Candace Owens, communications director for Turning Point USA, discussed her new friendship with rapper Kanye West and a recent conversation with President Donald Trump, during an interview with The Daily Signal’s Ginny Montalbano.
Owens also revealed why her advice to young conservatives is “Be yourself.” This transcript of the on-camera interview, which took place during the millennial-focused organization’s Young Women’s Leadership Summit earlier this month in Dallas, has been edited lightly for length and clarity.
Ginny Montalbano: Welcome to The Daily Signal. I’m here with Candace Owens, the communications director for Turning Point USA. Candace, thanks for being with us.
Candace Owens: Thank you for having me.
Montalbano: The last time The Daily Signal spoke with you was in March at the White House Generation Next Forum. A lot has changed. Can you update us?
Owens: Everything pretty much exploded right after that. The infamous Kanye tweet happened, and that allowed us to not just exist within a political realm, but a cultural realm as well. Which is super important for a lot of reasons, primarily being that culture, in many ways, has seized the political conversation. It’s why we see so many people that are giving these elaborate political speeches at the Emmys.
The celebrities have had our attention, in my opinion, in a very negative way. Saying a lot of things and being very critical of individuals without actually understanding the movements. For Kanye West to break that mold and to say that he unapologetically loves President Trump allowed us and people that saw his “I love the way Candace Owens thinks” tweet to go pursue Candace Owens and to hear my ideas.
So that happened, which was really big. And we’ve always thought that blending culture and politics and having meaningful discussions as opposed to lobbing insults was really important. And we’re doing just that at Turning Point USA.
Montalbano: I want to ask you a little bit more about Kanye. Because regardless of whether or not he’s completely conservative or not, he certainly broke through. He certainly touched a lot of nerves in a lot of people and cut through the noise. He often says, “I want to be a free thinker.” What’s your take on that?
Owens: My take, after spending some time with him, is that Kanye West is not a conservative. He’s not a Republican, but he is a free thinker and he’s an independent thinker. And in these days, if you believe in free thinking, that is a conservative position. If you believe that people have the right to express their ideas, regardless of their skin color, [that] people have a right to like people outside of the political realm, that is a conservative position.
The reason that we’re seeing so many people flee the left—I like to call them liberal refugees, like myself—is because they do not allow you to think freely. If you agree with them 95 percent and disagree on 5 percent, you are essentially excommunicated. You’re not allowed to be a liberal anymore. You’re not allowed to be a Democrat anymore.
There’s a lot more wiggle room on the right, center-right, to express yourself and to be an individual. And to explore different concepts and different ideas and to not agree with the person next to you, but to still be able to have a simple discourse.
Montalbano: When did you first realize that you were conservative, and what changed your mind?
Owens: I always say I was a liberal, but I wasn’t active in politics. I just assumed I was a liberal, because I was black and I was a woman. And I know now that sounds really foolish, but I had different priorities. I don’t come from a family that had the money to put me through college, so I left school with $100,000 in student loan debt.
I think that’s the truth for a lot of black Americans, is that we’ve been so burned by problems. Whether that be the welfare system, student loans, whatever it is, that we don’t really come up for air and actually consider the political dialogue.
That seems to be the least of our worries. Even though it should be a priority, because everything that has happened in our communities is really downstream from political discussions and political decisions that were made for us in the past. So as soon as I came up—and Donald Trump obviously was so disruptive that everyone was paying attention to politics.
I considered what he was saying. I saw what the media was trying to paint him as, and immediately understood that racism was now being used as a theme to turn black people into single-issue voters.
Montalbano: Now you and Charlie [Kirk] recently had a meeting with President Trump.
Owens: We did.
Montalbano: I saw photos of you in the Oval Office. What was that meeting like, and what is the president like behind the scenes?
Owens: He is exactly as he is in front of the scenes. He’s very funny, very aware of what’s being said about him. He’s got so much energy. I just, I don’t understand. He just turned 72 yesterday, he’s got more energy than me and Charlie Kirk combined.
And he’s incredibly funny. He just is with it, completely hilarious, and I walked in and he said, “The most important person in America.” And I said, “No, that would be you, Mr. President. That would be you.” He’s excited.
We spoke, obviously. My main concern has been how do we continue to wake up black America, how do we continue to help black America. And he’s all ears. And he said to me at a certain point: “I don’t understand it. How is it possible that they don’t understand that they have been kept down by these policies?”
And we spoke about different strategies. We spoke about Kanye West. We spoke about some of these pardons that he’s been doing, and something that Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner have taken very seriously. They never get any attention for the work that they do. They’re not in it to get the credit, but they definitely deserve credit for this being the issue that they have grabbed and really pushed through in the White House.
Montalbano: Especially with Ivanka, I was going ask you next about the media’s coverage of females in the Trump administration. What do you make of that?
Owens: It’s disgusting. I think this is a woman who has conducted herself in the highest regard possible, despite attacks, despite being called names. She has genuinely been thrown into this and wants to do nothing more but help.
She’s looking at it as a mother, she is looking at it from her heart. She’s wondering how she can help make America better as the first daughter. And she is constantly attacked, and it’s because it’s easy to them. They know that she’s not going to come out and say anything disgusting, because she’s just not that kind of person.
Montalbano: Same with [first lady] Melania.
Owens: Correct. These are people that have a tremendous amount of class, and even when they are insulted, they don’t say anything back. I have a little more freedom, there. I’m constantly punching back for them, because I don’t like to see people bullied for being nice. They’re easy targets.
“Oh, well, she’s really sweet.” So, it’s very easy to push this girl into a locker. That’s exactly what’s going on. A mean girl clique has emerged, especially in Hollywood, that has decided that Ivanka Trump is going to be their target to make them feel better about their lives. And I like to meet them where they’re at and call them out for the horrendous nature of the things that they’re constantly saying about Ivanka.
Montalbano: It seems like you are always on a plane, somewhere in the country. What has it been like to travel to so many states and get to interact with so many people, especially the young conservatives?
Owens: It has been a lesson for me. It has showed me how incredibly ignorant that I was, how incredibility ignorant I still am. Every time I visit a different pocket of society, I learn something new.
It just makes you really understand why Donald Trump won, that so many Americans were living an entirely different life. There’s a whole lot of country between California and New York, and those people have different concerns. Those people are going through different things, and they have been ignored by politicians who have decided that their problems don’t matter anymore, because they care about the cities. They care about New York. They care about L.A., but they don’t care about these middle-class workers that are in between.
And they were losing out for a long time in this country. They are incredible people, super passionate. They’ve been so loving and so warm to me. And it just makes me want to defend them more vigorously when they’re called racist and sexist, when they have just never even been handed a microphone to talk about who they actually are as people.
Montalbano: My last question for you. We’re here in Dallas, Texas, at the Young Women’s Leadership Summit. What advice would you give to these young women who might want to pursue a career in media or politics?
Owens: My advice to everybody is always the same, and it’s just to be yourself. No longer should people be trying to fit into the mold. I think that has been a gift that Donald Trump has given America. I think that has been a gift that Kanye West has given Hollywood, is that we no longer have to exist within mental prisons. If you want to get out there and you want to be the media, be the media.
You’re no longer an age where you need to apply to stand in to do that. You are the media. I started on YouTube. Right? I had something to say. I decided that applying to CNN to say that I was a black woman who supported Trump probably wasn’t going to get me the job. I was unapologetically myself on YouTube, and I’m here today.
I think if every person can realize that being yourself is the No. 1 superpower that you can have, that we’re going to see a brighter, more honest America.
Montalbano: Some great advice. Candace Owens, thank you so much for being with us.
Owens: Thank you for having me.