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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.

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