Meet CANDYNA, the Queer Performer Taking Over Europe
Candy Tish works in the restaurant industry to help pay the bills and stunts on the stage to help fuel her passions. This Greek performer has done it all — their own discography, styling catalog, performance booking site and little black book. Not many can claim to have led as interesting of a life as Miss Tish so she sat down with us to share her own story of how she got to where she is now, and where they want to go.
Shifter Magazine: First let’s cover the basics, what are your pronouns?
Candy Tish: You can call me whatever you like — pronouns don't matter to me. I mean you can call me superstar or icon. (Kidding!)
SM: And where can someone attend one of your performances?
CT: I'm from Thessaloniki, Greece and that’s where I perform. I haven’t performed this past year because this COVID-19 is a real bad bitch. But I want to be ready when I return so I’m going to slowly come back to the stage. I have some shows in Thessaloniki and London for 2022, but I don't know the dates yet.
SM: We’re glad you can get back to the usual this year. On stage, you use your own name and the name ‘CANDYNA.’ Where did your name, Candy Tish, and stage name, CANDYNA, come from?
CT: So, when I was 16, Miley Cyrus's mom used to be my icon for many reasons. So I chose her name as my "last name" and Candy came from the singer and TikToker Candy Ken. He was the reason I took my first steps towards becoming more “stylish.”
SM: Tell me about what sparked your passion for drag. How did you come to be a performer?
CT: I prefer to call myself a queer performer and not a drag queen or anything like that. But the passion came from the joy I got out of entertaining people — I love showing them my outfits and my art.
Alaska Thunderfuck was the reason I started performing. She is so fashionable and so good at lip-syncing. And what I prefer to do when I’m performing is lip sync and do a bit of dancing. I’d like to sing my own songs like Alaska Thunderfuck does, but I’m pretty sure I’d be shit. Now, my dream is to be a performer for rave parties.
SM: What can someone expect to see at one of your performances?
CT: When I'm about to perform I dress the part. Sometimes I’m practically naked, but it’s still fashionable. When people come to my shows they have to be ready for a lot. I’m always friendly and dancing with the people in the audience. For me, when I’m on stage the only thing on my mind is to entertain the people as much as I can.
SM: You don’t only perform for a living, you’ve talked about your other side hustles. Can you talk about how you’re involved with the sex work industry?
CT: I met my first client when I was 18. You know, I was a student. I used to live all alone in a city with no experience to help me get a job. And, you know, my lifestyle is a little bit expensive. The need to buy more and more clothes was getting bigger and bigger so I started thinking sex work might be the answer. And in the end, I thought I had to try because I really needed the money. That’s how it started.
SM: How have you felt about your time in the sex work industry?
CT: Feelings are mixed when doing this job, you know what I'm saying? The first few months I was sad and scared because when you’re 18 and you’re seeing men anywhere from 28 to 60 years old it’s scary. Because they are strangers. I tried to get rid of my nerves since they hinder my ability to work. It was hard. Of course, you can’t just stop being scared altogether.
Sex work helped me to be smarter, more "strong" as a person — and to understand everyone's intention and attitude from the first text they sent me.
SM: You have a unique stance on sex work that many don't share. Can you explain why you think there should be more people who are open about not regretting their time in the sex work industry?
CT: From the start, I was never afraid to share with someone that I’m a sex worker. I was like, ‘why can’t people accept this as a job?' But then I realized that if you’re not comfy with you and what you’re doing other people won't be either. Realizing and accepting your profession, your style, your whatever is the first step for success. That’s my opinion.
SM: Your style is hard to miss. Can you tell us about how you got into makeup and fashion?
CT: Fashion, for me, is everything. I want to work with clothes and style every day until I die. I think that’s the one thing I’m 100% sure about in my life. When I was 16 I started reading fashion magazines and checking e-magazines for new style trends. Then when I finished school I started studying fashion, styling and how to do photoshoots.
When I was 18 Hemnoid told me they were interested in doing something with me. It was my first professional photoshoot and of course, I said "yes, let's do it!" I was so happy. My whole life was boring until then — I saw the photos from the shoot and I knew I liked modeling a lot. I decided anything to do with fashion was what I wanted to do in my life.
Now, after 5 years, I’m still so proud of my first photoshoot and proud of every single one I’ve done since. I’m more proud to have done interviews and amazing collaborations than I am having 20 thousand followers. I can see people find something good in what I produce, and that’s what makes me feel so good about what I do.
SM: What's your favorite look that you've done for yourself or someone else?
CT: Here are both of them.
Styling by @candytish
Model agency: @team.mgmt
Makeup artist: @kastiee
Styling by @candytish
Outfit and handmade choker: @celebrityskinstrepkos
Makeup artist @foxyanni
SM: What's it like to be a young, queer person in the sex industry and queer community? Tell us about your experiences, both good and bad.
CT: Let me say that I don’t feel that I’m part of the Greek drag community, but I can accept that I’m a piece of it. Being a young queer person, artist and sex worker is a lot. I can't share a lot of specifics about what I do, so I'll try to answer as best as I can.
The sure thing is that every day will be different and sometimes that's good and sometimes it isn't. Money comes and goes in short bursts. Saving isn’t easy with my job. You might be out of work for days if you don’t have any clients, but then you could work every night for a month. There’s no way to know.
SM: How have you embraced your queerness?
CT: The only answer I can think of is that the right question would be how my queerness embraced me.
SM: Tell us about what projects you've been most proud of in your time styling, performing and singing.
CT: Here are my favorite looks. Sorry, but really they are two of them.
Styling by @candytish
Click/Art direction: @manrozou
Makeup artist: @faih.c
Click/Art direction: @matthew_matthew_78
Makeup artist: luiza.peppe
I also loved my first performance with my girl Nene (@Nyennea) in Thessaloniki. And, of course, my favorite song is my first one and it's called “Candy TheBadass.”
SM: What are your aspirations? Tell us what's next for Candy Tish.
CT: Okay I have so, so many plans I’m thinking about. I want to perform in London, Berlin and somewhere in Spain. My performance in London will take place later this year and hopefully, I can knock out Berlin too.
I want to start working more on being a stylist. I want to make money to live first then to have the luxurious life I want for myself. When I’m talking with other people and say I want to make real money one day they’re always like, “you think that money can buy happiness?” And I’m always like, “yes is there something I said that you didn’t understand?”
The last thing that I want to get done now aside from fashion projects is to record 3-4 more songs to make my first EP.
SM: Do you have any pro-tips to share for people who want to perform like you do?
CT: What can I say about this as a person with not that much experience… Just be yourself on stage. Feel it, grow proud of who you are. My girls, you wanna love yourself first and I wanna share my love for the queer/drag artists around the whole world right now.
Photos courtesy of Candy Tish.