Model Jessica Gomes replaced Miranda Kerr as the face of David Jones in March. The Sports Illustrated model touched down in Sydney this week to attend the department store’s black-tie 175th birthday celebrations. I caught up with the 27-year-old to talk about filling Kerr’s shoes, finding success in her home country and having her sights on Hollywood.
Congratulations on your new role. Did you have any idea you were going to be the new David Jones ambassador?
No, but it was always a dream of mine, so it was very exciting when I found out. I still can’t believe it; it really is huge. It is a big deal in Australia and it’s a great gig for a model. Obviously we have seen what it has done for Megan [Gale] and Miranda [Kerr], so I definitely feel very lucky. And I’m proud of myself, too – I’ve worked really hard to get where I am today.
Taking over from Miranda, they are big shoes to fill. Is that a little daunting?
Everyone keeps saying, ”Do you feel the pressure?” but it’s not daunting at all, it’s really fun. I love fashion and I love what David Jones represents, so for me it’s almost like an organic and natural thing that has happened for me. I feel like this is what I’m meant to be doing. I feel really fulfilled at where I’m at with my career.
You are a household name in South Korea and in the US. Is it nice to finally be finding that success in your home country?
Yes. I’ve worked with people like [famed photographer] Mario Testino and had my own TV show in Korea and they are amazing achievements that I’ve conquered overseas. But conquering this achievement in my own country is the most rewarding because I’m proud of being Australian, so it’s really nice to be recognised for what you do in your home town.
You are becoming recognised in Australia. Have you found the spotlight more intense since you arrived back in Sydney this week?
Yes, when I arrived at the airport and there was paparazzi and everything. I was like, ”Oh my god, this is so funny!” It felt like I was Madonna or something. I was laughing to myself. It’s a great feeling to be supported by your home country and for people to recognise you for what you’re doing.
You were once told you would never be the face of David Jones because of your ethnicity. How do you feel about that now?
Yes, and there has been a lot of talk about the whole racial thing and how ”she overcame racial taunts” and I think, oh, how dramatic. Yes, it was pointed out to me because obviously I’m ethnically ambiguous – I’m half Asian and half Portuguese. I had been told that it would never happen because it wasn’t the ”Australian aesthetic” and I thought, OK, cool. I started modelling 10 years ago and it was just different then and I had to go to Asia [to find work] and that is all good; I’m happy with the journey I had to take to get to where I am now. I’m really happy that Australia is now embracing all these different cultures because that is what the world is coming to now. Look at America, they have conquered a lot of racial problems; they now have a black president. It’s great that we are embracing and becoming more open-minded about cultures.
What is it like being a Sports Illustrated model?
It’s great. I celebrated the launch of my sixth issue of Sports Illustrated in February. We shot it in China and that went really well and I think it’s great that the fashion industry is recognising the Sports Illustrated models. Everything is going really well. I also did the Clinique [campaign], which was amazing. We shot that in New York. That was a really lovely piece to the pie among all the madness that has been happening.
What do you do for fun?
I love going out with my girlfriends and having a dance and a cocktail – that is one of my favourite things. And letting loose and talking about crap! [Laughs] Also going shopping. I love exercising, I love going for hikes, I do a lot of Pilates and I love to cook. I love to cook because I eat out all the time, so I like to do the simple things on my down time, like watch movies and pottering about and doing nothing.
What is next in the pipeline?
Being based in LA, Hollywood is at my doorstep, so I’m doing a lot of auditions and I definitely want to get into film.
WE WENT TO Gowings Bar & Grill, Sydney CBD
WE ATE Spanner crab salad; tartare of yellow fish tuna and salt-baked beetroot salad with ashed chevre.
WE DRANK Port Phillip Estate 2012 Salasso Rosé.
I WORE Ellery dress.
JESS WORE Camilla and Marc top, Nobody jeans and Saint Laurent heels.
Photography: Brendan Esposito
For video footage see smh.com.au