Character Assassination

What happens when you write a character so revered that her life eclipses your own? SARAH BREEN asks Candace Bushnell

It’s been 18 years since Candace Bushnell wrote Sex and the City, a collection of essays that became the basis of a hit television show and, eventually, spawned two box office-smashing movies. Carrie Bradshaw, played on both small and large screens by Sarah Jessica Parker, is Bushnell’s most famous creation, a character who defined a new breed of 30-something women navigating the complex late 1990s dating scene – and wearing Manolo Blahniks while doing it.
Almost two decades later, Bushnell has just finished her eighth book, Killing Monica. The story’s protagonist, PJ Wallis, is a successful New York author, famed for writing one larger-than-life character: Monica. So far, so familiar. In the book, PJ decides the only way to get her own personal life back on track is to kill off her alter ego, who had started overshadowing her completely. Well, there’s really only one conclusion a reader can draw ...
“It’s not about me wanting to kill Carrie Bradshaw,” Bushnell is quick to reassure on a call from Manhattan. “I love Carrie and I would never want to kill her.”
While Bushnell drew on her own experience as an author in creating both PJ Wallis and Monica, she says she found inspiration for the story elsewhere.“I’d been working on a book idea for a year and it just wasn’t jelling,” she says. “I tried to figure out what I had in my life that was unique, and that I could make fun of. I started reading Philip Roth, who created a character who wrote a book and everybody hates him. I thought that it was a hilarious construct for a comic novel: a woman who’s created a character that’s dominating her life.”
Once you scratch the surface of Monica, it becomes apparent that she’s about as far from Cosmopolitan-sipping, Marlboro Light-smoking Carrie as you could get. According to Bushnell, she’s an amalgam of the attributes young women strive to 
have. Realising this perfection is unattainable is one of the reasons Monica has to die. “In our 20s and  30s we create an idealised self, and Monica is a metaphor for that,” Bushnell explains. “She’s the one who always exercises and who doesn’t drink too 
much. When you get to your 40s, that idealised self doesn’t work anymore and you’ve got to reinvent it. Killing Monica is a metaphor for letting go of the past.”
One of the reasons Bushnell’s books have been so wildly popular is the complexity of her female protagonists. She maintains that flaws are what make them real – and relatable: “When I create characters I really get into their heads. I think that’s why so many people assume that I’m writing about my own life.

Killing Monica (Little, Brown, €22) is out now. 

This story appears in the July/August issue of The Gloss. Find more features like this in our next issue, out Saturday September 5

Off the record: Lupita Nyong’o

Lupita Nyong’o is a Mexican-Kenyan actress, film director and current face of Lancôme. Last year she became both the first Mexican and first Kenyan woman to win an Oscar, awarded for her role in Steve McQueen’s 12 Years A Slave. This year she is set to star in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

When you want to hide, where do you go? My apartment. I live in Brooklyn, and I enjoy being away from where I work. I love the parks, the farmers’ markets, the museums. I don’t like to have too many choices, which is what you get in Manhattan.

What do you do to relax? I lie down, I meditate, I dance.

What do you find most appealing in a man? Honesty, humour, and ironed shirts.

What do you consider to be your greatest quality? I value my empathy. My livelihood depends on being able to empathise 
with everyone.

Would you describe your daily beauty routine as high or low maintenance? Very low-maintenance. On a regular day, I wear lip gloss or balm because it’s easy. I’ll define my eyebrows, and depending on how much time I have, I’ll put on eyeliner and mascara.

Do you like to wear lipstick? I love lipstick. It’s a great way to bring a whole outfit together or quickly feel dressed up. My make-up artist, Nick, always says, “You have the clothes and they’re fabulous, but then you put on the lipstick and you’re major!” I’m actually wearing Lancôme Rouge Rayonnant now.

What lessons has your mother taught you about beauty? She told me that your outer shell will not sustain you as a person. You have to dig deeper. She also taught me that how I treat my body will eventually show up on my face. Diet is the most important part of skin care.

How did it feel when your name was called out at the Oscars? Confusing. There was so much noise in my head that I wasn’t sure 
if my name had been called. Then I heard my brother scream. I knew from his scream that it 
was my name.

In your acceptance speech, you talked a lot about your mother. How does she feel about your worldwide fame?
She is extremely proud. But my mother worries that I don’t have my breakfast. She’ll say, “It’s great that you’re on the cover of that magazine, but did you have your breakfast this morning?”

This story appears in the June issue of The Gloss. Find more features like this in our next issue, out Thursday July 2

Creating COS

Karin Gustafsson and Martin Andersson, heads of design for COS womenswear and menswear respectively, tell THE GLOSS Magazine why art, design and architecture are such immense influences

Art and design has always been absolutely crucial to the DNA of the Swedish brand COS. Collaborations such as the recent COS x Snarkitecture at the Salone in Milan (the brand has also worked with the Serpentine Gallery, Frieze art fairs and the Barbican) pair COS with like-minded people in different areas of  art and culture.
Immaculately dressed in the clean, minimalist aesthetic that defines the brand, both designers confess to only wearing COS. One of the core values at COS is tactility, which filters through everything from garments to the look of the stores. For Andersson, variety in fabrics is a key constituent of all that COS embodies.
“Creating hybrid fabrics is exciting. The current collection juxtaposes traditional sewing methods, with new bonding methods for 
seams, resulting in an even cleaner silhouette.”
But with over 120 stores worldwide, how do they design for the international customer? “We don’t design for a particular age group, person or culture,” says Gustafsson. “We create clothing that is understated, timeless and which does not dictate. We see our customers as a community, people who like to be informed, with an international mindset, and who have an interest in design, architecture and what’s happening in the world,” adds Andersson. “We have a core set of staples – the white shirt, the great trouser and blazer – which we reinvent each season. We are always looking to reinvent.”

This story appears in the June issue of The Gloss. Find more features like this in our next issue, out Thursday July 2

The Magic Of Matisse

This month Dun Laoghaire LexIcon’s Municipal Gallery will host Drawing with Scissors, an exhibition of French painter Henri Matisse’s last paintings. Following surgery to treat his abdominal cancer in 1941, which left him chair-bound and consequently unable to paint or sculpt, the painter turned his hand to creating bright paper collages. Drawing with Scissors features 35 lithographic reproductions of these last works on loan from Southbank Centre, London, which are among his most vibrant creations. The exhibition will be accompanied by a learning programme which features a number of workshops for children and families. June 5-July 5.

This story appears in the June issue of The Gloss. Find more features like this in our next issue, out Thursday July 2

The fairytale festival

The beautiful, sleepy village of Borris, Co. Carlow will become host this weekend (June 5 - 7) to the Borris House Festival of Writing & Ideas, attracting some of the most intriguing minds for a variety of truly inspiring conversations. Among the incredibly talented speakers travelling to the festival are Ian McEwan, Neil Jordan, Joanne O’Riordan and Anne Enright. Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour and Polly Samson will discuss their creative relationship, and actress Aoife Duffin will perform an “unplugged’” stage adaptationof Eimear McBride’s A Girl Is A Half-Formed Thing.

This story appears in the June issue of The Gloss. Find more features like this in our next issue, out Thursday July 2