Fearless, feisty and phenomenally successful, Candace Bushnell has achieved worldwide fame as a result of her insightful column in the New York Observer that not only exposed the fickle dating landscape of the time but also inspired a popular TV series in 1998 – Sex and the City – featuring her alter-ego, Carrie Bradshaw. Yet this was just the beginning for Candace; since then she has penned ten best-selling books and seen Sex and the City turned into two movies as well as spin-off series, And Just Like That, which will shortly be entering its third season.

For 2024 the talented author will turn performer as her entertaining one-woman show entitled True Tales of Sex, Success and Sex and the City crosses the Atlantic for a highly anticipated tour of the UK.

Speaking about the new venture, Candace says: ‘During the pandemic I became acquainted with an English man named Mark Johnson, who manages a famous songwriter called David Foster. David has written songs for Celine Dion and he has a one-man show. So, Mark Johnson suggested that I do a one-woman show as he had the idea that I was fearless and that I wouldn’t be scared of being on stage, and he was actually right about that.

Great British Life: Candace Bushnell's column for the New York Observer inspired the popular TV series, Sex and the CityCandace Bushnell's column for the New York Observer inspired the popular TV series, Sex and the City (Image: Grace Fries for Gurus Magazine)

‘We developed the show at Bucks County Playhouse and then our first performance was Off Broadway at the Daryl Roth Theatre. Now I’m coming to England, which is so amazing to me. This is something that I never imagined I would do.’

The tour stops off in London’s West End, before visiting Southend, Southampton, Nottingham, Cardiff, Manchester and several other destinations. So, what can audiences expect from the show? ‘It's really about how I created Sex and the City, how hard I worked to get there, why I invented Carrie Bradshaw and what happened to me afterwards,’ explains Candace. ‘I also answer burning questions like, was there a real Mr Big? Do I really have a shoe obsession like Carrie Bradshaw? And did I really have three friends like the one on the TV show? Then we play a game, Real or Not Real, because so many things that happened on the TV show were better or worse than my real life.’

As a writer, Candace is able to edit and re-edit her work but on stage there’s nowhere to hide. So how did she find presenting to a live audience? ‘Every time I perform it’s totally different,’ she laughs ‘sometimes people shout things out from the audience, which is fun and makes it really interactive. ‘It's a little bit feminist – it’s about being your own Mr Big instead of looking for Mr Big and people seem to come to the show to have a good time – they get dressed up, they come along with their girlfriends – it’s simply a great night out!

Great British Life: The best-selling author turned performer is looking forward to coming to Southend this monthThe best-selling author turned performer is looking forward to coming to Southend this month (Image: Fadil Berisha)

‘When you put out a book, everybody brings so much of their own personal experience and neurosis when interpreting what’s on the page. I’m often astounded by people’s reactions and have to question if they read the same book that I wrote!’

Candace was born in Glastonbury, Connecticut and moved to New York in the late 1970s when she was still a teenager. Manhattan is now her home for the foreseeable future, so what prompted her to hop across the Atlantic to bring the tour to the UK? ‘I regularly come to London for book signings, and have some good friends here,’ she reveals. ‘I’m looking forward to spending time on the tour exploring areas of the UK that I’m not so familiar with.’

No stranger to success, Candace is the winner of the 2006 Matrix Award for books and a recipient of the Albert Einstein Spirit of Achievement Award. But was there ever a ‘pinch-me’ moment when she realised that she’d really made it? ‘Yes, and that’s something that I talk about in the show,’ she asserts. ‘It was probably when I was around 50 years old and I had a number one book on the New York Times bestseller list, The Carrie Diaries, which we were making into a TV show. We had a radio show on Sirius, I was married and I thought ‘well maybe this will be the happily ever after’ and then, as I say in the show… ‘well, guess what…it’s not!’ Because stuff keeps happening, you know, that’s life.’

Great British Life: Candace is a recipient of the Albert Einstein Spirit of Achievement AwardCandace is a recipient of the Albert Einstein Spirit of Achievement Award (Image: Fadil Berisha)

When Candace wrote her original column for the New York Observer she encapsulated the New York dating scene at a particular moment in time. But how different does she think her column and, therefore, Sex and the City, would be today? ‘I was 34 when I started writing Sex and the City and I’d already been writing women’s magazines for 15 years before that,’ she reveals. ‘If I were young now, I would definitely have been an influencer on social media.’

Touching on something Candace mentioned earlier, where she said that we all need to be our own Mr Big, one of my favourite moments in Sex and the City is when the four women are in a café and Charlotte’s lamenting the fact that she hasn’t found a man yet. In response, Carrie pipes up and says: ‘We’re the white knight, we’re the ones who have to save ourselves’ and I think that was such a powerful moment – the sentiment resonates just as much now as it did then. But does Candace agree? ‘Absolutely - that was one of whole reasons for writing Sex and the City was because that was my real-life situation’ she confirms. ‘I had lots of girlfriends and we really felt like ‘we need to stick together and look after each other and be a team’, so there was a lot of female camaraderie and, without that, you can’t really survive in New York. There are some very successful women in the city and that was the reason for writing Lipstick Jungle – to capture how powerful women really have each other’s backs in business and, you know, that’s how women really need to get ahead.’

One thing that is evident about Candace’s writing is that she regularly includes strong female characters in her work. So, who are the strong female characters in her own life, who have supported her along the way? ‘Well, I have my very own Charlotte, Miranda and Samantha,’ she smiles. ‘There isn’t anyone who’s particularly famous, who the audience at my shows would know, but I’ve always had a lot of female friends.’

Living in the States, I’m correct in thinking that Candace may not have heard about the stereotype of the typical Essex girl – a bit of a party girl, very materialistic, promiscuous and with a love of white stilettos. This taps into the age-old view of a woman falling into one of two categories: the Madonna or the Whore, which I why I wanted to know how far she thinks women have come from being categorised in this way and what further improvements she would like to see?

Great British Life: Candace will shortly be touring the UK with her one-woman showCandace will shortly be touring the UK with her one-woman show (Image: Joan Marcus)

‘First of all, I think women have come a long way and are much more self-actualised than they used to be,’ she asserts. ‘It’s ok to be a successful women – it’s about using the cards that you’ve been dealt in life and turning them to your advantage. The one thing I personally would like to see is more women in finance and more women in STEM: in computers, in science, in technology. That’s really where we need women otherwise we’re getting a very one-sided viewpoint. Our future is geared to men and all those technologies are geared for men to have an advantage.’

So, does Candace believe there’s still a ‘glass ceiling’ or does she think that women are firmly breaking through it?

‘Oh, there’s still a glass ceiling,’ she says definitively. ‘I mean, out of the people who are in the top 1% financially in the US, only 3.5% of that 1% are women who made their own money. You know, the women who are in the 1% are the women who married the rich guy, or their parents had a lot of money, and that’s problematic – it shouldn’t be that way.’

But what is it that inspired Candace’s strong work ethic and her desire to share the lessons she’s learned along the way with others?

Great British Life: On her upcoming tour, Candace answers all your most pressing questions about Sex and the CityOn her upcoming tour, Candace answers all your most pressing questions about Sex and the City (Image: Fadil Berisha)

‘I’m a very creative person, always have been. I’m forever going to be working on a new project, whether that’s a pilot for a TV show, a book or perhaps another play.’ And after the tour finishes – what then? ‘I’m going to Italy after the UK, then Ireland, Scotland, Canada and then maybe I’ll try to take the summer off,’ she exclaims.

The Sex and the City Spin-Off series ‘And Just Like That’ has been a great success and is coming back for its third season, not only delighting existing fans but winning a whole series of new ones. ‘Oh, I think it’s terrific, it’s fantastic,’ Candace enthuses. ‘I mean, TV is hard, and there are very few people who can do it. I don’t actually work on the show but I get a credit and I get a cheque, so that’s great!’

Back in the day Candace was writing her newspaper column, the mantra was really work hard play hard. Now we’re much more mindful of supporting our mental health, so how does she choose to unwind after a hectic day – is it still cocktails and fine dining or is there something else? ‘I feel like I’m pretty busy most of the time but when I want to unwind I watch reality shows! I try to eat well, exercise and look after myself… I certainly don’t stay out until 2am like I used to – those days are over.’

And given this issue is all based around Love and Romance, what and who are the big loves in Candace’s life? ‘Writing will always be my big love but I also have two Standard Poodles that I’m absolutely crazy about – Pepper and Prancer!’

Candace Bushnell will be appearing at Southend Cliffs Pavilion on Sunday 18 February.