Don’t wait for someone else to validate your ideas. Of course taking constructive feedback is great, but it’s up to you to decide how important your ideas are. Choosing a path that hasn’t been done before is scary for most, and it’s important to not let someone else’s opinion based on fear or jealousy get in the way.
As a part of our series about Inspirational Women In Hollywood, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Samantha Long.
Founder/CEO of A THREAT, Samantha Long is J Balvin’s Global Dance Captain, a celebrity movement coach, viral personality, a dance rights advocate and music video director with work credits ranging from Nicki Minaj to booming artist development client, REI AMI. From Billie Eillish and Cardi B., to Chris Brown and Shakira, public acknowledgement from the world’s greatest entertainers quickly founded Samantha’s reputation as a leading trailblazer in the worlds of dance and entertainment today.
Famous for her trademark hip-hop in heels choreography, Samantha pushes the envelope with A-list talent. Her choreography and dancing talent has often been lent for music videos — some of which artists including Paul McCartney, Paula Abdul, Cheat Codes and live performances with artists such as Jason Derulo and Janet Jackson. Her social media accounts have accumulated together hundreds of millions of views, partnering with household brands including Reebok, AirBnB, and more.
A Memphis, TN native, Samantha moved to Los Angeles in 2014 to pursue her acting and dance career. Since bootstrapping her company, Samantha has impacted tens of millions worldwide through her social media and television appearances including appearances on So You Think You Can Dance and ABC’s Localish.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
I grew up in a small town called Fisherville that was located right outside of Memphis, TN. I grew up in the country where I was always surrounded by horses, cows, and open fields. I have three order siblings that I would spend most of my time with, and outside of that was always training at a dance studio in a nearby town. My dad’s business required traveling almost every week so my entire family was homeschooled so that we could all spend time together. My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was 4, so when we discovered this we made Tennessee more of a permanent residence.
My mom unfortunately passed away when I was 9 and my life has completely changed ever since. I had to learn how to be independent nearly immediately after, quickly adapting to a new, different world without her love and guidance in it. My independence started to really take place when I turned 14, and I began traveling the country every weekend assisting the world’s top choreographers at dance conventions hosting thousands of dancers. By the time I turned 16 I decided it would be best to make the move to Los Angeles — even if it meant doing it alone — to pursue my dreams since my home town lacked having opportunities for me. It was a big move considering I was doing it all alone without knowing anyone including family, but I am extremely grateful that I was able to make the move work and now here I am having the opportunity to look back and talk about it!
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
Growing up I loved to entertain and would organically start moving around whenever I heard music no matter where I was or who I was with. I had so much energy at all times that my parents knew they had to put me into some kind of class to let it all out! That’s where I discovered my passion for dance & acting. They took it as a fun hobby for me to do, but I shortly realized that it was something I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Surprise for them, lol! I remember dragging my dad into the dance studio with me when I was 11 to have a sit down meeting with the studio owner to discuss what exactly I needed to do moving forward to make dance my future career.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
I am always thinking back to the time when I decided to open up a dance studio in LA. I choose to keep it a top secret until the opening where I sent a location for class that all the dancers had no clue about. The look on everyone’s faces when I opened the back gate to let people in was priceless, and watching their reactions really spoke to my heart. Being able to create a safe space for everyone on my team was such an exhilarating moment that I’ll always love looking back on and cherish. Opening up a studio has always been my childhood dream and to be able to see it happen in real time was so monumental. I’m working on something now that’s even bigger, that I’m convinced will have an even bigger effect when it’s out in the world.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
It’s always a mistake to think that people’s opinions actually matter when you know who you are.
My mistake, which ended up being my fuel, was deciding that those opinions mattered! When the studios wouldn’t let me teach, I created my own. When the agencies weren’t able to get me jobs in years, we pitched directly and got the work ourselves. When major fashion lines didn’t understand the value in heels dance culture, I made my own line.
I never let anything get in the way of my dreams, and the people who pushed against seeing me win I think just got more mad that I didn’t let them stop me. I did all of this very young, and it makes me giggle to think that people around me wanted to attack those efforts instead of collaborate on them. I know my value, and I’m going to earn it back every single day I’m alive, no matter what!
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I am extremely grateful for my Manager, Aaron Tropf, who has helped me in my career every step of the way. He doesn’t approach managing my career like I’m a dancer — because the picture is so much bigger than that — he has always approached us working together from the lens of building a multi-hyphenate entertainment empire with myself as the star. Every idea I have no matter how big the task is not only executed, but challenged to become even bigger! It’s so important to me to be surrounded by people who build you up, and believe in you just as much (if not more) than you do. What’s so cool about our work relationship is that we both come from completely different sides of the industry originally, so we have been able to learn so much from each other over the years. Teamwork has definitely made the dream work so far and I can’t wait for everything that’s soon to come working together.
You have been blessed with great success in a career path that can be challenging. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path, but seem daunted by the prospect of failure?
The best advice I have for being successful in the industry I’m in is to never give up and be consistent. Even if everyone around you is saying “no” or “that’s not possible” to keep going & do what you know you are capable of. You don’t need validation from anyone to chase what makes you happy. When I launched my brand A THREAT at 21 years old I had countless haters saying I was too young to do what I was doing. I’ve never listened because I don’t see age as a limitation, and know what I am capable of. You have to trust your gut, and work your ass off to get to your dream. It will NEVER be easy & you will always have problems that arise, but it’s how you handle them and learn from them that makes you a winner. I have only been able to live out my dreams solely from these things. My brand was built on this foundation/mindset of not letting anyone or anything stop you in your pursuit of happiness
What drives you to get up every day and work in TV and Film? What change do you want to see in the industry going forward?
What I love most about working in TV & Film is the challenge of always learning new things and getting pushed to improving/better yourself at your craft constantly. The industry is ever evolving into new lanes, and the chase of being on top of what’s fresh is super exciting to me. I would love to see more powerful roles for women in the industry from all angles. Not putting women in a box to just be one thing such as “sexy” or just “smart”. I would love to see the industry embracing women for being both at the same time.
You have such impressive work. What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? Where do you see yourself heading from here?
: I am currently working with my team on our new launch for A THREAT coming very soon! This new launch is going to open so many new verticals for myself that I can’t wait to explore.
We are very interested in looking at diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture and our youth growing up today?
The answer of ‘why is it important’ is easy to answer for anybody who doesn’t have a heart full of hate. It’s not just about being the ‘right’ thing to do. It’s about being the only thing to do. If we aren’t including those who have been repeatedly left out for only because of who they are, then we shouldn’t be including ourselves for thinking we are what we are. That’s also what A THREAT is all about — people hold you back when they see you as ‘a threat’, and A THREAT is about being A THREAT to what’s holding you back. Beyond what’s right, entertainment is about sharing stories, creating art, and giving the light of inspiration. How is that possible with only one group of people running the show for decades? Diversity specifically for me is a necessary beauty in everything that I’m a part of and I’m just not interested in creating something without a diverse team by my side — in all capacities. If we continue raising a youth on non-diverse entertainment for them to look up to and align with, we will lose ourselves as a people. I do think that the dance industry in particular is slowly embracing the right track for change, and I look forward to actively seeking ways to be a part of that change with every opportunity that comes my way. This will be the year you see me and my team launch an initiative with this in mind, and I couldn’t be more excited to share it with you all here shortly.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? Please share a story or example for each.
1. Don’t wait for opportunities.
Life is too short to wait on other people to make your dreams a reality. It’s important to take matters into your own hands because nobody will care more about you than YOU.
2. Take time off.
Self-care is so crucial in all jobs, but especially when being a creative. It can be extremely draining to have to pull inspiration from thin air. I find that my best ideas always come from traveling somewhere new or just relaxing my mind.
3. Don’t wait for someone else to validate your ideas.
Of course taking constructive feedback is great, but it’s up to you to decide how important your ideas are. Choosing a path that hasn’t been done before is scary for most, and it’s important to not let someone else’s opinion based on fear or jealousy get in the way.
4. Understand your worth
Knowing your worth is something that we all tend to question sometimes. Whether it’s debating how much you charge to carrying yourself in a specific way; Knowing who you are will protect you from getting used or being disrespected. It allows you to really take charge in your life & demand respect.
5. Always stay consistent.
It can be very discouraging when you work so hard and don’t see immediate return. Staying consistent is the only way to stay on track and give you a shot at success. That is why most don’t make it & there are only a select few that do. That’s why it’s so important to do what you truly love. That way numbers aren’t the only thing pushing you forward.
Can you share with our readers any selfcare routines, practices or treatments that you do to help your body, mind or heart to thrive? Please share a story for each one if you can.
Self-care is a huge part of my daily regimen. It can be mentally and physically exhausting with always being on the go and working nonstop. I love to take time to relax by taking a nice bath, meditating, journaling, traveling, and sometimes just turning off my phone to unwind. Taking time to do these things is really hard for me because my brain is wired to always be working on something or I am wasting time, but I’ve learned that making time for myself ends up being much more rewarding overall. I try to “reward” myself with something even if it’s super small like a dessert after a hard day of work.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I just heard JAY Z say in some footage of him recording The Black Album last night, “The most important thing for an artist is inspiration. When you’re not inspired, you start thinking. And when you start thinking, you start forcing.” Taking away from that the excerpt of ‘when you start thinking, you start forcing’ is so damn important for me as a creative. It’s a part of everything I do. You have to know when to step away from something if it feels forced, go out and get inspired by something — anything — and come back ready to make the art your heart tells you to. You’ll see this coming to life in the re-introduction of my company, A THREAT. Expect the result of a very, very inspired Samantha Long.
You are a person of huge influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
I’m actively fighting for the rights of dancers every single day. From proper payment and IP, to fair treatment and accreditation. The time for dancer’s being neglected is over. I will be formally launching my initiative on this later this year with resources, a plan of action and mission for taking back the art of dance from business executives and replacing it back into the hearts of creatives. All while making sure my dancers are getting their coin, of course. While on this subject, if you’re reading this and are inspired by or find yourself connecting with that cause for any reason, please reach out to me. I’ll be needing all the help I can get!
Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!
While I’ve worked on a project for her in the past, it’ll always be The Queen, Nicki Minaj. Over a margarita with two limes, I would lay out the master plan for choreographing for her the most legendary tour of this entire decade, creating iconic, career defining music videos, and getting her moving better than she ever has before. You pair me with Nicki and it’s game over.
Are you on social media? How can our readers follow you online?
My Instagram & TikTok handle is @samantha_long_ You can search me everywhere else with typing my name!
This was so informative, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!