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Jessica Gomes, Up Close and Personal

CEBU, Philippines - The Aussie supermodel who is currently taking Korea by storm was just in Cebu for a three-day shoot at the country’s newest and only Korean-owned hotel.

When the press arrived at the Imperial Palace Waterpark Resort and Spa in Maribago, Lapu-Lapu City, Jessica Gomes was crouched on an elevated yoga mat, doing varied exercise positions that a Korean crew was dictating to her. She was shooting a fitness video produced by Korea’s SEGI Entertainment which will be shown in both Korea and Japan. The staff disclosed that they chose to shoot in the Cebu hotel as a means to promote it to Korean and other Asian tourists.

As this was a fitness video, she wasn’t in a skimpy bikini as in her risqué spreads for the 2008 and 2009 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, but our lensmen were happy enough to snap her in sportswear in positions that gave ample mileage to her, er, healthy assets.

With a statuesque frame of 5’9, her exotic beauty is courtesy of her Portuguese dad and Chinese mom. She was born and raised in Australia but one with a Singaporean, Chinese and Portuguese heritage, which means she gets the benefit of looking exotic while being able to sport a wacky and cute accent that Aussie girls are known for.

While Jessica spent much of her childhood known as a tomboy because of her love for sports and outdoor activities, she finally embraced her feminine side when her mom sent her to finishing school at the age of 13.

Her move to the Big Apple at 20 has since been any aspiring model’s dream, appearing in Vogue, Teen Vogue, Glamour, and the Victoria’s Secret catalog, and ads for Adidas, Gap, Motorola, Garnier, Levi’s, Urban Outfitters, LG Electronics and DKNY. She also caught the eye of P. Diddy who signed her up with Estee Lauder as the face of his “Unforgivable Woman” fragrance.

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What’s notable about Jessica though is her refusal to conform to industry standards of stick-thin or size zero models. In one internet video of her being interviewed in a news show, she said she doesn’t feel the pressure to give in to calls of her to slim down as she was comfortable in her own skin and her curviness wasn’t affecting her job.

Her striking Asian look eventually attracted big-name Asian companies such as South Korea’s Hyundai and she also recently appeared in a Cass Beer commercial where she was paired with “Boys Over Flowers” heartthrob Lee Min Ho.

But the project which really turned her into an overnight sensation with the Koreans was her sexy bikini ad for LG’s Cyon Bikini phone. The cleverly marketed bikini phone has a split touch screen just like a two-piece bikini with the tagline “Touch the Wonder.” It became a marketing hit and turned Jessica a star in Korea. An acting career in Korea seems to be in the offing too, as she shares her intention to stay long in the country.

During a brief break in her shoot, we chatted up the gorgeous Aussie...

When did you start out as a model?

“I was 10 years old when I started modeling, so that was 15 years ago. I’m 25 years old now. My mom put me into formal classes in Perth, West Australia where I’m from. When I turned 17, I joined an Australian-wide modeling agency called Vivian and then when I turned 20, I moved to New York and it just kind of progressed since then.”

Your biggest modeling stint so far?

“I shot for Sports Illustrated in New York and I did a DKNY campaign, I’ve also done a lot of fashion shows. Now, I’m doing a lot of stuff in Korea. I have my own TV show in Korea called ‘My Name is Jessica Gomes.’ It’s sort of a documentary all about me and what I do, my photo shoots, what I do behind the scenes...it’s very fun! So my career is really booming now in Korea.”

How did you land a TV show in Korea?

“I’m doing really well in New York so I guess if you make it there, you make it anywhere. They chose me from Sports Illustrated and I did this LG Bikini phone commercial in Korea. I’ve always done a lot of TV commercials in Korea but this one in particular really made me popular overnight, because it’s me in a bikini with a phone in my hand, so people were like, who’s this Asian girl with this amazing curvy body, so I guess that’s what attracted them. Ever since then, it’s been really crazy. That one commercial really changed my life.”

Any Korean actors you like? “Not really but I love the Korean actress in ‘Lost’; I don’t recall her name though.”

How was it working with Lee Min Ho?

“Lee Min Ho was really nice. He’s really young, fun and sweet and it was great working with him. We had such a great time dancing in the commercial. He’s doing really well right now which is amazing.”

Were there sparks between the two of you? “We were very busy. He was busy doing his thing, I was busy doing my thing. I knew he had to run off and continue with the drama that he was doing. We actually just worked and then left. And then I went back to New York so I guess there wasn’t really much time.”

Why do you think you’re more of a hit in Asia than in the US?

“I have a lot of fans in Asia because I am Asian, my look is Asian. People do see me as Asian, not white. My fans in New York or America, they’re great too. I guess I have more fans in Korea than in Australia because they like my look.”

Do you have any acting experience?

“I’ve done acting when I was a child. I was 10 when I was in the TV show Bush Patrol in Australia. Then I’ve done little bits in movies, like I was in an independent film called ‘Last International Playboy,’ which my friend directed but no speaking lines, just, you know, the sexy girl in the background. But I would like to do some main roles. I’m always willing to push myself and meet new challenges. I’ve studied in Stella Adler, a major acting school in New York. I really wanna act. I have an acting agent in New York and Los Angeles, but I really wanna start doing some dramas in Korea. I have had offers but I couldn’t take them because I had work in New York but now I’m just waiting for that right script to come and then I’ll definitely jump into it. I’m always willing to take on a new project, and Korean drama is definitely going to be next for me. I’ve heard that Korean dramas are very popular in Singapore, Philippines, Japan, China, all over Asia, which is amazing.”

How do you keep yourself fit?

“It can be really difficult because I travel a lot and I’m in different time zones, I encounter different kinds of food. I just try to get a lot of rest, drink a lot of water. I have a trainer in New York with whom I do boxing. I’m also doing a lot of yoga. I’m doing a yoga DVD now which will really be a big help with women and their bodies. I eat what I want pretty much but I know how to control myself.”

Beauty regimen?

“I have a lot of facials. I drink a lot of water. I cleanse, exfoliate and moisturize every morning and every night.”

Vital stats?

“I think I’m 33 bust, 25 waist and 36 hips.”

Single?

“I am single, I’m not in a relationship.”

Preference for Asian or Western guys?

“Actually, I’ve never dated an Asian guy but I’m definitely into it now. Definitely willing to try. I would love to settle into a relationship if I found the right person. I haven’t stumbled across one yet.”

What qualities do you look for in a guy?

“Definitely a gentleman, funny, down-to-earth, easy-going, but also hard-working and a traveler. I like guys that are cultured and who like to do fun, spontaneous things.”

What’s your impression of the Philippines?

“It’s very hot and humid (laughs). I love it, it’s beautiful actually. I had a lot of Filipino friends in Australia so I’m very familiar with the culture. It reminds me of Singapore, which is also tropical and humid. The people are really easy-going and nice. Everyone’s really sweet, I’m happy to be here.”

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