we did a fashion shoot with brooke candy over skype
Palestinian artist Shukri Lawrence has loved Freaky Prince$$ rapper Brooke Candy since he was 14. So we said, why don’t you just phone her up over Skype and do a bonkers fashion shoot?
Self-acceptance can be challenging when going through difficult times -- especially when you’re a teenager. I remember back in 2013 when I first discovered Brooke Candy, the Freaky Prince$$ rapper whose iconic music every Tumblr kid knows by heart.
I was amazed by her empowering message of self-love. I started considering an artist to look up to. With her outré music videos and looks, Brooke plays a lot with the idea of duality; having the good and the bad mixed together in peace. With songs like Das Me and Living Out Loud, she’s experimented with different genres of music while staying true to her authentic message. Collaborating with people like Charli XCX, Sia, Nicola Formichetti and Steven Klein, she’s one of the most interesting and fascinating artists in music at the moment.
When I thought of the many different definitions of peace, Brooke came to mind as someone portraying a certain type of inner peace that I admire; self-acceptance. For i-D’s Peace Week, we navigated my really bad internet connection to jump on a long distance Skype call and talk duality, getting kicked out of her house for being queer, and how she eventually managed to find inner peace.
When you perform on stage, you create a safe environment for your audience where they can freely express themselves. Can you describe what you feel in an environment like that?
Performing is always a transcendental experience. It’s like that moment when I’m actually able to gauge the fans’ interests and see what they like and what they don’t like. It’s a real and raw exchange of energy and there’s no other way to get that. You can’t get it through social media, through likes or selfies. You get it through performing, and for me it’s like my therapy. That moment with my fans, being face to face, is so vital for me to continue making art.
How do you deal with pain as an artist?
When I feel pain in my own life I turn it into art. I'm very grateful because the universe has given me the propensity to feel immense pain and immense bliss, and I’ve learned that one does not exist without the other. You know, radical self acceptance, self control and self love helps to obliterate a lot of pain. When I’m performing I feel like, as you were saying, I create a safe space. I want disenfranchised, ostracised communities and queer kids who create their own narratives, go against the grain, and don’t listen to society’s standards, to come to my show and feel like they’re at home. They can look to me as a pillar for someone who’s fully uninhibited and just doing whatever they want. I’m happy to take the heat for being strange or a freak. It’s difficult but it’s who I am! I think when we speak our truth, and speak from our hearts while being true to ourselves, that helps obliterate an immense amount of pain.
You play a lot with the idea of duality; in your video for Happy Days you brought peace between pain and happiness and mixed them together. Can you explain the inspiration behind that video?
I’ve experienced both in immense amounts, and I feel like you have to have one to truly understand the other. They need to coexist. You won’t understand true bliss unless you’ve like met the Devil. Or you’ve understood the depths of despair. I feel like I’ve seen both sides and now I’m trying to exist somewhere in the middle; like in that grey area. So Happy Days is a representation of that grey area. The musicality of the song isn’t something I’m used to but the message spoke so strongly to me that it made sense.
You’ve mentioned in the past that your mother kicked you out of your house for coming out as queer and you basically had to survive on your own. Can you describe what going through that is like?
When I was going through that, it felt like I was going through hell. There’s no way to explain the feeling of when a parent abandons you. Someone you’re supposed to look up to and seek out for guidance. For me, that was all ripped away. I was on my own, I didn’t really have grasp on like anything because I was pushed out by someone who I looked up to, trusted and loved. I started to doubt myself and question myself. But I think that time in my life ended up being the most valuable. So when I started making music I wanted to be where I am now and where I am now is saying I’m a good person, I have my feet on the ground and I’m trying to find balance and peace.
In a way, being queer made you lose a part of your life but also saved you and helped you find who Brooke Candy is.
Yeah! It comes back to duality.
So how did you manage to find inner peace within yourself during rough times?
You know, I’m still on a path trying to figure that out. But I think that during the most difficult times, you need to maintain some sort of inner peace and look within yourself. The more that I work on myself and try to find peace within my own mind, it helps obliterate a lot of the pain. I was so traumatised that the pain had to escape somehow. I’ve made art in the past, I painted, drew, took photos, but I naturally gravitated towards music. Now I just retreat back in on the inside and take a break. You have to give yourself a moment to breath and clear your head. Don’t take other people’s actions and blame yourself for them. I now understand that someone else’s issues with me have nothing to do with me. I’ve only understood that because I got into self reflection and self love. I think that’s a key component.
Back in early 2013 when I first heard Das Me, I was around 14 years old and seeing a queer woman telling me to not give a fuck and to reclaim the negative connotations thrown at me in high school was super important for me. It made me feel empowered and kept me going through high school. How did you survive being bullied at a young age?
Ah, that’s great! Back in high school I was really clueless. My best friend happened to be the only openly gay person in like... my town! I admired the immense strength he possessed and just wanted to have that. I didn’t have a good childhood growing up, I didn’t have the right creative outlets and none of the stuff I have now. I looked to him for guidance and strength. I just think I got lucky. I thank whoever is looking out for me in the universe everyday, or whatever energy is out there that’s guiding me, because sometimes I don’t know how I got through it. I’m just happy I did because now I’m able to talk to you and I’m able to help other people.
Do you have any advice you’d like to give to the 2012 Brooke Candy?
I would tell her to just stick with her guns, stay true to her heart, be honest with herself, don’t trust the man, don’t give into the machine and just don’t sell out, because it’s not her path. I’d just tell her that everything is going to be okay. She’s not responsible for other people’s hatred and actions. She’s only responsible for herself.
And lastly, what do you think peace means in 2018?
We need to go inwards before we help. We need to work on ourselves. We need to work on righteous self love and self control and then spread it. We have to dive within before we change our surroundings. I think we’re moving into a time where that’s becoming a normal thing. If every single person practiced integrity, kindness and tried becoming the best version of themselves, we would elevate and transcend. We are now hitting the depths of the darkness before we see the light. And that goes back to the duality, because we need to hit a bottom before you understand that there’s a place of light and peace. I think we’re in that now and I’m really hopeful for the future. I think human beings are amazing. We are so dynamic and have the ability to be so much more than what we are. We are coming to a point where we all see that and understand that. The planet is having a major positive shift. It’s just getting rid of all the demons and darkness on the way. It is going to suck for a while but we’re all going to get there together.