Career

Khloe Kardashian's favourite Kiwi model

Gemma Lee Farrell is still pinching herself after being handpicked by Khloe to model for her clothing line. "I'm blown away that I was chosen. This small-town girl from New Zealand!"

By Ellen Mackenzie

Being handpicked by Khloé Kardashian to model for her clothing line Good American might be a big deal for most, but for Kiwi girl Gemma Lee Farrell, it was just another day in Hollywood.

As she posed for the camera under the beady eye of the reality-TV star, Los Angeles-based Gemma didn't find herself starstruck by Khloé, however, she does still pinch herself when she thinks about her whirlwind modelling career.

"I feel very blessed to even be acknowledged by Khloé," grins the former Playboy model. "I'm blown away that I was chosen. This small-town girl from New Zealand!"

Chatting to Woman's Day on a visit back to her hometown of Pirongia in the Waikato, Gemma says she treasures her rural upbringing.

"I actually just filmed a fishing show the other week and caught the biggest fish out of everyone," laughs the 29-year-old beauty. "I grew up sailing with my dad, so I just try to keep things like that with me while I'm over there in LA."

Though she's worked for brands including Sports Illustrated, Guess and Adidas, modelling for Khloé's label is a definite highlight for Gemma.

She recalls, "I posted a photo on Instagram when I was in Miami wearing these denim shorts and the next day, I had an email saying Khloé would love to have me as part of the Good American Good Squad."

Gemma immediately flew to California for a photo shoot, where she met the whole Kardashian-Jenner clan and bonded with "super-sweet" Khloé.

But she insists hanging with the royal family of reality TV is "just normal" when you're living in LA.

After dropping out of high school, then moving to Australia at age 17, Gemma started doing small modelling jobs while working as a travel agent. When she was 21, she won a modelling contest and made her way to the US, where she was instantly signed to an agency.

Not long after, she started working as a presenter for MTV and ESPN, then scored the coveted gig as a Playmate in the November 2013 issue of Playboy, making her the first Kiwi Playmate in history.

"Getting that, for me, was iconic," says Gemma. "Kim Kardashian and Pamela Anderson have both done Playboy, and Kate Moss was on the cover the year I was in it. I was so happy to do it!

"When I was younger, I never imagined being a model. It wasn't something I wanted to do – it just fell in front of me. But as soon as I started working in LA, it was a rat race. Everyone is out to get somewhere, so you have to find your spot."

She might be booking deals many models only dream of, but Gemma admits she misses Aotearoa. This trip back to Pirongia, to celebrate dad Kevin's 60th birthday, is her first visit in two years.

Though she's used to being centre of attention, during our shoot, Gemma insists on getting her mum Wendy, 54, sister Laura, 22, and grandmother Valerie, 73, in front of the camera with her. As she wraps her arms around them, she describes how these "amazing" people are her biggest inspiration in life.

"There have been so many times when I've thought about giving up and going home because I miss my family," admits Gemma.

"My mum is a big supporter of mine – I talk to her almost every day."

Despite feeling homesick, after eight years of hard work, Gemma is determined to stick it out in California, where she exercises every day. She laughs, "It wasn't until I got to LA that I ever went to the gym. I don't think I had worked out a day in my life before that."

The other secret to her trim, toned physique is a Paleo diet of vegetables and lean meat, but the down-to-earth Kiwi smiles as she confesses, "I do like a burger every now and again!"

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