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MOVIES: Presenting Samantha Montgomery
by Richard Knight, Jr., for Windy City Times
2016-06-08

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Samantha Montgomery's ( aka Princess Shaw's ) rise from obscurity to YouTube sensation and budding musical star is tracked in Ido Haar's documentary film Presenting Princess Shaw ( in theaters Friday, June 10, and available VOD ). Thanks in no small part to Montgomery's effervescent, can-do personality and her extraordinary musical gifts, the film is sensationally entertaining.

The documentary follows Montgomery toiling away in relative obscurity, working as a caregiver for the elderly in New Orleans while uploading videos of her original songs to YouTube and struggling to make ends meet while on the other end of the world in Tel Aviv, mix master Kutiman is editing together clips of Montgomery's acapella singing with musical backing, taken from a variety of other clips and his own assembled musicians. When the finished product is uploaded to YouTube it becomes an instant sensation and the Star Is Born moment is captured by Haar's camera as Montgomery sees the video for the first time. It's a tremendously moving moment in this very endearing film.

The bisexual Montgomery, who is seen on camera with her on-again/off-again girlfriend Olivia ( and who she says inspired many of the songs featured in the film ), discussed Presenting Princess Shaw-.

Windy City Times: I especially love how the music just pours out of you. I'm guessing that in a life filled with challenges, music has been the one constant good thing—something familiar to many creative artists, certainly those from the queer community. Would you agree with that, Samantha?

Samantha Montgomery: Music pulls together everyone in life, so, yes—I would absolutely say that. It goes across generations and has always been my friend.

WCT: Who were your musical influences growing up?

SM: Elton John, Billie Holiday, the Bee Gees, Cat Stevens, Hall & Oates, Seals & Croft. I love John Legend—I want to sing with him—and I like Queen [as well as] Kings of Leon. I like a real variety not just music that people think I should like.

WCT: Very cool. Now, onto the film, tell me about how the filming came about. There you were, working as a caregiver in New Orleans, uploading your songs to YouTube—and, then, what happened?

SM: A friend of Kutiman's [the film's director, Ido Haar] saw one of my videos and contacted me through Facebook and said he was working on a documentary about YouTube and [asked if I'd] like to be involved. Of course I would like to be involved! You don't get many opportunities like this in life so I was like, "sure!" He came from Israel to talk to me.

Now you never know who is who and what's what so when I came to meet him at the hotel lobby [in New Orleans], I was cautious. But when we sat down and talked I felt he was open and honest and I wanted to be as open and honest as he was. From that point he followed me to open-mic night and then he just kept coming back and forth, going to see other singers, too. It wasn't just me at first. Eventually, he narrowed it down to me.

WCT: And you had no idea that Kutiman was working on these mixes of your songs at the same time?

SM: No. I had no idea.

WCT: How long was he filming you? It seems like he filmed you for quite a while.

SM: A little more than a year—closer to two years, I think.

WCT: That may be why one of the most affecting moments of the film is that moment when you see the Kutiman's music video of your song and the wonderful response to it. There's been such a build up to it—[and it's] very powerful. Can you talk about that moment, Samantha?

SM: It's like I'm home. That's what that moment was like, "I am home." It's like I belong here at last. I was born with a mic in my hand and now I've come home. It's like a wonderful feeling. I feel so comfortable on the stage and so at home, it's fantastic.

WCT: It shows.

SC: Thank you, sugar! [Laughs]

WCT: You mentioned when we talked earlier that seeing the scene with Olivia, your on again/off again girlfriend who inspired many of your songs, is rather bittersweet. Can you talk a little bit about Olivia?

SM: We are kinda like distant friends—she has her own life; I have my own life. People want you to hold on to stuff; they want you to hold on to certain people but everybody has their own journey in life, and she's on her journey and I'm on mine. The downfall of our relationship wasn't just her and it wasn't just me—it was both of us. We talk occasionally but we're kinda living our own lives now. That's okay. Everybody's not the best friends when they break up. It's just how it is.

WCT: And I understand you have a new relationship—a boyfriend now. Is he inspiring you to sing some new tunes?

SM: Yes, for sure! [Laughs]

WCT: Where does your resilience, your optimism come from, Samantha? That is one of the most endearing, lovely things that comes through in the film. Your personality, your life force is so tremendously vivid. Where does that come from? Is that from your mother?

SM: No…

WCT: Is that just you?

SM: Yes, that's just me. You know, it's learning that life is precious and not wanting to be a victim all your life. Be yourself, be who you are. I decided a long time ago that I was going to live my truth; that I was not going to let anybody in the way of my truth. I just decided to stay in that place.

WCT: Can you bring us up to date on the career? You're working on something else with Kutiman, right?

SM: Yes; we're making a whole album and he's producing the whole thing. I'm just so excited about it and I can't wait for people to hear it but stuff like that takes time. It will be released soon—I will let everyone know when—but right now I think there's just one track coming out. Right now I'm focused on the movie. I'm looking for a manager—my own pit bull [laughs] who will be in my corner day and night.

WCT: Have things eased up for you a bit, financially?

SM: Yeah; I have somebody that's helping me now and we have each other's back and I didn't have that before. I'm mostly doing good—spiritually, mentally, I'm whole. I'm a work in progress but I'm better than I was.

WCT: Still feeling the music every day?

SM: Of course! I have a million songs that I want to work on with Kutiman.

See PresentingPrincessShaw.com/.


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