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Culture, Interviews

OX Sylva Meets: Candace Bushnell

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For those of us who lived and thrived through the late 90s/early 00s, Sex and the City wasn’t just must-see TV but in many way s– dare I say – it was empowering to a generation of women: if Carrie can wear that, maybe I can wear this? If Miranda can articulate her frustration maybe I’m right to feel frustrated, too? If Charlotte can put her lipstick on and face the world, I can give it a go. And, of course, if Samantha can actively pursue sex for its own rewards, then maybe I don’t need to feel bad for wanting more. As Carrie et al become part of our lives, so did the original Carrie, author Candace Bushnell, whose column, Sex and the City, in The New York Observer led to a book, a tv screen and finally to Hollywood. 

Like her protagonists, Bushnell is mix of grit, determination, wicked humour and buckets of charm. When we connect over Zoom I’m hoping she’ll be as glamorous as I imagine and I’m not disappointed. It’s only 9am in New York but as Candace observes “Gotta get up, get out, get the coffee, walk the dogs”.  


First off, I want to know, you famously moved to New York with $20 in your pocket and went on to achieve the levels of success that most of us can only dream about. What gives you that confidence?  

Well, Tina Brown said ‘a great dress’. You know, I have a fabulous pair of over-the-knee boots that I love to wear in the winter, and they look great and that makes me feel confident. But what really makes me feel confident is doing things like exercising and feeling like one’s looking after oneself in all of the different little ways. That’s what makes me feel confident.  

I am interested to know how you found the response to Sex and the City, and also what you think of the re-boot, And Just Like That. 

I think the re-boot is really fun. You know, now everybody loves Sex and the City but when I first came to England – when it first came out – a lot of men were upset about it because they felt like it gave women too much licence, too much freedom to speak their minds and I think they felt like they were losing the upper hand.  


Did you ever imagine the impact it would have? 

I felt that I would do something important someday – I didn’t know that it would be Sex and the City, but I always felt like I had something to say and a message for women: be independent, you don’t have to think the way society tells you to think.  


You’ve recently been in the UK with your one women show, True Tales of Sex, Success and Sex in the City. How did the show come about? 

Something happened and it grew – it wasn't something that I particularly planned. I had the opportunity to do it, I gave it a shot, and it grew from there. It feels very natural, and I sometimes wonder why I didn’t do it before.  


You’ve become synonymous with Sarah Jessica Parker’s Carrie Bradshaw. What’s it like to be associated in that way to a persona of yourself?  

You know, I don’t ever think about it, honestly. I have such a strong sense of self and I always have so and I’m always doing something creative. 


I have to ask about your relationship with fashion…  

I think clothes are an expression for people, and some people have that aesthetic that clothes are very important to them, and other people don’t. Some people have an aesthetic for decorating – I don’t really have that, I don’t pay that much attention to my environment – but you know clothes are important in New York. You dress up, you go out, you’re photographed. Although, I would say people dress up a little bit less in New York – unless you go out during fashion week; people are like, you can’t have too many sequins.  

Back to Sex and the City, I loved finding out the origin story when you performed at New Theatre Oxford earlier this year, but I wanted to know if your Mr Big was as challenging as the character played by Chris Noth in the TV show? 

Well yes, in some ways, although like the TV show he ended up getting married and he stayed married. He’s still married and probably has been for about 20 years. The Mr Big character is really a portion of his personality that becomes his whole personality. It’s pretty typical of characters on TV. They don’t change. People feel like they change but they don’t. Samantha is always Samantha, Miranda is always Miranda, Carrie is always Carrie.  


So, that being the case, would you have married your Mr Big in a Vivienne Westwood dress and had that happy ever after? Was that something you wanted? 

Who hasn’t been in a relationship and doesn't think about getting married? I mean that’s a standard thing so of course it crossed my mind, but I think one of the things that is important to remember is that powerful men are usually very sexist. They will say that they’re not but there’s a real element. But that’s true of all men, not just powerful men. 


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