Candace Owens: Who is the right-wing 'free thinker' admired by Kanye West?

Joe Sommerlad

Rapper Kanye West has recently drawn attention to himself and his forthcoming album with a deluge of highly eccentric tweets.

In addition to shocking the world with his conclusion that "slavery was a choice", Mr West has been busily tweeting an array of pronouncements about brands he approves of and the creative process like "energy is contagious" and "we're starting WORLD LOVE 1 right now the opposite of a WORLD WAR".

The artist only recently returned to Twitter after suffering a nervous breakdown in 2016 - an experience he now considers a "breakthrough" - during which time he visited then-president-elect Donald Trump at Trump Tower, an endorsement the latter was only too happy to accept.

One of Kanye's more intriguing posts has been his expression of support for right-wing pundit Candace Owens:

Ms Owens, who works as communications director for the conservative think-tank Turning Point USA, responded in kind:

Candace Owens is a controversial figure in America who has expressed opposition to the Black Lives Matter movement, suggesting the "spoiled toddlers" who comprise its membership foster a "victim mentality".

She has also attracted criticism in the past for branding the Women's March on Washington "a joke".

Kanye West and Candace Owens (Getty/Fox)
Kanye West and Candace Owens (Getty/Fox)

Despite outrage at the mutual backslapping from many of Kanye's fans, he duly met with Ms Owens in California on 29 April in the company of Donald Trump Jr and her Turning Point colleague Charlie Kirk.

Kanye said afterwards he hoped her influence would "allow people to recapture freedom of thought" while she in turn said she believed he had a "wonderful, beautiful vision for the future of America".

He previously expressed the same idea in a heated private phone call with radio's DJ Ebro, telling the host her example would help "to de-programme people... to have people think differently than they have before."

Ms Owens, still just 28, was raised in Stamford, Connecticut, before graduating with a BA in Journalism from the University of Rhode Island and working for Vogue and as an administrative assistant in private equity.

She subsequently founded the websites Degree180 and Social Autopsy, the latter intended to expose online trolls and bullying but proving controversial in practice and leading to accusations of harassment by doxing.

She thereafter launched Red Pill Black in 2017, a YouTube channel in which she espouses right-wing political views targeted at an African-American audience, part of a growing movement in the US speaking up for black Republicanism and against complacent assumptions that African-Americans can be relied upon to vote Democrat.

The likes of Chance the Rapper and Trump super-fans Diamond and Silk have aligned themselves similarly.

The influence of Candace Owens, who has appeared on Alex Jones' conspiracy-minded InfoWars talk show, perhaps explains Kanye's slavery remarks in his interview with Charlamagne Tha God this week:

"We definitely are dealing with racism but I wanna push future concepts. That was the moment I wanted to use bitcoin, when I saw Harriet Tubman on a $20 bill. It's like when you see all the slave movies, it's like why you gotta keep reminding us about slavery? Why don't you put Michael Jordan on a $20 bill?"

When challenged that Tubman and Nat Turner led the opposition to slavery, the artist countered:

"I know this is gonna cause an uproar but certain icons are just too far in the past, they're not relatable, and that's what makes them safe. Like they'll let you go on the Grammys and talk about slavery and racism and all that because it's not talking about buying stock, it's not talking about buying property. It's not talking about economic empowerment."

One of the many people troubled by the alliance between hip-hop's leading light and Candace Owens is Frank Ocean, the latter countering on Tumblr: "I love the way Michelle Wolf thinks."​

Mr Ocean appeared to be arguing that the comedian who caused such a furore with her acidic takedown of the Trump administration at the White House Correspondents' Dinner was the better role model, a gentle chiding of Kanye's inconsistent political outlook and bloated ego.