Brooke Candy on Her 10-Year Career and Hoping to Make Fans 'Smile' with Cheeky 'Juicy Fruit' Video

Candy tells PEOPLE about the '80s-inspired song and music video, hustling as an independent artist and collaborating with the likes of Grimes and Sia

After more than a decade in music, Brooke Candy is standing in her power.

Since the Los Angeles-born performer hit the scene in 2012 with sexually charged pop-rap bangers like "Das Me," she's worked through both niche club scenes and the music industry's big leagues, collaborating with stars like Grimes, Charli XCX, Lizzo and Sia along the way.

Now, Candy's in the midst of her most liberated and independent era with a new single and music video, "Juicy Fruit," which premieres exclusively on PEOPLE.

"It's unique and a lot different than what I've done in the past. The visual taps into a different era that I cherish. It's a little bit '80s, and I want to run with that," Candy, 33, tells PEOPLE of the electro-pop banger, co-written and produced alongside Jesse Saint John, Nick Weiss and Cecile Believe. "I'm just happy to still be able to make music, express myself through art and make a living doing it. I feel really lucky."

Brooke Candy Premieres 'Juicy Fruit'
Brooke Candy. Simone Niamani

Directed by J.J. Stratford, the music video for "Juicy Fruit" — filmed on authentic '80s-era equipment — sees the musician embodying icons like Cher, Pete Burns and Faye Dunaway. Laden with bright colors and vintage effects, she plays guitar and snacks on fruit while chanting the cheeky lyrics: "The boys want / The girls want / My wet hot / My juicy fruit."

"Juicy Fruit" ushers in a new look and sound for Candy, but the creative process was familiar. She worked with longtime collaborators including hairstylist Gregory Russell, makeup artist Anthony Nguyen and wardrobe designer Seth Pratt. "They work with the biggest artists in the world, but when we get together, we just have fun," she says. "Everyone on set was giggling. It was very, very silly. As I get older, I cherish moments like that. I really just want to have fun."

Born to a pediatric nurse mother and father Tom, former CFO of Hustler magazine, one might think Candy grew up surrounded by the type of provocative art she creates today — but that's not the case. She graduated high school at 17 with dreams of becoming a photographer and moved to San Francisco, where she spent time in creative, mostly queer circles that introduced her to "the power in being sexually expressive." In her early 20s, she returned to L.A., ready to launch into musicianship.

Brooke Candy Premieres 'Juicy Fruit'
Brooke Candy. Simone Niamani

"I found a lot of power in expressing my body and who I am as a sexual being. Well, I forgot — I was also a stripper, so that probably helped quite a bit as well," Candy recalls with a laugh. "But I think maybe the start of it all was just being born, because I have genetics that blessed me with giant boobs and a lot of sass… I'm just kidding."

Shortly after returning to her home city, she adopted a "cyborg, sci-fi, gangster alien" persona and began sporting metallic, robot-like bodysuits and colorful cornrowed hair — a choice she now regrets. One night at an underground party, the eye-catching look caught the attention of a then-upcoming Grimes, who asked Candy to star in the video for her breakout 2012 hit, "Genesis," which has since amassed over 77 million views.

The next week, she donned the same look to shoot the music video for her debut single "Das Me," which also became a viral online hit and stamped her signature style into viewers' minds. "I don't know if I was clever enough to know that if I wore the same outfit that I wore in the Grimes' video, people would be able to identify me," Candy says. "That's just how I dressed every day. I was out of my f—ing mind. I still am, but it was very extreme back then."

Over the following year, she performed in nightclubs, released bombastic singles like "I Wanna F— Right Now" and collaborated with the likes of XCX, confusing her parents along the way. "I don't think anyone believed that I was going to make what I made happen, happen," she says. "Now, they are very, very proud."

Candy then found a fan in Sia, who helped her sign a deal with RCA Records in early 2014. "She's a sweet angel person who just wants to help everyone around her, and she's a real creative," she says of the "Cheap Thrills" hitmaker. "She writes a song so quickly, and you're watching it happen, and it's so cool to watch. I have so much respect for her."

Shortly after releasing her confidently rowdy debut EP Opulence, however, she learned the record label wanted her to make more easily marketable, radio-friendly songs. "I was on a trajectory that was really solid, and I did the stupid thing and bit the apple," recalls the musician, who left RCA in 2017 with a sour taste in her mouth. "It's a Chutes and Ladders thing. I signed the deal, and I fell down a chute. Then, I had to work my way back up again."

Brooke Candy Premieres 'Juicy Fruit'
Brooke Candy. Simone Niamani

Luckily, Candy is resilient. Months later, she scored an opening slot on Lizzo's Good as Hell Tour, formed a creative partnership with the soon-to-be superstar and worked as the stylist for the "Truth Hurts" video — years before it became a No. 1 hit.

"I remember just watching her from backstage and feeling like, 'Wow, this human being has more stage presence than anyone I've ever seen.' It was hypnotic," recalls Candy. "She was super cool and nice. It was a great experience."

Candy then continued flexing her collaborative muscles, rapping on the 2017 cult favorite "I Got It" with XCX, CupcakKe and Pabllo Vittar before reuniting with the trio (as well as Big Freedia) for 2019's "Shake It." She proved herself as an artist who adds a particular cool factor to any song she appears on, which incentivized the likes of Iggy Azalea, Erika Jayne, Ashnikko and Rico Nasty to feature on her long-awaited debut album, 2019's Sexorcism.

Brooke Candy Premieres 'Juicy Fruit'
Brooke Candy. Simone Niamani

"It was crazy how many of the artists were down [to work together]," she says of the project, released via U.K. label NUXXE. "I was very, very surprised."

Around the same time, Candy found love in tattoo artist Kyle England, whom she married later that year. During the pandemic, she took a step back from music for the first time and began tattooing as a new creative and professional outlet, which she's continued through today. "Mainly, it's just for my sanity. It keeps me so mindful and aware," she explains. Last year, she felt ready to return to music — with England's full support.

"Most of my life I existed in a very delusional space. I'm never tethered to the ground at all, and I've run into a lot of problems because of it. He's the opposite — so tethered to the ground, and he's so pragmatic," says Candy. "He really balances my brain."

Brooke Candy Premieres 'Juicy Fruit'
Brooke Candy. Simone Niamani

Following recent singles "Flip Phone" and "Yoga," "Juicy Fruit" is the latest release of Candy's new era, her first time operating as a fully independent artist in almost 10 years. A lot has changed in the music industry since then, as the nightclubs and niche scenes that used to breed pop stars have largely been replaced by social media.

"You could really stand out when I started," she says. "It didn't even matter if you were really a star. The underground thought you were, because that was some s— they'd never seen before."

Achieving superstar status in music is much more difficult these days, so she's decided not to chase it anymore. "I was a demon in the past, who was so obsessed with success, and the more I listed after it, the more empty I felt," admits Candy. "Now, the pendulum has swung in the opposite direction. I don't see any value in any of that. I want the most simple, peaceful, serene life. I literally can't think of anything that I want. I'm so content with what I have."

Looking forward, she simply wants to provide her fans with a good time, which songs like "Juicy Fruit" are sure to accomplish. "If I can make someone smile with this song or video, that's incredible, and I did my job," says Candy. "That's all I want — to bring a little bit of positivity to the world."

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