The Reinvention of Kristin Davis

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The Reinvention of Kristin Davis featured image
Photographed by John Russo at The Beverly Hilton / Makeup: Kara Yoshimoto Bua at A-Frame Agency; Hair: Marcus Francis at A-Frame Agency; Styling: Karen Raphael; Dress: Pamella Roland; Jewelry: Vrai
This article first appeared in the Winter 2022 issue of New Beauty. Click here to subscribe

When Kristin Davis enters the famed Beverly Hilton hotel lobby, she’s boiling over with excitement to share the details of her daughter’s soccer game—and equally as anxious to hop in the shower.

“My son wanted attention, so he tackled me and now I’m covered in grass!” the 56-year-old, who’s dressed in a T-shirt and khakis, animatedly explains. “I need to wash my hair. That’s all I need…and maybe an iced tea.”

Minutes later, the hotel manager whisks her away to the storied suites on the eighth floor, kindly reminding me that the location is an ever-organized hub for some big Hollywood productions, and that he’s confident this photo shoot will go off without a hitch—complete with a glass of freshly brewed tea and a paper straw on the side. “We’ll make sure she’s happy,” he assures.

As Davis catches up with her rep, her LA-based glam squad, and peruses the racks of pulled clothing, to call the scene “happy” is accurate. Smiles, some grabbing of the good light on the terrace, and several outfit changes follow—as do the knocks on the door from friends who heard she’s back in town, off for a few days from filming HBO’s And Just Like That… on the other coast.

First up: Her long-time manager, Dave Fleming: “I was driving down Wilshire and I saw you up here!” His wife, Denise, backs that this isn’t some Hollywood-hotshot line: The couple knew she was in LA and working today, but didn’t know where. They just happened to look up while stopped at the light and saw Davis on the terrace.

“I knew a couple of other actresses up for the Sex and the City role, but she was the only one I could recommend, ” Fleming tells me. “She was Charlotte. She still is. People love her.”

Clothing: Jonathan Simkhai; Earrings: Raven Fine Jewelers; Rings: Vrai

After four, very different, decades later, Davis doesn’t disagree: “Sex and the City is, and always will be, my dream project—it’s the best creative experience of my life,” she says. “Charlotte is my alter-ego. I’m in hardcore Charlotte-mode right now. My only complaint is that it’s getting cold in New York and we’re filming for spring, so the outfits she’s wearing are way too cold. Maybe we can turn her on to some bulky sweaters in the new year. But you know Charlotte, she’s not going to change—at least not when it comes to her style. I’m just excited for the world to meet the 55-year-old version of her. She has some stories to tell.”

Why now?

“The world needs some light and Sex and the City is light. This new chapter is light. We’ve all been through a lot these past two years, and it’s been on a big scale. There’s so much about the show that excites people. I’ve always been hopeful we would come back…there was a point where Cynthia [Nixon] was like, ‘Just let it go, it’s fine,’ and I was always, ‘Of course it’s fine! I am not saying that I can’t exist if we don’t come back, but there is so much potential.’

The main reason I wanted to come back is that I genuinely love working with these people. It’s the thing that I hold all other things up to in terms of collaboration, fun and intensity. Everyone who works on it is committed to whatever that idea of perfection is, which can sometimes make things a little stressful, because you can’t ever really reach perfection. But it’s nice to work with people who have a shared vision.”

What is that vision?

“I think it’s that we care so much. We know the show doesn’t necessarily have a greater purpose, but we also know it’s not ‘just a show.’ Even in the beginning, we knew we had something special, in that we wanted to make a show about women, by women, and we didn’t want the stories to be told in terms of the male perspective. Sarah Jessica [Parker], had always been a producer, and then an executive producer, and we had all these women writers who, while you might not have met them publicly, were very dedicated to telling their stories. And we also wanted to make a show where we could talk openly about sex—which people forget was very shocking in 1998 when we debuted!

That is not to say that the show is perfect: We’re very aware the show is not perfect in terms of the modern-day lens. That’s the other reason that coming back is so amazing. The whole time, I kept saying, ‘There’s no reason why we wouldn’t have interesting stories to tell now’…even though we are now in the ageism world, which is interesting since, originally, we started in the sexism world.

So, even if the world isn’t ready to break down these walls, which is, unfortunately, very true, we were ready. We are ready! We were set on making this thing, and we know that people want to see this thing, and we know that, even if people don’t watch it, they will talk about it, which is a miracle when you think about it.”

Clothing: Sukeina; Earrings: Raven Fine Jewelers

Because you’re in your 50s?

“Yes! Why can’t we still tell our story? And why is our story not an interesting one? That’s like saying anyone over 50 doesn’t have anything interesting happening in their life, which is insane! That was my original thought, at least in terms of my personal self, but it applies to a lot of people beyond these characters.

We have this creative vision courtesy of Michael Patrick King, who hires the most awesomely diverse group of writers, and they are never without an explosion of ideas, story lines and new characters. Their collaboration is huge—especially in terms of being in the cultural moment that we’re in right now. We are still in the beginning of a revolution, but we’re in a revolution, and that’s an exciting thing. It also tells this bigger story… the message that life is unexpected! You don’t know what’s going to happen, you don’t know who you’re going to meet, you don’t know how they’re going to expand your world view, and that’s what’s happened for our characters in the show.”

I think it’s safe to say the fans agree.

“We have fans who have been so loyal and so devoted to our work—and then we have the people who want to dissect all the things that we did wrong when we started in the ‘90s, which was a different time. We know there are a lot of topics that weren’t handled right and, of course, we should have understood things like the term transgender back then, but we didn’t, and we are all sorry for that.

It’s also very flattering that, after all these years, there are still a good amount of people who are watching it and an equally good amount of people heatedly debating it. We can’t redo it—you can never redo things—but you can update them.

No matter how it looks now, it was groundbreaking at the time. And now we’re in a different place. I don’t want to say it’s a second chance, but it’s a new growth and it’s the fans that have allowed that. The fact that we still are even talking about it…it’s amazing.”

You’re going on 20-plus years from the first season. One would hope some things would change.

“It’s interesting because a show ends up getting frozen in time. Whether you’re watching the show for the tenth time or you’re just watching it for the first time, you’re still just watching a show. Either way, it’s amazing, but you must recognize the fact that these characters would have gone through a lot of stuff, and that’s an adjustment for everyone.”

Clothing: Mario Dice; Necklace: Vrai; Earrings: Raven Fine Jewelers

It must be strange for you to think that you’ve been part of this pop-culture phenomenon for so long.

“Sometimes, we look at each other’s faces and we cannot believe we’ve been together since 1997. It’s not normal in our industry to have this longevity, and it’s very special.

I can only speak for myself, but it can also be extremely stressful to be aging and to be compared to your much, much, much younger self. If I was from a regular life, I would feel fine; I would feel great! I’m healthy, I’m strong, I’ve got this little three-year-old son, and I carry him around and it’s all good—but, no, I’m on television, where every bit of my physical being is analyzed. That part was always very stressful and difficult for me, because, as much as I can look back on my life and think, ‘Oh, I looked great then,’ you never think that at the time. I guess no one does.

I also became famous when magazines were king, and every week there’d be an article saying I was ‘pear-shaped.’ That was difficult, and no amount of working out could change my shape or how those articles were written…they just loved to compare me to Sarah Jessica, who, at the same time, no matter what she did, was always going to be a very tiny thing.”

Did everyone experience that?

“I can only speak for myself, but I don’t think Cynthia did. She’s very strong, and she is very grounded in her talent, but I’m less strong and I am less grounded in my talent. I also grew up feeling insecure about my body. I don’t know why, but I did.

One time, right when we started filming in the olden days, I was walking home from set and I stopped at the corner bodega to buy some M&M’s, which is my go-to stress food. I go to pay, and the woman behind the register said, ‘I can’t sell these to you.’

I thought she was going to say she was kidding, but she didn’t, so I left that bodega and went to the next bodega down the block, and I bought four big bags of M&M’s and I ate them all. It was just very stressful back in the day…we had the extreme body stress, but now we have the age stress. Both were, and are, very hard things to deal with.”

Is one more difficult to deal with, compared to the other?

“I try to surround myself with people who are helpful and calm about it all. Michael is very, very calm about it all, and he’s very much, ‘Listen, none of us are not trying to look like we used to look.’ Charlotte still has her style that she had before, but now she’s 55, which we dealt with in the first episode and it’s an ongoing storyline. But, obviously, there’s a lot of other things that come with aging. Some are great, like wisdom, feeling grounded, life experiences, and those wonderful things, but then there’s other stuff that’s stressful.

I like to think there’s more to life than how we look, but it’s unavoidable in our culture that, as you age— especially as a woman—that how you look is a lot. It’s a whole, bigger cultural conversation we need to have, but, right now, it’s hard.

Personally, I have bad days; I have days where I literally want to put my face in a bowl of ice like Joan Crawford. If we are on location, we are photographed from the time we get to work, all-day long, for 14 hours straight. And it is a bizarre thing, because that’s not my actual job and no one on the planet is going to look good for that long. You can’t sit still in the good light for 14 hours for the paparazzi!

You’re eating, you’re talking, you’re frowning, you might fall, all these things happen in a day, but they’re there to catch it. There’s going to be bad pictures, and they’re going to talk about them, and they’re going to discuss your hair, your face, your this and your that and that’s just how it is I guess…at least in this industry.

We try to put each other up and say we’re not going to look at it and we try our best not to look at it, but it’s hard not to end up looking at it. I think you’re confronted with the fact that you can’t win. That’s my current feeling on the situation—you can only win in terms of how you feel with your own self. You can’t please everybody.”

If you were able to give advice to your younger self, what would you say?

“Give up the stress! The stress is all simply wasted energy. Working out, doing yoga, walking, running or doing whatever you enjoy doing…all of that is health. At least for me, those have always been the things that work and the things that have brought me joy. There were times in my career where I worked out to lose weight for a part, and that’s a very non-healthy situation to be in—it is a situation that is not sustainable and not healthy and not enjoyable and not a way to live.

I was an early yoga practitioner before it took over the world. Thank goodness it did. Back then, people were like, ‘Oh my God, you do yoga, what a weird religion…’ I’m lucky that I found it, because it has been huge for me in terms of finding a center and finding what feels good to my body, which I think is the whole game.

I wish someone had been able to connect those pieces for me earlier…I wish I had been able to integrate those things at an earlier age and not wasted so much energy stressing out about everything else, which is so sad. That’s what I feel like the young people are trying to do right now—and they’re doing a great job.”

Photographer: John Russo; Location: The Beverly Hilton; Makeup: Kara Yoshimoto Bua at A-Frame Agency; Hair: Marcus Francis at Tomlinson Management Group; Styling: Karen Raphael

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