For the 20th anniversary of Sex and the City—which premiered on HBO on June 6, 1998 and went on to become iconic prestige television—Jezebel is doing a week of posts dedicated to our favorite band of sexual women friends.
Of the many, many television shows that take place in New York City, Sex and the City interacts with the city similarly to Friends or Seinfeld—by featuring insular communities that are populated by the same kinds of people, and very rarely is anyone not white. Neither Friends nor Seinfeld purported to be anything other than a sitcom about a group of quirky friends who happen to live in New York—the city itself was not really a character, but an incidental. In SATC, the city is in the freaking name.
While the women of HBO’s fictitious New York rarely deigned to step out of their Manhattan bubbles—recall Miranda’s horror at the idea of moving to an enormous brownstone in Brooklyn Heights—it still stands to reason that they would’ve crossed paths more often with people who didn’t look like them in a capacity other than servers, nannies, and medical professionals.
Much of the show’s charm is in its relatability—strip away the gang’s increasingly luxe backdrop and Carrie’s unfortunate outfits, and what’s left is a show that aptly captured what many women were actually thinking and feeling. Even today, the conversations we’re having now are, with a few exceptions, pretty similar to the ones they were having back then. But again, the show was made when television looked significantly whiter than it does today, at a time when having women proactively looking to fuck was considered taboo.
In the 20 years since the show, a fair amount has been written about its notable lack of diversity. Still, re-watching it for the 20th anniversary was newly shocking, and inspired us to embark upon a Sex and the City Diversity Watch—a marathon viewing session of every episode from start to finish, noting each character of color on screen.
The rules are as follows.
- Each character who’s a person of color must have at least one speaking role.
- Background actors don’t count.
- Extra credit to those who play some part in a storyline.
- The movies don’t count (obviously).
- Woman at Nick Wexler’s dinner party
- Model that Nick Wexler tries to fuck (NON-SPEAKING)
- Model named Misha, from a fashion show, that ends up being with Big
- Man working at the bodega where Miranda buys cat food
- Tim Walter, basketball-playing med student featured in a “man on the street” interview
- A nail salon employee talking about how often she has sex (one time a day, but two times a very special day)
- Madame Lordes, Santerian mystic, lives in a “part of town never mentioned in The New Yorker”
- Yankees player who says, “Give her whatever she wants but don’t sign a motherfuckin’ thing.”
- The “Pakistani busboy” who kisses Samantha in the bathroom after she gets stood up at a restaurant
- Javier, the designer whose funeral the gang attends (NON-SPEAKING)
- His sister, Josefina
- The hostess who tells Samantha she’s not accepted at the restaurant at which she was eating
- Eileen, the “power lesbian” buying a painting who compliments Charlotte on her Prada loafers
- Patty Aston, the power lesbian with a house in Telluride who tells Charlotte, “If you’re not going to eat pussy, you’re not a dyke”
- Harvey Terkel’s Thai servant who “practically threw” Samantha out of bed and pretended that Samantha hit her so that she could be the only woman in Harvey’s life
- Jesus, the custodian in Samantha’s building
- Hostess at 11 Madison Park where Carrie meets Big after she finds out he’s dating Natasha
- Woman who checks Carrie and Samantha into the Women in the Arts Luncheon, and who tells Carrie that Natasha isn’t coming
- Adena Williams, proprietor of soul food fusion restaurant who says that okra will be the new edamame and tells Samantha that she has a problem with her, a white woman, dating Williams’s brother
- Chivon Williams, the brother who dates Samantha
- Woman in the line at the club who says, “That ain’t right,” when Samantha enters the club before her
- A man who tells everyone in the club to “Keep it real!” when Samantha and Adena get into a fight
- Opera singer whose dulcet tones Samantha seems to be imitating when she’s having sex
- The manager of the Blimpie’s where the sexually harassing sandwich works
- The doctor at the clinic that gives Samantha her STI test results
- A Japanese businessman who asks Carrie for her price at the hotel where she’s meeting Big
- A man at a speed-dating event who doesn’t want to date Miranda because she’s a lawyer
- Woman attending Carrie’s Learning Annex class, who asks why she’s being paid to teach them how to find men if she’s not married
- Woman in the audience at Carrie’s Learning Annex class who says, “She’s older than us!”
- Liz, a woman from Carrie’s Learning Annex class who works in TV
- Three “loud transsexuals” outside of Samantha’s apartment, who Carrie describes as “half man, half woman, totally annoying”: Destiny, China, Jo. Samantha eventually throws water on them so she can have sex in peace? Later, one of them returns to throw eggs at Samantha under the cover of night
- The woman at the desk at the animal clinic where the roosters (“rescued from a cock fight in the Bronx”) that wake Carrie up at night reside
- Woman who works at Shanghai Gardens who laughs when Miranda places an order
- Lynn Cameron (Margaret Cho!), a fashion show producer “as valuable to a show’s success as Valium or Velcro”
- Her boyfriend, Damien, “clearly a homosexual” (NON-SPEAKING)
- Maria, the Brazilian artist who seduces Samantha and dates her for a few episodes; she lives at “Casa de Lesbo,” talks too much, and breaks a bunch of plates.
- Maria’s ex
- Dance teacher at a West African dance class attended by Charlotte and Carrie
- Dmitriy, a Tekserve (RIP) employee who tells Carrie and Aidan that they “aren’t compatible” because he’s a PC and she’s a Mac
- The nurse at the hospital who tells Miranda she only has 20 minutes to spend with Steve after he recovers from surgery
- Lucy Liu
- Disembodied voice on the tapes Charlotte uses to learn Chinese in case she adopts a “Mandarin baby” (SPEAKING, BUT NO PERSON)
- Sonogram technician who tells Miranda that she’s having a boy
- Charlotte’s tap teacher who tells her, “Just go it alone.” He means across the dance floor, but she interprets it as in life!!!
- A woman who tells Carrie how much the bus costs and then says, “Why do you have to take the bus if you’re on the bus?”
- The man at the shoe store who, when told by Carrie that she’s just trying a pair on for fun, replies, “How fun... for me”
- The waiter at the Chinese restaurant who says, “You come back,” in accented English as he places the check and fortune cookies on the table at dinner when Miranda offers to give Carrie the money she needs for her apartment
- The unattended baby who wets himself at Miranda’s baby shower (NON-SPEAKING)
- Lina, Miranda’s baby nurse, is in multiple scenes, but the bit is that she does not speak. “Does she speak?” Carrie asks. “No,” says Miranda. “I love her” (NON-SPEAKING, BUT THAT’S THE JOKE)
- Police officer (Chandra Wilson!!!) who tells Samantha that she cannot plaster cheating Richard’s face on city property, but then says she can
- Louis LeRoy, the hot Navy midshipman who gets to be the love interest for one whole episode
- Aspirational older black couple who watch the sunset on Atlantic City boardwalk and convince Carrie that love is worth it!!!
- Limo driver who takes Carrie to Gray’s Papaya after her book party
- Backup dancer at Marcus’s review, sings some lines to “All That Jazz”
- Kendall, mother of Alika, Miranda’s neighbor who yells at her for Brady’s crying
- The waiter on the train to San Francisco who tells Carrie and Samantha to “just sit anywhere that’s open”
- Wedding singer at Bitsie von Muffling and Bobby Fine’s wedding
- Taxi driver who doesn’t get off his phone when Carrie is in a rush to get to the stock exchange!!!
- Hostess at Raw
- The janitor at the synagogue who Charlotte says “Shalom” to
- Two women talking about their dates, who Miranda tells, “He’s just not that into you, so move on”
- Jury duty woman who says “Welcome to jury duty”
- Man who takes a mango out of his briefcase at jury duty (NON-SPEAKING)
- Three of four women in the bachelorette party at Drown the Hound who invite Charlotte to be in the disposable camera photo and then she takes their party veil
- DR. ROBERT FRICKIN’ LEEDS! (Blair Underwood) A whole season ARC!!!
- Does Jules from Jules and Mimi count? (YES)
- Woman in waiting room of Dr. Mao’s office who says she knows a woman who got pregnant on her third visit!
- Dr. Mao
- Ruby, Mr. Big’s heart surgery nurse
- The doorman at the club that Samantha and Smith go to where she runs into Richard and he tells her, “Aren’t you a sight for sore eyes?”
- The bartender with the most beautiful breasts Samantha has ever seen, who gives her a recommendation for a doctor for a boob job
- The nurse at Samantha’s chemo place who asks her if she has any mouth sores, and then tells her to, “Keep up the popsicles”
- Documentary editor Rama Patel at Candice Bergen’s fancy party who says, “But I get final Cal-cut-ta.”
- Three of the women who take off their wigs at Samantha’s breast cancer benefit (one of them points at her supportively!) (NON- SPEAKING)
- Aleks’s best friend’s girlfriend who speaks French over Carrie
- Photograph of Charlotte and Harry’s Chinese baby (NON- SPEAKING, A PHOTOGRAPH)
Total No. of Episodes: 94
Total No. of Speaking Non-white Characters: 72
Total No. of Non-white Characters Who Last More Than One Episode: 2 (Dr. Robert Leeds and Maria)
Total No. of Insensitive Accents: 8
Total No. of Service Industry Professionals: 10