An Interview With Massage Therapist/Model and Aspiring Actress Samantha Barnes


Samantha Barnes is a massage therapist, actress and model who writes books in her head; here is a link to her website:

Q:  What do you think makes the job of acting so appealing to so many people?

A: People want to be seen but they put a lot of energy into hiding. For a lot of people I would say that acting holds the appeal of becoming famous (aka. the most seen) and also getting to be somebody else. People are rewarded for hiding and acting appears at first to be the ultimate cave; a series of masks and different identities. Maybe that’s what first drew me too. But in a figure modeling session a while back I was asked to smile for an artist that was sketching my face, and he drew it out for an intense hour. A facial expression is so much more challenging to hold than a body position because it is exquisitely interconnected with the feelings behind the expression. Without feeling like smiling, one can’t genuinely smile for long or it quickly slips and reveals the fake. I would say that most people walking about are trying to act, trying to wear a mask to avoid being seen. However, the true actors out there are continually exposing their actual feelings-whether they have to convince themselves to feel a certain way or not, it’s real in that moment and it takes vulnerability to display. In any scene we can pick up quickly who we believe and who we don’t believe. Do they really feel that way or are they faking? The best is, of course, when the actor feels their role so deeply that it’s real for them and they share that vulnerability with viewers to the point that viewers can forget someone is “acting.”

Q:  Why do you think people get so excited when they see famous people in person?

A: This was a more challenging question for me. Why do we get so thrilled to be near someone who is a celebrity? Do we love them? Is it that we feel like we know them, having followed their lives? Or is it boosting our own self worth to be near someone esteemed ‘highly valued’ by ‘everyone?’ Man, if I got to hang out with Meryl Streep for 5 minutes, wouldn’t that be something? Or if Jim Carry looked in my eyes? I’d be so blissed out, I wouldn’t know what to do with myself. Why is that? Of course, those are both actors I respect, but it would probably stir me up to see anyone well known. Then perhaps I’d feel more connected. Having seen someone that’s known globally, I might feel like more of a member of that community.

Q:  What is the strangest thing you have ever done for money?

A: Oh boy. Well, there was this guy and guess what he wanted me to massage? Just kidding.

I’ve done some strange things for money. Some of which I should probably not say on this platform, though you can be sure I’m putting that stuff in a book. But some of the various strange jobs I’ve held, under the table, over and sideways, span from my first job of sorting Slime Eels in a seafoods processing plant, leading tours from 2-50 people in SE Alaska, being a living exhibit in a cannery museum, Sea Urchin processor, a go-kart tour guide, working in a 19th century B&B tea house, dead-heading flowers in an exceptional garden, working the slime line in a cannery, being my pop’s deckhand for 3 years, corn-row braiding in booths at festivals, selling loads of crocheted things I’ve made, selling soaps I’d handmade and jams from berries I’d handpicked, selling handpicked Chanterelles, I was apprenticed to a Scrimshander, worked in a freezer stocking ice cream in Alaska, was a special ed preschool attendant, and pulled many an all-nighter on the event staff of a convention center. Not to mention all the nude figure modeling and random photo shoots that have been part of developing a portfolio and starting a career in performance art.

Q:  Who was the worst boss you’ve ever had and why?

A: This is such a challenging question because I’ve had to work for such difficult people in really tense, awkward, and even dangerous situations. I took the verbal abuse of a captain to his deckhand from my father on his boat 3 years in a row, I took the swindling gypsy ways of an artistic NYSicilian pizza maker who insisted I was volunteering, or hanging out as a friend whenever I worked. He withheld payment time and again, not to mention how he refused to have a working schedule. But most recently I found myself answering yet another craigslist ad, (oh craigslist how you tease me!) this time an ad for a personal assistant to help with organization in a home business. 2 others worked for him and I quickly found that he had made a habit of verbally abusing his employees, meanwhile being a kiss-ass smuck with everyone else. He’s the world’s biggest sucker, getting sent endless brochures about the new monthly miracle drug and other garbage. I took it upon myself to weed through stuff he wouldn’t see as a scam- the man is already a hoarder and compulsive spender who tries to write off every expense. He doesn’t sleep more than an hour or two at a time and he subsists on pills, shakes, and air. His taxes are a void of darkness that have repelled multiple accountant groups even while he bullied them about their services. But when he started messing with my hours, telling me late at night to not come in the next day, etc, I’d had about enough of being patient. Needless to say, I don’t work for the mess anymore.

Q:  You are pursuing acting; why Portland and not LA?

A: Cause I’m not a total sellout? Eh, just kidding. Maybe I like having clean lungs and less traffic. Or because I like it when people give individuality a chance. Maybe it’s all the trees in Portland, or the intersecting rivers, or all the bike-commuting that I get to do, or that it’s so easy to recycle and reuse items here, or the fact that it can be in to look different. That’s cool.

No, actually I moved to Portland to study massage therapy a little over a year ago. Previously I’d been living in Ketchikan, Alaska, a very small island community in the Tongass National Rainforest. I was already an actress at this point, though I wasn’t pursuing it on a professional level yet, and my only thought was to find a convenient, portable career that could pay my way through the rest of whatever else I decided to do. What’s more portable than your own loving hands? I can do massage anywhere, anytime, which I frequently do; it’s wonderful. But in the process of learning how to understand my therapeutic boundaries and be an excellent giver, I began to melt. The armor I’d been wearing fell away and my heart was as ready as ever to follow a dream that had been there all along. Not, ‘I want to be an actress.’ I am an actress.

Q:  What was the most interesting thing you’ve ever modeled?

A: Years ago, when I was traveling around Peru, I took on this task of crocheting a Salsa dress. It was something I’d dreamed up. It was supposed to be a super sexy, red, salsa dress. At this time I was beginning to unfold like a flower into womanhood. There were so many questions about sexuality- where does that confidence come from? Is it boldness? How bold is too bold? It’s a fine line in the search for sexual balance. I settled with the contradictions: a bold black flower over the genitals, and a flower-painted mask to hide behind, over the sexiest red dress I could think up with cascading flower petals as the skirt. I finished it and came back to Ketchikan, a sexual dynamo at 19, just in time for the annual Wearable Arts Show, where I wooed my town on the catwalk, salsa dancing to WEEN’s Voodoo Lady.

Q:  Why do you think so many people hate their jobs?

A: It’s an interesting thing how people make such big compromises in their lives around different jobs they hold. “Well I hate it, but it pays well.” What does that mean? Is the money worth it then or is it an excuse not to change? “Well I hate it, but I get great benefits.” What benefits? Who are you trying to convince that you’re not wasting your life? It’s your life. Live it. Reach, choose ‘yes.’ I think a lot of people are scared to admit what they really want to have, because the moment it’s exposed it can be taken away or judged. People hate the jobs that keep them prisoners to an unsatisfying existence and they see the job as the prison, but really, the keys are on their belts the whole time. Who’s really the jailer?

Q:  You say you are writing several books in your head, what are they about?

A: One is going to be a collaboration with other women, and I’m feeling strongly about the title-to-be, Becoming Beautiful. It’s a look at what it takes to be a beautiful person amidst our western society of judgment and conformity and sameness. I’d like to follow the trail of what we find beautiful and how to get there. Is ‘Beautiful’ truly a person that hits everything on the media’s checklist, or is it someone that just makes you feel good to be near? We can all be that unique beauty that inspires others, it just takes the vulnerability to accept self and let it be seen. I came from a place of feeling immeasurably ugly for a long time. Only recently as I’ve begun to heal and love myself, have I been able to let the private out. And I’m finding that as I reveal more of the sacred, I actually become more beautiful. Truly, photos of me as a teen show someone who was holding on to a lot of anger. Bitterness is ugly. Our postures say a lot about what we’re holding onto, and insecurity speaks as plainly as words. Confidence=self-love and it’s beautiful. Ego is another thing entirely, and it’s not so pretty.

The other book is one that I started after a totally psychedelic epiphany when I realized that we’re not separate at all. I looked at my hand and could see that although my thumb and forefinger seemed separate at the distal ends, they clearly are of the same hand. In the same way, a mushroom may appear to be singular in one place, but the same fungus could be producing similar mushrooms states away, you know mycelia mats can be enormous. Yet they’re all expressions of the same life force, as we are, though we’ve forgotten because we don’t have physical roots and we no longer have the same reverence for the Earth so the connections are harder to see. Epithelial cells die continuously, but do I die? Someday it might seem like I die, but those are just my cells completing their cycle. Life force is cyclical oneness. The title is simply, God Is Love: A Collection of Expressions.

Q: What makes you watchable?

A: People want to watch me because it stuns them that I’m real. How many people expose their hearts to the world? Brave artists one and all, that’s who, though my art is in my pores, in my tall spine, in my Qi flow as I move through a room. Every movement is a dance and a meditation. My art is in the smiling eyes that make contact with strangers on the street that are ready to connect. It’s a message of love and it’s for everybody. Of course they want to watch me. I remember too when I was hiding and wished to be seen. By letting myself be seen now, I’m hoping to incite a great rebellion against concealment.

Q: If the world is a stage, what is the greatest performance you have ever seen by a proletarian?

A: Oh the world is a stage. Sometimes I think everyone around me is here for my viewing pleasure. In Portland, this town of weirdness and exploration, I seem to pass performers every day, but they’re regular people. People practicing their hula-hooping, or Capoeira, or fire-spinning in the streets and parks as clowns on double-decker bikes zoom past. But once, my first week living here, I walked into an Ecstatic-Blues Dance Party in a home off of Hawthorne. People were swirling and flinging each other, holding each other close and intimately jirating to the beats. Everything was a prop for this incredible dance! Couples would dip their partners over railings, lift each other through doorways, twirl around posts on the porch, and this was only what I could see from outside! I wandered in, so curious, and fell in love with 2 couples on the dance floor simultaneously. A man danced with another man, and a woman danced with a woman. They traded following, respectfully submitting to each other’s lead. They felt the music and moved tumultuously around the house until the last beat when they graciously thanked each other and switched back to man-woman couples, in which case even the women would take a turn in leading. It was magnificent.

Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)


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