If you’re not familiar with Brandon Stanton or his website, Humans of New York, your whole life is about to improve.
The concept began as Brandon wandering around with a camera and recorder, taking pictures of random people and asking them a question, or to share their story. Their tales are funny, heartbreaking, heartwarming, solemn, and thought-provoking (sometimes all at once), but the one thing they have in common is their ability to make readers remember that the people we pass on the street are all human.
We all have stories, We all have pasts and joys and challenges that have formed us.
Brandon and his site, his stories, his humans, remind us to be kind, I think, and also that there are millions of reasons to not just chuck humanity off a cliff.
Recently, Brandon stopped to tell an older Black woman that he liked her coat, and the two of them got to chatting. He published (what turned out to be only part of) her story, and when he reached out to her later about hearing more, became worried when he couldn’t get in touch.
Her name is Stephanie, though the world Brandon has created now knows her as Tanqueray.
She’s been having medical troubles that prevented her from meeting with Brandon to tell more of her story as a podcast like they had planned, so Stanton did what he usually does – he went above and beyond to help another human in need.
He offered her story in return for donations, and people fell so quickly and deeply in love with the woman – a long-ago runaway from upstate who found her way to the city and made her own way in the burlesque clubs of the 60s and 70s – that they began to donate what they could.
Tanqueray’s story is truly amazing, but it’s her spirit, and her frankness in telling it, that I think draws people in.
Regardless of what has done it, the fact is that people been quick to leap to her aid – to the tune of $2.6 million and counting.
Stephanie has some pretty immediate and large medical challenges currently, and will need substantial funds to continue living somewhat independently for the rest of her life.
She’s pledged whatever remains in her trust at the time of her death to a children’s charity, The Association to Benefit Children.
You’ll need to read her story for yourself, because there’s no way I could cover all of the twists and turns and hope and drama and heartbreak and joy without using her words – you deserve to hear it the way she tells it, because that’s half the beauty.
And then, you just might find yourself reaching for that donate button yourself.