Where did you grow up?
I was born in Miami, Fl. and moved about 8 times during my adolescence. My dad was sick as far back as I can remember. When he had a major stroke and lost his business, my parents struggled to get back on their feet. After being evicted, finding ourselves homeless and living with relatives for a few months, we moved into a pay-by-week apartment on Hollywood Beach, FL. until my parents could find work. We stayed in Hollywood, moving a couple of times. Hollywood is special to me. It’s definitely my home and where I consider myself raised.
Were you brought up religiously/secularly/other?
I was brought up confused as fuck.
My mom was a Christian and took us to church every Sunday. We’d get dressed up and head off – everyone except my dad, that is. I always wondered why my dad wasn’t going with us. As we got older, my dad became comfortable telling us exactly how he felt about religion. I have a very distinct memory from age 9 of him declaring his atheism: my little brother and I were in the car gushing about how when we die we would become Angels and fly together in heaven, and my dad interrupted with ‘When you die, you will be buried in the ground 6ft under and bugs will eat your decomposing body!’ I never realized until then that there were people who questioned or denied that there was a God or heaven. That moment changed everything I ever believed about Christianity. I remember telling my mom what my dad said and she replied ‘I believe for him Samantha. My beliefs will save his soul.’ What in the fuck? After that I decided to take it easy on the declared religion thing for a bit.
As an adult and after a series of trying events in my life, I thought by returning to church I could seek some sort of comfort and forgiveness, but I made the mistake of going to one of these mega churches with crazy ex-convict pastors who tell you crazy shit and hope you’re naïve enough to run with it (probably because they get off on knowing they have this power over you). After about a month of that circus and feeling like I was forcing this bad energy on myself, I decided that the only faith I need is the faith in me. Do good, be good, feel good. Forgive people, show empathy and listen to your heart in ALL situations. So far, it’s been working for me.
Do good, be good, feel good.
Was there turbulence throughout your childhood/adolescence?
My parents were polar opposites and fought about everything. It was constant. At the age of 5 I remember hiding in the hallway with my younger brother and watching them physically fight in the living room (usually my mom was the aggressor and my dad would just fend her off) and I started crying, begging for them to stop. This fighting continued until I was 18 and couldn’t take it anymore. I latched onto the first person who’d accept taking me in. In one day, I left my family behind.
I regret leaving. I never realized my little brother struggled with thinking I abandoned him and, shortly after I left, my dad got sick again, putting a huge burden on my mom. I feel like I should have been there to help – at the very least to help keep my brother on track, or help my mom feel like she hadn’t lost everyone at once. I feel like I ran away from the problems instead of facing them and trying to make things better. I was selfish.
Were you ever embarrassed about your development/puberty? If so, why?
I was a skinny kid with buck teeth and a flat chest and I couldn’t wait to become a woman. I dreamt of having voluptuous curves and big breasts. Shit changed when I actually started going through puberty and I never developed big breasts or voluptuous curves. Instead I gained a little weight. My thighs got bigger and I was very self-conscious about it. My dad pointed it out one day and that broke my confidence a lot. ‘Samantha, your thighs are getting big. You’d better be careful.’ I’ll never forget that. One day I woke up and looked at my inner thighs and saw little lines. I had no idea what they were. Around the same time we’d adopted this psychotic little kitten that liked to attack me while I slept, and so my first thought was that the little fucker clawed my inner thighs at night and maybe I slept through the attack. Come to find out, they were stretch marks and I was mortified. I thought I was ruined. Then at the peak of puberty and before I was really able to enjoy or appreciate my young and virtually flawless figure, I became pregnant. Pregnancy, a beautiful, wonderful miracle that completely FUCKS YOU UP.
Can you remember any key moments in your formative years that shaped you?
Moving to Hollywood beach and learning to go without, learning to accept a dramatic change of lifestyle and learning to realize that if I wanted anything in this life, I’d have to go out and work for it, absolutely shaped me. All of this grounded me and allowed me to be a non-judgmental, empathetic and accepting person. I’m beyond grateful that I lived that. It was the greatest lesson a parent could teach their child and my parents unknowingly gave me grace.
My parents unknowingly gave me grace.
That shaped your sexuality?
My relationship in high school set the bar for all future sexual relationships.
When did you become aware of your gender?
I’ve always known I was a girl. From any early age I had an extremely strong maternal aura surrounding me. It’s an intense feeling to know you are a woman and that your body is capable of these insane happenings. I’ve always KNOWN and it was overwhelming.
When did you become aware of your own sexuality; were there any key moments?
Before I was even five years old, I was obsessed with the idea of sex and human bodies, both male and female.
What, if any, are the obstacles you’ve overcome on your path to womanhood?
My mother raised me with the traditional idea that being a woman is being a domestic goddess and keeping yourself put together ‘for your man’. I remember, when I was 6, watching her put on a full face of makeup at 3pm (she was a stay-at-home mom so the idea was strange to me) and asking her why. She replied ‘You’ve got to look good for your husband. You never know what he saw when he was out at work all day. You’ve got to look better’. I understand where she was coming from, but it mind-fucked me until my late 20s. I went through life thinking I had to look a certain way to please men and keep them happy or else they would stray.
Then some sort of mental phenomenon happened to me at the age of 30 (probably maturity suddenly kicked in) and I didn’t give two fucks anymore about what ANYONE thought about me. I enjoy keeping myself up for MYSELF. I am a beautiful, amazing goddamn woman and I’ll cook you dinner if I FEEL LIKE IT and maybe I’ll put on some lipstick and do my hair for our date if I FEEL LIKE IT, but if I don’t, I’m still a beautiful, amazing goddamn woman and if you stray, it’s because you’re a dick.
Have you ever been embarrassed, burdened or ashamed of your sexuality? If so, why?
Not at all, ever.
What is the image you think you project every day?
People often tell me that they ‘can’t figure me out’.
What is the image you would like to project?
I like the idea that people can’t figure me out. I used to be transparent and I believe that led to being taken advantage of. I feel the more mysterious I am, the better off I am.
What do you think the image other people perceive is?
I hate the telephone; always have, so I never answer. I don’t return texts or emails for weeks, if at all. I make plans and cancel on them ALL THE TIME. I’m sure 95% of the people in my world think I’m a complete flake and the other 5% know that I work two jobs and have four children and have learned my behavior.
How would you describe your personal experience, existing in the way you do, each day?
For the past thirteen years I’ve been so busy carrying, birthing and raising children. Every day was a struggle to not break down into a coma of depression, hurt and resentment. My kids literally saved me from flying off the deep end. Every day they brought me joy and kept me grounded. Recently I’ve extinguished all of the fires in my life that were causing me to feel the way I did and I am happier now than I have ever been. I’ve learned to take life a moment at a time and eventually things tend to work out for the best. This way of existing is still new to me, so the only way I can describe the feeling in my mind is, peaceful.
What is your political stance on women’s reproductive rights?
Politics have no place in my panties.
Are you pro-life or pro-choice?
What are your feelings about contraceptives? Their availability, cost, stigma, usage?
WHY aren’t they available FOR FREE to EVERYONE EVERY-FUCKING-WHERE?! Holy shit, how many STDs and unwanted pregnancies will the government FUND before they fund something to STOP IT?
Politics have no place in my panties.
What are your feelings about casual sex?
Up until my mid-twenties I didn’t even realize that people had sex without being in a relationship, and the idea of casual sex was confusing to me. I think that’s because I’ve always been in love with the idea of having a partner that I was so in love and infatuated with that they would be the only person I’d ever want to feel that connection to.
Are you in a relationship(s)?
Yes. I am in a relationship.
What are your feelings about marriage?
Marriage is incredibly special to me, but I didn’t always feel that way. I was one of these people who said ‘it’s just a piece of paper!’, and that’s because I wasn’t happy in my relationship. It’s only recently that I’ve come to understand marriage and vowing to spend eternity with a person you are IN LOVE WITH. I never married my children’s father because I knew in my heart I couldn’t promiseI wanted to be with him forever. There was far too much resentment and turbulence between us and we were in what seemed like a forced relationship. Yes, we had four children together and we tried our hardest to develop stronger feelings for one another and put the resentment behind us, but we couldn’t and I’ll be damned if I was going to marry someone because of ‘the kids’. That’s not fair for anyone involved, ESPECIALLY the kids.
If I ever agree to marry someone, it will be because it is the greatest gift I could ever give them. I’m GIVING MYSELF to them and vowing to love and respect them under any circumstances, forever and they are vowing to do the same for me. That kind of commitment is fucking special and something I take very seriously.
What are your most positive relationships with other women?
I always try to have positive relationships with all women.
And your negative?
At first encounter, whether it be at a bar or grocery store, women are often rude to me. I understand it’s a defense mechanism when someone feels threatened, but I always break it down with kindness, and eventually they realize I’m not a threat.
What does the word ‘woman’ mean to you?
Amazing, magical, beautiful creatures designed to withstand damn close to the unbearable both physically and mentally.
What are your feelings about monogamy?
Some say it’s not ‘natural’ to want to be with the same person forever, but to me, it’s fucking important. If I’m with you, I’m only with you and I expect that in return.
I’m far too selfish for this to ever be an option in my life.
Do you feel your choice to participate or not participate in consensual sex is at all affected by societal influence?
As a teenager, it was a nightmare. Sex is what fueled my entire social circle for what seems like YEARS at no end. I was a sexual creature by nature, but I NEVER want my daughters to feel like they HAVE to have sex to be accepted by boys. FUUUUUCK that.
How do you feel about products marketed to women?
It seems like women will do nearly anything to maintain physical beauty, including spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on shit that doesn’t work. Just like they market toys and sugar-filled cereal to kids. We can’t blame the companies for trying! Everyone’s gotta make a buck and sure, they are preying on our physical sensitivity, but let’s smarten up here and not fall for it. Just like we tell our children ‘no, you can’t have that cereal because it’s SHIT’, we should tell ourselves the same about the $150 wrinkle cream.
How do you feel about feminine hygiene products’ portrayal in the media?
I’ve never cared.
Were you always aware of what your body could do sexually and mechanically?
If I’m with you, I’m only with you and I expect that in return.
Do you feel your sexual education was sufficient?
If not, what would you have done to make it so?
I WISH my parents has kept it as real as possible with me from the beginning of LIFE for god’s sake. I asked my mother about birth control and she told me the only birth control I needed was abstinence. Pregnant at 18. That abstinence thing worked out just LOVELY.
Where do you feel unsafe as a woman?
Where is somewhere you can exist without fear?
Really, I try not to dwell on fear. I try to be aware of my surroundings and never naïve enough to think that I’m invincible. I won’t allow myself to live IN fear but rather just know shit could go down at any moment, anywhere, and I’d better be as prepared as I can to handle it.
Do women treat you differently than men?
More often than not, women are jealous or threatened by me and treat me like shit, and men think I’m a walking fucking blow-up doll who just looooves their obnoxious attention.
In what ways does being a woman make you vulnerable or exposed?
Women ARE the weaker sex which will always make us vulnerable.
Would you consider yourself a feminist?
To a certain extent. I believe men play an important role in our lives and I think feminism in the present day is borderline on man-hating.
How do you define feminism?
What do you think are positive ways the world views women?
The world had better view us as GODDESSES because without us, the future doesn’t exist. We are child-bearing fucking goddesses.
And the negative ways?
According to what I see on Instagram memes, we are emotional, jealous, temperamental, crazy train wrecks who bleed every month and are now refusing to make ‘our men’ sandwiches or give them blow jobs on demand because we are too busy snooping through their cellphones. Dear World, Go Fuck Yourself.
Do you think the world’s perception of women limits or benefits them?
What is your relationship to sex?
Sex is, and always has been something I am completely comfortable with.
How do you define sex?
Two people being as close to one another as humanly possible.
What does a sexual relationship mean to you?
A sexual relationship is just that, a sexual relationship. You’ve had or are having sex with someone.
Do you feel comfortable communicating your sexual needs to a partner?
Have you found a balance of fulfillment with your partners?
Do you feel that YOUR desires are marginalized in the bedroom or are less important, if so, why do you think that is?
Not at all. I am fortunate enough to be with someone who is VERY considerate of my needs and desires.
Are you fearful of being openly sexual for fear of judgement?
No. I’ve put up with a ton of bullshit for posting provocative selfies or because I can cross that tactful ‘ladylike’ line and say or do something considered crude. I’ve had to take it down a few notches for fear I’ll flip the fuck out on the next person who says something crazy. I’m definitely not fearful of judgment, just fearful of my reaction to it.
Have you ever been in a position where your sexuality was used against you?
I’m sure I have been.
Have you ever been physically or verbally threatened because of your appearance?
Oh yeah. I was on a bus in high school and a group of girls from school thought it was cute to sing ‘Barbie Girl’ to me and threaten to rip my ‘pretty long hair out’ for absolutely no reason. More recently, I was sent an anonymous email from an extremely jealous woman who went on a rampage and attacked everything from my ‘tacky fake boobs’ to my choice of careers. It was intense.
When you imagine sex, what is the visual/feeling you associate with it?
The most amazing, deep, gut-wrenching ecstasy.
Is sex empowering for you?
It’s something that I have control over giving, so yes. I’d say it is.
Is sex embarrassing for you to discuss?
Is there anyone in your world you undermine your principles for?
At one point or another I’m sure I’ve undermined my principles for everyone in my world. I absolutely HATE conflict and unless I’m pushed beyond my point of Zen, I’ve probably stayed quiet or bent my own rules to dance around the thought of going at it with someone.
[Women] are child-bearing fucking goddesses.
In which situations do you feel safe to speak your mind/stand up for yourself?
In any situation I feel safe speaking my mind. I’ve always stood up for myself and spoken my mind. However, I’ve lately learned to keep my mouth shut, listen, analyze and really determine if it’s worth the battle. If it’s something that I think NEEDS to be said, I’ve learned that tact and wit work best in getting my point across.
What do you seek through sex?
The feeling of ultimate closeness to the person I love.
How do you feel about the media’s portrayal of women?
I actually think the media is finally starting to ‘get it’. With the explosion of social media and how crazy-powerful it is at spreading word, more and more women are putting themselves out there, flaws and all for the world to appreciate. I see the media taking to the revolution (probably in shock at first) and more Buzzfeed articles are posted on things like ‘this mom isn’t ashamed to post selfie in bikini with sagging stomach and the reaction is amazing!’ or hashtags like #loveyourmarks.
I believe we are making progress and finally taking control over the media’s ideas of perfect women, and now the media has no choice but to jump on the ‘go fuck yourself if you don’t like my plus-sized ass’ bandwagon. Finally, F I N A L L Y, we have an outlet. Thank you social media and all of those beautiful brave women!
Are you satisfied with the women you see depicted in film, television & advertising?
For the most part, yes.
How do you think the world at large views women?
I’d love to say the world views us as super humans who have actually FOUGHT a battle to be able to work and earn income, pay taxes, to vote and be independent, all while still wanting to be nurturing, somewhat domestic and maternal. We fuck’n do it all these days and we don’t even want a pat on the back. But, really, I think now the world just expects us to do it all and if we complain slightly, it’s because we are ‘emotional’ and ‘unstable’.
How do you maintain a sense of self?
I’ve gone through what seems like a never-ending stream of trials and tribulations over the past few years that have broken my self-esteem down so much that I often thought I was a complete failure. I’m extremely lucky to have a handful of friends who have lifted me up when they’ve noticed I was drowning in my sorrows, and a mother who is the epitome of supportive of her children. About a year ago I began to snap out of it and look at myself as something completely different than I had before. I was so focused on my mistakes for so long that I couldn’t appreciate myself and all the wonderful things about me. Any time my mind starts to wonder and fall on a mistake from the past, I bring myself out of it and remind myself that I’m pretty badass.
What is something you deeply love about yourself?
I love that I am an empathetic person. I naturally want to understand everyone and their situations and that empathy allows me to never pass judgement before fully knowing someone, even when they are attacking me. Having empathy also allows me to maintain emotional stability during conflict. Instead of reacting with fueled emotions, I make an effort to understand why the other person is acting the way they are. I often think ‘You never know what someone is going through’. I’ve had this trait since I was a child, and I appreciate it greatly.
Who are/what are your biggest motivators?
My children have kept me going for the past 13 years and always motivate me to be a good person and positive example. My boyfriend has made me want to do better for myself. And my mom thinks I’m capable of anything.
Do you have people you look up to?
Most definitely my mom. She’s been through hell and back and remained calm during the whole trip. She’s my idol.
Do you ever feel overlooked in the workplace because of your gender?
Because of your appearance?
As a photographer, I think I may not be taken as seriously as a more conservative-looking female photographer, but as a bartender (my second job), my appearance is what brings in the tips. It’s shitty, but it’s the business.
Do you find entering the work force as a woman has any bearing on how people will treat you?
Have you ever experienced sexism or sexual harassment within a workplace?
At every job I’ve ever had, ever.
How have you dealt with conflict?
I don’t. It’s a blessing and a curse all in itself.
I went through life thinking I had to look a certain way to please men and keep them happy or else they would stray.
Have you ever been verbally abused or threatened because of your gender?
If so, how did those in your life respond when you told them about it?
I never hid that I was in a verbally abusive relationship from anyone in my life and I believe the reason I was open about it is because I really wanted help and support to get out of it, but didn’t want to ask directly for this help and was scared of being a burden on my friends and family. Unfortunately my mother has old school values and would tell me I should work things out. My best friend, who knows the most about what I was experiencing and witnessed probably the worst of it, was always very supportive of me leaving the situation but also supportive of what I wanted, and since I was timid and naïve and had low self-esteem, I made myself believe that I was trapped. I would make excuses why I couldn’t leave or I would sugarcoat the situation to make it seem like things were improving.
What are your feelings on motherhood?
It’s the most wonderful and the scariest thing you could possibly ever experience all at the same time, day in and day out f o r e v e r. I became a mother at the age of eighteen and all I can remember thinking as I was being wheeled out of the hospital holding this tiny 8lb human being in my scrawny teenage arms was, ‘Holy shit. They are letting me leave with her? I have to keep her alive and teach her morals and values and right from wrong and I am responsible for this little girl from here on out for the rest of her life?’ Mind blown. Being a mother is insane.
What are your biggest fears?
Something tragic happening to one of my kids, something tragic happening to me, and failure.
Your biggest regrets?
Not being stronger and wiser when I was a teenager, not sticking up for myself and not making better decisions that could have led to an easier life as an adult.
Not saying goodbye to my dad or seeing him before he passed away, like my mom urged me to do, because I used to think he was the strongest man on earth with the biggest muscles and he could overcome anything and protect me – and to see him in a hospice on his death bed, no hair because of chemo, frail and fragile and not able to speak to me would destroy me. I thought it would destroy me. Now I wish I would have been destroyed so that I could tell him I’m sorry for being a difficult teenager and taking off when things got tough, so I could tell him I loved him and respected him. I don’t know if he ever knew.
Your greatest accomplishments?
My children are the accomplishments I’m most proud of.
Anything else you’d like to add?
The mistakes I made in life pushed me into pursuing a career in photography, something I NEVER imagined myself doing. Through photography, I discovered a way to make women feel beautiful and see themselves in a way they never thought they could, which is THE MOST gratifying feeling that I have ever experienced next to being a mother. I look at all women and see their beauty, and to be able to translate that to them by way of photo is incredible. Everything in life has a purpose and my mistakes gave me so much more purpose than I could ever have imagined. For that, I am thankful.