“Isabelle, we have a situation: someone built a wall through the apartment! And my printer got stuck on the Other Side.” A model life can be tough, but no one prepares you for unforeseen brick-and-mortar problems such as these.
First time I met Daphne Velghe was backstage at an AF Vandevorst fashion show in Paris. There was going to be a big stunt with motorcycles and everybody was really frantic about it. But not Daphne, she was casually reading a book about a stressed-out rabbit and was her usual composed self. That’s the thing with the Belgian model: she’s always calm. Except when faced with blood. We discovered that detail when she embarked on a humanitarian trip to Myanmar six months later as a photographer accompanying a team of surgeons specialized in harelip and eye surgeries. The plan seemed foolproof, so she emailed me at the time: she was going to take pictures of the procedures and blog about it for ELLE magazine to raise awareness on these health issues. Problem was she went down at the mere hint of blood. In the end, she handed in her scrubs and shot all the emotions in the waiting room right before and after each surgery: the anxious waiting, the uncertainty, and then the joy of people who had regained eyesight or the look on parents faces upon discovering their children without harelip for the first time. That and a collection of pale-looking selfies, shot in weel chairs right after she woke up from fainting. It also typifies Daphne: she might be a supermodel with legs for days and a seriously intimidating steel blue gaze, but she is above all a fun-loving girl with a big heart: the See & Smile Charity couldn’t dream of a better ambassador!
Let’s get back to The Wall. Here’s a little something about Daphne’s living situation: she’s out there building an impressive modeling career and spends most of her time in New York, where she has a very design and minimalist apartment overlooking Hudson River –the kind of model joint you would imagine- but she likes to keep headquarters in Antwerp too. Funny thing; that homebase is located in the attic of a little antique store in the heart of the historical Flemish city. Her childhood memories and personal stuff are just lying there: papier maché craftwork, toddler pictures, an impressive collection of festival entree passes, travel souvenirs and teenage collages gathering (fairy) dust between piles and piles of old books, furniture and sculptures –“I’m not much of a bookworm, but I like the smell of paper”. It makes for a magical and chaotic little universe, complete with a spiral Cinderella stairway and a small window overlooking a Medieval garden she could once wander into freely, but which is now closed due to the influx of Japanese tourists flooding in to snap a little piece of authentic Belgian heritage. Another thing that changed since the last time Daphne set foot in her apartment: the owners decided to rent off half the house and, in order to do so, built a wall right through her attic. “I hadn’t been here for six months and came home in the middle of the night. Suddenly I stumbled upon something and discovered a wall that hadn’t there whenI left. Luckily, all my stuff is on my side of the wall, except for my printer –sometimes you have to let go and say goodbye…” There she goes being stoic again, dancing through the attic ànd life like nobody’s watching.