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It's not all white any more: DJs' Gomes part of the changing face of Australian modelling

It was only last year that Jessica Gomes was told by a fashion designer that David Jones "would never hire an Asian girl to be an ambassador".

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Kerr steps down, Gomes steps in

Supermodel Miranda Kerr has been replaced by Perth-born Jessica Gomes as the fashion ambassador for department store David Jones.

Not so, after the retailer today unveiled Gomes, who is half Singaporean-Chinese, half Portuguese, to replace Miranda Kerr as its number-one face.

Perhaps lucky then that she didn't grow up with the blonde hair and blue eyes she wished for as a child.

Gomes featured as one of three 'multicultural models' profiled in the (sydney) magazine released on Friday as part of a look at the industry's growing thirst for models of mixed-race backgrounds.

Pictured alongside fellow rising stars Shanina Shaik (half Pakistani-Saudi, half Australian-Lithuanian) and Samantha Harris (half German-Scandinavian, half Aboriginal), Gomes said she was proud to be a role model for  Asian Australians.

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But success only came after she fled Aussie shores to make her name overseas.

The 28-year-old told Daisy Dumas that when she left Perth at 17 to become a model, the industry was still "prone to white, girl-next-door-looking girls".

New face of DJs?: Jessica Gomes.
New face of DJs?: Jessica Gomes. Photo: Luis Enrique Ascui

Having been bullied at school because of her looks, she admitted: "When I was younger, I wished I had blonde hair and blue eyes, just to fit in."

Hungry for work, the tenacious Gomes headed to Asia, where heavy-hitting brands responded with open arms.

Split: Miranda Kerr won't be the face of David Jones.
Split: Miranda Kerr won't be the face of David Jones. Photo: Janie Barrett

Then came New York and South  Korea - where the hip-hop fan is a household name, thanks to a stint on the local answer to Dancing with the Stars.

"It's almost like you've got to go overseas to get your gold medals and then Australia goes, 'Oh, yeah, they're amazing,'" Gomes said.

I get Asian girls coming up to me and going, 'I just look up to you so much. I'm so happy you're paving the way.

Not so anymore.

"I feel like things are changing, ethnic beauty is more sought after, and because we're so close to Asia, it's becoming a melting pot - people are looking at that beauty as something they can relate to."

Kathy Ward, director of Chic Management, the agency that represents Gomes said a decade ago multicultural models were often overlooked.

"I don't think it would have been as well accepted then as it [has been] in the past five years," she said.

Jessica Gomes: industry was "prone to white, girl-next-door-looking girls".
Jessica Gomes: industry was "prone to white, girl-next-door-looking girls". Photo: Simon Upton

"There are more girls from diverse backgrounds thinking, 'Even though I look different, I want to give it a go."

Certainly Gomes is certainly happy leading the charge.

"I get Asian girls coming up to me and going, 'I just look up to you so much. I'm so happy you're paving the way.'

"It's such an incredible time, taking part in this whole new influx."

Shelly Horton and Daisy Dumas

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