Their breakup broke my baby gay heart.

By Lexi McMenamin
Jan 19, 2021 @ 8:00 am
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Cara and Annie Gave Me the Framework for My Queer Relationships
Credit: Getty Images/InStyle.com

This month, I moved back to New York City for the first time since leaving after college. As a result, I've had St. Vincent's "New York" stuck in my head constantly. New York isn't New York, without you, love... 

If you know the song, and anything about St. Vincent's Annie Clark, it probably reminds you of her ex-girlfriend, British supermodel Cara Delevingne. Though they were together for less than two years, their relationship — and break up — was, literally, the stuff of songs.

In 2015, I was a 20-year-old New York City college student in my first relationship with another woman. I had left my home, where my family never talked about sexuality, and my Philadelphia high school, where each time I attempted to come out as bisexual I was greeted with ridicule, and finally embraced my queer identity. 

Within a month of my girlfriend and I beginning to date, Cara Delevingne and Annie Clark were photographed together. I was a longtime fan of St. Vincent's music, and the combination was shocking to me: I had no idea either woman was queer. According to Grazia, the pair met in 2014, first spotted together during the St. Vincent tour. I was obsessed. 

As someone recently escaped from the closet and not fully out at home, unexpected representation from someone I admired was more validating than I could articulate. To be fair, it wasn't all mature musings about representation. They're both gorgeous, and I'm just as shallow as anyone else, OK?! I was halfway to turning my personal Instagram into a stan account. In September 2015, I posted a picture of the two front row at a Burberry show smirking at one another, with the caption — I wish I was kidding — "Guys I'm still crying this is embarrassing I'm not even sorry." In translation: This is possibly the most important celebrity relationship to ever happen. My then-girlfriend, trolling me, made the first comment: "Is this your phone background?" (It was, in fact, my phone background.)

Cara and Annie Gave Me the Framework for My Queer Relationships
Credit: David Fisher/Shutterstock

The casual chemistry they displayed in their PDA was validating as I began dealing with out-and-proud milestones, both good and bad: first time at a lesbian bar, first time being harassed on the train for holding hands with my girlfriend, learning the ins and outs of queer lingo. Cara herself was new to publicly identifying as queer (to be specific, Cara is pansexual.) She told Vogue in July 2015, "I think that being in love with my girlfriend is a big part of why I'm feeling so happy with who I am these days. And for those words to come out of my mouth is actually a miracle ... It took me a long time to accept the idea, until I first fell in love with a girl at 20 and recognized that I had to accept it."

But all things must come to an end. According to reports, by September 2016 they'd called it quits. That year, my first girlfriend and I broke up. I was crushed about it all. The dearth of representation for queer women in media makes creating a post-breakup plan even harder. This relationship felt different; the stakes of what I grieved felt different. My ex-girlfriend and I stayed best friends, loving each other enough to work past the end of our romantic relationship. 

It seems like Annie and Cara did too. In June 2018, Annie gushed to the Daily Telegraph about Cara, calling her "one of the most naturally talented people I've ever met." "I'll love her for ever and ever," Annie said. (I'm not crying, you're crying.) Cara would feature on Annie's album Masseducation, on the song "Pills."

Their relationship's legacy lives on: We also owe the Cara-Annie pairing for 2020's biggest album. Cara told Variety that she was introduced by Annie to Fiona Apple, leading to her feature on "Fetch the Bolt Cutters", the title track of Apple's 2020 hit album. "We would all text each other in a thread, and that went on until they broke up, at which point I kept in touch with both of them separately," Apple told Variety. Um. Can you even imagine being in a group text with Fiona Apple, Cara Delevingne, and St. Vincent? (Annie posted this picture of Cara recreating the cover of Apple's debut album Tidal, which, wow, gay.)

While I was gutted about my picture-perfect celebrity romance ending, it also opened up a world less dictated by the novelty of queer relationships under the straight gaze, and more about ever-expanding queer representation in pop culture. I didn't realize how small, tight-knit, and present all WLW communities really are. Clark would go on to date Kristen Stewart and Carrie Brownstein, while Delevingne's gay dating history is so elaborate— including a broken-off engagement to Ashley Benson, and most recently being linked to model Kaia Gerber — it merited a whole timeline on Autostraddle. Romantic musical chairs in queer communities is par for the course, I realize now.

But, despite all the dating drama, still on my mind is St. Vincent's "New York." From the time it came out, everybody was pretty sure it was about Cara. A 2016 video of Annie performing an early version of the song at a club, with then-girlfriend Cara in the audience, seemed pretty clearly about her to the audience member who posted the clip. On the other hand, Annie told the "Song Exploder" podcast that the song was more about the deaths of Prince and David Bowie than about a particular romantic relationship, but… you know. 

Annie told the Guardian in 2017 that the song's connection to Cara couldn't be truly ruled out. "I can only write about my life, and that – dating Cara – was a big part of my life. I wouldn't take it off-limits, just because my songs might get extra scrutiny," Annie said at the time. 

Even if some romances come to an end, we'll always have the deep bonds between women — and "New York." (And this "Cannie" Pinterest board.)

Breakups That Broke Us is a weekly column about the failed celebrity relationships that convinced us love is dead.