Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Gemma Ward

During lunch today, my colleagues and I were talking about models; ANTM, what defines beauty, why some stay and some goes, how gender affects their pay (except maybe for this gender bending model... Andrej Pejic perhaps.) and other really casual comments/observations etc. 

Halfway into it, I was reminded of a doll-like model who was all the rage a couple of years back. Fashion designers and insiders raved about her fragile, ethereal looks; wide-set clear blue eyes, cute subtle eyebags, porcelain skin without blemish, gentle alluring lips, a long fragile neck and a delicate yet defined facial structure. If I recall right, she was the look of the moment. She rose really fast and reached pretty high within the industry, and looked as though she might be among those that is immortalised in this fickle industry. Her name, Gemma Ward, was a household name for high fashion lovers.

Anyway, my colleagues didn't know who she was. So I googled her up so I could show them. It has been a couple of years since my interest in the industry, and I had not kept up with the news. To my surprise, she has pretty much left the fashion industry.

To sum up from an article, at the height of her fame, she missed out on a couple of shows to be a part of a movie and it was also the same year that she gained a little weight. Still thin, but significant enough in the fashion world for them to take notice. Clients would pass over booking her and people talk. 
Ward's new body most likely marked "her natural point. A woman's metabolism changes in her twenties. Maybe trying to stay in a business where a size zero is the norm was too much for her, and not worth the sacrifice." In the insulated fashion world, "we have a collective body dysmorphia, where we don't even know what normal is anymore, where a size 6 or 8 is overweight for a model."
Gemma Ward's sister, Sophie—a 24-year-old writer and former model—summed up the harsh realities of the business and how they had affected her sibling's psyche. In November 2008, Sophie wrote of the early days of Ward's career, when she was outwardly at the top of her game: "She came home every now and then, always for Christmas, sometimes in between, and I kept my head down trying to pretend my little sister wasn't being slaughtered internally by an external industry." (Emphasis mine)

It is a brutal industry, and Ward would not be an exception. She began to retreat from the spotlight, and not too long after (in less than a year), a friend of hers, Heath Ledger, who was a support to her, died suddenly. She did less and less shows, before embarking on a 3-year sojourn from the spotlight.

"I realize you can't please everyone," Ward said. "Sometimes when people are constantly wanting the fantasy or the illusion, you have to break it to them that it's not real."
According to a separate interview, her break from the media spotlight was spurred on by Ledger's death. In regards to her career:
In terms of me shying away from modelling, I'd like to clarify in some way that I was taking a break from many things in my life and obviously what people in the public see is that I'm pulling away from what is more 'public'. I didn't know how long it would take, I didn't know if it would solve anything, but I set out to really focus inside myself.

Yes, I'm fascinated. Here is someone plucked out of school at 14, became the darling of the industry, and within a short period of time, thrown aside. In a way, I'm glad that she knows when to step away, or at least, things happen that makes you rethink things. For the latter, I think death does that. It jars you and reminds you that your end will come, and those indulgence in outwards things may seem less appealing that it used to be. And maybe in Ward's case, that fashion caught her in a nonstop whirlwind since she was 14 and what she said in the previous quote brought her down to earth for me; that she is searching, that it is important to take a step back and just look at your life. Truly. We all have a perception of her, and when she didn't fit that look anymore, it shatters it. Perhaps, it shattered for her too. Where does she stand then? Who is she?

That's when people take a step back from the glitter and outward labels, and try to figure out who they really are.



SO S said...

hey :)
I saw the picture on pinterest, i adore Gemma, and I loved your article, it was quite interesting and well-written. congrats!

gianne said...

Thank you, SO S. I'm glad you liked it. Would love to hear your thoughts as well!