After years of struggling to find her place in the fickle world of fashion, Perth model Jessica Gomes is blazing a trail right to the top.
The 27-year-old, who was repeatedly told she was “too curvy” and “too exotic” for high fashion, was yesterday named retail giant David Jones’ fashion ambassador.
Gomes will replace Miranda Kerr, who was on a $1-million-a-year contract, and the role confirms her place among Australia’s fashion elite.
It is also evidence of a growing appetite for models from multicultural backgrounds. Gomes, who is half Singaporean-Chinese and half Portuguese, told West Weekend magazine she was happy to pave the way.
“People are becoming quite thirsty for a different type of beauty in the industry,” she said. “It has taken a long time, though.”
David Jones chief executive Paul Zahra said yesterday Gomes was a firm favourite on the retailer’s runways because of her unique look.
But when she was younger Gomes used to wish she had blonde hair and blue eyes, and she initially sought work in Asia after struggling to make it in Australia.
“People weren’t really booking Eurasian or ethnic girls in Australia. It was more the blonde, girl-next-door look (everyone was after,” she told West Weekend magazine.
“Australia is becoming a lot more multicultural … I’m just so happy that this change is beginning to happen.
“People want a bit more than a coathanger. They love to see a bit of power and personality and sex appeal and that’s really empowering for me because at the beginning of my career I really struggled. People would say, ‘Well, what are we going to do with you?’ Now people are really embracing it.”
Gomes got her break in the 2008 swimsuit edition of Sports Illustrated, and has appeared every year since as well as modelling in campaigns for Clinique, Louis Vuitton, Adidas and Gap.
She said though she was happy to be the “healthy curvy girl who looks good in a swimsuit”, she was excited to be back in the fashion world.
“I do love fashion,” she said.
“I love wearing nice clothes and I’m pleased the fashion industry is embracing curvy girls.
“It’s amazing to think people like Anna Wintour are looking at Sports Illustrated models now and thinking they might be worth including in Vogue.”
Gomes is among a growing cohort of Perth models, including Nicole Trunfio, Megan Gale and Miss Universe Australia Renae Ayris, making their way in the fashion world.
Like Trunfio, Gomes enjoys a jetsetting lifestyle.
She took to the runway for David Jones’ autumn-winter launch in Sydney in February before flying to New York to ring the closing bell of the stock exchange. Later that month, she and best friend Trunfio posted photographs on Instagram of them rubbing shoulders with Hollywood heavyweights at the Oscars Vanity Fair party.
Gomes is now based in Los Angeles, where she hopes to launch an acting career, but was in Australia this month for the L’Oreal Melbourne Fashion Festival and the Grand Prix celebrity race, where she competed alongside Ayris.
She said yesterday she was excited to be following in the footsteps of “iconic” faces such as Gale, Kerr and Lauren Hutton.
Kerr’s five years as David Jones ambassador ended after negotiations broke down amid suggestions she had issued a “long list of demands”. Mr Zahra thanked Kerr for her contribution to the brand.