“I DON’T want to just be a model. I want to be a role model for other girls. Because what else is life for other than to give back?”
That’s what 18-year-old Jewish student Sabine Jamieson told the production team when she auditioned for the 10th season of Australia’s Next Top Model .
In 2014, she was living with her parents and twin sister Nakisha in Byron Bay when she landed her dream work experience gig at Real Living magazine in Sydney, opening her eyes to the fashion industry and causing her to “completely fall in love with it”.
The experience inspired Jamieson to move to Sydney to live with her grandparents, Sandra and Yoram Gross. The late Yoram, who is best known for the production and animation of Blinky Bill, was a Holocaust survivor who arrived in Australia from Poland after the war. After her move, Yoram introduced her to the local Jewish community and furthered her love for the entertainment industry.
“It all seemed very exciting at the time,” Jamieson recalls. “Moving to Sydney, living with my grandparents who spoilt me rotten and getting a more -academic-style education at Emanuel School than I had at the Steiner school I used to go to.”
Homesick and worried about her grandfather, who was gravely ill, Jamieson decided to keep herself busy by approaching modelling agencies, despite the fact that she had no formal modelling experience.
“I was living in this big new city that I didn’t have a connection with yet, and my grandmother had her hands full taking care of my grandfather. Like a lot of girls, I always kind of wanted to be a model. I love fashion and I love being part of a creative team. That’s what drew me in.”
And then, on September 20, 2015, Yoram passed away. “My family were all in Sydney for the funeral and they were all in mourning,” Jamieson recalls.
“I was all set to fly back to Byron Bay with them when I saw an advertisement for the 10th season of Australia’s Next Top Model. And I just had this feeling that I had to go. I just thought to myself, ‘I have to do that.’ I told production that I only had half-an-hour, because I had a plane to catch.”
Jamieson, a year 11 Emanuel School student at the time, says that she had no expectations of her audition, and was “blown away” when she received an email informing her that she had made the cut, and was in the running to literally become Australia’s next top model.
Emanuel principal Anne Hastings said, “Sabine’s selection to take part in Australia’s Top Model presented her with a dilemma. Being a year 12 student, a significant time out of school could mean a delay in her HSC plans. She chose to take the risk and was successful beyond her expectations. I commend her for having the courage to take up this opportunity, and for ensuring that she used it to make a clear statement about respect for women and their right to determine how their body image is portrayed.”
As well as the great modelling opportunities that Top Model provided her, being on the show also gave her a chance to emotionally connect with her late grandfather.
“He was in the film and TV industry for years and now I’ve fallen into it after he’s passed away, so I feel that I’m carrying on the family legacy and my grandfather’s legacy now. He loved the spotlight. He would be so happy about what I am doing now.”
On September 20, 2016, exactly one year after her grandfather’s passing, the first episode aired on Fox8 and Jamieson watched it with her grandmother.
“It was a hugely momentous day for me. I had such a great experience with the whole show. I loved every part of the process from the creativity to the fashion, I’ve made friends for life with some of the people I met. I think it really took me out of my comfort zone.
“It would have been so easy to crumble under the pressure, and you have to rise to the occasion to succeed. It was extremely satisfying once it was over. And I love watching the show with my grandmother now that it’s on TV.”
Jamieson also has a strong message to girls wanting a career in the public eye: “I think it is really important to be yourself. So many people say that, but it’s a lesson that I keep learning.”
She also suggests not reading negative comments about yourself online.
“At first I read the mean comments and I was like, ‘That’s horrible I don’t want to hear that.’ But then I realised that my values are totally not in line with those people’s, so why should I be listening or even worry about what they have to say? I just totally ignore it. What haters have to say is so unimportant.”
Living in “sleepy little” Byron Bay since filming ended has kept Jamieson grounded, because her family and friends there are down to earth, studying for their HSC and aren’t obsessed with the media. Although Jamieson put her schooling on hold for a year to shoot Top Model, she plans to move back to Sydney next year to both finish year 12 and continue modelling.
But Jamieson wants to be more than just a pretty face, and hopes that her modelling can become a platform for her to speak out about social issues, particularly the genocide in West Papua and Australia’s refugee crisis.
Jamieson and her sister are currently fundraising for the West Papua community by screen-printing T-shirts, selling them and donating all the proceeds to the United Liberation Movement for West Papua.’
“When you are a model, you have a lot of power within the media and the power to put the spotlight on different issues, and there’s not a lot of light shed on the issues in West Papua at the moment,” she explains. “The international community is turning a blind eye. We have the power of technology to show what is happening there, so it’s really important that we do that.”
Regarding the current refugee crisis, she says, “My grandfather and his family were refugees after the war, and then there’s today’s issues with immigration. History has repeated itself. My family only became successful and they were helped by the Australian community, and I would love nothing more than to be able to do the same for people in this generation.”
You can support Sabine and Nakisha’s work at www.ulmwp.org and follow Sabine’s progress on Australia’s Next Top Model on Tuesdays at 7.30pm on Fox8