Humans of New York, a photo series that tells the stories of New Yorkers, has gotten the attention of netizens worldwide over a series of narratives about a woman popularly known as Tanqueray.
Tanqueray, whose real name is Stephanie, had quite the life story to tell to photographer Brandon Stanton, aka the guy who started Humans of New York. He decided that Stephanie’s story was worth a podcast. Unfortunately, Stephanie’s health has gotten worse, leading Stanton to tell her tale in a 32-part photo series instead, with the first installment posted on September 21 while the last was posted just today, September 30.
He also decided to turn the series into a fundraising campaign. “#TattletalesFromTanqueray is being shared alongside a fundraiser in support of our protagonist, Stephanie. Stephanie has fallen on tough times,” Stanton shares. “And if you are enjoying the series, I hope that you’ll consider contributing to the campaign. Our goal is for Stephanie to live out the remainder of her life in comfort and dignity.”
Stephanie adopted the stage name Tanqueray when she worked and grew popular as a burlesque dancer. But there’s a lot more to her life than her illustrious career as a performer. Stanton began the story from the very start during Stephanie’s childhood and her complicated relationship with her mother. “My mother would come home after work and run her hand along the dining room table. Then she’d look at the tip of her finger. If she saw a speck of dust, she’d beat me with a belt. I hated that woman. The only thing I liked about her was her style,” Stephanie shared. “She fit in so well with white society that she wanted nothing to do with anything black. She never acted black. She never talked black.”
As a child, Stephanie was engaged in all sorts of activities “the white kids did,” like ballet, ice skating, snow skiing, horseback riding, and learning Latin. But her home life wasn’t the friendliest environment for a kid like her.
Fast forward to her as a teenager, Stephanie shared that she had gotten pregnant and that she had to leave home for good. One night, she went back to their house to pack up her stuff secretly, but her mother caught her and reported her to the police for burglary.
At 18, she went straight to prison after giving birth, forcing her to give up her child for adoption. After getting her parole denied (thanks to her mother who made sure it happened), Stephanie got released eventually. Before she left, she went to see a woman named Roberta who was stationed in the same wing as her and had her palm read. “She told me that I’d live my entire life in New York City. And I’d only be in love once. And that it would be a tough life. And a lonely life. But that one day a lot of people would know my name. And the craziest sh*t about it, is that every single thing came true. Well, almost everything. Roberta told me that I’d come into some real big money one day. And that better happen quick. Cause I’m already 76.” True enough, the 32-part photo series illustrates the many struggles of Stephanie as well as her rise to fame while living in New York.
As of writing, the fundraiser for Stephanie has already amassed $2,618,390, surpassing its goal of $1,000,000. The series, posted on Instagram, has gotten everyone hooked and eager to learn more about Stephanie’s back story.
Even famous Hollywood stars like Jennifer Garner and Katherine Heigl have left comments on the photo series. "I’m here for this. Not moving. Thank you for your storytelling. Xx," Garner said in a comment on the very first Instagram post of the series.
Read Stephanie's entire story on Humans of New York's Instagram page.
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