My vacations don't typically look like a throwback episode of MTV Cribs. But in the middle of May, I stood on the private eighth floor terrace of a $1,100 per night, Caribbean-colored one-bedroom suite. I was wearing a bunny-soft, snow white bathrobe and plush slide-on slippers, tilting my L'Occitane-scented face up to the sun as I sipped Champagne from a crystal flute and looked out over the turquoise waters of Turks and Caicos.
I've always been a sucker for trying anything that might make me feel even a little bit more like a celebrity. Kourtney Kardashian's morning avocado smoothies for an attempt at glowier skin? Check. Puma Creepers to channel my inner Rihanna? Check. Following around a celebrity assistant to learn exactly how they fill their days? Check, check, check. So, when the Gansevoort Turks and Caicos invited me for a stay, I barely hesitated before packing my bags.
The island had been getting a lot of buzz recently for being a favorite destination for models, frequented by the likes of Kendall Jenner, Hailey Baldwin, Bella Hadid, Lily Aldridge, and Ashley Graham — as well as regular ol' celebs like Beyoncé and Jay-Z and Nicki Minaj. While I have no interest in looking like a supermodel (I like my thighs and booty, thank you very much), I have no problem vacationing like one. And so I was off to explore what, exactly, makes Turks and Caicos so attractive. Because when the people seen there have enough money to travel anywhere in the world, there's got to be something special about the one island they all seem to flock to over and over again.
After my three-hour flight on Jet Blue (which, I realized, is probably part of the appeal for models looking for a quick jaunt post-New York Fashion Week), I didn't feel much like a model. I waited for over an hour beneath the sweltering midday sun before the resort's shuttle driver finally arrived to putter us down the main highway to the Gansevoort. But as soon we as rolled up to the entryway, I got it. To quote the youth of today (and 2 Chainz): Issa vibe. When you first walk into the open air lobby, you're greeted with a warm welcome and a glass of (very strong) rum punch. Beyond a handful of billowy white curtains is a sparkling blue infinity pool that appears to spill right out into the clear waters of Grace Bay, one of the top beaches in the entire world thanks to its clarity and over three miles of pure white sand. The pool itself is encircled by angular, bird-like umbrellas, crisp white-cushioned lounge chairs, and wooden mini-peninsulas that jut out from the exterior of the pool into its waters. (I'd later learn that those floating islands each cost $150 to rent for the day.)
Based on what I've heard about the always-a-party Gansevoort Hotel in New York City, I'd expected the soundtrack of the Turks resort to be booming bass music and rowdy celebrity offspring. But the pool area of the Gansevoort was completely silent; no spring breakers, no screaming kids, not a single shout or splash — just one couple murmuring quietly to one another in the hot tub, each sipping $17 glasses of "golden sangria." I suddenly understood the location's appeal for a model or celebrity looking to recharge: The Gansevoort Turks and Caicos is private and chill.
And yes, luxurious. I spent my first day as I imagined a superstar would: hard at work, alternating between laying out to get just the right amount of sun and taking cooling dips in the pool. After watching the sun set over Grace Bay and taking about a hundred photos for Instagram (come on, I'm sure celebrities do that, too), I spent a good hour in the shower beneath something called the WaterTile, a device that released a perfectly-pressured waterfall over my entire body. It was so divine, I was very tempted to unscrew the whole thing and put it in my suitcase. Turns out the 1% even showers better than the rest of us.
After accepting turndown service for my 400-thread-count bedding — my second visit from housekeeping in one day (I'm usually lucky to afford a hotel with housekeeping at all) — I pocketed the tiny bag of expensive-looking chocolates they left behind and headed to dinner. (Not before trying to peek through a cracked-open door into the penthouse suite, which has its own jacuzzi and goes for a whopping $4,000 a night. I didn't see much, but I swear I could feel the opulence from outside the door.) At the Gansevoort's restaurant, Stelle, I ordered a cucumber mojito and truffle risotto, which unfortunately did not come with a side of the infamous RHONY drama that once took place there. While the truffle risotto was pretty good — and one of the cheapest items on the menu at $30 — I wasn't particularly wowed by the food at dinner, or at the buffet breakfast that's included in everyone's stay. But hey, I was vacationing like a celebrity, and let's be real: Most of them probably don't come to a resort to eat.
On day two, I exerted myself walking back-and-forth between the pool and the beach (which, by the way, lived up to its hype), so it was time for more model-like unwinding. I nearly fainted when I saw the $240 price tag for an 80-minute deep-tissue massage, but I could see why someone would splurge for it: My masseuse worked out any possible remaining New York stress that had stowed away in my back, and I walked out of the spa's doors feeling like my body was made of cotton candy. Plus, it was nice to imagine that perhaps the breasts of a Jenner or Minaj had also rested on that very same massage table. (No confirmation that either ever stopped there on their vacays, but Miles Teller did lay his chest there...so close enough?)
Back at the pool, the almost-eery silence of the resort was abruptly shattered by a gaggle of women (and one man), all appearing to be at least 6-feet-tall, who came loping toward the pool, hysterically laughing in neon bathing suits while slathering their faces with sunscreen. They headed straight to the hot tub, where a waiter descended upon them with buckets of Champagne bottles before any of their toes even hit the water. Aha, I thought. Now I get to observe real models in their natural vacationing habitat.
The blonde one at the center of it all looked vaguely familiar. Later, I learned why, thanks to some social media stalking (and light hot tub eavesdropping): She was a Sports Illustrated cover model whose crew was making a brief vacation stop before heading to Cannes. And for the rest of the trip, that squad was pretty much attached to the Gansevoort. Soon, they were joined by another group: This one a crew of social media stars, bathing suit and accessory designers accompanied by their model friends.
For nearly two hours, I witnessed this second group do it for the 'gram, draping themselves across those blindingly white lounge chairs, slowly emerging from the pool water, and peering through palm trees, all while their partners in crime snapped photos. And then they left. And just when I thought all the pedestrian-like disturbance was over and I could go back to reading my romance novel incognito like the celebrity-wannabe that I am, they returned — this time in a brand new, second round of monochromatic pastel outfits. They were now off to the beach, and from my spot by the pool, I could hear the high-pitched echoes of their self-directed photoshoot.
Curious to see what all the hype was about, I attempted to create my own I'm-A-Model-At-The-Gansevoort photoshoot, but got tired after just a few snaps:
(Later, when I was back in New York perusing hashtags, I would see that the results of their shoot made a few hours of photography look like an entire days-long vacation in multiple locations. The magic of social media.)
I spent my last day on Turks and Caicos (the morning before a late afternoon flight home, a risky move) on a small fisherman's boat drinking rum punch with the captain and a few non-celebrity, honeymooning couples who were staying at the Gansevoort and other nearby hotels. I laughed so hard that I surely burned off the $17 poolside pizzas I'd ordered two days in a row, fed small bites of tomato to schools of tropical fish, and waved to a mother dolphin and her baby who gave our boat a surprise visit, offering a few squeals hello before swimming away.
Back at the hotel, I walked right past the pool, resisting the urge to collapse onto a chair, because it was time to pack and head home. (And debate whether or not to try to sneak that shower head and robe into my suitcase; in the end, I didn't, for fear of a thousand dollar charge on my bill.) The first model and her posse were still there, their long legs folded into the hot tub, manicured hands clutching cell phones and Champagne bottles on ice, not a single strand of hair wet on their heads as they took selfie after selfie.
All celebrities may not vacation like the Internet-famous ones I encountered in Turks and Caicos. Some might be more adventurous, or start itching for something beyond white-glove service and five-star style, like I had. But on my flight back that day, my stomach sloshing with rum punch and my eyes slowly fluttering closed from exhaustion and satisfaction, I realized that while vacationing like a star might sound like an unbeatable experience, I'd had a lot more fun vacationing like someone else: myself.
Though I still do dream about that terrace view. And that robe. And that damn shower head.