Last July, Naomi Campbell posted a video her airport routine. Unlike the diet-tea flogging, glaze-eyed influencers playing pretend on instagram, the world's best-known supermodel was the real deal when it came to celebrity privilege, and most subscribers expected a video of her clutching a glass of champagne and being obnoxious in the pointy section of the plane.
Instead they watched as she donned disposable gloves, procured a packet of Dettol wipes in a zip lock bag from her Louis Vuitton tote and proceeded to wipe down, rub and scrub every conceivable surface on her seat, from tray table to seatbelt buckle and window frame. She lined her seat with a pashmina, put on a face mask and declared:
"I do not care what people think of me, it's my health and it makes me feel better".
Then, it seemed terrible eccentric, slightly obnoxious and very on-brand. But four months later and with Covid-19 shutting down the world, it appears Naomi Campbell was bang on the money.
She was right. We were all wrong.
A year ago, if you'd told me I'd be watching her video for hygiene seat prep before I flew, I'd have laughed in your face. And yet hours before my flight (to the blissfully isolated Cook Islands), I'd worked out an entirely new plane routine.
My carry-on was reduced to a small tote bag within two other bags - the outer bag to chuck away after it had gone through airport security; the middle layer to throw out after I got off the plane, leaving one germ-free tote bag to have with me on my holiday.
Inside were disposable gloves, hand sanitiser minis, surgical face masks I'd had shipped to me at the beginning of January, Dettol wipes, and industrial cleaning wipes for the seat and tray table. My budget didn't extend to cashmere pashminas for my party of three, but I did have sarongs ready to line the seats with.
And then of course, Naomi upped the game. The day before my flight she was at it again, being the COVID-19 Queen we never knew we needed on a flight from LAX to JFK.
She showed up for her flight in a full $US14.99 ($A24.50) haz-mat coveralls from Amazon; hair neatly tucked back, surgical mask on, and safety goggles (a recommendation from buddy Linda Evangelista no less), her Louis Vuitton tote replaced by a white roller bag and handbag stashed in a clear plastic tote. Her pandemic ensemble was topped off with a tan Burberry cape draped around her shoulders. In fierce Naomi directness, she even tells the passport controller to wear gloves.
"'Do it for yourself", she tells them off-screen "and your family".
"I'm not doing this for laughs", she later tells the camera.
"This is how I feel comfortable travelling'.
In a sea of social-media fear, it was a drop of OTT defiance and pure inspiration: a fashionista f- you to COVID-19 that left me feeling emboldened. But also, woefully unprepared in comparison. While I couldn't source hazmat suits in time, I did speed dial my husband, instructing him to purchase safety goggles for our flight – and bless him, he did (my request for a Burberry cape remains under negotiation).
But our Naomi fly-plan fell down once we got to the airport. Because my husband and I were travelling with a toddler. And toddlers touch everything. And collapse on the floor tantrumming. And end up covered in goo. And in the case of our guy, picked up the delightful habit of picking his nose in the last few days, while we shrieked "don't touch your face! Don't touch your face!"
Our boarding plan included me boarding first, and Naomi-ing our seats, muttering her mantra: clean everything you touch! Dressed in a baseball cap, safety goggles and facemask and wearing green gloves, I got in there and scrubbed the hell out of every surface. If I got weird looks from my fully-booked direct flight from Sydney to Rarotonga, I didn't see them: I was too busy taking care of my family and their health. And just like Naomi, I didn't care what anyone else thought: It was my health, and I didn't give a damn.
Shaney Hudson is currently in Rarotonga with her family and a supply of Dettol wipes for the flight home.