“I always felt a bit like Bill Murray off Lost in Translation, you know that scene when he’s being directed on set [in Japanese]? That was me in Korea,” says Australian model Jessica Gomes. Based in Los Angeles, her career as an international model first took off during a stint in South Korea. “It is kind of like a fish bowl there, because everyone knows who I am and I don’t speak the language.”
Originally from Perth, with soft Eurasian looks that come from her Chinese mother and Portuguese father, Gomes is a genuine star in Asia. “Six years ago I did an LG phone commercial for Korea that really catapulted me there,” she says over coffee on the sunny patio of the iconic Milk Studios in Hollywood. “Then I had my own TV show there [I Am Jessica Gomes] and was on Dancing With the Stars,” she smiles.
In black leather pants, a fitted white jacket, reflective Aviator sunnies and a sporting designer handbag, Gomes looks every bit the part, but she’s relaxed and easy to get along with. She’s the kind of girl you’d double take on the street, but while chatting, feels more like someone you might know. She’s congenial and familiar; features that have recently secured her the role of the new ‘face’ of David Jones back home in Australia, following in the footsteps of Miranda Kerr.
Gomes’ story starts like that of many other models. She left Australia when she was 18 and travelled to Asia (Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore and Korea) with her fresh-faced looks and long brown hair. But after that one LG advertisement, which was plastered on thousands of billboards and screens around Asia, “everything kind of exploded”.
“I was travelling from New York to Korea every second week – it was ridiculous,” she recalls. “All of a sudden I was shooting for brands like Sony, Hyundai, LG, Dark Angel (which is like the Victoria Secret of Korea), and Vogue China.” She has since shot for global brands such Garnier, Urban Outfitters and DKNY Jeans, as well as magazines Sports Illustrated and Harper’s Bazaar.
Based in LA for nearly two years, she’s using the Californian capital as both a retreat and a central base for travel. Flying out for work every few weeks, living in LA allows her the luxury of one flight to Sydney, one flight to Asia and one flight to New York with ease. “Geographically it’s the perfect place to live. It’s very chill here. I feel like New York is a bit of hustle, but LA is a lot more relaxed and laidback, and that’s where I’m at right now with my life – I want to be under the radar a bit, not that people are under the radar in LA,” she laughs.
Now 28, she’s at an interesting point her career, especially in an industry where typically she would be over the hill. “I didn’t move to New York until I was 20 and I still felt really young myself, but I was old compared to everyone else, because [the other girls] were all 16, 17, 18.”
Gomes feels like she is only now really hitting her stride. “I feel better than I ever felt, even when I was 21. I’ve got my shit together. I’ve got control over my life and my career now…”
Like many in Los Angeles, Gomes has also taken to the screen, after a short stint hosting her own reality TV show in South Korea. “I was kind of always against reality TV, but I get it, people really like watching other people’s lives. It is weird though, it’s like Keeping up with the Kardashians, you can really make something out of nothing, you know.” More recently, she’s auditioned for blockbusters like Wolverine and Xmen, but vows to never do LA’s notorious ‘pilot season’.
Following her assignment as David Jones’ new ambassador in March, she landed back in the US to a call from her LA agent informing her that high-end skincare brand Estée Lauder wanted to see her in New York. They’re looking for a Eurasian girl to front their new campaign.
With flawless skin and distinctly exotic looks, Gomes could well be the ideal candidate for a luxury cosmetics campaign. “Asian is a common beauty now, but it wasn’t always the case,” she says. “It’s a great time for Southeast Asia and for the Asian cultures to be more embraced in Western culture.” Watch this face.
Jessica Gomes is represented by Chic Management in Australia.