Ask anyone and they’ll tell you that Carrie Bradshaw is one of the most iconic fictional characters of all time—but despite the fact that celebrated actor Sarah Jessica Parker has cemented that feat, the sex columnist was based on a real life person.
Yes, Candace Bushnell was Carrie Bradshaw—the shoe-obsessed writer was Bushnell’s alter ego in her column, the original Sex And The City, which she wrote for The New York Observer in the 1990s.
Bushnell’s wildly popular exploration of being a young New Yorker navigating the highs and lows of dating in the Big Apple with her best friends was made into a book. Then, it became a show. Enter Sarah Jessica Parker, and enter a new era in television.
These days, Bushnell’s life is a little different to her roaring 20s and 30s spent gallivanting around NYC, but still, some things remain the same—as marie claire Australia discovered.
We spoke to the now 63-year-old at a residence in The Hamptons, though her heart still wholly remains in NYC where she continues to write. She also dabbles in acting (her one-woman off-Broadway show Is There Still Sex In The City? is set to return to the stage this year) and she still knows a thing or two about dating—which we’ll get to later.
First, we address the Manolo Blahnik heeled elephant in the room—And Just Like That… While the brand new series is a spin-off of Sex and the City, which was adapted from Bushnell’s essays from the 90s, AJLT… was written by the show’s original producer, Michael Patrick King.
“It has some of my DNA,” Bushnell tells us, “But yeah, it’s really a project that is Michael Patrick King.”
“He and Sarah Jessica Parker came back to do this and it’s really very much their work,” she adds.
And with that in mind, it begs an answer to the spin-off’s most controversial plot point—the absence of main character Samantha Jones. The actor who portrayed the sex positive PR expert, Kim Cattrall, chose not to return to the show, so her character’s exit (painted as a falling out with her best friend Carrie and a move to London) has been a major talking point.
Again, Bushnell’s assertion that AJLT… isn’t her work is relevant here, because her real life Samantha, AKA, the close friend she originally based Samantha off, is still very much a part of her life.
“Yes, I do still have my Samantha,” Bushnell tells us.
“And she’s somebody who I’ve been friends with for a really long time. So back in the 80s when I was writing a precursor to Sex And The City, I would interview all of my girlfriends about dating and their experiences. And I had my ‘Samantha’ friend… she was kind of an expert on men and dating.”
Bushnell added that in original scripts, she’d called her real life friend’s alter ego Jennifer, then Peggy, before finally landing on Samantha.
“Then, they made the TV show,” Bushnell happily adds.
And on the topic of Carrie Bradshaw, who is 55 years old in the spin-off, Bushnell reveals that while earlier versions of the character were similar to herself and her own experiences, these days their lives are a little different.
“Now, the character is just kind of a woman who married a rich guy [Mr. Big] so I don’t actually have any connection to the character any more at all,” Bushnell laughs.
“The character has kind of evolved from really being a version of me, but then then [Carrie] has since been written by many other people over time, like Sarah Jessica Parker has had an input too.”
Bushnell, who was previously married to former husband Charles Askegard from 2002 to 2012, is understood to be currently single, and she’s been open about her experience in the 10 years since her separation after publishing her book, Is There Still Sex In The City?.
In it, she describes dipping back into the dating pool in New York City, trialling Tinder (which she found lacked “quality”, god love her frankness), as well as revealing that she didn’t have sex for five years following her marriage.
The content was gripping enough in its own right, but Bushnell’s aforementioned off-Broadway show sealed the deal.
And that brings us to our next major topic: dating. Bushnell remains ever candid about courting romance, with her musings and tips now being put to use via a partnership with dating app, Match.
The author is currently working with the company to share her top tips for first dates ahead of Valentines Day, February 14. Bushnell’s key advice? Be authentic—and unsurprisingly, wear something you feel great in.
“It’s about being your real self and it’s also it’s about being comfortable,” she tells us, adding that your outfit is crucial to this.
“The ultimate first date outfit is definitely something that feels authentic to you, it’s not the time to wear something brand new… For adult dating and intentional dating, it’s far less about looks and really more about putting your best foot forward.”
As for Bushnell’s perfect first date outfit? Well, it’s undoubtedly one Carrie Bradshaw would also jump at.
“I would choose a dress and heels but not too high You want to be able to move around but it’s something that makes you feel good. So, for me, personally, because I wear dresses, I would choose a dress.”
We have time for one final insight from the original Carrie Bradshaw—one that took us (and undoubtedly her on-screen counterpart) by surprise.
We ask whether she has a symbolic item of clothing from her 20s and 30s that she still wears on dates, not unlike Carrie’s now infamous blue Manolo Blahnik heels.
“You know on a first date you don’t necessarily want to to pull a vintage piece out of your closet. It kind of goes back to, in a sense, putting your best foot forward—it’s showing your best self and where you are right now.
“The vintage things that are in your closet, I kind of feel like that could probably wait? Yeah, maybe for the second date!”
Guess those Manolo Blahnik’s will be staying put in Carrie’s closet then.