Saturday 20 December 2014

Sisters who are in Vogue: Jasmine and Melissa Hemsley

Stunning sisters Jasmine and Melissa Hemsley have moved from modelling and marketing into food

Published 28/07/2014 | 02:30

Sister, Sister: Jasmine Hemsley, above right, thought Melissa, above left, was annoying when she was younger. Now they run a successful business together: Photo: Gerry Mooney
Sister, Sister: Jasmine Hemsley, above right, thought Melissa, above left, was annoying when she was younger. Now they run a successful business together: Photo: Gerry Mooney

'I am the bossy older sister, but sometimes Melissa can be bossier than me. I really respect her opinion because she is clever, worldly and also very wise. She can take the emotion out of a situation and look at things in black and white, and she gives it to me straight."

Jasmine Hemsley, 34, is reflecting on her relationship with younger sister Melissa, 28, with whom she runs a food company, Hemsley + Hemsley, which provides nutritious home-cooked food to celebrities and high-profile clients. They also run a blog to encourage people to eat well and lead more energised lives, and have just released their first cookbook.

The beautiful girls get their exotic looks because their mum, Evangelina, is Filipino. Their dad, Jack, is English, and as he was in the British army, they grew up on an army base and moved all the time. They went to around 10 different schools, and loved helping their childminder, Sonia, in the kitchen.

"Melissa was the annoying little sister, and she would always get away with things because she was younger," says Jasmine. "We were both scared of being alone in the dark, so it was great to sleep together and I would make up woodland stories for her. We come from a passionate family where we all had our say, and would fight to have the last word. Then we would pile up on the sofa together to watch a film. We also had lots of Filipino aunties, so at family get-togethers, there would be lots of food, bustling and kids all around."

Jasmine and Melissa are very close to their parents and greatly admire them both. Their dad was very encouraging of art and music, while their mum was more focused on the academic side. She was also very protective of them growing up, and Jasmine laments that she was the last of her friends to be allowed to go into town by herself, thus paving the way for Melissa. She became a model, and was surprised that it was her mum who sent her photo off to a modelling agency, without her knowing, but she loved it as a career.

When Melissa was 18, Jasmine took her to get a summer job with friends who were shoe designers. "Within a year, she was brand manager and flying all over the world," she says, proudly. "I was newly with my partner Nick, who I have been with for 11 years, and I remember being amazed at Melissa, as she was fun and all grown-up and wasn't my annoying little sister any more."

For the next few years, Jasmine and Melissa worked and travelled all over the world. Jasmine was doing commercial modelling, which meant that she had to look healthy, radiant and strong, and she became very interested in food and nutrition. Melissa worked in various marketing and sales positions, although she was so passionate about it that she eventually became exhausted from constantly working.

"I went to see her and gave out to her because she just wasn't looking after herself or eating properly," says Jasmine. "She told me she didn't have time to cook, so I would help fill her fridge with food and gave her quick recipes. She went from zero to hero in a year, and from not being able to cook to making really nice meals."

"I was her first client but she wasn't getting paid," says Melissa, who has just started dating someone. "People would go to Jasmine for advice about what to put in their cupboards. She is very passionate and she would help anyone - she is forever saving animals and birds."

The sisters travelled to Australia for a few months, where they learned to meditate and focused on their well-being. "It exposed us to a daydream of how it would be to feed ourselves this well physically and spiritually when we got back to London," says Melissa. "We wanted to hang on to that feeling."

Jasmine began helping people to get the same inner glow through their food, and then a celebrity asked her to help him with his diet. She put him on a strict, nurturing diet, and asked Melissa to help her prepare the food. That was in spring 2010, and the sisters' business was born. It was small for two years, and they worked as private chefs, flying around the world and changing people's menus.

"Our second client told us that after three days of working with us, he was sleeping better than he had slept in 25 years," says Jasmine. "People thought he must have done something crazy, but we were just making proper food, and he could taste the love and care we put in our recipes. No matter how small a meal is, do it with the right intentions. The very act of making yourself a meal is a powerful thing, rather than buying processed food where you don't know who made it or what they put in it."

Jasmine and Melissa set up a food blog, with Nick taking amazing photos, and things really took off when Vogue asked them to do weekly recipes. They have just launched their gorgeous new recipe book, The Art of Eating Well. It has been a huge hit, knocking Jamie Oliver and Mary Berry off the Amazon top spots.

Jasmine says that as Melissa worked in the corporate world, she is really good at organising and marketing. She and Nick are a bit more creative, so they look after the imagery together and styling the photo-shoots.

"We want people to think our book is the best 30 euro that they have spent because it can change your life," says Melissa. "We are really proud of it, and are so overwhelmed about the positive feedback, particularly in Ireland. The brand is about lifestyle, so Jasmine and I go to yoga retreats or dinners together, and recently went to Cambodia for three weeks, where we did underwater meditation, paddle-boarding and hikes. It felt like a dream and we had a great giggle."

"People find us quite different as people," says Jasmine. "I call her Vangie because she can be so like Mum, and she calls me Jack because I can be so like Dad. Our parents are really great people though, and we still love going home to their house and just chilling out."

The Art of Eating Well, by Jasmine and Melissa Hemsley, is out now, €30.99

www.hemsleyandhemsley.com

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