Gemma Louise Ward, 20, is reported by Forbes magazine to be the 11th highest-earning model in the world.
Thanks to contracts with Kosé, Valentino, Dior, Dolce & Gabbana, Swarovski and Louis Vuitton, she reportedly earned 3 million US dollars in the past year. With porcelain skin and otherworldly features, the Australian supermodel has won over designers like Karl Lagerfeld, who calls her the ‘model of the moment’.
Gemma was born on November 3rd, 1987 in Perth, Western Australia, to Gary and Claire Ward, a doctor and a nurse. She is the middle child of the family, positioned between an older sister, Sophie, and younger twin brothers, Oscar and Henry. Growing up next to a beach, she never thought about how she looked like. She was surprised that she became a model as the job required one to look poised and polished at all times. She attended Perth’s Presbyterian Ladies’ College and Shenton College until she was 14. She plans to finish her studies when she can afford to as her schedule is too hectic for now.
In 2002, when she was only 14, Gemma was discovered,. She went to support her friend at tryouts for a modeling competition and was shocked when her friends forced her to enter by forging her mother’s signature for mandatory parental consent. She did not win the contest, but scouts noticed her distinctive charm and signed her onto a local Australian modeling agency. IMG, one of the leading agencies in the world, saw her photo in a small magazine, tracked her down and asked her agency in Perth to tape her walking.
The video was sent to the casting director of Prada and she was booked immediately. She went with her mother to her first fashion show, thinking that would be her only chance to model. Little did she know, she caught the eye of Donatella Versace, who booked her almost right after.
Unlike the Amazonians or the androgynous faces, Gemma was unique and strange to the modeling industry. The blond-haired, blue-eyed beauty stands at 5’10. With a soft, ethereal and doll-like face, Gemma was the newness and freshness fashion craved for. Her look inspired a whole new generation of alien models, like Sasha Pivovarova and Jessica Stam.
Gemma’s style is diverse and eclectic. She is spotted backstage wearing bright sweaters, button-up shirts and bootleg jeans, but she likes to spice things up with cocktail dresses and a leather jacket. Her style can go from feminine to ‘really tomboy’, depending on her mood.
Since her debut in Spring 2004 for Miu Miu and Prada, Gemma has graced numerous covers and walked for many designers. That same year, she became the youngest model to appear on the cover of American Vogue, where she posed with 8 other models. In 2005, she was given the rare privilege to guest edit Australian Vogue, in which she appeared in a 50-page spread as well as on the cover.
Not only was Gemma immortalized on the covers of the inaugural issues of Chinese Vogue and Indian Vogue, but she also became the first model to appear on the cover of Teen Vogue in February 2006. To date, she has appeared on more than 25 Vogue covers worldwide and other magazines including: Vanity Fair, V, Numero, i-D, and W.
Gemma dreamed of acting long before the catwalk. She, the clown of the family, wanted to be a comedian. In 2001, she was cast in a short film called Pink Pyjamas and in 2004, she appeared in a John Mayer music video called Daughters.
In 2008, Gemma appeared in the indie film The Black Balloon. The director, Elissa Down, met her when she was only 13, but knew that Gemma would make it big. Down said that Gemma is ‘natural’ and ‘engaging’. In fact, she had the model in mind when she was writing the script. Gemma starred opposite Toni Collete in the film, which was chosen to open the youth category of the Berlin International Film Festival. She played Jackie, who ultimately allows her boyfriend to cope with his brother’s autism. She wanted to do the film as the powerful message will allow ‘people [to] understand other walks of life’ and to become ‘more compassionate’. Dedicated to her art, she went to autistic centers in New York to research prior to filming.
Critics say that Gemma’s performance was eloquent, noting her strong presence and charisma. Despite the fact that the film has been well received, she insists that she does not want to act to become famous, but rather for the art. While she is passionate about film, she will not give up modeling for now.
Based in New York since 2005, Gemma lives with her best friend from Perth. She still misses Australia, however, especially the feeling of freedom and her mother’s cooking. When she speaks, she often uses Aussie slang. Her accent is strong and rough. Although she is sensible and careful about her money, she splurges on airplane tickets back home.
Gemma listens to her iPod everyday and loves Pulp Fiction, Kings of Leon and Jack Johnson, while her favorite films include The Notebook, Hotel Rwanda and Almost Famous.
Working with the greats of the industry, Gemma has inspired many of them. Narciso Rodriguez says that she is wiser beyond her years. The Australian Vogue editor, Kirstie Clements, says that the model is in a ‘different stratosphere’ and that there is something ‘inexplicable’ about her. She has learnt from Mario Testino that as a model, she can alter the way people view fashion. She, with a groundbreaking career, is doing exactly that.
The Australian beauty has changed the modeling industry with her alien features and mesmerizing appeal. With her acting career just taking off, we can hardly wait to see what Gemma Ward will do next.
Photos courtesy of the Fashion Spot forums.