After being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) in 2007, everything changed for Tanunda resident, Gemma Holmes.
It was then her alter-ego, Gemma Vendetta was born.
She began her fight and lifelong struggle against the incurable disease.
Gemma, 40, was 26 when she received her diagnosis.
However, said she can track her symptoms back to high school.
“For me, MS is a sensory disease, so I’d go for a walk for example and by the time I’d finish I wouldn’t be able to feel my foot,” she said.
“At first, I thought it was my body telling me I wasn’t fit but as time went by, I knew something was up.
“In high school, I was a drummer and with that I struggled.
“I thought I wasn’t good but I now realised it was actually the fitness level caused by my MS.
“When your core body temperature goes up, that’s when your symptoms exacerbate.
“From experiencing the symptoms to receiving the diagnosis was a few years because it was an accumulative affect, and over the years, they got worse.
“At one point, I noticed a weird pins and needles sensation and then got numbness under my right armpit and breast.
“At the time I was seeing a chiropractor and I thought he had pinched a nerve but when I asked him about it, he told me it was actually neurological and I should get it checked out, which I didn’t.”
Gemma said she remembered the day she was diagnosed vividly.
“I was working on the cosmetics floor in David Jones, Adelaide at the time,” she said.
“I then lost my balance and fell on the floor.
“I couldn’t use my left leg.
“I went straight to the emergency room, the doctor took one look at me and said, ‘I think you have MS’.
“I said, ‘I think you should’ve chosen your words a bit better’.
“Within a day or so I had an MRI and that was definitive enough to diagnose me with remitting, relapsing, multiple sclerosis.”
Gemma described receiving the diagnosis as “tough” but thought to herself she could either be a victim, or she could learn how to manage the disease and make change in the world, which she did.
“After hearing the news, my mind went to a very dark place,” she said.
“Without actually saying what I thought about doing, whatever the worst possible outcome was, that was where my brain went.
“I didn’t know who I was anymore and the future totally and utterly obliterated in that moment.
“I then woke up one morning though and decided to take control.
“I want to conquer the world and don’t want to be a victim.
“I’m lucky that I’ve been diagnosed with the disease this day and age instead of the 1950s where we didn’t have the medication we have now.
“So, I found something I love and decided to pursue a new career.”
Gemma said she found teaching to be a stressful job and had always had a love for hair and make-up, so she decided to take a hobby further.
“I gave birth to my son, Oliver in 2010 and have raised him single-handedly since he was a year and a half old,” she said.
“When he was just a baby, I was doing hair and make-up as a hobby and I had the means, motive and opportunity to study hairdressing and make-up artistry so that’s what I did.
“I wanted Oli to see that mums are awesome and can do anything.”
After working in the industry for a little while and being surrounded by many toxic, unnecessary ingredients, Gemma decided to be the change she wanted to see in the world by starting her own make-up line with natural, vegan ingredients, dubbed, Gemma Vendetta.
“Not only did I find ingredients in normal cosmetics toxic, it wasn’t good for MS,” she said.
“The ingredients can cause inflammation in the body, and that’s what was happening to me.
“I ensure my products are naturally derived and hyper allergenic – that’s my main focus – so that it’s not going to trigger anything autoimmune.
“Also, all my products are certified vegan because it’s absolutely disgusting to torture animals for beauty.”
Gemma is currently studying cosmetic chemistry and said by the time she finishes her diploma, she hopes she can furthermore influence the industry and provide formulations for people.
“Products like mine come from years of ongoing research,” she said.
“So, if people want a lipbalm with particular ingredients in it, I’d be able to help them out by formulating one.
“All ingredients are raw and sourced locally in Australia also.”
Gemma said her mission is making women feeling beautiful on the inside as well as the outside.
“I’m really sick of mainstream media and the beauty industry only focusing on the external because it goes much deeper than that,” she said.
“It’s about health and wellness.
“Women are beautiful without make-up but when I put it on them, they just glow and it makes them feel very good about themselves.
“It’s a very rewarding job and I’m so proud my life has taken me down this path.”