And just like that, Candace Bushnell, the original Carrie Bradshaw, is reflecting on her legacy. Best known for her candid mid-90s column, Sex and the City, which was made into an international bestselling book and one of the most iconic TV shows of all time (with a spinoff, two movies and a reboot to boot) Bushnell is single again and in her 60s.
The Manolo-wearing blonde – who has advice for those who are navigating the holiday season for the first time after loss – caught up with The Globe and Mail over Zoom from her hotel room in Toronto, where it was no surprise that at the tender hour of 11 a.m. she was already donning a signature party dress and perfect blowout.
Would you say that everything that happened since your column, to the book, to the TV show and to today, all has you in it?
With the show, yes, but with the movies, once Carrie marries Mr. Big, then I feel like it sort of went off in its own direction. But the Mr. Big angst, that was definitely a part of my life. The funny thing is, I’m still friends with the real Mr. Big and I’m supposed to see him in a week. Now I think he’s writing a book!
Let’s get into the legacy of your signature creation. Could you have imagined ever creating what this has become, out of your life antics living in New York?
My goal in coming to New York was to be a novelist, and of course I have written many bestselling novels … You know the TV aspect is definitely something that I did not imagine when I was younger, but I have worked in TV quite a bit; I’ve had other TV shows besides Sex and the City [Lipstick Jungle and The Carrie Diaries], and I’m hoping that [her 2019 biographical fiction] Is There Still Sex in the City? will be a TV show.
When Sex and the City was bought to be a TV series, no one took it that seriously. HBO was just starting out, nobody knew what it would be like, there was no streaming. TV has changed so much in the past 25 years. Now if I look at where it started, it was just a little TV show with a small budget, without even much of a budget even for the clothes.
What was it like working with Darren Star and bringing the original series to life?
I went back to the book and it was striking to me how much of the TV series came from the book and from my own life even beyond the book. Working with Darren was fantastic. I look at the pictures and I just think, ‘Oh my god, we were so young!’ of course, we felt old. We were in our mid-30s and I will say, it felt like the world wasn’t completely connected then. It was the beginning of the internet. There’s so much pressure now in so many areas where you have to succeed, but back then, you could kind of do your job, then you could hang out with your friends and party. These days, I can’t even find time to have a third date.
The fact that you even get a second date in 2022 is a feat, which is sad.
This is the part nobody told me about dating now or internet dating; there’s probably no second or third date. You think it’s going great, you think hey, maybe this is going to be a relationship and you can see it and then the person just disappears! They usually show up again months later and it’s like: Are you kidding me?
Today people are turning to TikTok, where they post confessional-like videos where they’re crying to the camera about being ghosted, and they’re getting millions of views because it’s seen as relatable. In the 1990s, were you able to use your column to voice your concerns in the dating world and call people out in a similar way, or as a journalist and writer, was the best policy to stay mum?
No … I think I exposed a lot in that column. But you have to remember, it was a different time. In Sex and the City I was exploring that there are single women that have as much money and power as men, at least enough so they feel like they don’t need a man in the same way that women traditionally needed a man to pay their rent. That’s something that’s changed enormously for women in the last 25 years. We’re not reliant on a man – as old-fashioned as that sounds – the way we used to be. I was exploring what is female sexuality when you take out that “I have to be a certain way, because if I have more than three sex partners, no man is going to marry me.” That’s not true any more, but that used to be something people used to tell women 25-30 years ago, before the show.
I can’t help but think how Sex and the City has transformed how we as a culture think about sex. You’ve shape-shifted the lives of so many people. Have you even taken that in?
That was always my goal. I grew up in such a sexist time; when I was eight years old I knew I had to do something about the way that the world looks at women, because it’s not right. It was so sexist. Back then, it wasn’t just what you could and couldn’t do as a woman, it was about how you were supposed to think. So there was this “thought police” aspect where we were told we shouldn’t feel that way. And this still gets me worked up.
You’re the original when it comes to dishing out dating and relationship advice and you’ve been so open about your experiences. For those going through loss – whether it’s a breakup or divorce – who are navigating their first holiday season alone, what advice would you have?
It’s really about making an effort to go out. One of the things that Is There Still Sex in the City talks about is being in your 50s and there is a lot of loss that happens in your 50s. A lot of people get divorced, inevitably a parent may die, or a friend may pass away, so that book was also about dealing with loss, which is something I was going through at the time, and it does come down to friends. It’s about being willing to be vulnerable and saying to people, ‘Hey … I’m feeling sort of down.’ It’s about that and also, time does help. Sometimes you just have to go through things and it’s really uncomfortable at the time, but it does get better and sometimes it’s just about allowing yourself to feel those feelings.
This interview has been condensed and edited
Special to The Globe and Mail
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