Make-up guru and ex-model Jemma Kidd tells Stephanie Bell about business troubles, being a mum and overcoming anxiety attacks.
Former model Jemma Kidd was optimistic about the future during a recent visit to Northern Ireland despite the fact that she has been forced to put her make-up company into administration after it ran up debts of £2m.
Sister of supermodel Jodie Kidd, Jemma flew into the province with her socialite pal American Vogue contributing editor Plum Sykes for some high end pampering at the Spa in Galgorm Manor in Ballymena.
After two days indulging in a range of top to toe luxury treatments in the resort’s new ladies-only retreat, the Boudoir, it was a very relaxed Jemma (38), who talked to Weekend about business, her life as a countess and being a mum to adorable two-year-old twins.
She also opened up about the crippling anxiety disorder which overshadowed her life in her late teens and 20s.
Her famous sister Jodie also suffered from panic attacks which led to her ending her career as a top international catwalk model.
The revelations from the two successful sisters, who on the surface appeared to have it all, have had a huge impact on helping bring the disorder into the open and encouraging sufferers to get help.
Betraying not a hint of the pressure she must have been feeling with the imminent loss of her international make-up company she instead was eager to sing the praises of the first of what she promises will be many more visits to the Galgorm spa.
With her flawless beauty and glowing skin, it’s hard to imagine Jemma Kidd ever looking less than perfect but she insists the Galgorm has worked wonders on her: “I’m a different person now than I was when I arrived here yesterday,” she enthused. “I have to say — and I am one fussy person, and pride myself with only using the top products in the industry — but this is one very impressive place, and I’m not just saying that.
“It’s just so incredibly relaxing and the products are superb, I feel really good and I’m already planning to come back. Before I leave I will be booking to come back with my husband in January.”
Her husband is Arthur, Earl of Mornington (32), the future Duke of Wellington, which makes Jemma a countess. The couple have two year old twins Darcy and Mae who Jemma describes as “mini mes”.
Home for the family is a Georgian rectory set in 350 acres of parkland which forms part of her husband’s family estate on the Hampshire/Berkshire border.
That she has married into aristocracy is not such a huge leap for Jemma who enjoyed a privileged upbringing as the daughter of dashing former champion show jumper Johnny Kidd.
He is the grandson of Lord Beaverbrook, and her mother Wendy is a baronet’s daughter and former model.
Her childhood was spent between the family homes in Gloucestershire and Barbados and revolved around horses. Older brother Jack (37) is a professional polo player, and both Jemma and Jodie are good riders.
It’s a story that reads like a fairytale, though Jemma doesn’t come across as a precious princess, in fact, quite the contrary, she is refreshingly down to earth: “Being a countess doesn’t really change anything,” she said of her aristocratic title.
“In America they think you are from the Royal family. I am very proud to hold my husband’s family name but I don’t use the title really, everyone knows me as Jemma Kidd.”
Being a mum and continuing to run a global company has been a challenge. It required frequent trips to far flung cities around the world, something which she has struggled with because of her twins. “Being a mum is to me the most important job,” she said. “The twins are two years and nine months old now and they are mini mes. Darcy is such a boy and a mini of my husband, while Mae is a girly girl and loves sitting at mummy’s dressing table and playing with all my cosmetics. They are completely divine, little joys of life.
“It still challenges me being a working mum. I can’t quite get the balance right, either I am with them all the time or I am travelling and away from them.
“My husband and I make sure that we are both not away at the same time so that they always have one of us there.
“It is like juggling plates and at the end of the day the most important thing is that they know they are loved.”
Like her supermodel sister Jodie, Jemma tried modeling in her teens but very quickly found it wasn’t for her and instead was drawn more to the preparations backstage and in particular make-up.
Her make-up school in London and Jemma Kidd Make-Up Ltd was set up seven years ago with close friend Grace Fodor, the star of the BBC business programme Be Your Own Boss.
She quickly became the face of a line of cosmetics stocked in shops including Harvey Nichols, Boots and Space NK. Sales initially gathered pace and the business appeared to be thriving.
However, in 2008 it started to lose money when her range of lipsticks, eye-shadows and foundations was discontinued at Boots.
With surplus stock past its sell-by date in warehouses, they reached crisis point. But Jemma is still looking to the future despite the shock news that her company has folded with the loss of 30 jobs. She has just
published her second book, Jemma Kidd Make-Up Secrets, and revealed that her expertise is now being sought after by other brands.
Speaking for the first time since news broke that her company has gone bust she said to Weekend: “Sadly in this economic climate we have had to close the Jemma Kidd Make Up School. This is not the end and I have learnt a tremendous amount and loved creating products. I was just sadly let down. Watch this space.
“The thing I love about make-up is not just the fact that it can get rid of flaws, but I love its power and how it can change your emotions. I really love how, after putting on make-up it can change how you feel about yourself. I think that’s pretty cool.
“It’s been a long journey for me from my 20s until now at 38 and I still love it and it is still evolving. I’m doing a lot more consultancy with other brands and researching more natural products.” She describes her new publication as a more in-depth, problem solving book dealing with the various issues women have with their skin and face shapes.
Despite her current misfortune, her achievements as an author and internationally known cosmetic specialist are all the more impressive given her confession last year that throughout her 20s — while launching her business — she was suffering from crippling panic attacks.
Jemma struggled in secret for many years not even telling her family about the terrible anxiety which prevented her for doing many everyday things.
Finally conquering the attacks with the help of the Linden Method she is now happy to discuss it in the hope that others will realise that they don’t have to live with the disorder.
She said: “It was horrific. I didn’t want to say anything about it because I was embarrassed. You think you are mentally ill when you have severe panic attacks. It is very tough and you feel very isolated.”
Jemma said attacks could strike her out of the blue, at any moment, in any situation. Her heart would race, her body flushed hot and cold, and nausea would sweep over her. She described the attacks as so debilitating that she lived in constant fear of them.
“You start to anticipate them and find yourself doing anything to avoid them. I stopped driving on my own, I couldn’t go into the supermarket or anywhere crowded.
“If I was going to stay at someone’s house for the weekend, I would be anxious for about 10 days before and would insist on knowing how close they lived to a hospital. The symptoms were so real that I believed I could have a heart attack at any time.”
She says sister Jodie gave up catwalk modelling because she was taking panic attacks on the runway.
Both sisters have now been free of the attacks for years after being treated by fellow sufferer-turned-anxiety-expert Charles Linden.
“I’m free of it now thanks to Charlie,” she says. “I am fully on board helping him in any way I can to get the word out to people that they don’t have to suffer from panic attacks and there is a way to stop them. I don’t take panic attacks at all now. It is such a common problem and people don’t have to suffer. There is help available to give you back control of your life.”
Jemma Kidd Make-up Secrets, Jacqui Small, RRP £22.50. Galgorm Resort & Spa, tel: 2588 1001, or visit galgorm.com