Samantha Hess, Portland’s OG Cuddling Professional, Is Calling It Quits





After nine years of snuggling sessions, Portland’s pioneering professional cuddler says she’s quitting.

Samantha Hess, a former personal trainer who was inspired to start her business in 2013 after reading about a farmer’s market entrepreneur who was selling hugs for $2 apiece, had her official last cuddle bookings on Tuesday, September 20.

She’s spending this week vacating her studio in southwest Portland; the web domain of your studio, cuddleuptome.comis for sale as is certified cuddlers.coman offshoot site, also operated by Hess, which offered training courses for prospective snuggle friends and included a search function to help potential customers find course graduates in their region.

In a lengthy post to her followers on Patreon last month, Hess wrote that her decision was the result of “death by a thousand cuts.” She shared that she’s had to constantly move her studio after being evicted due to building sales and leases, and that she “needs to live my personal life in a way that reflects the brand I lead. It is my concern for the future of the industry in an ever-changing world. Seeing my life is still a joke for so many.” She also writes that she owes about $45,000 to investors.

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Hess was at the forefront of the cuddle movement, positioning consensual, nonsexual touch as a form of emotional connection, as a mental health boost, and as an exercise in understanding boundaries and consent. During her career she performed America’s Got Talent where she demonstrated various snuggling positions on celebrity judges Nick Cannon and Neil Patrick Harris. On Valentine’s Day 2015, she also organized a cuddle convention (“CuddleCon”) in Portland. Her initial goal, she says, was to start a chain of “Cuddle Me Up” studios in cities across the country.

Then Corona came. The social distancing and lockdowns of the pandemic have been a major hurdle for the cuddle industry, which had since expanded into a number of national online websites that allow people to find a local match for platonic cuddles.

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Nonetheless, Hess has weathered this hiatus and is adding outdoor sessions through the summer of 2020. and requiring vaccinations for indoor sessions by spring of the following year. She also offered some online options like this YouTube short film about “virtual eye-catcher.”

But by the summer of 2022, she writes, she had reached a turning point: “It is exhausted and no longer feels that spark. It wants to find new work to explore. The goal I set for myself, which was to help build a foundation for the industry, has already been achieved. It means having the financial abundance to really be able to put myself first.”

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What’s next, Hess says she’s not sure yet. She’s taking a month off and will then consider how to look after those who pay for their content through Patreon going forward, and whether to resume online training programs and events. She is also writing her second book, which she hopes will be published in early 2023.

“It will be a combination of my trauma story explaining why I decided I qualified when it wasn’t a thing, a behind-the-scenes look at the leadership of the company, and customer stories written directly by them .” Hess says. “I’m not sure of the title yet, but I’m playing around with ‘The Most Successful Failure’ and ‘The Snuggle Is Real.’

Meanwhile, Hess has highlighted several other alternative options for her cuddle clients, including The Touch Tonic, a cuddle studio in SE Belmont that offers one-on-one and group cuddle sessions.



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