We had the good fortune of connecting with Samantha Isabell Gay and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Samantha, what do you attribute your success to?
The most important factor in my success is authenticity – even when my content and business experiences haven’t satisfied prescribed “boxes” or “binary” expectations. My work is true to my inspiration and opens doors for conversation; it also challenges colonized notions of what spaces women of color “should” occupy. Working and creating with authentic intention has led to growth, partnership, and deep learning. I’ve been fortunate to build bridges, create and collaborate with people from all around the world.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
My work is two-pronged: I work in immigration, and I am a classical mezzo-soprano singer. I am equally proud of both. Immigration inspires my passion for (and formal education in) international affairs, global citizenship, and cross-cultural engagement and allyship. I started as an immigration paralegal (a grueling but transformative experience) after undergrad, then pursued related Master’s degrees and traveled extensively before landing at my current job. I lead a small team handling immigration data security, -policy updates, and procedural compliance for our clients. Our clients support immigrants both in the U.S. and all around the world, and we collaborate with talented and inspiring nationals. In our complex and hurting world, any effort we can make to support one another is invaluable. The most critical lesson I’ve learned as an immigration professional is that our humanness is precious, and that we all have gifts to contribute…so we must work together to share the pie.
My creative work as a mezzo-soprano feeds my spirit. After years of piano & voice lessons, choral work, sacred services/events, and a graduate vocal residency, I established my own brand. I create content covering a range of song genres with classical technique, and I also continue work as a cantor. Producing my content can be challenging because it blurs sonic and cultural lines; and again, circumvents binary expectations of an opera singer. It steps outside what a BIPOC woman “should” sing, in some perceptions. I’ve occasionally been told to stay in my lane, and this can hurt! However, it has never deterred me from exploring and performing. The most important lesson I’ve learned as a musician and content creator is to trust my instincts, lean into the process, and never let stereotypes define my goals.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I was lucky to do this exact thing in 2019!
1. Chinatown – MCCB Chicago Restaurant
2. Pilsen – La Luna Taqueria Restaurant
3. Pizzeria Due Restaurant
4. Museum of Science and Industry
5. Reggie’s Rock Club
6. Lake Shore/Lake Shore Drive
7. Lyric Opera
8. Sticky Rice Thai Restaurant
9. Morton Arboretum
10. Logan Square: Webster’s Wine Bar
11. Logan Square: Kuma’s Corner
12. Logan Square: Passion House Coffee
13. Pilsen: Museum of Mexican Art
14. Little India/Devon St.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
So many creators, professionals, and mentors have helped me in my success. For this shoutout, I’d love to recognize the Mixed In America organization, whose incredible mission has helped empower my sense of community and confidence – especially with my creative work. Their platform celebrates and upholds values of fluidity, humanness, flexibility, and individualized self-expression…these are all pillars in my daily life and work. Thank you, M.I.A.!
Envoy Global website – https://resources.envoyglobal.com/global-mobility Built-In Chicago article – https://www.builtinchicago.org/2020/11/09/chicago-unconscious-bias-in-the-workplace