‘Candy’ publisher talks visionary trans magazine

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A new book — “The Candy Book of Transversal Creativity: The Best of Candy Magazine, Allegedly” — is hitting the shelves this month celebrating over a decade of the eye-catching, groundbreaking fashion and style magazine, “Candy.”

Founded by Spanish editor and publisher Luis Venegas, “Candy” has devoted its pages to the style and stories of the “transversal” community, as Venegas says, focusing on art, fashion, culture, makeup and glamour. The release of Venegas’ book collects the most inspirational and timeless images featured in “Candy”‘s pages over the last decade.

PGN spoke to Venegas about the impact and the influence that “Candy” may or may not have had on the world, both queer and mainstream, since its debut.

With the long history of “Candy,” what stands out to you?

For me, it was the idea of making this magazine and making it happen. I hadn’t seen any other like this before — to have it born and grow up and everything. The first issue was quite meaningful for me, but that’s just personal. There were a few issues that were much more significant and had a bigger impact out there. We had an issue called “The Candydate.” It was at a time when the Democrats were trying to decide who was going to be the person going to the White House. Was it going to be a Black man or a woman? Well, what if it was everything? What if it was a Black transgender woman as President of the United States? So we did a cover with that idea, and it was pretty successful. A couple of issues later, we did an issue with the most inspiring trans women in the world today. It was our role-model issue. There was Laverne Cox and Janet Mock and many other great transgender women who are role models. I feel like it was the first time the cover of a fashion and style magazine featured 14 transgender women in a foldout cover. Then, we did an issue with Lady Gaga naked that was inspired by art. We’ve had a few memorable moments.

Why describe the magazine as “transversal”? 

The word “transversal” I’ve heard being used more than ever in the last five or six years. For me, when I started 10 years ago, even though many people make it seem like it’s a transgender magazine, it’s not just a transgender magazine. There are drag queens, androgynous people and gender-nonconforming people. There are many different things on the gender spectrum. I felt like all of them are equally important for me inside the magazine. What do all these manifestations have in common? The force of change and of transitioning from one thing to another. I’m not saying they are all the same because they are completely different things, but all of them have in common this transition. So for me, trans is like when you say “transport” — to go from one place to another; it’s a journey. “Transversal” for me was something like “universal,” in a way. “Transversal” was a great way to put a lot of people under an umbrella. That’s why I described the magazine as “transversal.”

Do you think “Candy” has had an impact on popular culture, given the increased representation of trans people in mainstream media? 

I shouldn’t be saying this myself because I’m the man who made it with the help of great people, but I don’t know. When I think of 2009, when it started, I never saw any trans person on the front cover of any magazine. There were almost no trans characters in movies or TV shows. I’m not saying all those things have happened because of “Candy”; they’ve happened because there have been people fighting for the rights of many transversal people. Finally, society has heard the message and has taken the message more seriously. I feel like I was lucky to see the signs of something that was going to happen. It was the first magazine covering all those stories, not from political or social rights angles. I’ve always said the magazine celebrates the culture and the artistic legacy of all transversal manifestations. For me, it’s a style and fashion magazine. Can a fashion magazine change the world or influence society? Definitely. I think so. I’ve been influenced by many great publications myself. So I guess I have contributed to that positive social change. There are a lot of things to be done still, but I feel like I contributed to that a little with the magazine.

You say that the magazine isn’t political, but do you think in 2020, “Candy” can’t help but be politicized?

In the world we live in, everything is being politicized. Saying “I’m not interested in politics” is a luxury that only frivolous people can afford, because if you’re a person who cares about everybody else, you can’t say you’re not interested in politics. You have to be. And I am interested in politics, but that’s not the main subject of this magazine. It can be taken as a political statement, but I never intended for it to be like that. Once you do something and you put it out there for everybody, it can be taken in many different ways. I can respect all the many different takes on what I’ve done. Was it my intention to make it a political thing? Not at all. Can it be taken as political? Yes, of course, and why not? For me, “Candy” even though it wasn’t born for a political reason, the fact that it exists itself is somehow, especially 11 years ago, a political statement. It was like an iron fist inside a silk glove. It impacts you strongly, hopefully, but at the same time, you feel like it’s caressing you somehow. It’s beautiful, attractive, dreamy, glamorous and fun, and somehow that helps to spread the message of love and understanding.     

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Do you think the increased visibility of trans folks will widen the audience for your magazine?

I don’t know. Maybe it’s the opposite. When I was the only one doing it, there was a reason to keep on buying it. But now, with so many other people doing what I was doing 11 years ago, maybe I should change the subject. I am joking. I have no intention of changing anything or at least to keep changing forever. That would be more appropriate. I’d love to keep changing forever. That’s why I keep changing the graphics and the logo of the magazine. I feel like it’s there. It’s great to be celebrated. Even though there are magazines and media talking about similar matters, everything depends on how it’s done. I feel like I have a voice, and I try to be loyal to that voice I have. It’s a mix of avant-garde photography with glamorous content from the past. Somehow I try to have a different voice as a person. The people who like what I do can keep enjoying it anyway. It has a certain tone and way of speaking on matters that don’t compare to any other publications right now. I guess that’s part of its success.  

“The Candy Book of Transversal Creativity: The Best of Candy Magazine, Allegedly” hits stores March 24. For more information, visit https://byluisvenegas.myshopify.com/collections/candy.