Seattle Medium SIFF 2016 Exclusive
By Kim Bennett
The Seattle Medium
Dreams really can come true. The documentary Presenting Princess Shaw follows the rise of Samantha Montgomery, a 40-year-old aspiring singer from New Orleans. By day, she is a caregiver at a retirement home, but outside of that, she sings at open mic venues and posts her original songs and video diaries on YouTube.
With the stage name of Princess Shaw and a generous spirit in the face of difficult circumstances, she is a compelling character. It is fitting that her story unfolds like a fairy tale, drawing from her candid and sometimes heartbreaking moments of self-expression on YouTube. Throughout the documentary, you can’t help but hope things improve for Princess Shaw as she struggles to make ends meet, returns crestfallen from failed auditions and performs her songs to mostly empty seats at a bar.
In 2012, Princess Shaw started the YouTube channel that ultimately changes her destiny.
“Before when I was younger, I was really shy and I always watched YouTube,” Shaw remembers.
“I saw this guy on there that was a producer and he was saying ‘Singers, rappers, if you like this beat and want to make a song to it, do it.’ And so then a light went off. I could do it the opposite way. So I started to do songs and I started to say, ‘If someone can make a track to this song, please let me know,’” Shaw explains.
Two years later, someone half a world away took notice and did just that, but he did not let her know. World-renowned musician, composer and producer, Kutiman, who lives in Israel, arranged one of his famous musical mash ups of YouTube clips including vocals from Princess Shaw’s original song titled “Give It Up” and shares it with the world. The video quickly goes viral with 2.6 million views to date and Princess Shaw becomes a YouTube sensation seemingly overnight.
“I was like, ‘Oh my God, this is so rock sauce!’” recalls Shaw of the moment when she discovered Kutiman’s version of “Give It Up.”
“You know the music is very haunting, and when I heard it, I’m like he took that from my soul and put that out there,” said Shaw. “That’s the music that belonged with that song.”
Furthering the happy resolution of the story, the film follows Princess Shaw to Tel Aviv where she meets and jams with Kutiman, realizing her long-held dream to perform on stage. However, in contrast, the film’s conclusion is grounded in reality as we return to Louisiana and to Shaw’s everyday life, begging the question ‘What’s next?” The documentary leaves it there, providing no answers.
But Shaw in an exclusive interview with The Seattle Medium offers an update to her latest endeavors.
“I’m recording my first official album with Kutiman,” says Shaw. “He’s producing the whole thing. I went out to Israel to record the album with him.”
“I’m just trying to be happy,” said Shaw with a smile. “I want to sing. I want to keep singing. I would love to do shows and sing with people and connect with people.”
“I would love to also be able to talk with people because some people are struggling and you know where some people are because you’ve been there,” she continued.
Despite the dream-fulfilled theme of the film, Shaw reminds us that even though there is a film crew, this is real life.
“I want people to know that Cinderella doesn’t live here,” says Shaw.
“I don’t want people to think like, it’s happy every single day,” says Shaw as she talks about the ups and downs of pursuing a music career. “Understand that reality is reality. You can push and push and sometimes it doesn’t happen for you. And that should be ok as long as you tried it. Try every opportunity no matter how small.”
Even though it appears that there may be a fairy tale ending to the journey of her late blooming career, Princess Shaw recognizes that the journey is not over.
“I am 40 now,” says Shaw. “It took me this long to get somewhere, but that’s ok. I am here and I’m ok with that. Just keep pushing. Keep going, don’t give up.”
Cinderella may not live here, but the film shows that even in reality, you can still have a princess story.