If you’re looking for a reason to fall back in love with Sex and the City, following Dan Clay and his drag persona Carrie Dragshaw on Instagram would be a great start. What began as a silly Halloween costume last year, has transformed into a full-fledged Instadrag account with a following of more than 60k.
Clay’s fixation on Carrie Bradshaw started in college, when his sexuality and love for SATC were both closeted. It wasn’t until after he graduated from Northwestern and moved to New York City that he openly watched the show. “When Sex and the City originally aired, I wasn’t out,” Clay says. “At that time in my life, I felt that being a fan of SATC would be akin to waving a rainbow flag around campus and that was not something I was ready to do. When I started watching the show after moving to New York, it felt like I was committing this minor act of self-acceptance and self-love. I was allowing myself to like what I liked.”
As I stepped past BeBe, my new BF headed to AA. My life was full of letters—D&G, DKNY, CK1, APC, Agnes B. (and DSW on the DL)—so why be scared of two more? As I obsessed over his addiction, I couldn’t help but wonder: Was I just as drunk? My vision of our future blurred because I took in too much of his past? And did we all spend so much time downing someone’s setbacks that we blacked out their strengths? After all, what is AA except a room full of people who had the courage to change. Just like Gucci in '94, sometimes you have to reinvent yourself to survive. In life, everyone's problems are different—but what if the stuff that helps us survive is all the same? The strength to look past a past full of pain. The heart to beat a scary disease. The bravery to look into a broken marriage and believe you deserve more. The courage to look into a mirror, broken, and believe you can be more. The daily heroism of living with anxiety or depression, loneliness or loss. The strength to not let a break up break you. The balls to love your body. The pride to love yourself. The simple power to not let anything—anything—take you down. I realized, every person you will ever pass on any sidewalk in any city has two things in common: We all have pain. And we haven't given up. We hide it on the inside because we think it makes us look weak. But what if our pain is also our power? Because anyone who dares to create a "New You" learns this, sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly: You're so much stronger than you think you are. #CarrieDragshaw
Living only three blocks away from Carrie Bradshaw’s TV apartment, Clay and his friends captured his rendition of Carrie, later posting the images to Instagram. But what Clay didn’t expect was the response his pictures would receive. “I posted the first picture for my friends and it ended up going far beyond the 700 followers I had at the time,” he says. “It received a lot of positive attention, a few SATC fan accounts reposted it and Sarah Jessica Parker even left a comment. I loved the joy it seemed to be bringing people, so I decided to keep posting the pictures we had taken that day.”
Although the response Clay received from his posts were only encouraging, he was reluctant to initiate a side career in drag. “Even as an out and proud gay man, throughout my life I’ve always had lingering insecurities related to coming across as too feminine or not fitting into a particular masculine ideal,” he says. “I had this self-destructive inner voice that celebrated and held onto delusions of ‘traditional masculinity,’ whatever that means. Then, comes Carrie. I genuinely loved dressing up as her. I loved the escape of getting into a ‘character,’ the self-expression of crafting her voice, the nervous energy of trying to find just the right outfit, and the positive energy Ms. Dragshaw seemed to be spreading. This all forced me to confront my own insecurities about embracing something so, literally, feminine in such a public way. I tried to pay closer attention to the side of love, and listen less to the side of self-doubt.”
There’s no better city in the world than New York in the spring. Long lazy picnics in Central Park, farmer’s market pretzels in Union Square, freshly planted tulips on Park Avenue. And as flowers bloom, fashion blossoms. Daisies & Dior. Lilies & Lanvin. Gladiolus & Galliano. As I looked at all the flowers opening up, I couldn’t help but wonder: Maybe I could, too. Maybe I could let my heart out of hibernation and open myself up to love. After all, seasons change. Can people? With a spring in my step, I was frozen no more. And the best part is: When your heart blooms, you don’t even have to stop to smell the roses. The flowers follow you. And that’s just fabulous. Because even a New Yorker needs a little nature. #CarrieDragshaw
Clay began devoting his free time to recreating moments from the show, crafting many of Ms. Dragshaw’s ensembles by hand, along with the occasional help from his close friends. As he delved deeper into the project, he took on the challenge of writing captions for his images that mimicked Carrie’s iconic tone, which he says took off on a personal level and became something he wanted to continue. “I absolutely loved channeling her voice while applying it to modern situations,” Clay says. “I wanted to embody Carrie with the confidence and independence I’d always wished for her. I’ve thought a lot about it, and I care very deeply about making this an authentic homage. Of course I make the messages my own, I have certain themes that I want to convey. Mainly: You’re fucking fabulous with or without a man. You can become the love you’re looking for. Happiness is right in front of you if you pay attention to the right things.”
Clay saw the possibilities of making Carrie Dragshaw more than just another Instagram drag queen, and wanted to create a safe, accepting space on the Internet during a time when hate seemed to be circulating daily. Now, he says he get the “sweetest messages from people in all different areas and phases of life: divorced women trying to reclaim their sexiness, single moms wanting a simple laugh, young gay boys learning how to express themselves authentically, and guys confused with their place on the sexuality spectrum who question why they even connect to a drag queen in the first place. I think because there’s a certain vulnerability to the posts, people are comfortable being vulnerable with me, and it’s really created this great place of joy and love for me and I hope others, too.”