Community comes together for Candy Royalle
The LGBTI community is rallying behind local artist Candy Royalle, who was recently diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Maeve Marsden is on board.
My name is Maeve Marsden and I hate the word ‘inspirational’. I am so desensitised to the Videos That Will Change Your Life shared daily on the book of face that I actively avoid any clips about people who might be construed as an ‘everyday hero’.
And so it was that I almost didn’t click on a video produced by local queer poet and artist Candy Royalle (pictured, above) when it sailed past my eyes as I scrolled down that familiar blur of blue. It was titled ‘Love’ and, with a screencap of a sunset as its holding image, it had all the markers of the kind of thing I regularly dismiss – the memes of misquoted dead heroes and clichéd proverbs pasted over pictures of trees. It was only what I knew of Candy’s reputation as a politically engaged, clever, well-respected poet that led me to click. And I am so glad I did.
WATCH: Candy Royalle’s ‘Love’
The video is Candy’s way of telling her fans and followers that she has been diagnosed with ovarian cancer and documents her shaving off the incredible head of hair she’s cultivated over 9 years, a symbol of her creativity, personality and presence.
I’ve watched the film several times now and it is, indeed, inspirational. Not in a cheesy, pre-packaged clickbait way, but because, although I am an artist myself, I can’t imagine having the strength and talents to convert my suffering so quickly into such a beautiful work of art. Candy’s creative way of communicating what’s happening to her isn’t necessarily new or unique – many artists incorporate their struggles into their work, or indeed use their work to process challenges they encounter in their lives. But art doesn’t have to be unique to be powerful, moving, generous or good.
I asked Candy directly how she had the idea to create the video.
“When I was diagnosed, I knew immediately that I would lose my hair once I started chemo and so there would be no hiding the fact I had cancer,” she said. “It was important to me that I let those who support my work know in such a way that they were left feeling hopeful instead of hopeless. Lastly I needed a ceremony – ‘hair-emony’ ... haha – to let go of the hair I had been growing for the last 9 years. I decided to combine all those factors, plus a poem and make something beautiful out of something ugly, which is the point of art, right?”
The community has rallied in support of Candy, fundraising $7,000 on YouCaring.com to assist with her medical costs. Watching the donations go up over the past few weeks has reminded me of our community’s strength and our ability to come together and look after our own.
I am passionate about politics and social (in)justice, making it easy for me to get cynical and scoot past the onslaught of links and clips, seeking out the opportunity for an online debate or a sharp-witted barb about an idiotic politician. I’m not about to give up my rage at everything that is going wrong in the world (as a passionately political artist, Candy wouldn’t want me to!). But I am glad I watched that clip.
Whether it was her intention or not, Candy reminded me that, in small ways, people are always proving their ability to use creativity for good, to build family from community and to care for each other.
On August 24, Candy’s friends and creative collaborators are producing a fundraiser event to help with her medical costs. One of the organisers, Nicole Barakat, believes that the event has come together because of how much Candy herself has already given to others.
“I see Candy as a person who ignites a fire in many of us,” Nicole said. “She speaks truth to power and has given so much of herself to us. People recognise and acknowledge this in Candy and extend their hand without a second thought.
“I think that most of us are facing tough times at the moment, whether it is financially, emotionally, physically,” Nicole adds. “I think that many people are frustrated with the bigger picture of the state of the world and the level of harshness and inhumanity that seeps into our communities through fascist government policies, corporate devastation of communities and the environment, genocide and injustice. Having said that, I believe that people are taking the power into their own hands and no matter how much we’re struggling, we still find something to give, something to share with another human being.”
I’ll leave the last words to Candy.
“I have been totally humbled and blown away by the support multiple communities have been showing me – the arts community, queer community and others. I believe love to be a powerful force – one so immense that it can overcome anything. I am currently surrounded by an enormous amount of love – this gives me an abundance of strength but more, a huge hope for humanity. If communities can rally together like this when one gets sick, imagine our power as a collective force for those bigger issues!”
[Top image] ‘I am currently surrounded by an enormous amount of love’ ... Candy Royalle. Photo: Nicola Bailey
A benefit for Candy Royalle will be held on Sunday, August 24, 3pm-8pm at the Red Rattler Theatre in Marrickville, and will feature DJ Gemma, Michael Wheatley Trio, Wife & Adonis, Betty Grumble, Kaveh – the unlikely poet and Lorin Elizabeth.
Entry by donation ($5/$10 or more) but no one will be turned away for lack of funds.
Visit the Facebook event page here.