Illustrated by Ammiel Mendoza.
I recently found myself in the business class of a very large airplane that was leaving New York and heading to Milan (this was a work trip — in real life I'm not the jet-setting type). It was a red-eye flight, and as such, I planned accordingly: I put my greasy, faded, purple-gray hair into a ponytail, crawled into my oldest, softest sweatpants, and prepared to stew in my own stink for nine hours. I mean, that's what red-eye flights are for, right? There's nothing cute about spending the night in an airplane seat, drifting in and out of poor-quality snoozes under the influence of
whatever prescription drugs one can scrounge up all-natural sleep aids.
On this particular flight, NYFW had just ended and Milan Fashion Week was a few days away; subsequently, my cabin was filled with — as my traveling companion aptly described them — "every supermodel, ever." My first feeling was horror: This was my special time to be truly disgusting, and it quickly lost its appeal when I realized I was surrounded by 19-year-old glamazons who were literally fresh off the runway. As they got settled, they joked to each other about doing a fashion show on the plane. Their effortlessly chic model giggles floated melodically around me. A zit started to brew on my forehead.
As the giraffe-like passengers buckled down for the long flight ahead, it hit me: This was my chance to find out, once and for all, how models stay gorgeous while they travel. Potential beauty tips for walking off the plane looking perfect were quite literally all around me — no interviews required. I pulled my blanket up and tried to look inconspicuous. There's nothing like trying to pick up beauty tips on the sly to make you feel like a big ol' creep. Dignity aside, I watched on.
Here's what I observed: After we took off, one model with particularly flawless skin opened her backpack and pulled out a bag of McDonald's. She proceeded to eat a pile of fries, wiping her hands on her jeans as she went (note: the fries smelled amazing). Another model changed into sweatpants not unlike my own; she then promptly put her eye mask on and fell asleep. Others around me were watching Maleficent. Sometimes, they got up to go to the bathroom. But, they didn't appear to take any beauty products with them. And, to my dismay, I didn't see a single model brushing her hair.
I went about my own elaborate in-flight beauty routine while keeping one eye out for anyone else's noteworthy behavior. Somehow, amidst my mental note-taking, I fell asleep. When I woke up, we were landing. Models around me were yawning and stretching, elegantly shaking rumpled hair out of squinting eyes. They looked sleepy, but in a striking, cool way — you might even call it an "off-duty-model look." I stole a peek at myself in my compact mirror; I looked terrifying, like maybe I had never slept in my life.
I dolefully pulled my Staples suitcase behind me off the plane, watching as the models strutted off into the horizon. Models: They just look good without putting any effort into it. There's no top-secret, industry-only night cream they all use between New York and Europe fashion weeks; there's no in-flight ritual they rely on to stay fresh while they're working so hard. That's why they're models. And, I solemnly swear to never spy on them on an airplane again.
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