Unfortunately, the rumors regarding Gemma’s identity didn’t begin circulating until the final days of the trek. “I think she’s a model. I’m sure I’ve seen her on Fashion TV,” echoed among the young Israelis – fresh from military service – trekking with us. [Aside: Fashion TV piped into Israeli military barracks?!]
And we only truly believed them when we connected to the internet and found the photo above. By then it was too late to play alpine paparazzi. But we did get a peek.
The prevailing supermodel image is one of air-walking stick-thinness and a perfect runway hip sway. However, our first glimpse of Gemma on the second day of our trek was anything but all that. She appeared rather – um – sturdy, and laden – huffing and puffing, red-faced, her camera dangling from her neck as she tried to keep pace with her guide.
In other words, she was quite like the rest of us.
Trekking is a great equalizer between mortals like us and supermodels like Gemma. We shared the same outhouses (Dan literally ran into her on two occasions), slept in the same bug-ridden lodges, ate the same repetitive food (although she did splurge for yak curry when the rest of us were too cheap), experienced the same altitude anxieties and faced the same prospect of being trampled by yaks.
However, brutal standards apply when you grace the cover of Vogue and the catwalks of Fashion TV. You are public domain – for better and for worse – and speculation begins immediately. Fortunately, Gemma was never within earshot of the bruising traveler buzz:
“Maybe she fell off the catwalk.”
“A hand model, perhaps?”
But we digress.
The Seven Step Plan to Trek Like a Supermodel
There were a few things about Gemma that set her apart from the other trekkers cutting their way through the Himalayas. Whether you are a supermodel or just want to trek like one, here’s how:
1. Grow a large head – not figuratively, but literally. The significance of this feature hadn’t occurred to us until we related this story to a friend knowledgeable in the business of entertainment and television.
“You know, we hiked with a supermodel around the Annapurna Circuit.”
“Did she have a big head? All famous people have big heads,” he responded without skipping a beat.
To answer that question, we relay the words from one of our fellow trekkers: “She’s got a hu-uge head. Head like a yak.”
Then, as if to redeem himself. “Oh, but she’s got GREAT lips,” he gushed with upturned eyes, as if imagining an alpine interlude with the woman of his dreams (see #7).
2. Make sure that every day is a good hair day, even days with cold (or no) showers at 5000 meters (16,000 feet). Ensure that your blond tresses fall from your woolen cap a la Rapunzel as you doff it.
3. Decide you want to learn to play guitar while trekking and have your guide carry your acoustic guitar up and over a 5,416 meter/17,700 foot mountain pass. Make sure you know how to play absolutely nothing and spend 5-10 minutes plunking around a new chord after each meal.
If you really want to stand out: Next mountain climb, take a tuba.
4. Trek with a guy in a Rastafarian cap who carries his own pack and desperately seeks to look like Johnny Depp. Rasta Depp didn’t share a room with Gemma, so no romance rumors here (now that would really boost our readership!). Other speculation heard on the trail: he was Heath Ledger’s brother, even though the web confirmed later that Heath didn’t even have a brother. Perhaps Rasta Depp was Gemma’s personal stylist. See #2 above.
5. Hire a porter to carry two fully stuffed body-sized waterproof bags and be mysterious regarding their contents. Audrey innocently thought that perhaps they contained materials for anthropological or scientific research and inquired as to the bags’ contents. Gemma's dismissive response: “Stuff.”
Our take? Hair care products!
6. Drink bottled mineral water at 5,000 meters. For our porter, this was the clincher that classified her as famous. While the rest of us disinfected the local water with iodine tablets or chlorine drops, Gemma quaffed her small bottles of mineral water at $5 a pop.
Did we mention that mineral water is good for your hair?
7. Ensure that your presence transforms male trekkers into adolescents. The same trekker who noted the size of her head (and dreamed of her lips) couldn’t contain his excitement at the possibility of altitude-induced erratic behavior: “Did she flash everyone at the pass? Did she lift her shirt up?”
We are very sorry to disappoint – there was no Gemma flashing at Thorong La pass.
While Gemma unintentionally dropped a few hints along the trek that she was a bit different, our hats go off to her for maintaining a low profile and hanging with the rest of us. We do wish that she had clued us in earlier so that we might have some better photos of her to remember the occasion. After all, it's not every day that we’re sharing outhouses with a supermodel.