The fairy like beauty with an intense cult following has been the talk of the town recently with her slew of new campaigns, magazine spreads and catwalk appearances. Gemma’s career started at the early age of 15, when she was scouted at her local shopping centre in Perth, Australia. She was considered too young at the time, but less than a year later, in 2003, the famous agency IMG re-discovered her and wasted no time in flying her to Milan to meet Miuccia Prada at the designer’s request. The blonde beauty went on to become one of the noughties most in-demand models both for runway and editorial work (including Yves Saint Laurent, Karl Lagerfeld, Dolce & Gabbana, Balenciaga, Burberry, Louis Vuitton, Dior, Valentino, and Hermès, to name a few) and with her ethereal looks, launched a new aesthetic for beauty. Popularising the “baby doll” look, Wards face transformed and changed the industry, taking over from the heroin chic era Kate Moss had brought before her. By 16, she was the youngest model to ever appear on the cover of American Vogue and by 19, she’d made Forbes’s annual list of the world’s highest-paid models, reportedly making $3 million a year.
Modelling wasn't all she was known for though. She featured in the beautiful Australian coming of age movie Black Balloon in 2008, Pirates of The Caribbean and Great Gatsby. And not to mention a feature in Fergie's videoclip for 'M.I.L.F. $' with some badass mummas.
Images of Gemma Ward via Vogue by Corrine Day
Fast forward to 2014 and at the age of 27, Gemma Ward caused stir when she made her return to the catwalk on Prada’s runway in Milan. It was a big moment for the model who had walked away from the industry six years prior, arguably at the height of her career. Before the Prada show, the last time anyone had really seen much of Gemma, was in 2008. Following the devastating death of her then boyfriend Heath Ledger. The tabloids and early fashion blogs photographed her on a private beach in Australia, and published articles ridiculing her weight gain when she was just 20. “It felt like a public shaming,” she told W magazine. At the time social media was still on the rise, and Ward had been brought up in an era where models were told to keep quiet, rather than having an active, and personal, online presence as models do today. As such, she didn’t have a platform to fight back and defend herself. “People were telling me, ‘Do not talk about what’s going on. Do not go out in public.’ It definitely felt like it was better to be seen and never heard,” she said. “I see other people go through certain things [today] and clap back right away, and I kind of wish I had that.” She quoted. In her time away from the industry Ward was able to heal, sought treatment for her eating disorder, and became a mum to two children. “I always wanted to get to that place where I could talk about it, because it would mean that I was no longer in it,” she explained. “It’s amazing even to be sitting here, going, ‘Wow, I actually got through it.’ Because I did get trapped in a cycle until I finally got help, which people should be aware that they can get. Thank God I was—otherwise I might not be here anymore.”
Image of Gemma and children via her Instagram
Now 30, Ward has spent roughly half of her life in the spotlight and made her return to New York as a full-time resident. “I love Australia so much, but I’ve got the rest of my life to be there,” she explained. She headed back to New York because she was ready to get back to work. Since her Prada come back in 2014, Gemma has appeared sporadically in the fashion world, but with her appearance on the runway at SS Fashion Weeks for Proenza Schouler’s and Alexander McQueen, Vogue Thailand cover and move to New York, it feels like a strong sign of the model’s commitment to making a comeback into the industry she used to rule. We hope that she uses her new-found platform and voice to become an advocate for the struggles she overcame as a young woman to inspire others.
Gemma walking Alexander McQueen SS 19
You can find Gemma’s latest work and the odd flashback via her Instagram @gem.gems