At 1:10 p.m. on the afternoon of Tuesday, March 3, the 24-year-old model and socialite Lydia Hearst was racing around her apartment, making sure she had everything she needed for her big trip to Egypt. The car to the airport was coming in 20 minutes.
“I’m just doing a final double-check of my luggage,” she told the Transom. Ms. Hearst and her sister, Gillian Hearst Simonds, will be spending a week in Cairo volunteering at hospitals for Operation Smile, which hopes to repair 500 cleft lips on this mission. Ms. Hearst, who is missing Paris Fashion Week for this trip, had just returned from shooting in Madrid.
What was Lydia packing? “Conservative clothes. Lots of pants, and sweaters that wrap around. I’m also bringing some things to cover my hair; pretty much everyone has commented on the blond thing.”
She is very concerned about not offending the natives.
“I certainly don’t want to insult anyone, or disrespect the culture there,” she said.
The Transom wondered whether she would be so bold as to read a book in public.
“What? Of course,” she said, noting that she had been doing lots of research. Also, unrelated to the trip, she’s halfway through Jon Krakauer’s Under the Banner of Heaven.
“I bought a new camera, and I’m going to be documenting it for myself,” she said. Her photo journal will be posted on Modelinia.com. A camera crew is going to document the sisters’ experiences there, and Web-isodes will appear on style.com and operationsmile.com. The cameras will capture them helping with the screening process—preference is given according to age and the severity of the problem—and then caring for the kids in the hospital after the surgery.
“Hopefully, we’ll be able to bring the stories of the children we meet—before and after their surgeries—and shed some light on what an amazing impact this 45-minute surgery can have,” said Ms. Hearst Simonds, who is 27.
Both sisters were taken aback when socialite–turned–reality TV “star” Olivia Palermo described her work with the organization to the New York Post thusly: “New Yorkers for Children—our job is to get people to come to the galas. Operation Smile, I pretty much do the same thing, but Operation Smile is for people with deformed faces.”
Ms. Palermo is on the Benefit Committee, which, Ms. Hearst said, is like the junior committee.
“People need to realize that you can do more than just helping to throw a party,” Ms. Hearst said. “I’m planning to do another trip to Africa in a couple months.”