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I Want Candy

Luis Venegas launches Candy, “the world’s first transversal style magazine”, with a drag-themed party at The George and Dragon.

In a fantastic riposte to the dwindling state of print media; Luis Venegas, the young visionary magazine publisher and editor of cult magazines Fanzine 137 and Electric Youth! has launched his bravest, most exciting concept yet; a magazine that celebrates the world of transgenderism – Candy. Like his other publications which have featured exclusive portfolios from the likes of Alasdair McLellan and Steven Klein, Candy boasts an impressive roster of contributors from Bruce Weber, Terry Richardson, to Dazed’s menswear editor, Robbie Spencer and Karim Sadli’s breathtaking depictions of Callum Wilson in couture Christian Lacroix and David Armstrong’s fragile depictions of beautiful boys in the broken-down knits of Rodarte. A moving interview with the writers of seminal and inspirational trans-tome Casa Susanna is accompanied by an epic shoot that’s lovingly inspired by it; featuring the likes of Luke Worrall and Cole Mohr in full drag. Interspersed are tributes to some of the most iconic figures in trans-history from Lypsinka, to Joey Arias and of course, the original Candy Darling. While wildly different from his previous ventures, Candy shares in common Venegas’ deeply personal approach to magazine publishing and desire to break down barriers.

Talking to Venegas on the phone from Madrid, it’s immediately apparent that he has an encyclopaedic knowledge and a deep love for magazines and pop culture in general. In between gossiping about Dynasty and the joys of seeing Colette’s Sarah Lerfels cameo on Gossip Girl, Dazed Digital found out how he got this Candy to taste so sweet.

Dazed Digital: I love the concept for Candy! What led you to want to create it and why was now a right time for it?
Luis Venegas: The thing is I love magazines. I get so excited checking out the magazines at the newsstand. But for me as an audience, I find there is no space for big surprises or things done in a new way. But there was just something in the air... Around June/July 2008, there was the issue of Italian Vogue with all the black models. All the papers were saying it was something new and exciting. It was more exciting 34 years ago when Beverley Johnson made the cover of Vogue USA! The Paris Vogue cover with Andre J was a catalyst. Also, I interviewed the hairdresser Jimmy Paul for Fanzine137, who used to drag queen in the early 90s. Jimmy told me: "You have to do it right now!" I thought about what is new and exciting and thought that it was time to show transversals in magazines. These days there are so many possibilities to change our appearances. Through surgery alone, we see rich women who look like transsexuals. In the civilised world, the gay movement is already accepted. But I thought it was time to celebrate the transversal world and all its many possibilities.  When I see these young guys from Central Saint Martins or at the shows wearing skirts, I love that.  Why not put on a nice Chanel jacket if you have the body for it?
It was not only about drag queens but also about androgyny. Few worlds relate to the world of fashion as much as the world of transvestites and androgyny. Because in that world, the appearance is very meaningful. Because for them, they become something else – the person they dream to be. When you put it all together, it’s really a very obvious idea. From Brassaï's Parisian photos in the 20s to the Elizabethan theatre where men played the role of women, fashion has always reflected that world.
I would love people to see the magazine and not care if they were boys or girls. First and foremost my idea was to do a beautiful magazine. It was more about doing something elegant and fun.

DD: It seems a very brave move to create such a unique publication in these hard times for the print media.  So you weren’t concerned with alienating backers and advertisers?
Luis Venegas: It was the worst time to do it in terms of money but I realized no advertisers would touch it even in times where there was money.  But I would hate to be scared about money and not to do it and find out someone else had done it six months down the line! So at least I got to do it first. I just want to say of course I need advertisers but they should realize the excitement of a new project like this.

DD: What fascinates you about drag? Is it the freedom and bravery it takes and how a drag queen is ultimately remaining true to herself while displaying a fantasy?
Luis Venegas: It’s not really about drag but about people brave enough to do what they wish. It’s something that we have in all of us – the curiosity, but for some it goes beyond that and means so much more.  It’s also a very creative process – to build an image. It’s interesting and great and anyone can relate to it. It seems a very obvious idea but people don’t dare. I hope it helps people to have courage.

Who was the first ‘transversal’ who captured your imagination and why?
Luis Venegas: I remember when I was five years old and I saw a clip of Boy George on Spanish TV. My older sister told me, “That girl is a boy” and I said, “What??” (laughs) I was so surprised. It was the image of makeup, dress and clothes, really I was mesmerized. In terms of a woman looking like a man, it was Desireless who sang that song “Voyage, Voyage”. Years later I fell in love with the trannies in George Michael’s “Too Funky” video, like Lypsinka whom I feel so honoured that she is in the magazine. Recently, I’m also very into Chastity Bono. If I am honest to this project, it’s about men and women who want to look opposite. There are so many possibilities.

You have a very impressive list of contributors for Candy, as with all your other projects. How did it all come together?
Luis Venegas: I’m very grateful to all my contributors. I started by asking them. Somehow it works and I only ask people I really admire.  The only secret is to ask in a polite and honest way. I was lucky all the people I asked said yes! I loved mixing people like Daniel Riera and Bruce Weber, Terry Richardson and Brett Lloyd. I think they get excited about working on a different project. My previous work has given me some credit in a positive way so people feel like they can trust me. I feel so honoured. I really want them to be proud.

DD: Tell us a bit about the cover story shoot with models like Cole Mohr and Luke Worrall in drag.
Luis Venegas: That shoot was inspired by a wonderful book called Casa Susanna. I was talking about it with (photographer) Brett Lloyd. It turned out to be the most amazing shoot in the magazine! The team of Brett, Kim Jones (stylist), Murray Arthur (producer) and Andrea Cellerino (set designer) and of course the models! Then make up artist Ayami Nishimura and hair dresser Tracie Cant did an amazing work making that idea come true! Everyone came in a wonderful mood and it was very fun to see. It was like a party but the results were great. It intoxicated the rest of the project.

DD: From Fanzine137 to Electric Youth!, your approach to making magazines seems very personal, which is at odds with nowadays where magazines seem launched by market research. What drives you to do what you do?
Luis Venegas: I don’t know how to do it in a different way.  I have a background as an art director and I am used to working with big fashion houses where you have to be very specific. But when I have the chance to do a project on my own, I’m free to do what I want.

EY! Is very sexually charged but there is also a lightness and humour to it. How much does eroticism inform you as a magazine editor?
Luis Venegas: The idea was to do a young magazine. And youth is the time of our lives specially associated with sex, fun and humour. It doesn’t have to be intellectual. My inspiration was magazines like Tigerbeat and Bravo. Teens could read it but at the same time, if you were older, you could read between the lines and find almost a portrait of a generation. Most of the guys we featured were interviewed for the first time and it made them feel like stars. It’s about a time of life when people are discovering sex. And sex is natural. It’s funny when people find my magazine more sexually charged when there are teen magazines that have titles like “Jonas Bros Uncovered!” I guess it’s because lot of the models are in their underwear! But I just love to have fun with what I do!

DD: Both EY! and Candy celebrate masculinity in completely different ways – how would you define your ideal of masculinity?
Luis Venegas: I have no ideal of masculinity. I guess it’s being who you are, not afraid. I like a man who is honest, polite, funny, intelligent and passionate. Someone you can have lots of fun with. Working with Bruce Weber – that was an ideal. He has built up a universe around him that’s so personal and he is so great and generous. Seeing Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie at Cannes, where he looked so well ironed in his Tom Ford suit. I love that but that’s an image of fantasy made true. I prefer things I can relate with.

DD: Is there any common thread that links all three titles you publish?
Luis Venegas: The common thread is me! (laughs) I try to make it as personal as possible and try to do something different and surprising. After EY! I saw some projects appear that have some of the essence of EY! But I would rather try something new.  At the same time, there other common thread is that they are all limited edition. Somehow it makes people who have the chance to have it feel more special.

DD: And finally, have you had any personal forays into drag? What would your trannie name be?                                                                                                                               
Luis Venegas: Not really. As a kid, I don’t know whether it came from my mother. I used to dress up for the Carnival in February as a female flamenco dancer, an old woman, a pregnant woman, a nun. And I have to say I loved that! For the party, I’m going to go as Anna Wintour – so I guess my name would be something like Luisa Wintour!

CANDY 1 from Luis Venegas on Vimeo.