Faces of AWNY: Samantha Wills

Samantha Wills moved from Sydney to New York in 2010 when the Samantha Wills Jewelry brand started to gain traction after Patricia Field selected a pair of her earrings to appear in the second Sex and The City film. That placement—celebrity factor aside—was a huge milestone, and the move to New York allowed her to start the foundations of building the brand in the US market. She has dressed celebrities such as Eva Mendes, Pink, Katy Perry, Drew Barrymore and JLo. We speak with Samantha as she releases her memoir ‘Of Gold and Dust‘.

Samantha with her memoir Of Gold and Dust. Photo supplied by Samantha Wills

Hi Samantha! Where are you from in Australia? How long have you lived in NYC? 

I am originally from Port Macquarie, a small coastal town on the mid north coast of New South Wales. I was in Sydney for 8 years before moving to NYC and was in NYC for almost a decade. 

What neighborhood do you live in and why did you choose that area?

The back of my building faced the Meatpacking District and the front faced into the West Village, so depending what door I walked out depended which neighborhood I was in. 

My apartment was right at the end of The High Line and when I moved in there it faced a vacant block. I thought it was brilliant as there was so much space when you looked out the window! Then a few weeks after moving in they started drilling pillions into the ground as they started building the new Whitney museum. That build went for 4 years and saw bulldozers at my window most days and pictures shaking off the walls. When the construction had finally finished and the day they had the opening ceremony, I opened my window to watch and was promptly yelled at by snipers on the roof of The Whitney to “get back inside and close the window!”—unbeknownst to me Michelle Obama was opening the museum. 

What do you like/dislike about living in NY?

I liked the energy, it was like a current you couldn’t help be caught up in. The resilience and the uplighting, it is like nowhere on earth. 

I found not having a body of water to swim tough in the heat of the New York summer! It made me realize how spoilt we are growing up on Australia beaches. 

What’s your favorite New York spot?

That’s like asking someone to choose their favorite child!! I loved Manhatta restaurant, the view above the clouds up there was very magical. AIRE baths in Tribeca are a beautiful escape and Malaparte was my favorite local eatery. 

Photo supplied by Samantha Wills

Anything you miss about Australia?

The beaches. 

What are your top 3 tips for friends visiting NYC?

  • As cheesy as it sounds, riding the red bus tour really gives you a great perspective of where everything is in the city!
  • Doing a sunset cruise on the Adirondack boat is gorgeous as you sail out to Lady Liberty.
  • Theres a tiny jazz club way uptown called Smoke, they have some great acts there. 

Favorite NYC brunch spot?

Dirty French is a good time! 

What was your biggest win this week?

I’m back in Australia at the moment and seeing that my best friend in New York got her second vaccine shot—while I don’t when I will see her next—it feels like a huge win as it means one step closer to see her. 

What’s the biggest challenge or road block you’ve been faced with since being in NYC and how do you overcome it?

I think as Australians we tend to play the modesty/self-deprecating card. That doesn’t fly in New York. For example if someone asks you if you are good at something, replying with the old “I mean, I can do it, I guess I’m pretty good at it…’, Americans will take your modesty as incompetence and go and look for someone who says “Yes. I can absolutely do that and more. Let me show you.” It took me a while to learn that! 

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given about living/working in NYC?

That she is a cruel mistress. She will kick your ass over and over but you always just keep going back for more. 

Who are some Aussie/Kiwi ladies doing awesome things in NYC who are currently on your radar?

Two of my favorite women in New York are Australians. 

  • Freya Grant who is the VP of Events and Celebrity Relations at Madison Square Garden is utterly brilliant, and I remain in awe of her daily. Every person who crosses her path she leaves for the better. 
  • Janelle Chaplin who is the Creative Director of O+M and opened their iconic salon in Meatpacking District. Her strength, energy and impact on others is like no other. 

Samantha’s memoir Of Gold and Dust: A memoir of a Creative Life is available now.

Connect with Samantha

Author: Tarley Jordan

Tarley has been an AWNY volunteer since 2012. She is award-winning marketer from Sydney (with stops in Brisbane and Rockhampton), who moved to New York after meeting her husband in a typical New York chance encounter. Find her on Instagram: @tarleyj

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