If you're not already following Gemma Watts you need to be. Described by VOGUE Australia as being “at the top of the beauty game,” Gemma has been a part of Australia’s media landscape since early 2012, working as a journalist and presenter across the fashion and beauty spheres.
As the captivating host of The Glow Journal podcast, she effortlessly navigates conversations with the brilliant minds shaping the beauty industry, providing an insight into the products we reach for everyday (beauty junkies beware - this is a podcast you will binge!).
Her approach, steeped in authenticity, blends the realms of fashion and beauty to create a narrative uniquely her own. We spoke with Gemma about her personal style and the synergy it shares with both beauty and fashion, her career journey, beauty essentials and much more.
It feels like you have found and created your ideal career path, you’re one of our favourite interviewers with your highly popular The Glow Journal podcast and are natural in front of the camera or a room full of people. We can tell you’re passionate about beauty and having conversations with the people behind the brands. What career moves and influences have led you to where you are now?
I’ve always known I wanted to work in media, and I’ve always had a love of fashion and beauty- I’m one of those rare (and admittedly pretty annoying) cases who’ve known what they wanted to do for as long as they can remember! My godmother worked in television production and my favourite thing was visiting the studio and seeing the behind-the-scenes of it all. There was something about media in general (although I’m sure I didn’t know what it was called at that stage) that I just loved- watching all these people with such varied skills coming together to create what felt as close to magic as I’d ever seen.
You have worked across both fashion and beauty, what synergies, if any, do you see between how these areas operate in media and what sets them apart? And ultimately, why did you decide to pursue a career in beauty?
It’s a funny one, because it’s the differences between the two that ultimately led me to move away from my role as a Fashion Editor and launch my own business in beauty.
I’ll give you the short version! I started working as a Fashion Writer, and subsequently Editor, when I was 19 or 20. I loved interviewing designers, reviewing fashion shows, and writing about history’s influence on a collection. I was headhunted for a Beauty Editor role and did both simultaneously at a time when the media landscape was changing- Instagram had come to the fore, so fashion commentary swiftly moved more into the realm of personal styling and documenting one’s own outfits. This wasn’t where I saw myself- I loved all the personal styling content I was seeing, but I didn’t feel I had anything to add to that space. What I loved was storytelling, and I felt better placed to do that within the realm of beauty. While I work across both spheres now, I started my beauty copywriting business, Glow Journal Creative, back in 2016 at age 23 and have sincerely never looked back.
And then on a personal level how do you feel your personal style of beauty and fashion speaks with and plays off each other? How would you describe your beauty style and how would you describe your fashion style?
I love this question, as I feel my approaches to both beauty and fashion are inextricably linked (and have been largely influenced by beautiful Sara!). For me it’s all about working with a great base, be that denim with a crisp tee, or bright dewy skin, and then adding in elements that feel like me- an oversized blazer, a brushed up brow. I like my outfits to look quite minimal and relaxed but with structure, and I favour the same approach to beauty. I always want to look and feel like myself, not like I’m playing a character.
We feel very aligned when it comes to building a wardrobe of hardworking neutrals, has this always been your approach? When would you say you found the style that works for you?
Honestly, it started from a pretty pragmatic place! I spent my teens and very early 20s buying into fast trends and really never feeling like “me.” I look at old photos of myself from fashion weeks and I look so uncomfortable! I realised pretty quickly (although not as quickly as I’d have liked) that I was cycling through clothing seasonally, as my purchases were either no longer trendy or just weren’t good enough quality to hold onto, so I started saving my money to buy only a couple of really nice quality staples each season- pieces that would hold their shape, in colours and cuts that I wouldn’t tire of. That’s how I build my wardrobe to this day. I definitely own far more than is necessary, and I recognise that it’s a real privilege to invest in fashion in this way, but I think this approach has been more sustainable in the long run.
Gemma wears the Esse Studios Column Dress
When it comes to beauty, what are your essentials?
Sunscreen, of course! Always SPF50+ and always broad spectrum. Every dermatologist I’ve ever interviewed has echoed that a great retinol (prescription, ideally) and sunscreen are the two hallmarks of a healthy skincare routine.
Currently I’m using Mr Smith styling products (the hairspray is the best ever), a new brand called Robe for my shampoo and conditioner, and I will always come back to the Oribe Dry Texturising Spray as there’s just nothing quite like it.
I’m the president of the La Mer Soft Fluid Foundation fan club, I wear a lot of Giorgio Armani Beauty (particularly when it comes to creating a great base), and I also wear a lot of Charlotte Tilbury, Westman Atelier and Rose Inc.
I think Frank Body products are AMAZING and incredible value for money. I also stockpile the L’Occitane Almond Shower Oil and if they ever discontinue it, I’m not sure what I’ll do. I’m a fake tanner forever, and Spray Aus is my favourite.
You’re getting married this year, what’s been your approach to beauty and skincare in the lead up?
I’m being super cautious- no new product trials too close to the big day! This will no doubt lose me some work but swings and roundabouts! I’m keeping my skincare routine really simple, but I’m ramping up my clinical treatments. I’m so lucky to work closely with Candela Medical, so I love popping into their head office when their Clinical Educator happens to be on site so she can show me all the newest devices. I just love lasers!
What advice would you give to someone who is wanting to pursue a career in beauty media?
Start creating and posting content, now. It won’t always do well, but the more you post, the more likely you are to attract the attention of the brands you’d love to work with, the founders you’d love to interview, the creators you’d love to be seated beside. You truly have nothing to lose.
What are some of the biggest lessons you have learnt from your podcast guests that have stuck with you?
This will sound like such a cliche (although I really like cliches- they exist because they’re usually the truth!) but I’ve learnt that it really is possible to lead with kindness first. The interviews that have stuck with me for the right reasons haven’t necessarily been with founders who’ve made millions, nor have they been with household names, they’ve been with people who’ve shown me warmth.
You work across multiple media channels; podcasts, instagram, tiktok, website journals, What medium do you find the most interesting and which do you think has the most potential to connect and grow?
Personally, I love long form interviews because storytelling is what I love the most (I really do see myself as a vessel to share other people’s amazing stories), so I love podcasts. That said, I get a lot of complaints on 90 second TikTok videos to the tune of “This is way too long,” so if we’re taking attention spans into consideration, TikTok is probably where I see the most potential to grow. I was late to the party, but it’s really fun!
What would you like people to say about you when you leave the room?
My fiancé describes me as “magnetic,” and I just think that’s the best compliment I’ve ever heard. I really hope people find me to be warm and kind. I think I’m a pretty good cheerleader, so I hope I leave people with a little confidence boost too!