A YOUNG Ovens woman who has modeled for some of the world’s top designers, who is a trained gemologist, and who has over 66,000 Instagram followers, credits The Echo for how her career started.
By the time she was in Transition Year in Mount Mercy, Gemma Gleeson was in Milan walking in shows for the likes of Dolce & Gabbana and Armani.
As a 12-year-old she had spotted an ad in the Evening Echo looking for models, which led to her signing with a Tipperary agency who brought her to Los Angeles where she got the Milan opportunity.
She laughs as she shares the memory of it: “Missing school like that probably wouldn’t be allowed now!
“I was living in a model apartment with models from Russia and the U.S, but to be honest it wasn’t something I ever spoke about much at the time because I went to an all-girls school and it could be a bit bitchy.”
In the following years she continued to model, and after school attended the London College of Fashion where she studied fashion business.
Her next stop was Antwerp where she spent four years studying to be a gemologist, while still working in the fashion industry, styling shoots and getting involved in different collaborations. She became pregnant in Antwerp and returned to Cork to give birth to Hope, now two and a half, before making the move as a single mum to Dubai.
She was in Antwerp Airport when a bomb went off, which prompted the move to Dubai where she felt safer.
“They also love their bling there!” said Gemma who returned home to Ovens just three months ago.
She’s now signed to Assets model agency in Dublin, IMG in London and another in New York. She’s also in talks to do some TV work, but modestly said: “I’m really just on the hustle!”
“No, there is lots coming from different angles,” she adds, but admits she works hard and is good at marketing herself.
“I’m a go-getter. Nothing will come to you if you’re sitting at home; there’s no point looking good if there’s no brains behind it; if that’s the case you’re just another dud,” she said.
Besides, Gemma says she has to work to support Hope and to be a good role model for her.
She initially started her massively popular Instagram page “out of boredom”.
“I stopped it then for a while because it got boring! There were too many people showing food pictures, or bloggers promoting dental work, that kind of thing.
“I didn’t want to be blasting my daughter’s picture there just to get followers, I find that so superficial.
“But recently I’ve come back to it and now see it more as a business platform,” she said.
Her feed is insanely stylish, but it comes naturally to her, she says, as she’s almost always worked in fashion and been involved in the industry.
Although she admits, since becoming mum to Hope, you won’t see her in heels as often!
“But Hope will always have a pair of sunglasses in her handbag!” she adds.
Particularly glamorous are the pictures from Hope’s christening ( far right) which even Gemma admits was “a bit extra”. Hope’s dad is Lebanese and it took place in Antwerp.
“We almost did it in the Vatican,” she joked.
“I think it’s a case of going all out for the first child and then the second child will sleep on a mattress on the floor!”
A huge horse enthusiast, Gemma’s been riding since she was four and showjumping since she was six and loves going to the races. At ladies’ day in the Dublin Horse Show in August she won most creative hat in a design by milliner Celestine McCoy of Kinsale’s Hattitude.
Gemma is the eldest of six and lives near them all, including her mum and dad. She enjoys family support, which was a main reason for moving home.
While testing the waters with lots of different projects, she is also currently doing up her own home, but jokes she’s not sure “Ovens is ready” for her flamboyant style!
Delighted to be back, she added: “Dubai was nice for a year, but there’s no outdoor life there at all or culture. I grew up here, Cork is home. I’m never leaving,” she said.
You can find Gemma on Instagram @gggemgigi