Model: Jamee Sandalwood; Photo by J4ck Nichols
I met Jamee Sandalwood-Binder some years ago, through a friend who used to be a photographer and referred to Jamee as a “very nice lady.” I am not a big fan of the adjective “nice” in general; it seems one of those all encompassing adjectives to use when you want to say something positive but don’t want to think it through. However, what certainly is true about Jamee is being a lady, that’s how she carries herself and the title is well deserved. At the time, I think, Jamee was at the early stages of her modeling career, but her creativity and taste was already there.
Jamee who is in real life a high school teacher, is also a champion for Breast Cancer Awareness and Early Mammograms for all. She is a 6 year breast cancer survivor who was diagnosed before her first mammogram, at an age where breast cancer is not supposed to happen, or so they thought. That really drives who she is and the kind of model she is in SL. Models Giving Back is her passion and drive, since breast cancer is very real and close to her heart. Now that I think back, I think “nice” was the placeholder for kind and giving.
At the end of last year, I found out that Jamee was on the shortlist for Miss Virtual World, and figured this was the best time to interview her and have our readers learn more about her. Jamee and I met at the home that she shares with Colt, her SL and RL spouse.
Leda Carter: Jamee, thank you so much for inviting me to your home and giving us your time. First of all, congrats on being 1st runner up in the MVW competition!
Jamee Binder: Welcome <smiles>. And, thank you!
Leda: Why don’t we begin at the beginning. How did you start your modeling career.
Jamee: I started modeling after seeing the My Precious Queen competition, advertised at My Precious by Agnes Finney. I saw those ladies and wanted to be one of the ladies selected to be part of the competition. I entered, and, after a few failed attempt,s was chosen as a store model the next month. I was so excited to model in the store because I loved the designs. I eagerly modeled, greeted customers, and helped them find items in this store that I knew so well. After doing this for a few months, Ms. Finney had a casting to hire permanent store models. I went through the runway casting, having had no idea what I was really doing. I have to thank Jenie Jennings for coming along one night, and giving me some pointers to help me. With those pointers, I made the cut and was chosen. After working for Ms. Finney for a couple of months, and always attending the fashion shows and working hard for her as a greeter and all, she asked me to fill in for a runway model that was unable to make the show. I was terrified, but the other models took me under their wings and helped me get through that show. Well, after that I was hooked! Ms. Finney supported me and encouraged me to attend school where I was trained by some of the best at several schools, and finally via private tutelage from Mui Mukerji. The rest is history so to speak….lol.
Leda: Is that how you learned the technical aspects of the job?
Jamee: Learning the technical aspects is an ongoing process in SL. There is always new technology coming along, and it’s important to stay current in all of it. As soon as you stop taking classes, stop learning from those around you that are well versed in the topic. That is when you become out of touch, and fade away from the modeling scene. I’ve learned from the best in SL. I attended several schools, and learned different but crucial aspects in SL modeling from each one. Several of the schools I attended when I first started are no longer around, but I’m happy to say that those teachers are still teaching in different forums around SL, because they are fantastic teachers. The only one I attended that is still open and functioning is Miss Virtual World Academy.
I do need to thank those along the way that were either my teacher, or helped me be the best model I could. Some of them are: Mui Mukerji, Agnes Finney, Natzuka Miliandrovic, Shae Sixpense, Janina Scarmon, Kryptonia Paperdoll, Jenie Jennings, Reign Congrejo, and Keeley Cooperstone. Thank you ladies for torturing me, out of love and passion, to make me the model I am today. I really appreciate each of you.
Of course, I also have to thank my SL and RL husband Colt, without whose love, support and patience, all of this could never be possible. I couldn’t ask for a better man in both worlds.
Miss Virtual World Runway Challenge #2: Jamee Sandalwood
(Favorite Movie Character – Queen Amidala from Star Wars Saga)
Photo by Natzuka Miliandrovic
Leda: How about your sense of style, do you have a similar style in RL?
Jamee: hahahah! NO! And maybe that is what makes modeling so fun for me. In SL, I am what I cannot be in RL for a variety of reasons. I am so much more casual in RL. I don’t get the opportunities with my job, and where I live, to dress the way I do in SL. I guess maybe that’s part of why I dress in high fashion and couture fashion in SL. My RL requires jeans, t-shirts, and more business-like professional dress at times. I noticed I don’t wear much of that at all in SL. I prefer the higher fashion in SL.
Leda: Since your style in SL is so different than RL, maybe tell us a bit about where it comes from.
Jamee: My style in SL, I think it comes from just trying different things until I find something I like and that looks great on me. I like looking at fashion magazines and fashion blogs, so I watch those for pieces that I like too, and then mix & match to come up with something I love. I find myself many time buying items, and then putting them away until another piece comes along later I can mix & match with. The hardest part is trying to remember what I have in my inventory and where! *laughs*. But, I think the key thing here is the style has to represent who you are. When you are comfortable with it, then everyone notices it. If you aren’t comfortable with it, then no one else will be either. I think my style evolves constantly as new things become available in SL. I know my style today is very different than when I first started in SL, and I’m sure it will evolve more as time goes on.
Miss Virtual World Audition Photo: Jamee Sandalwood; Photo by Natzuka Miliandrovic
Leda: How about non-clothing style; how would you describe your Skin, Shape and Hair – is it a reflection of who you are in RL?
Jamee: My SL Avatar has a few facial features that I think are similar to me in RL. Other than that, we are nothing alike. I make subtle changes to my skin, hair, and shape all the time, but I have consistently looked the same. I basically have one look that defines me, and I stay with that. Ultimately, it’s about what works for the moment while SL modeling, and staying current with the trends and what designers expect. So, we, as SL models, have to be willing to change and adapt to their vision for their designs.
My basic shape started when I was going through modeling school, and learning what proportions not only look realistic, but also are preferred for runway and print models. Using those parameters, I have slowly modified my shape over time, tweaking it little by little. Once Jamee’s original shape was created, I just made subtle changes to enhance the look. I do have to say though, that with mesh, I have to modify my shape for almost every outfit I wear to work with the various alphas and outfits that are out there. So, I don’t have just one shape anymore.
As far as the skin goes, it’s all about trial and error. The skin has to fit the facial features, and be photograph compatible as well. Usually, you learn that there are skins that work with your shape, and don’t make your nose look funny, or make you look like you are stuck in 2008. These are the skin creators to keep going back to once you find them for your shape. Then, each time they release new ones, I get the demos and try them to see if they are better than the one I am currently using. If they are, then it’s time for a new skin. It’s important to do this on a regular basis, because technology changes and skin quality improves as time goes on.
As better quality skins and hairs have been released, I’ve upgraded them. My skin tone has gotten lighter over the years in SL, as has my hair, but it’s because it has enhanced the overall look of my avatar. I’m sure I will continue to change it, but will keep the basic look so that people recognize Jamee. If I do a change and I can’t say – hey! that’s me alright, then I undo the change. It’s all about keeping who I am consistent for me.
Miss Virtual World 2015 Head shot: Jamee Sandalwood; Photo by Enzo Champagne
Leda: Any tips or experiences you care to share with other avatars that wish to upgrade their look?
Jamee: Don’t stay with one look for too long, and always be on the look out for ways to improve your avatar. You need to be unique, and have a recognizable face. You do not want to look like others in SL. Start with a RL photo of a model/celebrity that you want to emulate, and work with your shape and skin to do that. Then tweak it, and put your own mark on it to make it you. Don’t be afraid to make changes. I’ve always been told I looked great, but until I found the right combination, doors didn’t open for me and competitions were always a disappointment. So, be willing to hear criticism and learn from it. Change is hard, but needed to be on top in SL modeling.
I personally have my favorites that I stick with, since they have been very good to me. I change my hair with every outfit for the most part, and sometimes even the colors if needed to work with the coloring of the outfit. All of it has to coordinate. You should always look your best even if just going shopping or to a club, because you never know who will see you. As far as my skin, I have my one particular skin I love and I just wear different shades of it depending on what the outfit calls for.
Miss Virtual World Challenge #7, Western Japanese: Jamee Sandalwood; Photo by Natzuka Miliandrovic
Leda: So far everything we have talked about seems challenging. You must like that about modeling?
Jamee: I love the challenges that come with styling and runway work. There is so much detail that goes into it, and the challenges that come with it are so much fun to me! I fell in love with it from the very first day in SL.
Leda: Speaking of first day at SL, what brought you to the SL community?
Jamee: I was introduced to SL through a RL friend I had at the time. He told me about this great community, and all the possibilities & social aspects of the game. I was curious, so with his help I created an avatar and logged in. He introduced me to a group of his friends who actually taught me all the great nuances of SL. They helped me through the learning curve much faster than most. I am sad that most of those people are no longer in SL, but will always remember their support and friendship.
Leda: That’s wonderful. And, look where you are now, Miss Sweden! Let’s talk about the competition a bit. How long does the whole thing take?
Jamee: It takes about 6 months, if you get chosen to audition the first round like I did. So. it was from June through December for me. All I did from October to December was this competition – every night, every weekend. There is something due every weekend, either a photo competition or a runway competition. And, if there are runway competitions, there are rehearsals and other stuff to go to as well.
Leda: You mentioned photo competition, and it reminds me that when I see most competition – from the outside, of course – the role of the photographer is inevitably important.
Jamee: Indeed it is. If the judges don’t like the photograph, your styling is lost. I know they say it doesn’t matter, but we are human. A quality photograph will score better than one that isn’t. But, having said that, you need quality styling that fits the theme as well.
Leda: Yes, that is a given that if you don’t have the gift of styling, the taste, and the tech to do the job, a great photograph cannot sell you. But, the opposite could be true, it seems.
Jamee: Yes, and for a long time I feel that was a big part of my issues.So, I learned not only how to improve my own photography, but, I was able to build relationships with quality photographers in SL who were there for this adventure when I needed them.
Miss Virtual World Sweden Costume: Jamee Sandalwood; Photo by Addison Summerwind
Leda: Who are some of the photographers who particularly stand out for you who joined you on this journey?
Jamee: Natzuka Miliandrovic would be the first I would need to say thank you to. She is a great friend, my sister-in-law, and was the first one to help during the process. She is one of the best around for artistic photos, and having been through MVW herself – it was helpful. Photographers provided by the Miss Virtual World Organization were Addison Summerwind and Enzo Champagne – both of whom I loved working with and are fantastic professionals. J4ck Nichols has to be one of the best artistic minds. I go to him when I need creative bends on an outfit. He’s amazing what he can do
Leda: I assume that photography is just one of the costs of entering the competition, no?
Jamee: Yes, for me it was very costly. But I chose that. If you are able to do your own photography and are happy with what is produced and is getting results for you, then you can minimize that cost.
Although, probably the most demanding aspects is the time commitments. There are a lot of deadlines, and time requirements of the competition. So, it’s important to be organized and keep a calendar with everything on it. The other challenge is finding inspiration for the different segments of the competition. Sometimes it comes to me right away, and other times it is at the 11th hour before it all comes together. So, keeping calm and not panicing when it doesn’t come together until the last second is very important.
Leda: When there is a theme to style for (e.g., film noir, national costume, etc), where do you begin?
Jamee: Many times I will start with a searching Google images for the style. Usually, I don’t settle on the first image I see either. I look through lots of things and try to take common items from the theme that are iconic, and incorporate them into my styling. You have to understand what the key components of the required style are that the judges will be looking for. What makes that type of style that style? Then, I go looking around in SL and on marketplace for pieces that fit that particular requirement. I will usually find one or two then, which will become the center of the styling, and I work from there. You have to know what designers have what, and where to look for what you are looking for. So, visiting stores regularly, and checking out events to just window shop is important. I am lucky in that I usually remember seeing things at places, and then know where to look for them. If not, I ask friends that would know where they are and find them.
Miss Virtual World Runway Challenge #2: Jamee Sandalwood
(Favorite Movie Character – Queen Amidala from Star Wars Saga)
Photo by Natzuka Miliandrovic
Leda: You touched on the idea of visiting stores, and buying items for future use before. How do you keep your inventory organized, and keep track of everything you have?
Jamee: I have a hard time keeping track of everything to be honest. I’ve been known to buy things twice, because I didn’t check to see if I had it first. But, I do try to at least once a month, file everything that I get. Better is to file it right away, and make sure to change the name of it to be more descriptive, so you can search for it when you need to find it. I change the name on the folders the items are in. Maybe add a color, or add a more descriptive piece such as pointed lapel jacket or such to the name so I can find it when I need it. Hair is harder. I need photos in the folders of them, and I file them by style: long, short, updo, hair w/hats etc. inventory is a constant battle.
Honestly, I need to rearrange a lot of my inventory because I really can’t always find what I need right away. This is something hopefully I will have time to work on now! Well, okay, maybe not, as I know of some people who are going to keep me very busy.
Leda: And when you are not working and modeling, what do you do for fun?
Jamee: Oh boy, that’s not an easy question actually. Most of what I do in SL revolves around modeling, and that’s what gives me pleasure. I love the styling and the challenges of having things to do – either blogging, photography, working with the designers, doing things for charity, coordinating shows, working to promote Lybra’s label. Everything to me is fun, even though it involves a lot of work sometimes. If I didn’t enjoy, it I wouldn’t be here still.
Lybra Fashion show July 2014: Jamee Sandalwood; Photo by Rob Roadrabbit
When I’m not modeling, the live music scene is my second love. I was a hostess at a club here in SL for live artists for over 4 years, and have met some amazing people that way – both patrons and artists. I still love to go and listen to them and hang out when I can. Now that MVW is over, hoping to have more time to do this again.
As far as people - Colt (my husband in SL and RL), Lybra Rage, Natzuka Miliandrovic, Steele Sirnah, and my Models Giving Back team are who I spend the most time with. They are the ones that make me laugh and give me the most pleasure. However, I have a good time working with everyone on my friends list and I love the small laughs and conversations I have with each of them, even if it isn’t on a daily basis. The people of SL are really what keeps me coming back day after day after day.
Leda: Are you a follower of “keep SL & RL separate” philosophy?
Jamee: You really cannot keep SL and RL separate, no matter what you say or do. It always impacts your RL in some way. The question is, are you willing to let it impact RL and how much? Sometimes, for competitions, you have to rearrange RL. If you are not willing to do that, then don’t join the competition. I try to keep some parts of it separate, such as RL work. That always has to come first, it is what pays my bills in RL. But other than that, it is my choice how much I let SL impact RL. I have changed or declined plans with people because of things going on in SL, and I’ve missed some SL things because of RL commitments. So, it works both ways for me.
The best part of the two though is my husband in RL, whom I met here in SL. So that part has been very positive for me. It helps that he understand when I have to spend time in SL, not all people are as lucky.
Leda: Thank you so much, Jamee. It has been a true pleasure knowing you.