Use what you’ve got. Sometimes we think we need this or that before we begin. Use what you have at your fingertips to get things started. Never did I think I could do what I do — make handbags with my two hands and an imagination. Some things may need upskilling, but I had everything to get started on the road to success.
Many successful people reinvented themselves in a later period in their life. Jeff Bezos worked in Wall Street before he reinvented himself and started Amazon. Sara Blakely sold office supplies before she started Spanx. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was a WWE wrestler before he became a successful actor and filmmaker. Arnold Schwarzenegger went from a bodybuilder, to an actor to a Governor. McDonald’s founder Ray Croc was a milkshake-device salesman before starting the McDonalds franchise in his 50’s.
How does one reinvent themselves? What hurdles have to be overcome to take life in a new direction? How do you overcome those challenges? How do you ignore the naysayers? How do you push through the paralyzing fear?
In this series called “Second Chapters; How I Reinvented Myself In The Second Chapter Of My Life “ we are interviewing successful people who reinvented themselves in a second chapter in life, to share their story and help empower others.
As a part of this interview series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ms. Candy Blog.
Klout’s #1 female live-streamer, “Ms. Candy Blog,” Candy Marlo, is the first candy live-streamer and a World of Wonder (Emmy winning production company of RuPaul’s Drag Race) award nominated YouTuber. With a degree in English and two in theatre, coupled with a background in corporate training and instructional design, she has worked for such brands as Google/YouTube, Yahoo!, J.P. Morgan and American Express. In her “second act”, Candy is the CEO and creator of Cake Purse, a collection of sweets-inspired wearable handbags and accessories, created to resemble all that’s yummy and fun!
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
Thank you for the opportunity! I grew up in Central New Jersey with a love of all things sweet and sparkly.
For as long as I can remember, candy has played a role in my life. Whenever my brother, sister or I walked into a store that sold candy, the candy aisle was the first place we visited. An analysis occurred: what’s new, what’s been rebranded, is the seasonal candy on the shelf yet — why or why not, but most importantly, WHEN?
Always a performer with a love of glitter and sequins, I was involved in local theatre. The influences of “Saturday Night Live” and Andy Kaufman, INXS and Queen, as well as E.T. and RuPaul, fueled my creative spirit and validated my flair for the dramatic. One of 3 children, I was a very serious student who was determined to become an actress.
I earned English and theatre degrees from Rutgers University. That way, I would be able to “support myself as an English teacher” per my parents’ thoughts. I completed my degrees in 3 years, graduating early because I wanted to begin my life. My acting teacher at the Lee Strasberg Institute encouraged me to go to Los Angeles as they would appreciate my “New York type”. So I headed West and landed my first role at my first audition for a “Fran Drescher” type; I never thought of myself that way, but apparently that was spot on as I went on to co-star on “The Nanny”!
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“When you become the image of your own imagination, it’s the most powerful thing you can do.” — RuPaul
In mid 2013, I found myself without a job. I was on a constant drip of RuPaul’s “Glamazon” album as I diligently searched for a job, crying all day and night, wishing something would happen and then one day in the winter of 2014, it did.
I created a project that would bring me happiness, which in turn would bring happiness to other people. And I thought, “Okay, I’ll start a blog.” But what would it be about? I thought, “Well, I like fashion and beauty.” But there were a million fashion and beauty blogs. And it needed to be about something I’d like and want to write about for a very long time. “Well, I like candy,” I thought.
So I figured, “Candy shows up in fashion and beauty a lot. I’ll focus on candy, but for a fashion and beauty loving audience.” Okay, but what should it be called? That was perhaps the hardest part. It had to have “candy” in it so those searching for “candy” would easily find it. And it was going to be a blog so… And then, while talking about “RuPaul’s Drag Race (circa 2014)”, Ms. Candy Blog was realized.
In May 2014, RuPaul released a candy bar! (“WHAT?! I’m creating a candy blog inspired by RuPaul and RuPaul has a candy bar??? Was this written in the stars or just a strange coincidence? OH MY GAWD!”) At the same time, I went to the largest confectionery gathering in the US, the Sweets and Snacks Expo, and pitched “Ms. Candy Blog” to the candy industry. Companies were receptive and they gave me a lot of candy — a suitcase full!
June came and I finally found employment at YouTube of all places. How could I work at YouTube with Ms. Candy Blog in my back pocket and not have a YouTube channel? So I shot videos of all of the candy I brought home, plus the RuPaul candy bar. I uploaded the first video (the RuPaul one) on a Monday and that Friday, World of Wonder, the now multi-award winning production company of RuPaul’s Drag Race, contacted me with an offer to join their YouTube network.
I spent the following year and a half creating candy and RuPaul focused videos for YouTube before discovering live-streaming, emerging as Klout’s top female live-streamer (2015). Because of my theatre background, I thrived off the energy created by the viewers entering the “room”, their thoughts, and the stream of emoticons. It was this very energy which gave rise to the true character of Ms. Candy Blog — larger than life, quick and sassy, she’s not worried about what other people think and does/says as she pleases, often breaking into song.
She also got away with some pretty bold makeup and clothing choices. While YouTube/live-streaming performances were delivered in a black “Ms. Candy Blog” branded t-shirt topped off with a big, bon bon headpiece, in person appearances required “candy couture”. I created a few pieces of candy inspired “lewks”; one in particular is a sequined dress version of the RuPaul candy bar box which caught the eyes of the powers that be at World of Wonder.
As a result, I landed a development deal based on my creation of the first all drag kids book, “Baby Drag Artists Yearbook” which spawned the award-nominated first drag kids’ podcast (2018). I then designed “nail gloves” to serve the young drag artist community, as well as adults, most notably pop icon Debbie Harry and nightlife icon Amanda Lepore. My work appeared in Vice, The Huffington Post and The Guardian. The company was selected to participate in HSN’s American Dreams program.
RuPaul said, ““When you become the image of your own imagination, it’s the most powerful thing you can do.” l became everything that little drama queen from central New Jersey could dream of and even more!
How would your best friend describe you?
Like a bon bon — -layered and sweet, wrapped up in a shimmering package!
You have been blessed with much success. In your opinion, what are the top three qualities that you possess that have helped you accomplish so much?
Uniqueness: From being teased on the very first day of kindergarten for my pink coat having faux fur on the hood to being bullied for my “Rod Stewart’s sister”, Medusa and Eddie Van Halen hair during adolescence, I learned at an early age that I was not like everyone else. I had to wait until I was old enough to escape small minded thinking and find my people, who understood and accepted me. As a result, I have a thick skin which afforded me the opportunity to take all those barbs and comments, decorate them in crystals, and strategically place them to build my world.
Fungibility: My middle name could’ve been “pivot” — I should’ve been a swiss army knife. I’m so fungible that when I was recently asked my age, I literally said, “How old do you need me to be?” You can always drive on a road of green lights if you can figure out and execute a work around solution. Don’t know something? Google it! Wanna learn something? Look for it on YouTube! My brand has pivoted so many times based on my audience and their interests/needs. Just recently someone contacted me to tell me what my next venture should be — I guess they’re onto me!
Creativity: My mother was a very creative person. She couldn’t sew or draw, but she was always able to whip up some fantastical creation, helping with projects or costumes. My sister was a birthday party table one Halloween; it was the 80’s and there weren’t any Halloween superstores, let alone the thought of ecomm. I played a daffodil in my third grade play and she dreamt up some yellow cuffs, shared her concept with a seamstress, and had them made. To this day, I have a metallic gold gladiator costume from when I was Mazeppa in Gypsy that she had made. Would it shock you if I told you she had a florist design the plumage of a gladiator helmet to complete the look? So I have some of my mom’s creativity — writing, singing, “crafting” is what I’ll call some of it, but it was never named that back then.
Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion about ‘Second Chapters’. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before your Second Chapter?
I taught middle and high school throughout New Jersey before becoming the youngest full-time trainer at a corporate training company where I traveled 120 days, teaching presentation skills, sales skills, writing for business skills, and virtual presentation skills (way before Zoom!). I then worked for CitySearch (pre-Yelp) as a training manager, building and rolling out their sales training. JPMorgan employed me as a training specialist where I worked with securities services and client service.
By then, the world had gone digital and I took an internship to understand the lay of the land with a company called Grandparents.com. Yes, I said “internship” — at 15 dollars an hour. Yahoo! delighted me next, and I bled purple with sales training for a short time. Last one in and the first one out, I then had two back to back contracts with YouTube (Google), working on their education team. I helped create what has become the industry standard for video, YouTube Certified, as well as their first MOOC (massive open online course) for the Creator Academy, now a standard for digital platforms. YouTube gave me the opportunity to try my hand at a number of roles including communication strategist and community manager.
I then went to American Express and served their community, when we found out my mom had cancer. I took a job with VIPKid, teaching English as a second language to students mostly in China, as it allowed me income and time to spend with my family.
And how did you “reinvent yourself” in your Second Chapter?
My second chapter is “cake” — literally and figuratively! Cake Purse is my latest venture which
is a continuation of my mission to sweeten people’s lives. Made of 100% inedible ingredients, sugar and calorie-free, handmade handbags (sneakers, headpieces, rings and other accessories too) are created for those with a passion for fashion and a love of yummy treats. All pieces are made to order, designed and crafted by me. I’ve created everything from cake slice purses to ice cream cones handbags to Lady Gaga’s pink and green Oreo as a bag to a 5 tiered wedding cake purse for a bride’s big day!
Can you tell us about the specific trigger that made you decide that you were going to “take the plunge” and make your huge transition?
I began Cake Purse after a sell out show at Cookie Con LA in February 2020; I had every intention of travelling from sweets show to sweets show with my line, Sprinkleswear (sprinkle covered headpieces, made of 100% inedible ingredients, sugar and calorie-free), but then Covid hit. Baking became the “thing” to do. I am a “maker” so I played with the concept of cake and came up with Cake Purse! My first handbag was a giant rainbow cake slice inspired by Carlo’s Bakery’s rainbow cake. I am from New Jersey, after all!
What did you do to discover that you had a new skillset inside of you that you haven’t been maximizing? How did you find that and how did you ultimately overcome the barriers to help manifest those powers?
Whenever something is new, I let any nerves or doubt propel me forward into the white space — turn what could be a negative feeling for some into a positive. What do you have to lose if you don’t try except maybe an opportunity — a chance to learn, grow, push yourself, push what already exists? There was quite a bit of trial and error — okay, so some things wound up in the garbage, but so what? That’s what experimentation is. It’s only a “failure” if you don’t learn something from it. (I say fail with quotes because what really can be considered a failure when you are breaking new ground?) Maybe you don’t know the right products to use or maybe you’re using them incorrectly? That’s fine. Just keep iterating, keep moving. If you stop, that’s when you “fail”.
How are things going with this new initiative?
Things are moving along. Cake Purse was featured in the Huffington Post in a holiday gift list. Orders are coming in. Pieces are in production which will be featured in a few magazines. I used to make these sweets-inspired purses to learn, to push myself, or for fun, but it’s at the point where I am settling down to iterate on a few key items which seem to be the most popular. There are a few interesting ideas that have bubbled to the surface; watch this space!
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I happened to have married a very sweet man named Joe Gorelick who is my biggest supporter in every way possible. He has been behind the Ms. Candy Blog idea since day one. A partner and creative director at a prominent marketing and communications firm in Manhattan, he holds a degree in design from Pratt, mixed with a ton of tech savvy, and a big helping of love. He serves as my creative director, having designed every logo for every brand that’s popped out of my head.
The first YouTube videos I created were shot and edited by Joe as I put together a heavy content calendar. Every weekend was a shopping trip for the videos, combined with shooting. Then he would edit the videos during the week in his very little free time. This went on for about a year before I discovered live-streaming, which was a much more raw experience as it was live and in the moment.
How many husbands would fly across the country to make what has become an annual pilgrimage to RuPaul’s Drag Con? When RuPaul shared his appreciation for my LGBTQ work and triggered the idea of creating an organization for drag kids, something many shunned as they didn’t understand it, Joe believed in the concept as we both know “how hard life can be for those who live life on their own terms”. We published the first all drag kids book featuring studio shot photography of a handful of drag kids in their best “lewks”, parents standing right there. He shot and edited the entire project, and again flew cross country to help sell the book.
I’ve pivoted a million times with a variety of pursuits and every time, Joe has unwaveringly gone there, getting into the mindset of the concept and its intended audience. And while I’m iterating, he’s running alongside me, cheering me on, wiping away any tears or fears.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?
I am not a baker, let alone a cake decorator, but for some reason, I am drawn to “sugar art” as it’s been called. Inspired by real cakes, my Instagram feed is filled with buttercream dreams come to life. When the Huffington Post saw my work, they said my bags were “too cakey”, i.e. the purses looked too much like real cake for people to recognize they were handbags! Now that’s a compliment!
Did you ever struggle with believing in yourself? If so, how did you overcome that limiting belief about yourself? Can you share a story or example?
All. The. Time. But after so many years of bullying and teasing, how much crying can you do? I have learned how to manage the negativity which, if you want to get down to it, was all RuPaul. I was in college when “Supermodel of the World” was initially released and it became the soundtrack to my life. RuPaul was everything I wanted to be: beyond beautiful, strong, and a force to be reckoned with. My love of the dramatic and big personality finally made sense. It was okay to be different, to “play with all the colors in the crayon box.” Without RuPaul, I never would’ve been able to function and I’d have absolutely nothing; I was “saved by a supermodel”. Let the naysayers be damned — take the negativity and turn it into positivity: prove them wrong and “let them have it!”
In my own work I usually encourage my clients to ask for support before they embark on something new. How did you create your support system before you moved to your new chapter?
My mother battled cancer from 2016–2019. During that time, I was less and less able to create. After she left us, I began creating sweets inspired headpieces. That led me to experiment with different materials which brought me to Cake Purse. So aside from my husband/creative director’s support, I like to think my mom is somewhere out there guiding this “cake” portion of my life.
Starting a new chapter usually means getting out of your comfort zone, how did you do that? Can you share a story or example of that?
It doesn’t get any more uncomfortable than staying up all night caring for a sick loved one or catching a few winks in a hospital chair. I was so far out of my comfort zone, the opportunity to create was a breath of fresh air.
Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why? Please share a story or example for each.
- Use what you’ve got.: Sometimes we think we need this or that before we begin. Use what you have at your fingertips to get things started. Never did I think I could do what I do — make handbags with my two hands and an imagination. Some things may need upskilling, but I had everything to get started on the road to success.
- You’re not for everyone.: Your brand or product will hopefully have its fans and a community — people who understand what you’re trying to do, what you represent. How wonderful! The thing is, there will be those who are not interested in your work or product. That’s fine. As my mother would say, “That’s why there are horse races.”
- Know your worth.: How much do you want to charge for something? Shipping to and from, the items/services, the labor, the packaging should all be taken into account when coming up with a price. When you figure it out, stop and think, “Who is going to purchase this item/service?” If you can identify your buyer, great. But just know that the minute you have to start explaining how you arrived at the cost, that buyer is no longer your ideal client.
- Everyone likes a present.: One of my mother’s quotes, it had us dragging shopping bags full of gifts to elementary school twice during the school year: Christmas and the last day. While she may not have known it, she really understood branding, marketing and the whole notion of delighting (we’ll just say) those in partnerships with you. I mean, I’m talking gifts for everyone right down to the head teacher who we didn’t even have, as well as the school nurse. Boy, it was a heavy load to drag!
- “Do it now”.: This comes from Joan Rivers who I used to watch on QVC as she always shared kernels of genius while shilling her lines. She had a bracelet her husband once bought her that spelled out, “Do it now.” As happens frequently on QVC, real jewelry inspires more affordable versions for the masses. The last time I ever saw Joan on QVC, she was selling this bracelet and she said, “Do it now. Do it now. You could be dead tomorrow. You want to call your so and so? Do it now!” And then she was gone. So I don’t wait to do things. I live with a fire under my feet. You don’t know what will be or what’s coming.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
I’ve tried several times to serve communities in need. Saved by a Supermodel focused on mental health. Baby Drag Artists supported drag talent 18 and younger. Sprinkles for Good was created for the baking industry suffering during the pandemic. I have a few other tricks up my sleeve around positivity and wellness. Who knows? It could all be as easy as “cake”…purses, sneakers, hats, rings and whatever else I can whip up!
What do you want to be remembered for the most?
I’d like to be remembered as a person who tried to brighten this world by making life sweeter with a focus on delighting the consumer. I’ve watched entrepreneurs talk about themselves in relation to their products and projects. When I am creating something, I have the audience or consumer in mind. It’s not about me; it’s about you.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
It’d be sweet to meet them! You can visit cakepurse.com or follow the brand on Instagram at @cakepurse. My personal account is @mscandyblog on Instagram.
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!