Meet Candace Bushnell: the brains behind America's favorite cultural icon, Carrie Bradshaw.
Bushnell, AKA the "Real life Carrie" is the critically acclaimed, international best-selling author of ten books, including Sex and the City, Is There Still Sex in the City, Summer, and the City, The Carrie Diaries, Lipstick Jungle, and many more!
Sex and the City, published in 1996, was the basis for the HBO hit series and two subsequent blockbuster movies. Lipstick Jungle became a popular television series on NBC, as did The Carrie Diaries on the CW. Is There Still Sex in the City? is currently in development as a TV series with Paramount. Most recently, Bushnell wrote and performed in her new one-woman show, Is There Still Sex in the City?, which was unfortunately canceled due to COVID-19.
Candace made the ‘Cosmo’ a cultural phenomenon, signifying both fun and glamour, and all things New York City.
With Candace's theater debut and the release of And Just Like That, it's only fitting we catch up with the OG Carrie Bradshaw and re-discover the cocktail at the center of it all as we devour her stories about love and life.
America has an undeniable love affair with SATC. Why do women all over the world resonate with the show so much?
The show sprang from something real and authentic—my book, Sex and the City—the lived experience of a real woman exploring the biggest city in the world through a feminist lens.
Sex and the City started as a column, but I’d been writing about the Sex and the City woman for about fifteen years, all through the ’80s. I was writing about my Samantha, Miranda, Charlotte, and lots and lots of other women as early as 1985. Of course, I gave my Samantha a different name back then—Jennifer.
In 1994, when I started writing the column Sex and the City for the New York Observer, it was basically the culmination of the lives of me and my many girlfriends, all of whom were in their thirties and not living anything that resembled any kind of traditional life. No one was married. No one had kids. No one I knew ever even said they wanted a kid. My friends were smart and ambitious, single, pursuing their dreams and careers, exploring sex and relationships.
So the column and then book Sex and the City really portrayed a new phenomenon at the time, profiling a bold new type of independent woman who wasn’t going from her parent's house immediately into marriage, which was what women’s lives had looked like since pretty much the beginning of time. Now, twenty-five years later, this type of independent woman is everywhere, and a lot of women don’t even have children until they’re forty. So what was once a new type of lifestyle became the norm. There’s always a new audience of girls who are becoming young women who can now question and explore what their futures will look like, and Sex and the City helps them contemplate those answers.
How did SATC make the Cosmo a cultural phenomenon loved by women worldwide?
While I can’t take credit for the creation of the Cosmopolitan - which debuted in Manhattan sometime in the 80s - its pink hue, chic moniker, and stylish presentation made it all the more fitting to be the hero drink of Sex and the City. Carrie drinks Cosmos because I drank Cosmos—even before I invented Carrie Bradshaw. So when the TV show came out, Carrie became synonymous with the drink, meaning women anywhere could order one and get a taste of that glamorous NYC life that they were seeing on TV.
A true Carrie-approved Cosmopolitan uses a high-quality vodka like Belvedere, which adds a touch of elegance to an otherwise cheeky drink. Better yet, forget making a reservation somewhere and just invite your girlfriends over and mix up a round of perfectly tart Cosmos using my Belvedere Cosmopolitan Cocktail Kit.
From your point of view, what does the Cosmo represent? How does this tie into Carrie Bradshaw’s storyline?
The Cosmo represents New York City glamour, fun, and independence - three qualities I also think can describe Carrie Bradshaw. This is a drink you can order after a breakup, to celebrate a promotion or during an impromptu night out with friends, and can easily dress up with a really amazing vodka (I always opt for Belvedere). With the return of NYC nightlife and the debut of Is There Still Sex In the City? and And Just Like That… the drink’s resurgence definitely is tied to a sense of nostalgia, but this time around we know more about mixology and quality. The Cosmo has been a part of my real life for decades - I even had a Belvedere Cosmopolitan Bar on-stage at my show - and I’m glad to see the inextricable link between it and myself.
Fashion is undoubtedly at the heart of the series. Did your creative vision match the costume designer’s vision in the show?
Fashion is one of the reasons why people come to New York. New York is one of the fashion capitals of the world and used to be a major business here. Fashion is in the lifeblood of the city. It’s been a part of my life ever since I first arrived and it’s an integral part of all my books and tv shows.
I didn’t have a particular creative vision for the show—that’s not really my job—but we were certainly lucky when the glorious Pat Field agreed to do the fashions. I couldn’t think of anyone better. I’ve known about Pat since the very early eighties when I used to go to her incredibly cool store on 8th street. She’s a New York icon.
People call you the real-life Carrie Bradshaw. What does being a “Carrie” mean? Has this definition changed over time?
The character of Carrie Bradshaw was my alter ego, which I created for the specific reason of not wanting my parents to know that I was out having big adventures. Many other people have now written the character and it’s always entertaining to see what they come up with.
Did you face any challenges when translating your book to the stage for your one-woman show, Is There Still Sex In the City?
The one-woman show, which I wrote and starred in, is about how I created Sex and the City, how hard I worked to get there, and why I invented Carrie Bradshaw. It incorporates elements of my life story and the books Sex and the City and Is There Still Sex in the City.
The biggest challenge was definitely performing the show. It’s just me alone on the stage for ninety minutes. I like to joke that people gave me standing ovations because they couldn’t believe that someone who isn’t a professional could even memorize ninety minutes of text! I also took a couple of voice lessons and did warmups and gargled twice a day with hot water and salt. I had to walk about three miles a day and take pilates three days a week. But the good part was that I got into really great shape!
Many of the characters are undergoing large life changes throughout the reboot, which has received a lot of backlash from viewers. What are your thoughts on the evolution of these characters, and how does this fit into your original narrative?
I have a very nice credit at the end of the reboot and they actually pay me some money, but I have absolutely nothing to do with the reboot creatively, other than the fact that it wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for something I wrote twenty-five years ago. Of course, I want it to succeed, I’d love it if it lasted six seasons—but I have no influence on whether it does or not. That’s up to Michael Patrick King and Sarah Jessica Parker.
I only have an impact on my own creations, like my stage show, Is There Still Sex and the City, for which I received a rave review in the New York Times, which is probably one of the high points of my life so far. Plus, I’ve already done my own narrative about middle-aged women in my 2019 book, Is There Still Sex in the City, which is all about the Sex and the City woman who is now in her fifties and sixties. Like Sex and the City, it’s a real exploration of this new phase in women’s lives that didn’t exist before. As I like to say, Uncharted Territory. It’s all about sex and dating, friendship, loss, and starting over. The book is now available in paperback and I highly recommend it.
Photography by: Courtesy Candace Bushnell