Author Archives: GemmaBurgess

On… your teen hair

I am on a quest to get my teen hair back. Thick and long and dark blonde.

Unfortunately, years of torturing it with straight-up peroxide sheep dip (I can only assume it was sheep dip?) and tight hair elastics and bobby pins, plus a dash of the ol’ babies-make-your-hair-fall-out curse, resulted in torn, split, meth-addict hair like this:


I do not want hair like this.

I want hair like this:

Gemma Burgess 1995

(This is me! But young.)

So, over the years I’ve used this, which is magic but results in hella bird nest hair the next day, and this, which is ace for a nice strong lift at the roots, but you can’t run your fingers through your hair without getting them stuck to your scalp FOREVER so you can’t do this, not to mention this, which is, obviously, the aim. I also used this, which I liked a lot, but the brand had some bad press for making hair fall out and the last thing I need is LESS fucking hair.

Most importantly: none of them fixed the main problem. My hair just gets thinner and limper and more pathetic and defeated by life towards the ends. (And yah I already cut it all off once. All the way up to my collarbone. It was still crappy and I couldn’t put it in little braids around my head, which I really like doing. So that won’t be happening again.)



I discovered IGK 1995 2-in-1 Shampoo And Texturizer. (In answer to your next question: yes, I am a curious little thing.) Get in the shower, squeeze a little 1995 on your head and smush your hair around so it feels a bit like a clay hair sculpture, then shave your legs or scrub with this magical thing or do whatever you need to do in the two minutes that it takes 1995 to work. Then rinse it out. Your hair will feel sort of swollen and bloated. In a super-sexy way.

Here is where we get radical, kids. The instructions say to just use this and NOTHING ELSE. Maybe that’s fine if there’s any chance your hair might spontaneously do this, but I gave up that dream a few years ago. I need a little slick and shine. So I use a quick dash of Living Proof Perfect Hair Day Conditioner.


I’m suspicious of conditioners, like all people with fine limp hair should be, but I tried the Living Proof one when I couldn’t get my former favorite Shiseido Shining one and lo and behold it’s pretty damn good, Jennifer Aniston is not lying to us.


Then I smush this Evo Easy Tiger Straightening Balm right out of the shower, brush my hair back and two hours later, this is my hair.


For me, this hair is about as good as it gets.

(I took this photo this morning to send to a friend to tell her to buy the 1995 stuff, then I thought, oh actually I should post about it, and I didn’t re-take the photo without the wastepaper basket or with make-up because… well, because I am lazy and I have to get back to writing an outline. By the way, I think outlines are my least favorite part of writing. Especially since when you actually start writing the thing, whether it’s a book or a movie or a TV pilot, it tends to just go where it wants to go. Characters decide to be total penises or utter heroines. Surprises just appear on the page. You’ll be writing a scene and get this weird feeling like something needs to happen, like when you’re eating a meal and it needs more salt or pepper or something, and boom, an idea pops up. It’s like you walk into your own Westworld and the entire story is happening around you in real time, and yes that sounds pretentious, but it’s true. HOWEVER. Outlines get you paid. And it is extremely helpful to have a map of the journey even if I take a couple of side roads on the way to the destination. So, off I go.)


On… summer make-up packing list

I’ve always been the kind of friend who will email you a week before you go on vacation (or to a wedding or… for no reason at all), telling you the make-up that you need. (Okay, no one “needs” make-up, on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, make-up is about two inches past the top of the pyramid. So let’s say that I email about make-up that you want but you don’t know it yet. It will make you feel happy. And that’s not exactly a bad thing.)

Sometimes I wonder if it’s annoying. But then if I haven’t bossed someone around for a while, she will text me ‘can you take me to Sephora?’ Next thing you know both of us stagger out of Sephora on Broadway in Soho, covered in lipstick swatches, blinking in the sunlight, having lost hours of our lives. So I figure people must like it. A little bit.

This is what I emailed recently to a friend going on a long vacation. It is edited / expanded slightly for your reading pleasure, with the typos removed (I tapped it out while finishing the last episode of VEEP) and the swear-words removed (I’m a filthy animal).




Clinique Take The Day Off balm cleanser that won’t leak. Wipes don’t really work. Let’s all stop pretending otherwise.


Gentle AmorePacific Treatment Enzyme Peel powder exfoliator because frequent SPF is a titch cloggy on the ol’ pores. (And you will be wearing SPF50 every day, right? This or this is good too, and wear a hat and sit in the shade, okay, sunscreen talk over.) By the way, I don’t know why this product is called ‘treatment enzyme peel’. It’s a soft powder that you mix with water to make a milky paste that gently exfoliates. Tsk. C’mon AmorePacific. Be more literal.

 71DiyjaBYML._SX522_Laniege Water Sleeping Mask – but don’t think of it as a mask. It’s not a mask, and it’s silly that they called it a mask. It’s lovely cooling, hydrating gel. I have gone through about six jars of this in the last few years. It’s that good. (Also delightfully de-puffing if you’re a little hungover, as you damn well should be from time to time on vacation.)

If your skin feels totally tight and parched from too much seawater/chlorine/wind/tequila/illicit cigarettes/whatever, then before you go to sleep at night, put on a layer of La Roche Posay Hydraphase Riche followed by a layer of good old Yu-Be on top. This combination makes a turbo-moisturizer. Yu-Be is basically pure glycerin and traps all that delicious Hydraphase so it has nowhere to go except your parched epidermis. You will wake up with dewy baby skin.
For vacation makeup, obvs you will get fake lashes or a lash tint, or whatever fries your burger, before you go. So all you need to worry about is divine vacation skin, and that’s where Chanel Tan De Soleil super glowy moist natural bronzer comes in. This puppy is ALL you need for AIGOAYT (Aristocratic Italian Girl On A Yacht Tan). Forget foundation, concealer, powder, blush, highlighter, forget all of it, don’t even pack it. Chanel Tan De Soleil is the shit. (That’s actually the advertising tagline.) It’s a giant pot. You can do your neck, chest, arms, everywhere, and it will last you for about six years.
Now: the secret to applying Chanel Tan De Soleil is to mist a tiny bit of La Roche-Posay water spray over it first (or rosewater if you’re at home, but watch out for spillages in transit on non-aerosol bottles). Swirl this brush on top, and then sweep it everywhere, with a feathery-light touch. It goes on perfectly over SPF, too – the miracle Shiseido powder bronzer in medium is outstanding (especially with this Morphe E41 brush, which is the bronzer brush I’ve been searching for… for… for my entire LIFE because I can’t remember when I started wearing bronzer), but it’s a powder, so it can still get a little blotchy unless your face is pretty matte already.
Over the Chanel tan stuff, you don’t need it but you might want an extra peachy flushy blush, like Tarte Achiote (why don’t they carry this shade at Sephora anymore, by the way? It is perfect). Apply a splodge to the apple of your cheeks with this brush. And also take your RMS Living Luminizer to pat onto inner eyes, over eyebrows, cupids bow etc as a little pick-me-up – but you probably won’t need it; the Chanel Tan de Soleil really has the whole ‘glow’ angle covered. Trust me. Do you trust me? You should trust me. (Ashes cigarette, exhales plume of smoke, looks you right in the eye.)
Take Maybelline Lasting Drama Silken Turquoise to line your inside bottom waterline when you feel like adding a little rock edge. You can basically have a bare naked face, scrawl on this eyeliner, and look instantly edgy and interesting. It takes ten seconds. (Incidentally, Silken Turquoise will be my stripper name.)
You will need eyebrows. I leave this up to you. I am devoted to my combination of Shu Uemura Seal Brown H9 and Anastasia in Taupe, because without them, I am face-bald.
Lipsticks melt. Don’t pack them. I’d take a cheapie Milani Spice Lipliner and wear that with any old lip balm every day, and at night, use a swipe of this NYX Epic Ink Lip Dye in Slay. Your lips will look all flushed and bitten, like you had sexy sex in the early evening hours (instead of wrangled small children into bed and then collapsed on the sofa with a bottle of wine and Instagram to recharge before the babysitter arrived).
By the way, the key to lip stains is to smudge some your bottom lip and quickly smear it around with the fingertip of your ring finger, but don’t try to make it perfect – if necessary, use the Milani lipliner to shape your lips, but that’s it. The color should get a little stronger towards the inside of your lips, like you’ve been eating blackberries, but it should look natural, not done. Incidentally, you will have a Slay-stained ring finger for 48 hours afterwards. This is your cross to bear.
Last, and this is probably my best tip: take a tiny bright red lip pencil that you can throw in your wallet the whole trip, and feel reassured that that ONE time you’re unexpectedly in a seaside bar surrounded by effortlessly beautiful people being effortlessly beautiful, you can dash to the bathroom and Sienna-yourself. You don’t need anything else.
s1808666-main-LheroTake the St Tropez spray stuff - the key is to hold the can from much further away from your skin than feels intuitive (i.e. at least 10 / 12 inches) and trust that it’s evenly spread out, even if the guide color looks splotchy. (You probs already know this but the guide color is brown, and that’s only a temporary stain – the stuff that ACTUALLY makes you tan is clear, it develops over 12 hours.) Just one spray up and one spray down each limb, then a little infinity sign around your shoulders and décolletage, and a quick swirly snail around your tummy and back. Put it on before bed, wake up tan. Don’t forget your hands and feet.


For your face, this Clarins Golden Glow stuff is good - not as good as the gradual radiance gel stuff that Clarins inexplicably discontinued, but still a solid choice. Mix it with your SPF in the morning, be tan by night (a clever tip from a clever friend). The tube is tiny, but it lasts forever.

 61K6CcUaqEL._SY679_If you need to take it up a notch, use the This Works Perfect Legs stuff. This was a tip from the same clever friend (full story: we met up a couple of weeks ago and instead of saying ‘hello’ I simply shook her and yelled WHAT IS ON YOUR LEGS DARLING THEY LOOK AMAZING and wouldn’t let go until she told me), and it’s my favorite thing right now. It’s not cheap, but oh it is wonderful, like fucking-immaculate-yet-real wonderful (i.e., it doesn’t give you crazy plastic Barbie skin like that Sally Hansen stuff). I actually defy the Perfect Legs name, like the rebel that I am, and use it everywhere, and so far my arms have not suddenly started thinking that they are, in fact, legs. It doesn’t seem to smudge on clothing, it sort of ‘sets’ and that’s that for the day/night. I also like the Jergens BB stuff, so cheap and cheerful, very moisturizing and tinty-glowy at the same time, but it’s not as tan as This Works.

The This Works stuff combined with the Chanel Tan De Soleil is your recipe for happiness this summer.



If you’ll be swimming a lot in sea/pool, then my favorite hair masks right now are Olaplex No.3 and Davines Nou Nou. Both are great for making sad insecure tresses like mine feel powerful and arrogant. (Cocaine for hair!) Smush a glob into a sandwich bag, and put THAT into ANOTHER sandwich bag, and it should stay safe during your flight.



NUXE Prodigieux Le Parfum smells like summer in the warmest, skin-scentiest, muskiest, sandy-feet-and-salty-beach-towels-warm-from-the-sun kind of way. It’s the same scent as the famous Nuxe oil, but don’t get the oil – it destroys fake tan. It also ruins sheets and clothes. Too annoying. Stick to the perfume. And have a great trip.


PS If you like this post,  you might also like this post (and this and this and this which is a bit repetitive to this post, as I just realized, but at least it shows I’m consistent). And as always, the caveat: this is just my opinion, and I’m probably wrong. About everything. Always.

On… the best sleep ever

I wasn’t going to post about this, and then I was like, but it’s SO GOOD I love it and other people might love it too, but then I was like, but it’s kind of lame, and then I was like, but I’M kind of lame, and then I was like, why am I still debating this with myself, just stfu and write about it already.

The White Noise App That Beats All Other White Noise Apps To A Bloody Screaming Pulp.

There are over 600 different white noise sounds to choose from, and I realize that doesn’t sound THAT exciting. You’re probably thinking ‘big deal, they just pad it out with the hair dryer sound, and some fake airplane noise, and who the fuh likes wind chimes?’

No. No. Trust me. This app has over 600 sounds that someone went out and recorded, FOR REAL, all over the damn world, like Richard Attenborough-style. So you like rain? Try Scottish Heavy Rain, or Rain On The Windshield, Toronto Distant Thunderstorm, Muted Rain On Metal Roof, or English Steady Rain, or DOZENS of others. Or if you like wave sounds – choose between North Sea In Denmark, Pier On New Jersey Shore (STD not included) (sorry), Seaside In Northern Quebec, Cephalonia Island Greece, or my own personal favorite, Crashing Waves In Baja.

You can also listen to more eccentric sounds, like Crickets In South Africa, Inside An Empty Dutch Train, Crowded Pub, Distant Scottish Church Bells, Frogs By A Stream In France, Wind On Atlas Mountain Morocco, Fire In Polish Stove, Sheep Bleating,  Tuscaloosa Alabama Traffic, or – oh I could go on for hours, each sound is more charming and specific than the last. SEE?! THIS APP IS THE BEST. The best, Jerry. The best.

And in case you are wondering, there are wind chimes sounds, too. Twelve different kinds.


On… Five Outfits


A few months ago, my friend Joanna and I were talking about the Five Outfits posts on her brilliant blog. Anyway, she said, “Maybe you could do one…” And I said “I can’t, darling. I basically wear the same thing every day. Unless I have a date or a meeting I barely change my knickers. It would be like ‘and today I wore my green sweater again’…” We both suddenly thought that was really funny and decided to do it anyway. So we did. You can see it here.

In case you like friendship origin stories – I do! – I met Joanna at a brunch at Hundred Acres in NYC about five years ago, with our mutual friend from London, Victoria Hannan. I had baby Errol with me (Fox was traveling for work). Errol was at that eight-month-old stage where you put them in a high chair and they try to destroy everything in sight. I remember that JoGo was exceptionally funny and interesting and lovely… and that Errol was exceptionally terrible. No, seriously, he was just yelping and laughing like a maniac and smashing everything in reach. Salt, water glasses, flowers, you name it, he smashed it. (This was when I realized that Errol is a tree frog with surprisingly long arms and exceptional reach). The tables around us were throwing annoyed looks at me, and it was early enough in motherhood that I was easily embarrassed. (These days Ned would have to light someone else’s hair on fire for me to do more than blink.) But back then I was mortified. It was like having a really drunk friend at a party, you know, I kept saying ‘I’m so sorry, um, he’s not normally like this, hahaha, um, you’d love him, he’s really the best guy…’ And anyway, then Joanna picked Errol up and walked him around the restaurant, chatting and singing to him, so I could scarf my eggs like the animal that I am. And I thought, this woman is the one for me.

Alas, I don’t remember what I was wearing. I have a feeling neon pink socks were involved, I was very into neon pink that spring.

Because no one will ever take photos this nice of me ever again, and particularly not when I’m wearing a seriously scabby old sweater in most of them… here are some more from the Five Outfits series.


coj_5_outfits_gemma_013 coj_5_outfits_gemma_018
coj_5_outfits_gemma_033 coj_5_outfits_gemma_053 coj_5_outfits_gemma_075 coj_5_outfits_gemma_092




On… the CAA book

When I first started trying to be a screenwriter, I read everything I could about Hollywood and the entertainment industry, because you can live your whole life looking at cars and have no idea how the engine works, right? I wanted – no, I needed – to know how the engine worked. Anyway, I’ve written about this before, and I’ve read a dozen other books since that post – but I just read a DOOZY.


Powerhouse: The Untold Story of CAA.

This book is DELICIOUS. Read it, if you like reading about Los Angeles and raw ambition and grown men being whiny little bitches about each other.

I’m with APA. And I love my agent. But I also love, just a teeny weeny bit, Ron Meyer in the 70s.

Ron Meyer

C’mon. The tan! The hair! The glasses! You totally would.





On… Anniversary 2017

It’s that time of year again, you guys! Our anniversary. When against all odds, we wake up, shower, dress, get our asses to City Hall, and ask a stranger to take a photo of us kissing, without our children falling off the podium.


Here we have 2017. Errol is five and Ned is three.


Here is 2016. Errol is four, Ned is two and REALLY into it.


Here is 2015. Ned is one, Errol is three. That dress is from Topshop. Where the hell did I put that dress.


Here is 2014. Errol is two and Ned is three months.

NB Ned was a horrendous small baby. See that look of myopic distrust? That is EVERY one of his baby photos. At about nine months he became the smiley little bruiser you know and love, but as a newborn, yeah, he was horrendous. (In fairness to him, he had silent reflux and couldn’t eat without being in pain so was hungry all the time, but WHATEVER Ned, SHEESH.) I don’t know how I managed to finish my last book with him as a newborn, especially with Errol as a toddler and Fox away for work more than half the time, as well as write a spec script and my first movie rewrite gig because I was trying to transition into screenwriting, but I did, and I have a feeling that I was an obsessive nightmare to be around. I will also have a very very high opinion of myself forever more because of it. (Kidding!) (Maybe.)


Here is 2013. Errol is just over a year and a half. He had hair like a newborn chick for a very, very long time. I was superfuckingblond at this point in my life. It almost made me bald. Avoid peroxide, kids.


Here is 2012. Errol is about eight months old.

outside town hall

Here is 2010, our wedding day.

We got married here in NYC, even though we were living in London at the time, because why not. And 2011 is missing as we were living in Zurich for the year for Fox’s job, and I was three months pregnant, so it would have been a photo of me puking and snarling at Fox.

At some point I will figure out how to resize all these photos to be even. Maybe by 2020.