First and foremost congratulations on your 9th Rezz Day Lanai, from all your friends and your staff at the SL Enquirer, the top news source in Second Live as voted for in the AVI Choice Awards of 2013.
Lanai has been frenetically organising her Rezz Day celebrations in amongst all her other normal responsibilities that come with running a successful business in Second Life and those that naturally come with real life.
Lanai generously gave me some time to interview her and to spend some time reflecting on the past nine years in Second Life. We sat down at the Lanai Beach Café at the SL Enquirer Headquarters and with a stunning view and a cup of coffee we wandered down Lanai’s memory lane….
Lanai was introduced to the world of virtual reality by her brother who was at Penn State University at the time. He told her about The SIMS Online because he knew that she enjoyed playing the PC game version and that she had all the expansion packs. She created “Lanai” in TSO in 2003, and spent about a year getting to learn the virtual world community. It then came to her that it would be a cool idea to create a newspaper to share with her circle of friends. She was fascinated by all of the different things going on, and particularly in how people interacted and the mini dramas that occurred. In October of 2004 she launched The TSO Enquirer in which she would write about her experiences and shared it with her friends. It wasn't long before the role play mafia families caught wind of it and used it to communicate with other families who were at war with each other. It gained popularity quickly after that within The Sims Online virtual world. Lanai comments “so I credit my small circle of friends and the rp mafia families for making my original paper go viral.”
One day Lanai was approached in The Sims Online by some avatars that had heard about her and her paper in another virtual world called Second Life. They were filmmakers from France and were working on a documentary project and wanted to meet and interview her. She agreed and they flew from Paris to Lanai’s hometown in Pennsylvania where they worked for 3 days on the project. On the last day they asked her to bring her newspaper into Second Life. At first she declined the offer because she had heard SL was a “sexually orientated game” and she had no interest in that but they talked her into giving it a shot. They premiered the documentary in Second Life and she was a guest at that event. This in turn opened her eyes to the possibilities of Second Life and she agreed to give it a go. Lanai Jarrico was born May 9th 2005 and here she is 9 years later!
I asked Lanai how she managed to balance a busy real life with an equally busy Second Life, she replied earnestly:
“Life itself is a balancing act as we wake up each day to do tasks. Whether they are work, school or home life related. Many of us can say 24 hours in a day are just not enough to do all we aspire to achieve. My mind is always at work and it is hard for me to sit still and do nothing. I pretty much am busy until I’m so exhausted my body sends me to bed. Before all of this virtual stuff, I am a wife, mother and daughter. I grew up surrounded by art. My father is a stained glass artist as well as plays multiple instruments. I’m very close to him and I think his talents have influenced me in many ways. After a coma in 1997, I began sculpting and I did that for 6 years, selling my work on the internet as well as seasonal shows alongside my father. I even ran an art department for a Boys & Girls Club in my area until my second child was born and I stayed home to just be a mom for a while. Since then I've done different things like work for a company as their fashion blogger and some random freelance work. More recently I've been working as a stained glass artist for my father’s business as well as utilizing my skills by creating his website and social media outlets as well as helping him fill orders. That keeps me busy during the day. When I come home I’m in family mode, making sure dinner is on the table and my home is in order. I’m also a full time student just wrapping up my final credits for my Bachelors of Science. My major is Communication and Technology. I’m excited to say I will be strutting my stuff in a cap and gown with my decorated regalia on June 14th 2014 in Philadelphia. With all that said, the balance between RL and SL would not at all be possible if it wasn't for the support of my family. It wasn't so easy in the beginning until they were fully aware of exactly what I do and realized that Second Life and The SL Enquirer is not just a game to me. Having that understanding and support means the world to me and has helped me tremendously in achieving my educational goals as well as allowing me to manage the top news source in Second Life.”
How would you say SL has influenced your real life?
“Second Life has certainly impacted my real life in ways I never would have imagined when I first set foot in the virtual world. I’ve always been fascinated with this concept since day one as an avatar. Meeting people from all over the world has given me a wider perspective on life, different points of view, creativity and culture. I absolutely love the idea of a one world community were anyone can work and play in one place. Technology has given us such a gift.”
What is the main challenge you face in running a newspaper in SL?
“The main challenges I face running a newspaper in Second Life is time zones and not being able to meet with a full staff at one time. This makes it difficult for me to keep everyone on the same page at the same time. I’ve learned to use spreadsheets and email proficiently enough to work around these issues. Other challenges I’ve had to face is finding the right people who are willing to dedicate their time and treat SLE as a serious virtual world news source rather than a past time. It has taken some time to form Team SLE and I look at them as a family, all being part of raising my baby. Ever hear of the phrase “it takes a village to raise a baby”? Well to me, it takes a virtual community to raise a virtual newspaper. There are always going to be challenges as things change with regularity in Second Life, but with the support of fans and people that truly believe in SLE and what I do has kept me motivated to continue to do what I love.”
What's the best piece of advice you have been given?
“The best piece of advice I have been given was by my dear friend Prince. He said “you are Lanai the great, never let anyone tell you differently.” To have that kind of support and unconditional love means a great deal to me. Everyone in this life needs to feel like someone has their back no matter what and who are willing to dust you off and pick you back up on your feet again when at times you want to just crumble up in a heap and feel sorry for yourself. I’ve gone through many different emotions in Second Life due to the pressures of wanting to do everything, feeling like I haven’t done enough or even dealing with people who are judgmental, ignorant and unkind. It can be challenging to ones desire to have peace of mind and feel like they are great. We all need to have confidence in ourselves and strive for what we want out of life (both worlds). That is what his advice has taught me.”
And what do you enjoy most about SL?
“Hmm what do I enjoy the most…. I would have to say the timeless appearance of a beautiful avatar. I know with time my RL appearance will change, but my avatar will still look good! Lol jk. What I enjoy most about Second Life is the opportunity to meet creative people from all over the world. It is a fascination that will always be with me.”
What is your pet peeve with regard to SL?
“I would have to say ignorant people who lack communication skills or use the virtual world to interfere with other people’s experiences. Misery loves company and these are the ones who bring others down (if you let them.) These miserable types of people should look within themselves and ask the question. “What do I want out of life and what can I do to make a difference” With griefers and ignorance that plagues both worlds, I know 100% peace will never be achieved but in a controlled environment such as Second Life, we all have the power to expand our minds, meet new people, be more accepting of differences, help others or simply not interact with those who have bad communication skills or interfere in our purpose for being involved in such a dynamic technological advancement.”
In conclusion, going forward what are your plans for SLE and yourself in the near future?
“None of us knows what the future holds. We have to live in the present and have goals, hopes and dreams. These are what give us the strength and motivation to continue to do what we love. My desire for the future is to do what I love in both worlds. I know I want to be involved in communication and technology in some capacity. I believe it is the way of the future and we are just breaking the surface of what’s to come. We can all see these changes in technology. If SLE becomes so big and important enough that Linden Labs actually wants me to be a part of keeping this community connected, that would rock, but I won’t hold my breath on that. With the experience I have, people I've met along the way and the degrees I've achieved, I’m sure I’ll be involved in something big and creative in the future.”
On a personal note, I have known Lanai and been involved with the SL Enquirer for about 5 years. I have found her to be a generous and kind soul, one of the world’s (both world’s that is) special people, which unfortunately some people have taken advantage of, nevertheless she is a survivor of note, so here’s to you Lanai, and to many more Rezz days in Second Life. We thank you for you ….