Gemma managed to secure her dream job in fashion by hard work, enthusiasm and determination.
It wasn’t easy and over a gruelling twelve-month period, Gemma worked in two jobs in order to land the position of her dreams as a stylist for the UK’s Daily Mail. During the day she did unpaid work experience at the paper,while in the evenings, in order to support herself, she worked as an assistant manager in a pizza restaurant.
“I was exhausted. My skin was terrible. But I was absolutely determined not to let go of the job at the Mail. I knew from the very first minute that this was what I wanted to do and I was determined to make it work. Fashion had been my obsession from a really young age. I’d go to the BBC’s Clothes Show in Birmingham with my best friend and attempt to hang around in all the right places. I knew the names of designers, models and shops.”
Opting not to go to university, Gemma initially worked at a fashionable high-street chain. While in this job, she got to know more about the roles available within the fashion industry and she got the chance to meet stylists who were working for clients and publications.
“My friends in the shop began reducing their hours to go off and get experience in related areas. So I thought, OK, that’s what I need to do. I too need to get some work experience.”
She wrote to various newspapers and magazines, and the Mail wrote back and offered her a place.
“I was terrified. On the first day I was speechless. They had a fashion cupboard full of shoes. I was in awe, total shock and very nervous. They made me do the returns (i.e. sending the clothes back after a photo-shoot) for the whole week. I had no one to talk to. But I knew from the very first minute that this was what I wanted to do.”
Gemma remained absolutely determined to stick at it and get herself a position. She did all the filing and the tedious jobs. But she also had to support herself by working in the restaurant.
“It was incredibly demanding having to impress with this job I really wanted during the day and then doing another job in the evening.”
When she was given a chance to prove herself at the Mail, she did. Within a few weeks of starting she was taken to a photo-shoot.
“I needed to prove that I was useful, I had to do it properly and be indispensable. Once I’d done that, people started to invite me on to shoots more often. By Christmas I thought, I’m here for ever. But it was a very stressful time. I had rent to pay and I’d work extra early in the mornings at the paper and then through till 11 p.m. at the pizza place.
The long hours were coupled with memorable challenges at the newspaper. In a Devil Wears Prada moment, Gemma recalls being faced with trying to find two hundred alarm clocks for a photo-shoot by 4 p.m. that afternoon. No store sold more than a hundred. A nail-biting last-minute delivery solved the problem … and then it was time to manage the restaurant! But her enthusiasm and hard work didn’t go unnoticed by the fashion editor.
“I was given the opportunity of writing sidebars on the fashion pages: “Top 10 Bags”, “Top 10 Blue Shoes” – that sort of thing. But I was still doing everything else. But I never complained. I did whatever was necessary to get the job done, and a contract and wages eventually followed.
After a testing twelve months, Gemma was finally able to relinquish the pizza job, having succeeded in being offered a paid role at the paper. But without that evening job she could never have afforded to follow her dream. Her commitment, conscientiousness and hard work were eventually rewarded with paid employment.
I’m delighted to report that Gemma is now a stylist on the red carpets of LA where she enables celebrities look their best.