We had the good fortune of connecting with Samantha Paige and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Samantha, is your business focused on helping the community? If so, how?
I created Last Cut Project initially to share my specific health story when I decided to embrace my flat chest. In 2016, I opted for an explant surgery to remove silicone implants that I had elected with a preventive double mastectomy years prior. I wanted to normalize that choice and talk about a “last cut” moment I was living. My willingness to show images of my flat, post-mastectomy chest through Last Cut Project, an advertising campaign with Equinox gyms and more added to a changing dialogue around surgical options for individuals facing mastectomies. Months into telling my personal story in a raw and vulnerable manner through @lastcutproject on Instagram, I became aware that what I had gone through was the perfect metaphor for something we are all facing on an ongoing basis. We are repeatedly asked to consider if the choices that we have made or are making line up who we are on the inside with how we are living out in the world. So, Last Cut Project expanded from a personal documentary project to a broader community for sharing stories of change and personal truth.
Now, through the LAST CUT book and workbook, the Last Cut Conversations podcast, and our Last Cut Writing Workshops, we offer a space for anyone and everyone to examine their personal truths and celebrate the often challenging “last cuts” we make to stand up for these truths. I set the tone for radically honest sharing during the early years of the project. By doing so, we now are able to help others find their own courage to look bravely within and around themselves to create a life that feels like their own. Last Cut Project has thus become a community space for truth, change and personal growth.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
My art is my truth. I share of myself openly and honestly through my writing and teaching. Over the years I have become more and more comfortable with using happenings from my personal life to inspire my writing, be it poetry, essays or my monthly newsletter. I bring that same vantage point to my teaching in writing and other workshops. My art is all about talking about the topics we were told to hide or swallow in familial and societal settings.
What sets me apart from others is my dedication to radical honesty in all aspects of my life. I have worked hard over the years to release shame around the different experiences that we have as human beings. Giving air to the things we have been told to hide–whether that is talking about our bodies, relationships or fears–helps these aspects of self to breathe, open up and evolve. In moving through life, writing and artistic creation with this ethos, I have found I am able to create community around these conversations. Other people open up when I do. That is art in of itself.
Arriving at this point was a long, challenging road. I spent years living life in shadows of expectations of others. I made choices based on definitions of success, happiness and well-being that were not my own. I was unwell, suffering from anxiety, depression, chronic migraines and PTSD from an earlier cancer. I was unhappy and felt completely disconnected to myself. So, after arriving at this point where I no longer felt as if my life was my own, I started asking myself some radically honest and frank questions to begin the last cut process back home to myself. My own path back to a life that feels authentic and connected to who I am became the inspiration and framework for my writing, teaching and everyday living. I learned that true self-care starts within ourselves, and that the best way to practice a deep love for ourselves is to consistently check in with ourselves about what we want and need in any given moment. From there, we can build a road map back to greater congruency between our inner and outer worlds.
Last Cut Project offers that framework through the LAST CUT book and workbook. The Last Cut process takes individuals from a sense of disconnect through a questioning phase that leads to personal commitments. Those personally targeted actions help each individual foster a greater sense of embodiment and freedom. Last Cut Project is a home and community for people like myself who want to create a life that feels connected and purposeful. The answers lie within each of us. We just have to ask the right questions.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Imagining what to do when my best friend comes to visit is a bit different right now with COVID restrictions and safety precautions. However, there are still so many wonderful things about LA! No trip to LA would be complete without the following stops:
*A hike on the Fryman Canyon Trail
*A visit to the Huntington Library Botanical Gardens
*A tattoo appointment with my beloved and talented friend, Ruby May Quilter at Sang Bleu Tattoo LA
*A drive up to Santa Ynez for lunch at SY Kitchen with stops in Santa Barbara for a wine tasting at Frequency Wine Company and in Montecito for desserts at Merci Montecito.
*A hike up to Griffith Observatory
*Poetry open mic night with Get Lit-Words Ignite for creative inspiration
*Dinner at Asanebo for the best sushi in LA
*Art, art, art. The Underground Museum, The Broad, Hauser & Wirth, Marciano Art Foundation, LACMA, MOCA. There are so many choices (too many to list) and where to go would depend on what was showing.
*A hike in Malibu Canyon followed by a walk on the beach at sunset.
*Book shopping at Book Soup or Reparations Club
*Plant shopping at Queen Los Angeles
*A leisurely stroll through the Hollywood Farmers’ Market on Sunday morning with a definite stop for snow cones from Sno Con Amor and veggies from Roots Organic Farm amongst so many others.
*A visit to the Studio City Farmers’ Market for Mama Musubi Rice Balls.
*A visit to Wild Terra LA for the best teas!
*Catching a music show is always fun too!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I created Last Cut Project with one of my best friends, photographer Lisa Field. Lisa met me in a raw, vulnerable and intimate space after my explant surgery. She was with me every step of the way both in friendship and through her camera lens. Together, we explored what it is to deeply and fully trust another with the uncomfortable and painful edges of our stories, especially during moments of notable change and transition. Through my honest writing, and Lisa’s stellar eye and black and white imagery, we were able to set the tone for Last Cut Project and the community that grew around it. Furthermore, we were able to heal and grow together as artists, friends and individuals.
Instagram: @samantha__paige__ (lines are connected on both)
Other: @lastcutproject is the Instagram for the project. Last Cut Conversations Podcast: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/last-cut-conversations-with-samantha-paige/id1184730123
Lisa Field for Last Cut Project (for all images)