Real Talk: Carrie Bradshaw or Toni Childs?
She loves her Manolos…and Mui Mui’s…and Loubous. Her closet is to live for. A custom designed, state of the art ensemble area, to be exact. Her city apartment is just as stylish, elegant, and well put together as she. And when she’s not pounding the pavement in four inch Jimmy Choos as an entrepreneur, and something of a local celebrity, she can be found seated amongst her three best girlfriends at their favorite downtown bar sipping on a Cosmo…or some other effervescent drink from a martini glass. She is the Barbie that you could only dream of playing with. No, I’m not talking about Carrie Bradshaw; I’m talking about Antoinette “Toni” Marie Childs.
In Girlfriends and Sex and the City, the characters of Toni Childs and Carrie Bradshaw represented two different ethnic backgrounds, two different socioeconomic groups, two different upbringings, and two different metropolitans on opposite coasts, but the shows’ themes of girlfriends, sex and the single life, and city living cannot be overlooked.
While Sex and the City wasn’t a fixture in my life until a few months ago, I did spend my adolescence growing up with the hit TV series Girlfriends. Tracee Ellis Ross, Golden Brooks, Persia White, and my personal favorite, Jill Marie Jones all brilliantly portrayed characters that provided comedic relief, culture, and a much needed dose of home girl reality. Tackling everything from workplace boy’s club mentality to colorism in the black community, many of the jokes went way over my pre-teen head at the time, but as an adult, I can now appreciate the show’s suggestive humor and politically incorrectness.
After spending most of my life ignorant of Sex and the City, my curiosity was piqued earlier in the year after joining Instagram. Daily I’d come across the profiles of tulle skirt wearing fashionistas—from the obscure to the influencer—all boasting clever Bradshaw quotes such as, “I like my money right where I can see it—hanging in my closet”.
Through Instagram and Twitter, I’d also come across several social media users who hail the fictional protagonist as something of a heroine—even going as far as to name their handles and blogs after her. So with my curiosity reaching an all-time high, I spent the next two to three months watching every single episode. From the pilot to an American Girl in Paris Part Deux, I watched my queue of SATC episodes dwindle along with my hope of witnessing a much needed character metamorphosis with the show’s main character. And by series end, this African American girl in Cleveland was perplexed all the more by the pop culture phenomenon that is Carrie Bradshaw fandom.
Perhaps it was her sense of fashion, or her adventurous sex life, or even her enviable brownstone and New York address that has endeared so many to the character, but I didn’t leave the series sharing the sentiments of Bradshaw worshippers. I left feeling as though Bradshaw was a cautionary tale of what happens to Toni Childs’ who never grew up.
Though the shows were vastly different, I couldn’t help but notice parallels between SATC’s main character, Carrie Bradshaw, and a Girlfriends supporting character, Toni Childs.
Both characters, for most of their respective series’, were unmarried women in their thirties. Both were known for their sass and outspoken nature. Carrie’s sparkling wit shining most brightly through her newspaper column, and Toni’s sassy sarcasm knowing no bounds in her relationships both romantic and platonic. Both women dated politicians without having any real social consciousness. Both women had an affinity for the finer things in life…whether they could afford them or not. And perhaps the most obvious parallel between characters was that both of their lives were so intimately intertwined with those of their girlfriends.
From both dating married men to cheating on good men who they claimed to love, Toni and Carrie had a lot of similar ways, as far as sex, relationships, and city life goes, but only one of them seemed to leave their casual sex and careless city living behind for something more, and that was Toni Childs.
When the series started out, Toni was your typical money hungry, narcissistic, shallow California transplant; superficial standards governed every aspect of her life. If a man was too short, she wouldn’t date him. If getting pregnant could potentially alter her physique, she swore off having children.
If she deemed a woman “too hood”, she took instant issue with her. Yet by series ends, Toni had married the man who she’d originally deemed too short, risked her physique to have his baby (even fighting tooth and nail amidst a nasty custody battle), and even became close friends with the woman, Maya Wilkes, who she disliked on account of her being “too ghetto”. Bradshaw on the other hand carried her emotional immaturity well into SATC’s two feature film prologues.
Such antics of entertaining a toxic ex on the phone while in bed with a current lover, breaking up with a perfectly good man for being “too normal”, and accumulating $40,000 worth of designer shoes without having a place to call home sounds like the careless practices of a woman in her early twenties, yet these were the daily realities of the close to forty something who many consider the most iconic TV protagonist of all time.
I am in no way trying to paint Toni as some kind of patron saint—for she definitely had her share of trifling moments, that whole episode of trying to seduce her best friend’s sex addicted boyfriend taking the cake. But the theme of her life on the show was growth, and that’s where Carrie Bradshaw stalled.
Where Toni’s self-reflectiveness led to her becoming proactive in her self-improvement—finding religion after alienating herself from her circle of friends, establishing a Never Going Back to Fresno Fund worth half a million to ensure that she’d never be poor again, seeing a therapist after acknowledging her fear that no one would miss her if she died—Carrie’s self-reflectiveness served as nothing more than thought provoking reading material and unresolved questions for her column.
By some accounts, some would gather that Carrie’s was the success story in that she ended up married to the wealthy business man who had her heart from episode one…and that would indeed be the case if marriage and not maturity was the goal of one’s life.
On paper, Toni’s outcome of being a newly divorced, single mom who’d just severed twenty four year old ties with a best friend may not seem like a success story, but the road to making those decisions is what gives credence to her emotional maturity.
Yes, Toni ended up getting a divorce, but only after considering and reconsidering the well-being of her and her child—owning up to the fact that she made an error in marrying him to begin with. Yes Toni—until she remarries—will be another single black mother, but unlike the ranks, she has learned financial responsibility and sits on a $500,000 nest egg because of it, while any chance of Carrie establishing financial independence was killed when she said “I do” to a filthy rich business tycoon. Yes Toni cut ties with her closest girlfriend, but only because that relationship was no longer serving her well, while Carrie ended up marrying the BIGGEST enablement of her emotional dysfunction.
Bottom line: Toni evolved while true to Carrie form, Bradshaw foiled any attempts at real growth.
Having cut off toxic relationships, having learned financial responsibility, and having made conscious efforts towards personal betterment, Toni Childs was true to her business slogan of specializing in results.
There are lessons to be learned from both fictional fashionistas, but because only Toni outgrew her self-damaging ways to become more than sex and the city, she will always reign supreme as my favorite label laden leading lady.
Share your thoughts with a comment below
Meet Krystal: Writer and etiquette professional Krystal Esmi teaches pretty manners and uncommon muliebrity for etiquette beyond the table. A certified etiquette consultant since 2015, and a mentor since her late teens, Krystal’s aim with Pretty Manners is to do more than instruct students and clients on how to properly eat an artichoke, but to prime girls/young women for a life of graceful measures. Through lectures, community workshops, her writings, and demonstration, she hopes to foster and further cultivate a fading culture of soft femininity. Follow her on Instagram @PrettyManners or at https://prettymanners.wordpress.com/