STUNNING. SEXY. SMART. MEET OUR MODEL MOGUL
I never thought I could work in Australia
J essica Gomes was just 10 years old when she began practising her craft. Grooming and deportment classes taught her how to move in front of a camera and even apply make-up. That training provided her with valuable early experience in modelling and acting. So it’s no surprise the Perth-born beauty went on to become one of our most successful exports.
The David Jones ambassador — back in Australia to launch the spring/summer collection — says these early skills helped her create a brand that today includes modelling, acting and a new skincare line, Equal Beauty.
Gomes has been quick to join the recent trend for models to expand their empires beyond the camera lens to ensure longevity in a career that traditionally expires in your 30s.
“When I was a kid doing these classes and shopping centre runway shows etc, it wasn’t like I was thinking then ‘I want to grow up to be a supermodel,’ ” the 32-year-old tells BW Magazine.
“School wasn’t really happening for me and I knew there were greater things in store for me and that I really loved modelling and acting. It wasn’t until I was 22, though, and I booked Sports Illustrated that I realised I could grow as a brand and that’s when I started to think I could do this for the long term. It was like a graduation moment for me.”
Gomes says models such as Elle Macpherson gave her the confidence to realise she could build a successful brand.
Macpherson, 52, was a pioneer of the industry back in the early 1990s, making a successful transition from billboard to boardroom. She began her empire by bringing out items that related directly to her modelling career, such as calendars and workout videos. But her real success came when she diversified into lingerie and fashion — first with Elle Macpherson Intimates, in collaboration with Bendon, and later her very own label, Elle Macpherson Body. The Sydney beauty took her career one step further by appearing in several films and television shows, most notably in five episodes of hit 1990s comedy as Joey’s girlfriend on Friends, and more recently as the host of Britain’s Next Top Model.
“I have always believed that when certain
doors open, you walk through them,” says Gomes. “I look at how Elle did it, taking opportunities that came her way, so when things are presented I try to think, ‘How can I use this?’
In March, Gomes launched Equal Beauty, joining the ranks of Australian models to have launched skincare brands. Jess Hart has Luma Cosmetics, Miranda Kerr owns Kora Organics and Lara Worthington launched a tanning and bronzing line called The Base.
“I always wanted to do my own skincare brand,” she says. “And then David Jones came along and introduced me to that experience of luxury and the department store, and I knew it was time. It took three years to develop Equal Beauty and I did it all myself.
“It was really important to me to be totally involved. I funded it myself and found the people to help me develop it. It was the hardest thing I have ever done, but it was so rewarding.”
Continuing her childhood passion for acting, Gomes appeared in her first major film, Transformers: Age of Extinction, in 2014. Later this year she will appear in Once Upon a Time in Venice, an action comedy in which she plays Bruce Willis’ young girlfriend and appears in a sex scene with the 62-year-old. Also due to be released this year is Bastards, a comedy she filmed with Owen Wilson and Ed Helms. M odels turning to acting is not a new phenomenon, in fact for many it is a natural progression. Back in the 1990s Elizabeth Hurley and Elle Macpherson appeared in major feature films. In 2011 former Victoria’s Secret angel, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, swapped her wings to appear in Transformers: Dark of the Moon and more recently Gal Gadot, a former Miss Israel, had huge success as Wonder Woman.
“I started acting at a young age, I would get calls to audition for television series filming in Perth, so it was always on the cards for me,” Gomes says. “But it’s a tough industry, all the rejection is hard and before I landed Transformers I was pretty much ready to quit. I really love acting, but I also love modelling and fashion and beauty, what I really love is being around creative people because it adds other dimensions to me and my brand.”
Chic Management director Kathy Ward says it’s increasingly common for models to want to create a brand around themselves and that social media is providing an easy platform to reach a large audience.
“We see a lot of models these days that want to develop into a brand — to have their own skincare line, or they may have a passion for health and fitness they want to pursue outside of modelling, for instance,” Ward says.
“And we see a lot that have a natural progression for acting.
“In saying that, you can’t develop a ‘brand’ until you are an established model. Elle has been the benchmark for a lot of the girls, she has definitely inspired a lot of girls to follow in her footsteps.”
Ward adds social media has allowed models to communicate what they stand for in a way they would never have been able to in the past and be a lot more visible in the market.
LA-based Gomes says she tries to get home to Australia five or six times a year. Finding success first in Asia and America before Australia, Gomes says becoming a David Jones ambassador three years ago brought her to Aussie audiences for the first time.
“I never thought I could work in Australia,” Gomes admits.
“Every time I came back here it was like no one really cared or knew who I was. When I became the face of David Jones I was 27 and had been in the industry for exactly 10 years. They were the ones who brought me back to Australia, it was like they were the first to accept me and my look into the Australian market.
“I was never the leading lady here until they took me on and I’m really grateful for that.”
Jessica Gomes, wearing swimwear from the s tunning JETS Australia range, says she learnt the skills to build her career early in life. Pictures: Sam Ruttyn
Elle Macpherson (left) was a pioneer for models building their brands beyond the catwalk; (below) US superstar Karlie Kloss has lent her name to cookies and coding classes.