From about 2004 to 2007, you could hardly swing an it-bag at a newsagent without bumping into a fashion magazine cover with Gemma Ward's face on it. The Australian model was so omnipresent that she made the front of American Vogue — which barely uses models for covers at all — at just 16. But at 19, she pulled a kind of disappearing act: the last time she was seen on a runway was in September of 2007, and her last appearance on a magazine was a cover of Spanish Marie Claire that came out in October, 2008. Ward studied acting and made some movies in this time — she got good reviews for The Black Balloon — and whenever the retirement rumor mill went into overdrive Ward would release a statement maintaining she hadn't "quit" modeling, but she wasn't shooting anything new. Until now.
Click to enlarge. Ward appears, shot by Peter Ash Lee, on the new cover of a supplement to Australian Harper's Bazaar. This marks the second time that new photographs of Ward have been published in recent months — Lee also shot her for the Australian newspaper the Herald Sun, and one of those pictures ran on the cover of the Australian Sunday Times. And this marks the first time that Ward's made the cover of an international fashion magazine in nearly three years.
Ward's Harper's Bazaar appearance, like the Herald Sun interview, is pegged to her starring role in a play called The Ugly One, which debuted a fortnight ago at the Perth Theatre Company. The Ugly One seems to be an absurdist satire of the beauty industrial complex: Ward plays the wife of an ugly man who transforms his appearance — and his life — with cosmetic surgery.
This critic called Ward's performance "somewhat wooden" at times, but noted, "No doubt given time Ward will come into her own as an actress. Despite her inexperience she is mesmerising to watch. It's a surreal experience seeing the towering former international supermodel perform just metres in front of you and an experience Perth audiences wont forget in a hurry."
Whether or not Ward plans to return to modeling qua modeling, or is merely increasingly amenable to stepping in front of the camera to promote her acting projects, remains to be seen — and perhaps will be seen later this year, when Ward's biggest Hollywood effort to date, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides comes out. (Ward has a supporting role as a mermaid named Tamara.) In any case, it's nice to see her face again, and to know that her engagement with the industry that made her famous now appears to be entirely on her own terms.