A Q&A with the woman behind the $60-per-hour snuggle

Jacqueline Samuels has become an overnight sensation. Last month she opened “The Snuggery,” a little cabin in Penfield, NY, where she offers private cuddle sessions for $60 an hour: no nudity, absolutely no sex, just platonic touch that she says studies have shown can have a positive effect on your mental and physical well-being. (She received a Bachelor’s Degree in Brain and Cognitive Science from the University of Rochester and is currently completing her Master’s Degree in Social Work). Well, the Internets eat this kind of thing up, and within days, she went global, appearing on CNN (without her knowledge) and getting inquiries from abroad. Apparently the world needs a hug. So we contacted Samuels via her tasteful little website and asked her about it directly:

Q: When did you start this business?
A: I’ve been snuggling informally in exchange for payment for a few years but only in the past month or so did I establish The Snuggery.

Q: How many clients have you had? And of those, how many are repeat clients?
A: I’ve had a handful of clients. Most come back over and over. Now, with all the publicity, I have more clients than I could possibly see. My wait list has about 50 people on it and I’m fully booked. I’m not prepared for this volume of clients but I suppose I will get prepared quickly.

Q: What do you do for security, to make sure you are always safe?
A: For safety, I screen clients well and have a secure location. I never do house calls and don’t plan on doing so.

Q: How did you come up with the idea?
A: I once went to a mall with a friend and gave out free hugs and was very quickly asked by security to leave. Even though some people were eager to hug, others were disturbed. I found the fact that people were disturbed really compelling. I think a lot of things contributed to the development of this idea but it really happened pretty gradually and naturally. Traveling to other countries also drew my attention to the lack of touch in the U.S.

Q: Have you ever attended a cuddle party?

A: I’ve never been to a cuddle party. I don’t live near any. But before I started this business, I spoke with [the first certified Cuddle Party facilitator] Len Daley to get his impression of the concept and he seemed to like it.

Q: What is the space like where the cuddling takes place?
A: The space is a cabin with a couch/fireplace downstairs and a snuggling area with music/aromas upstairs. I think you can view it a bit on the CNN video clip.

Q: What is your typical client like? Male, single, professional, lonely?
A: There is no typical client. They are all male and tend to be professional but are very diverse in religious and ethnic background. They tend not to be “lonely” as many suggest.

Q: What’s been the best experience you’ve had with this business so far?
A: My favorite experience has simply been connecting with individuals whom I would never otherwise get the opportunity to meet. I feel privileged to snuggle up with some of the most prominent, open-minded members of my community and hear about their lives. I get to come in contact with so much diversity and engage in some really meaningful conversations. And the fact that I’m doing exactly what I want to be doing when so many people told me I was crazy, and I’m doing pretty well, is also very gratifying.

Q: What’s the worst?
A: I would have to say the worst experience I had so far was the shock of all the media coverage… No one asked me if I wanted to be on CNN, I just suddenly appeared. I was actually doing a local radio interview when they told me I had been on CNN. And suddenly, I was getting calls and emails from all over the world. I guess that has also been a really good experience, but at the moment, I’m tired and overwhelmed.

Q: So when you did that original television interview, you thought it was just for a local news station, and then they gave it to CNN without informing you? Do you think you would have turned down the interview if you’d known it would end up airing on a national news show?
A: I would have thought about it very carefully and taken more time to make my decision. That interview was done for a local station with about an hour and a half notice and I didn’t know what questions they were going to ask. And I’d never done a TV interview before. They never informed me it was on CNN and it wasn’t until strangers informed me that I found out. Once it was on CNN, radio, newspaper and TV stations from all over this country and others began calling me. I feel like the past week of my life has been a very strange dream. I am grateful for this opportunity to be heard but am also overwhelmed. It has made me think a lot about media.

Sounds like someone needs a cuddle.