Category Archives: Gemma Burgess

On… some new books to read

I’ve been writing a lot, which means I’ve been reading a lot to calm my brain down. And I can only calm the damn thing down by reading non-fiction. I don’t know why. It’s veh annoying. But it’s true.

Here’s what I’m reading. (BTW I never recommend the books I think are kak. Only the good ones. But I don’t name and shame the kak books, either, because, eh, it’s just my opinion, and I don’t want to hurt an author’s feelings. We are very tender types, you know.)


The Chief: The Life Of William Randolph Hurst by David Nasaw

This book is thoroughly enjoyable account of a total eccentric. I started reading it because I was reading a biography of Rockefeller, and it was honestly one of the most boring books I’d ever read, not because the writing was bad – it was fine – but because Rockefeller was DULL as FUCK. Holy shit, the man was a robot. So I mentioned that to one of my American girlfriends and she said ‘oh, yah, try Hearst, he was fun’.


The Final Days by Woodward and Bernstein

I have this thing for presidencies on the verge of collapse, for obvious reasons.


Ghostbuster’s Daughter by Violet Ramis Stiel

An absolutely delightful book about Harold Ramis, written with love, honesty and humor, by his eldest daughter Violet. He sounds like he was everything you would ever want him to be, and more. Such a lovely read.


An Odyssey: A Father, A Son And An Epic by Daniel Mendelssohn

This is book is gentle and thoughtful – not a page-turned, exactly, but every time I picked it up I was happy I was reading it. Part exploration of The Odyssey, part memoir of the author’s father, and partly a rumination on time and love and death. Just lovely.


City of Nets: A Portrait of Hollywood in the 1940′s by Otto Friedrich

A chaotic, deliciously satisfying cavort through the 1940s in Hollywood. LOVED this book.


Indecent Exposure by David McClintick

Terrible title, great book.


Final Cut by Steven Bach

One of those ‘when it goes wrong, it goes WRONG’ Hollywood books.


Name Above The Title, an Autobiography by Frank Capra

For more Hollywood books, go here and here and here (I have this thing for books about Hollywood.)

On… some new music

Well, not new. New old music. Old music, mostly, that you probably haven’t listened to in a while, maybe ever, but you’ll totally love. Music! What I’m saying is, here’s some music for you. Handpicked by moi.

The Flaming Lips. Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots.

This is a weird, beautiful, quirky little song, unlike any other song.


Saint Motel. My Type.

I’m not sure if I love this, or really hate it. But I keep listening to it.


Blondie. Long Time.

Love Blondie. LOVE.


Cake. Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love To Town.

I like to sing this very loudly to myself. It’s VERY dramatic. Stick to the very end to hear the ad-libs.


Dave Dobbyn. Slice Of Heaven.

This song was a SMASH HIT in New Zealand and Australia, and my cousins in Perth had it on cassette tape. We played it a lot when we visited them from HK for Christmas. Then we would sing it, acapella. Then we’d make up Nativity plays. My sister was Mary. I was the Donkey, but I like to think of myself as the writer/director BEHIND the Donkey.


Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. Bellbottoms.

Obviouslah I’m a Baby Driver fan, I’ve got a working brain. But what made me fall in love with this song was an interview with Edgar Wright, when he said he used to listen to it in his car, like Baby does in the movie, and daydream and write in his head. And the movie grew out of this solitary daydreaming. This is exactly the kind of thing I do, and totally the way I think of ideas and write. I think and think and think until eventually, my head will explode if I don’t write it all out.

The clip is the movie clip, rather than the video, because, well, it’s better.

And if you’d like to see the clip while you read the script – and why wouldn’t you? – then take a look at this amazing Instagram account.


Lemon Jelly. Nice Weather For Ducks.

Another weird song. But kind of great.


Gizzle. Get Loud For Me.

I have a feeling I posted this song before, but tant pis, as they say. It’s one of my favorites right now.


There’s no video to this song. But just trust me. It’s Turin Brakes, Feeling Oblivion, and if you’re in just the right mood, it will make you burst into tears. But the kind of tears that make you feel better about everything. I promise.

On… the Anniversary photo, 2018 edition

We’ve been married eight years. EIGHT YEARS, PEOPLE. And we have the photo evidence to prove it.



Errol is six, Neddy is four.

I wish, in retrospect, that I wasn’t wearing a deeply crumpled old jacket, that I’d tried harder to get the boys to wear the FRANKLY ADORABLE little blazers that I bought for them for special occasions, and that we’d gotten our shit together and made it to City Hall before the sun was directly overhead. Oh well. Live and learn. You can also see that Fox has grown a lovely red beard, that Errol is extremely shy of the camera, and that I am clutching Ned’s hand rather than holding it, because he was hopping around like a bunny on the 7-ft-high podium and one of these years, he’s going to fall off.


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.


Here is 2013. Errol is one and a half.


Here is 2012. Errol is about eight months old.

anniversary 2010

Here is 2010, our wedding day.

As I said this time last year, 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.


On… a lipstick wardrobe

Let’s talk about four essential lipsticks that will see you through every single possible life event* and will suit everyone**.

Caveat, as ever: I know very little. About anything. At all. This is just my opinion, and I’m mostly winging my opinions. But everyone likes lipstick, and the world is a crazy place right now, and I’m tits-deep in deadlines, so a quick jaunt into the joyfully pointless world of maquillage can’t hurt, non?

Now. Before we get to the lipsticks, let’s talk about prep. Yes, the bare-face-just-lipstick look is divine, but bare doesn’t really mean BARE. You can’t simply bang lipstick on a squeaky clean face and think you’re going to look amazing. No one can. Everyone has discolorations – for me, the skin around my nostrils is pinkish, my chin is ruddy, etc. If I put on red lipstick, it sort of pulls those reddish bits out, and my whole face explodes.

Okay, that’s not precisely true. But it doesn’t look good.

So, first, get your canvas ready: put on La Roche-Posay Anthelios Ultra Light Sunscreen Fluid SPF 60 Antioxidant Sunscreen (actually I just started using EltaMD UV Facial Broad-Spectrum SPF 30+ for dry skin and I love it, too), let it soak in, and then a drop or two of squalene to magically smooth everything, followed by your concealer (Cle de Peau, or NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer) or a tiny blob of foundation (Bobbi Brown Skin Foundation or Clinique Beyond Perfecting) over those ruddy areas around your mouth and nose, and ON your eyelids to even out the skintone. Pat it in with your fingertips. (If you want to apply under-eye-concealer too, go for it, I tend to not on bare-face days, because I think the shadows are kind of cool. But whatever blows your skirt up.) Then dust over your favorite powder to set (I like Laura Mercier Translucent Setting Powder the most, I also like Hourglass Ambient Lighting Powder for a soft glow).

Eyebrows, if that’s your jam, mascara if you insist, but no eyeliner or shadow, nothing too ‘done’.

Voila. The perfect blank canvas.

Next, MAC Prep and Prime. “Lip primer?” I hear you say. “Sounds like a waste o-” and I’m going to stop you right there and press my finger firmly on your lips and say “NO, DARLING. NO.”

MAC Prep and Prime is lipstick’s BFF. It makes your lips plumper and more hydrated, and hangs onto lipstick until the cows come home. Oh, cows. Those tardy little bastards. If you love lipstick, you’ll love MAC Prep and Prime.

Okay, enough silliness. Onto the lipsticks:

The Perfect Nude: Givenchy Beige Mousseline

I’ve written about good nudes before, because I’m the kind of person who tries everything, returns most things, and immediately wants to share my favorite discoveries with the world at large. This Burberry Nude which is indeed marvelous but sort of collapsed after four months the way Burberry lipsticks always do. The Dior Greige 1947 one that is so lovely, I gave it to each of my best friends to thank them for a birthday trip away last year, but it somehow started looking too peach on me a few months ago. The Rimmel Kate one that seemed gorgeous the first time then turned out to be disappointing, as cheap lipsticks so often do. (SIGH.)

Then just before Christmas I discovered Givenchy Rouge A Porter Beige Mousseline, and immediately fell deeply and passionately in love. I wear it almost every single day right now. The key to this nude is that it’s got a lot of yellow (not peach, not pink), doesn’t make you look jaundiced or yellow-toothed, and it’s shiny and sort of lip-plumping and yet stays for hours and hours. It’s, pardon my French, fucking divine.


Important note: it looks brown in that image. I searched high and low (well, I looked on Google for more than 30 seconds) for an image that was more accurate, couldn’t find one. So, this is the cosmetic equivalent of a trust fall, you guys, because I swear this isn’t brown lipstick. On your lips, it will be the perfect flattering shiny nude.

My favorite, buy-in-bulk, hand-out-like-party-favors lip pencil, Milani Nude, is NOT the match for this lipstick. Too pinky-brown. You actually don’t need a lip pencil with it at all, that’s the magic of the nude shine. But if you want to cheat your lips to look a little more full, and prolong the wear, then get NARS Precision Lipliner in Halong Bay. It’s a lovely pale nude with just the right amount of yellow, like the lipstick.

Now, we should talk about blush. With pale lipstick, you need some color or you’ll look corpse-y, but you don’t want too much color in your cheeks or else everything will look out of balance. Just a little hint-of-nothing flush to make your eyes sparkle. Try Face Stockholm Sunkissed. That’s the blush I wear when I don’t know what blush to wear.

The Perfect Bitten Pink: Bobbi Brown Crushed Lip Color in Baby 

I also wrote about this before (I am boringly predictable yet pleasingly consistent) but in case you didn’t give it a whirl yet: this is the lipstick to wear when you want to look like you just emerged from nine hours of passionate kissing. Without the stubble rash. It’s a sheer-yet-matte watercolor-type shade that sort of hydrates and plumps lips for that extra-bitten pouty look, and it’s absolutely gorgeous.


If you want to amplify the bitten look even more, dab a tiny tiny bit of dark matte red or red-pink lipstick/lipliner (NARS Luxembourg is good for this, so is MAC Ruby Woo) on the INSIDE part of your your lips, and then blend it into the Baby lipstick with your fingers. This adds a tiny bit of depth, looks like you’ve been sucking on a cherry-flavored popsicle (or ice lolly or icy pole or whatever it is called where you live). But for a clean, pure look, just use the Baby on its own. Doesn’t need a lipliner, either. Lipstick that is less precise around the edges looks more natural and kissable.

I would use Baby as a blush, too, just tap it on your fingertips or a brush like this and smush into your apples and blend blend blend for a soft virginal Snow White look. If you want a powder blush, try NARS Exhibit A, but tap your brush into it once and then tap the brush against a hard surface like four times before you apply. Exhibit A is strong. You will never run out.

The Perfect Red: Dior 999

I’ve had many long-term relationships with various very good bright red lipsticks – MAC Lady Danger, Givenchy Carmin Escarpin, YSL 201 Orange Imagine - but then I met Dior 999.

And reader, I married it.

Dior 999 is one of those lipsticks that everyone talks about, that you see in ‘cult fave’ lists from magazines (the same magazines are usually getting paid by the creators of said cult fave products to call them cult faves, so should mostly be ignored). But when something pops up over and over and over again, you can usually bet it’s pretty good. I’d read about Dior 999 for years and thought ‘I’m NOT bloody buying another red lipstick and that’s the end of it’. Then Sephora carried mini-size sample about eight or nine months ago and I was like ‘oh, go on then, let’s have a look at you’.


It’s the perfect red.

It’s not too orange, not too blue, not too pale, not too dark, not too thick, not too thin, not slippery, not drying, it doesn’t smudge, it doesn’t crack, it doesn’t make my teeth look off-color, it doesn’t swear, it doesn’t watch Fox News, it doesn’t leave the dishwasher improperly stacked. It’s perfect. PERFECT. It looks like effort, but like effortless effort, you picking up what I’m putting down? People stop me on the street to ask what it is. It’s such a good red that I usually don’t wear any blush with it, just a touch of bronzer – Shiseido Bronzer in Medium is good – or maybe a tiny tiny wash of beige-pink, like dear old Benefit Dandelion.

It’s a very good match for MAC Redd lip pencil, but this lipstick is such a perfect consistency that you don’t really need a lipliner. You just put it on and skip around town like the happy little bunny that you are.

The Perfect Grown-Up Rose Brown: Givenchy Boyish Rose

Here’s a wild card, you guys. I’ve been getting a lot of wear out of a shade we can call Grown-Up Rose Brown, though I’d privately call it Mother Lipstick, because it’s the color lipstick that my mother has worn, consistently, for two decades. I take her make-up shopping whenever we’re together (this is one of my prime filial duties, you won’t be surprised to hear) and as much as I might gently suggest/order her to try a pink or soft nude or anything else, she gravitates to a rose brown color. And she’s right: it’s a great color. It goes with everything. It looks as good at a breakfast meeting as it does at dinner. A truly grown-up lipstick, for true grown-ups.

Anyway, last time she was in NYC, she picked up Givenchy Boyish Rose. I tried it on for fun and decided I liked it so much, I’d get one, too. It’s shiny-satiny pink-rose-brown. It would feel 90s if it wasn’t so shiny and sophisticated. It just always looks right.

Okay, again: that image isn’t correct. It looks like hot pink: this is NOT hot pink. I swear. It is a rose brown. Is Givenchy having trouble accurately photographing their lipsticks? Should we hold an intervention?

It’s a tiny bit hard to apply, as you really need a lipliner (shiny lipsticks always do, unless they’re nude) and I haven’t found the right rose-brown shade yet. (Admittedly I haven’t looked very hard. I’m sure I’d find a good one if I actually applied myself. In general, by the way, the best lipliners are NYX and Milani and Rimmel and MAC, but you need to test them in person. There’s no reason to buy a high-end $40 lipliner, the cheap ones are marvelous.) I’ve been improvising and it seems to go pretty well, but not perfectly, with MAC Spice or Rimmel Spice. Don’t use the lipliner to go outside your lips – just use it as a base and follow your natural lip shape, before applying the lipstick over the top.

And that’s it, my loves, and I hope this has been helpful and inspiring: your four-strong essential lipstick wardrobe. (I could include a dark blood red, or a deep mulberry wine, but it’s finally FINALLY the end of winter in NYC, and that stuff can wait until October.) In the meantime, check out these four lovely shades, and email me with any questions or suggestions or complaints (but seriously please don’t complain).

*Probably not true.

**Also probably not true, you simply cannot tell with lipsticks until you put them on. Even my sister, who looks so much like me that people on the street stop each of us thinking we are the other one, can’t wear the same lipsticks – she has slightly pinky undertones, I am yellow AF. So when you really think about it, there is no point in ever taking anyone’s advice on what color lipstick to wear, you should just trust your own taste, because your face is yours and you know it best, you beautiful thing you.