Jackie Sorkin Builds A Candy House On Hulu's Candified And Never Stops Craving Sweets - Exclusive Interview

Jackie Sorkin lives in Candy Land. You'll find her workshop somewhere between the Peppermint Forest and the Gumdrop mountains, which IRL is in the Greater Los Angeles Area. In Sorkin's candy kingdom, another candy queen provides musical inspiration. Sorkin tells Mashed that Katy Perry's "California Gurls" is the title track to the soundtrack of her life. The two monarchs of sweet have worked together, but we'll tell you that story later. Since founding Hollywood Candy Girls — recently renamed Candy Kingdom — in 2008, Sorkin's team has served up candy creations to an increasing number of A-listers including Oprah Winfrey, the Kardashians, Justin Bieber, and Jessica Simpson. Her website boasts a singular, almost impossibly happy goal: "make this world a sweeter place."

If you've visited Sorkin's Candytopia — an experiential candy wonderland traveling pop-up museum — you know that her motto isn't marketing. All the strain, stress, and anxiety that goes with being a human being? "I just channel that to create outrageous moments of joy and happiness for all," Sorkin reflects. There is, perhaps, no greater testament to this than Sorkin's latest conquest: a life-sized "modern-day gingerbread house, but just all candified." You can follow the candy queen and her team as they race to finish a 1,000 square-foot dream in Hulu's four-episode special, "Candified: Home For The Holidays." In this interview with Mashed, Sorkin gives us an exclusive behind-the-scenes look into the creation of the candy house, her Willie Wonka-esque workshop, her celebrity clients, and what it's really like being the queen of Candy Land.

An inside look into Jackie Sorkin's candy workshop

You've been compared to a modern-day, female Willy Wonka. We all idealize Willy Wonka, right? What's it really like working with candy every day? What's one thing we might not expect about your job? 

I mean, we just eat so much candy. I tell the team like, "Wow, when we die, our bodies are just going to be full of gummy things." We eat a lot of it, we are around it every day. Other artists may have a studio full of paint and brushes and whatever their medium is, recycled items, bottle caps, rocks, whatever it is. Candy for us is just, that's our thing. That's our lane. That's our space. It's our whole life. 

We love piling tons of different candy options on a table when we're creating, and in creative mode, and then collectively coming together [in] a meeting of the minds, and then bickering and fighting over what we're going to use — and what shape and what color. What's going to create this portrait or this sculpture to look the best? Candy just is, it's our driving force. It's the heart and soul of what we do. And we eat a ton of it every single day. 

How much candy do you eat a day?  

For me, it's just this natural thing. I see it, I eat it. I grab it. Oh, I'm in a mood, I need the sweet [and] spicy, the gummy mango, the new one that I'm obsessed with right now that just came out. "Oh no. Now I'm in a chocolate mood!" I need chocolate. I need it to make me feel better. I'm feeling some kind of way. 

It's really just, [candy is] like a person to me. It's bigger than just being this [inanimate] thing. It's like, I need it. It's our fuel. It's what we love the most. And, I don't even know how to explain it without knowing that it sounds weird. And I recognize it.

Jackie Sorkin's favorite candy

How many candies do you have in stock at any particular time and what are your most important candies?

I like to say I have all the candy in the world, which is probably not totally accurate. But you know, we have like thousands of types of candy, hundreds at any time. Candy is our artistic medium. So, we need plenty of it in every shape, texture, color, [and] flavor because we have to have it readily accessible when we're creating these candy masterpieces.

And your most important candies?

Oh my goodness. I think that when creating, gummies. I love all candy. You know what makes me feel bad? I feel like I'm leaving people out. It's like the candy has feelings for me and I'm always like, "oh!." It makes me sad.

No, I just think gummies in general, we've really perfected this incredibly hyper-niche form of candy artistry. It's something I started doing, 14 years ago out of my garage. [I've] loved candy since I was a six year old little girl, [was] obsessed, obsessed, obsessed with it, and Willy Wonka.

Talk to us about the gummy bear shortage we hear about in "Candified: Home For The Holidays." Are we really in the middle of one? What is this?

You know what — I know that it just — even when we were filming the show, I was like, "Wow, I recognize that this world actually has these massive real problems. And in my world, a gummy bear shortage is like the biggest disaster of my life." And it's all relative, right? Everybody has their world, their life, their job, their thing. For me, it's just this thing.

What I do is so fun and silly, it's candy, but we do take it so seriously. It's my whole life: it's deadlines, it's jobs, it's clients, it's business partners. So, it's not a joke to me. But yes, that gummy bear shortage felt like it was going to destroy my soul. And we are still dealing with candy shortages. We are still dealing with it in our business every day. You know, clients are — they wanted this and, "oh my gosh they don't have the tangerine flavor and what are we going to do?!" It's really a thing. I think we all collectively feel the effects of the pandemic and know that it's really created a big issue with the supply chain everywhere. So, [we're] just trying to manage and deal with it.

The most outrageous celebrity candy request

You count Oprah, Katy Perry, the Kardashians, Justin Bieber, Rihanna, Demi Lovato, Paris Hilton as your clients. I'm sure the list goes on and on. What's the most outrageous celebrity candy request you've had?

I don't know if I can say it. It was to create a body part of a person, a big giant body part made out of gummies. That was going to be really inappropriate and funny. It was a male body part that only boys have, and I thought, well, "I do always say I can create absolutely anything, and we do."

I'm a very playful person and an artist and I'm like, life is beautiful. It's not going to hurt anybody. It's just funny. So yes, some of our celebrity clientele, they are the ones that will often have the quirkier requests. They like to push the envelopes a bit more. And I totally get that. I think creatives are like that. We like to express ourselves in sometimes fun, silly, quirky, funny ways. So I'm super down for whatever.

I think that some of those celebrity clients, I find some are either really posh and super fabulous, where you're just like, "Oh my gosh, I feel so insecure walking into your fabulous palace of a house. Amazing. Thank you for letting me pass security." Or they're quirky and funny and just like a little out of this world, like you would imagine. And so, yeah, that's a funny request.

The time Jackie Sorkin worked with Katy Perry

Can we ask you about Katy Perry in particular? She shares your candy title in some way. 

I love her. Katy Perry is truly the only other candy queen that can be candy queen. And I love her music. Literally in my head when you're like, "What's the soundtrack to your life?" You walk in a room and what do you want to play? For me? It's [singing] all the way, "I'm a California girl." I love Katy Perry. I love the pop energy, the happy, the fun, the colors, the vibe. I just love her as a talent and an artist ... When Katy came onto the scene with "California Gurls," and then Snoop was like in the collaboration with her, it was color and candy. 

What I loved about her, and what I still love about her, is just the fun [and] the whimsy. She took candy, I think, the way I also do. You just make it modern-day cool, but relatable and really fun and light and silly. And she's really playful even when she has on a bikini top squirting out whipped cream from her ta ta.  And I thought, wow, that is so cool. I would love to do that, but [also] oh my gosh, I don't know if I would ever do that. It's fun. It's silly. It's silliness. It's moments where you just go, "God, life doesn't have to be that serious." Let's just be playful. And then she's an incredible artist on top of it. That entire album [Teenage Dream] is my life soundtrack. 

Can you let on what you made for her, or is that top secret? 

Yeah, not at all. I did different things for Katy. I remember one time literally being asked to come into the studio with her. It was like on Sunset in this incredible dark moody recording studio. And I remember she had a hoodie on. I was like, "This is how they make their albums!" This is amazing. I just remember trying to be cool. I think I was pregnant then, too. Yeah. I think I was with my son, Christian. I was always working. I worked up until the moment I was in labor and the doctor said, "Put your laptop away." I just take work very seriously. I'm so grateful to be able to do what I love and not stop working. And I remember I was in the studio and I was like, "Oh my gosh, this is so cool!" 

I'm like the nerd with my candy. And I was like, "I brought all your candy Katy." I think the record label or someone on her team was just like, "We need to surround her with candy." So I came in and designed a really cool display and it's just there while they're making music. And it was one of those moments where it's like when I met Oprah, same thing, I was like, "Why am I here?" It was almost like, I was looking like, "Is this a prank? Is this real?" [It was] really special, really special. And then, we also were asked to make a portrait of Katy as the candy queen and different things like that for her tours and stuff.

The one candy Jackie Sorkin doesn't like working with

Is there any candy that you refuse to work with or that's particularly hard to work with? 

Well, I love this [candy]. I love it very, very, very much. I eat a lot of it, consume a lot of it and I'm obsessed with it. I don't like to create with it. And it's chocolate. I am not a chocolatier. I am obsessed with chocolatiers. I follow so many of the greats. I love their work. I just love how meticulous and detailed [they are]. I find chocolate work to be so beautiful and special. It's just not my lane. Chocolate scares me because it melts. And then the stress of the melting for a personality like mine or my team is just, it's like a five-alarm fire and "Oh my gosh, the melting!" I just decided a long time ago, "Let's stay away from chocolate." 

But when a client says, "Do you work with chocolate?" I am such a pleaser and I hate saying no to people. So I'm always like, "I'll figure it out." And we've figured it out sometimes. I just am always like, "I have another great idea that's not chocolate. Do you want to hear it?" And sometimes we can pivot. But yeah, chocolate is just, it's delicious and beautiful. I just love to create with other more sustainable, durable types of candy. 

I want to get your stance on two candy debates: candy corn and circus peanuts. Love them or hate them? 

I love them. And I also feel so bad when I see all the candy corn haters, hating on candy corn every fall and Halloween. And I see all the memes now and I'm just like, "Why?" There's a world full of people that love candy corn and all the different varieties. And the circus peanuts are airy and light and delicious. I don't know what is wrong with people. 

That's the playful thing about candy. Even when you're trying to be mad at it, you're not really mad at it. It's candy, and that's why I love being the candy queen in the business that I'm in. I've always said for many, many years, I only want to exist for good things and [to] make people feel good. Candy does that [in] all its silliness and deliciousness.

Behind the scenes at Hulu's "Candified: Home for the Holidays"

In "Candified: Home For The Holidays" we watch you make a huge, 1,000 square foot holiday house. You used 325 different kinds of candy in it, or more. Take us behind the scenes.

Yeah. I mean, I think a house was an incredible undertaking and the amount of time that we had! It's like a modern-day gingerbread house, but just all candified. And [it's] really incredible because you really get to dive deeper into what our candy art making process is.

This technique, this form of candy artistry, that's all I've ever wanted to do was be this hyper-niche talent. I wanted to be the best in the world at this. And I believe I now have the team that is the best in the world at what we do. It's not like an arrogant thing. I think it's just facts. You know, you perfect something for 14 years and we're still perfecting every day. Because I believe you always learn and grow and evolve. And, never think you're too great to stop learning and growing, because we should always be learning until our very last day.

I think that this house was an incredible undertaking. It actually did make us die a little. We were panicked [and] nervous. All that was very genuine and real. But again, just like we've done every other time, we [came] together as a team collectively, listen[ed] to ideas, [had] a lot of support. And we literally just work and work and work and keep going, going, keep going.

What Jackie Sorkin didn't get to put in her holiday home

Is there something that cameras didn't show, but you wish they did? Is there anything that you would've liked to put in the house, but ultimately got scrapped?

Things that I wanted to see in the house. I think it was such a representation of what I truly believe — to create a place where everyone belongs, create a place where during the holidays, everyone can come through, whether ... it's Christmas or Hanukkah or Kwanzaa or whatever it's going to be. I love creating experiences where everyone can find themselves. It's so important to me that everyone sees that and feels that. And I think that we executed that really well.

Maybe what we would've done in the house if we had more time, I like the marshmallow pit. You saw the marshmallow pit? And I always think like a child, it fuels me. So I love interactive elements. Maybe I would've done a zip-line, a crazy zip-line, a zip-line through the house. And just have that, "I am crazy, this is my house that has a zip-line." And then maybe you land in a pit of something really squishy and fabulous, like gum drops or something that has a soft landing or gummies. Oh my gosh. Yes. A zip-line going into a gummy pit, gummy bear pit would be amazing. Oh my gosh. Now I want to do that. But yeah, I think taking those ideas that are just so wildly imaginative and turn us into kids again, more interaction. I love anything that allows us to play. That's fun. That's fun. You know?

You mentioned almost dying while making the house because of all the stress. What was the largest nail-biter in the whole process for you?

It's two moments that I keep thinking about when Mr. Squeakers head went rolling. And I hear the screams. And I know just, as a mother, there are different sounds that cause us to just — "What is that?!" Panic? Certain crashes, screams, yelling, crying. You kind of just innately know, this is bad. Oh, I knew that was bad. And then to see the tears and — it was just, you feel terrible. So much time goes into these masterpieces, and things happen. I mean, things happen all the time. But when they're happening and you're filming a TV show, it's even more impactful. Cause you're like, "Oh, I'm going to die and there's now cameras on us." So yeah, Mr. Squeakers' head rolling was really dramatic and we got over it, but drama.

And then, when my husband said, "The house is up, the walls are up." Oh my God. It was like, "You're so dead when we get home!" It was one of those things that was just — how are we going to do this?! We can't defy gravity, but we always figure it out. Really, that's the true story with the team. I go guys, "I'm sorry. I keep pushing us, but I'm not sorry." We always figure it out. It's one thing that I love to say, everything is figureoutable. Everything is usually figureoutable, as long as we don't die. And we didn't die. So here we are.

Jackie Sorkin's life advice

You are very female-oriented. Your clients are mostly female, you're really about hiring also powerful female figures in your business. What's it like to be a woman-led business in the confectionary world?

For me, I want us all to win, men and women. My best friends are guys and girls. I think, naturally, my business lends itself more towards maybe that feminine side or that female creativity. Whatever a woman's brain has to offer really lends itself to the events and the parties and the candy and the art and the sculptures ... I feel like, when I create, it's like a fusion of Lisa Frank, rainbows, unicorns, happiness, sparkle, good vibes, color, color, energy, more sparkle, throw some glitter on it, and make it pop. So, I just think, naturally, that many times lends itself to the female brain.

However, I've got some incredible guy friends. You see my husband and D. Micah on this team, and they're able to capture the magic, too. But yes. Am I a champion for women? 100%. I have been through so much. Girl, we could sit on the floor and cry in about two minutes if we dive into certain chapters of my life that were really hard to get through. And even one I've recently just got through. It's just all business related, but you keep going. And I think as women, we are so sensitive and loving. And we are emotional sometimes. I think we're super, super smart, capable, and just badasses — the same way I feel about dudes. I kind of think it's all of our world, shared together. But I do know that being a champion for women is something I'm very, very proud of.

I meet so many women and little girls and big girls. I just always say, "You can absolutely do anything." It has to come from really within, and you've got to believe it. You've got to push through many, many hurdles to get to wherever you want to go. For me, I always say, "Keep going, no matter what." I don't know what the secret is, but I do know if you keep going, you keep getting up and up and up and up, and you push and you push and you push, and things happen. You know, that's the hardest part, is not quitting. The hardest part is taking all the negative and the things that hurt our feelings, and the people that hurt our feelings, and the nos and the rejections and the passes and the "No thank yous," and "You're not good enough," and "I don't want you, you're crazy."

That is really soul crushing to creatives, men and women. But I think when you have a true fire and ability to plow through those nos — they're very painful though. Trust me. There's a lot of pain behind all this wonderfulness. I just channel that to create outrageous moments of joy and happiness for all. I use a lot of my own darkness and pain and I never hide from it. It exists like everyone else. But I channel it differently. And I cry a lot.

What it's really like for Jackie to work with her husband

Your husband quit his work to work with you. What led to that decision?

The business was growing, with two kids it's hard to wear many hats, the business owner, crazy entrepreneur, massive big dreamer.

Was there a deciding moment where you were, "Wow, I've made it. You need to hop on board?"

Yeah. A couple of years ago, I don't know, 2012, '13. My husband's an engineer and he's an amazingly calm, solid citizen, wonderful person. And he is just like the yin to my yang. And I was like, as the business grows, we only have so much manpower and support like a lot of people do they say, "Hey, the business is growing. Want to help me, honey, wink, wink. It'll be so great wink, wink."

And he just has the right temperament. And the way his brain operates. I love his engineering mind because he is able to do so many, really big, hard, complicated things for us, which I'm like, "That's not my lane bro." But yeah, when we booked an experiential activation, this world we created in China, a client approached us. And I said, "Hey, babe, I need you. You know, there's a lot of stuff going on." And my husband was like, "All right, the business is growing to the point where, we have a family to take care of and a team to take care of." It's a very real decision for us. I just said, I think we could do this together. And he took a leap of faith and he trusted me. You know, it's not always pretty, but can you imagine working with your spouse every day in high pressure situations? Oh my gosh. I tell him, "Do you want to kill me every day?" But he gets me I think, he's very special.

You spend a lot of time in Asia working. Have you tried all the Japanese Kit Kat flavors?

So, I went first to all over Taiwan, Taipei, Taiwan, Southeast Asia. Then we went to China. I haven't been to Japan yet. I would love to. And I think we'll eventually end up there. I haven't tried these really cool Kit Kats. I know what you're talking about. All these unique flavors, right?

No, but when we talk about Asia, you know what's funny? All I hear in my head is this one line. When I went to Asia, it took me like five hours to learn it. And I went on this tour of all the shows in Taipei and Taiwan and I'll do it for you. And I said, [speaks in Chinese].

And I'll never forget it. And people would go, "What did she say?" I was like, "I just spoke. I literally just spoke Chinese. What are you talking about? Taiwanese?" And it was so funny because I thought I perfected it. And what I thought I was saying, "Hi, I'm Jackie Sorkin. And welcome to my candy kingdom." I would go on every show and just say the same line and people would go, "What?" I was like, I guess my accent is off. And I feel like it's really legit, but it was very funny. But, no, back to the Kit Kat question. No. And now I just want a Kit Kat.

Jackie Sorkin's homemade holiday treat tricks

Can you give us any homemade treat advice for the upcoming holidays?

Yeah, I think as the holidays are approaching and they are truly, truly, truly the best, most wonderful, magical, special happiest time of the year. I wish we could capture that all year. And we really can if we want to — just keep being happy and doing wonderful things. But during the holidays, and because I do have my own kids, I think I'm naturally a teacher and [there's] always a camp director that lives within me. 

I love doing things that are interactive and fun. So when there's kids around at Thanksgiving or Christmas at holiday parties, I love setting up stations where people, — adults and children alike — can create. Whether we're making really cool gingerbread houses or gingerbread people cookies. You set up different activity stations with frosting, and tubes of frosting, and lots of different candy elements and sugar glitters and different sparkles and things that are all edible. 

People have a lot of fun being creative. I think it is so fun. Children and adults alike will all get into it. If we elevated it a little and do something that's a little bit more adult, I think it's really fun to create a really cool candy cocktail bar or specialty drink, where there's something [interactive]. Whether you're throwing in a piece of dry ice and something smokes, or it feels like snow or frost throwing in rock candy, making a rim of a glass out of edible sugar glitter or putting a giant pile of blue cotton candy on a martini glass. It's so fabulous and fun. 

It creates moments that people want to create and capture. I think we all know social media is something we all love. Whether you love it or not, people just like to take pictures of cool stuff. I really think that any fun, interactive, playful things that we can do together during the holidays are really special. And I think candy is a natural tie-in to make us all feel good and keep creating, have fun.

The old school candy Jackie Sorkin thinks we should give a shot

What's your favorite old-school candy you want to bring back?

What's my favorite old-school candy that I want to bring back? Do you see the stress you just caused me? I'm like, what are you doing with your arms? Relax. I don't know, because I think a lot of the old school candy, you can still kind of ... you know those big fat dots that look like big gumdrops, like the dots. They're like dots, candy dots, gummy candy. 

Dots are still around. It's an old-school candy that I just happen to love, but unfortunately, it breaks everyone's teeth and pulls the caps and veneers off so people don't like [them]. I've actually seen that happen where I'm like, "you just put a dot in your mouth. Oh my gosh, your veneer is stuck in the gummy candy!" How crazy is that? And then I'm like, "Wait, you look crazy. Your tooth just fell out." 

So, I don't know. I think dots are a really fun old-school candy. Another one is Sugar Daddies, but they're still around. So, I think really, there's this candy called the Necco Wafer. Necco Wafers, I think something happened to the business where you can't get them anymore. But the thing about Necco Wafers is they're really chalky and they have a really unique, interesting consistency. I don't know that they get a lot of love, but... 

That's a kind way to describe them. 

You know, the truth. I feel bad for Necco Wafers. I'm so driven by my empathy and compassion that now I feel bad for them. And I want them to have their winning moment. So let's bring back Necco Wafers and make them a champion.

Jackie Sorkin's go-to fast food order will blow your mind

Who is one chef you'd want to cook you dinner?

Oh my gosh. Well, if I had to literally pick one chef that I feel like just screams all the things I love to eat that are so deliciously inappropriate, it would have to be Paula Deen.

I just want her to make me 700 dishes that are dripping in butter and funnel cake and all the things that literally are so inappropriately bad for us. And I want it all. I love Paula Deen. I love that style of cooking. It's just — whatever — more butter, more fat, more yummy fry it up. Give it to me. That is my dream.

What's one ingredient specifically that you can't live without?

A gummy bear. Or I would say sugar, right? Like sugar. I need my sugar. Or I would say ketchup, cause I really like ketchup too, but that's off topic.

You can say ketchup, ketchup works.

Ketchup's kind of gross with candy.

Don't knock until you try it.

You just gave me an idea. Thank you.

Last question, what is your go to fast food order and from which restaurant?

Oh my gosh, really? We're taking it down the fast food rabbit hole? How do you do this to someone like me? Oh my gosh. The stress of the fast. I love fast food. Okay. I would probably go to one of my fast food drive-thrus. There's these places, it's like a Greek diner, but the menu is so extensive that it's like, yes, you have burgers and pastrami sandwiches. And then all the fries, the zucchini, the fried mushrooms. Then you have the chili cheese fries, you have tacos. Then they have the Mexican section. That's what I would do.

If I had to do this drive-thru thing, I would go to this place by my house that I grew up on called Paul's Place. Paul's Place, I can get a double bacon cheeseburger with onion rings on it. Then I can also order my Euro with extra feta cheese and all the things I like on the sides, tzatziki, extra pita. I need extra onions, extra tomato. I would get the French fries. I would get the fried zucchini with extra Parmesan sprinkled on top. I need the onion rings. I [absolutely need] the order of chili cheese fries that I always got out of high school when I would leave early and then go get my chili cheese fries, milkshake, and a Diet Coke.

Wow. That is very complete.

Ask me a drive-thru question and I will give you an answer. Gosh, I want to go to Paul's Place now then I'll get a Kit Kat.

Watch Jackie Sorkin and her team as they race to build a life-sized holiday house entirely out of candy in Hulu's four-episode special,"Candified: Home For The Holidays." For everyday reminders of life's sweeter side, follow Sorkin on Instagram.