident person I can be’. When I started, I was confident for other people, but now it’s 100% pure. I truly am as confident as I seem. I get my tits out all the time – I don’t fucking care! If they hang to my knees, they hang to my knees! I don’t care! My body is what it is and I fucking love it. I’m just really happy with what I was blessed with. I think we’re all blessed with something and we just have to find it. I think that’s where confidence lies.

You’ve reclaimed the word ‘slut’ in your music and are completely unapologetic when it comes to your sexuality – why do you think we needed this new wave of feminism? 

I reclaimed the word slut because we’re human beings and we’re literally on the planet to fuck. It’s such a natural impulse, it’s an instinct equal to eating or going to the bathroom. To me, sex is natural and it’s such a power play to put females down for it. Women, especially when we band together, are insanely powerful and I think more often than not, we don’t realise how much power we possess. I think this new wave of feminism of embracing sex and embracing your sluttiness is something that needs to happen. 

I’m overly sexual, lately I’ve been having sex like 4-5 times a day, not recommended for the faint of heart, but it’s like a moment of bliss. Why would I not want to promote that? Bliss is the desired state for all human beings, and we have this opportunity every morning to choose that desired state, and more often than not, we don’t. Sex is a moment of release and Zen, and every time I have sex it’s just this transcendental, out of body experience. For me, it’s so cathartic and so magical, it’s calming and every human being, especially every woman, deserves to feel that, because it’s just so important. As long as it’s consensual and it’s safe, I think it’s one of the most important aspects of human relationships. So yeah, I’m a proponent for being a fucking whore! Hahahaha!

Speaking of sex! Tell us about your film ‘I Love You’ in collaboration with Porn Hub! What inspired the concept?

Originally, I wanted Porn Hub to sponsor a music video for me, so I called, and over the phone they asked if I wanted to join The Visionaries Director’s Club and create a porn film. Of course, I was like YESSS! 

I’d never thought about directing porn films before, but now it’s all I want to do. On set, it was just such a cool thing to experience and be part of. It was this new medium and this new form of art that we had never done before. The actors I chose were just such beautiful people and had the most beautiful souls. The whole process was really, really special. I had this group of artists from all over the world contribute to this film, and they saw it in the same regard as I did. I wanted to make something that was queer and really, really beautiful. My aesthetic is always a bit bizarre, but I achieved what I set out to do, which was inject some sensuality, some thoughtfulness and some purity back into an industry that’s completely misogynistic and completely deprived of all emotion. I wanted to add some light-hearted sensuality and beauty.

That sensual and loving element of sexuality is still something we don’t see or hear about in porn or even in the mass media. What can we all do to make the world a more body positive, sex positive place?

I think the world right now is moving in that body and sex positive direction. It seems to me that everyone is waking up and being more conscious of other people’s feelings and is learning to love themselves. The more we keep the discussion open and talk about these topics, the more likely we are to accept these things we’re told are not okay — which is just so fucking crazy. We’re told that they’re not okay and we should hate ourselves, and it’s all based on money. The more you hate yourself, the more I can sell you this product that will make you hate yourself that much less. I just think, fuck that! I’m perfect exactly as I am, and every single other person on this planet is perfect just as they are. We’re exactly where we need to be and we’re exactly who we need to be. Everything is where it should be and everything is balanced.

My thing right now is that I’m in love, and I’ve never been in love before, and so it’s my favourite thing. I always thought making art was my favourite thing, or travelling was my favourite thing, but I really realise now that being in love is just the most fun and exciting. I would choose it over anything.

Brooke Candy

What are you working on next? Will you be directing more in the future? 

I would love to direct more in the future, but the main project I have in the pipeline right now is my first album! I just finished it — it’s 11 songs and it’s really special. I finished the album artwork recently, I shot one video with Rankin and I’m shooting the second video for the album now with Luke Abby. Then I have another animated video in the works with Sarah Nicole Francois. So I have three videos coming out, an album coming out, a European tour in May and hopefully I’ll just keep making art and making music. I hope to just keep making art forever. My thing right now is that I’m in love, and I’ve never been in love before, and so it’s my favourite thing. I always thought making art was my favourite thing, or travelling was my favourite thing, but I really realise now that being in love is just the most fun and exciting. I would choose it over anything. That’s my main project that I have in the pipeline, but I have a ton of stuff coming out to feed my fans and to feed the queer community.

Brooke Candy’s debut album ‘Sexorcism’ will be released Oct 25th. Her film, ‘I Love You’ is available to watch on Porn Hub now.

Photography and Creative Direction: Charlie Denis
Photo assistant: Heroine James
Hair: Jake Gallagher
Make-up: Mattie White
Stylist: Luke V Smith
Stylist assistant: Matthew Needham