A hell of a lot has been written about arriving in New York City. There have to be as many as, what, 10 songs, books, shows, movies and whatnot about that very thing, right? Creatives looking to make it here are often hit with the realization that, yes, this city is incredible (just check out the best things to do in NYC) but also incredibly hard. Which is why surviving a year in NYC—especially for those trying to make a splash in a field with a slim survival rate—is so impressive. We talked to five New Yorkers from a wide array of scenes and eras who were able to do just that: singer and style icon Debbie Harry, Tony-nabbing actor Alan Cumming, Pulitzer Prize–winning writer Junot Díaz, big-deal chef Christina Tosi and alt-cabaret star and artist Justin Vivian Bond. They each made an impact on our city, in one way or another. Here, in their own words, are their stories.
Five New York icons
The Blondie frontwoman opens up about her pre-blonde days and dipping her toes into the downtown music scene
The Tony-winning actor Alan Cumming looks back on his wild early days in NYC
The Pulitzer Prize-winning writer writes that getting a book deal “was like winning the fucking lottery”
The celeb chef talks about leaving her Virginia roots for Manhattan fine dining
The alt-cabaret star and artist talks throwing sex-positive parties back in the day