The question was on all of our minds. No one, fortunately, had the bad form to actually pose it to Joanne Gair (above, left) during the 12 hours it took her to paint the shirt and bikini bottom on Rebecca: What the hell is taking so long?
Two words: the shirt. Gair painted 13 suits on seven women during 14 days on Necker Island, but that shirt—a long-sleeved, pastel panorama of irregular shapes—was her Sistine Chapel. To allow Rebecca a full range of motion while she posed, the shirt had to be painted on "almost in 3-D," says Gair. "It was like painting a maze, figuring out where this line connects with that line."
There was no rushing Gair, who is better at this than anyone else in the world—she painted Demi Moore for those notorious Vanity Fair covers—and instantly knows what will work and what won't. For instance, there had been talk of painting a Buddha on Audrey's chest, until Gair pointed out that the model's voluptuousness would result in a cross-eyed holy man. So no Buddha. But even Gair had no idea that Rebecca's ordeal would last more than half a day. Working from Polaroids of Rebecca wearing the actual suit, Gair used a grease pencil to trace the outlines of the shirt's geometric shapes onto the model's body. Gair's assistants began blocking in color while she provided her signature details: shadows, seams, a faux tan line here, a bunching of fabric there. (The makeup, in this case, was water-based Aquacolor, which is gentle on the skin and washes off easily—not necessarily a good thing when the model is frolicking in surf in humid, tropical climes.) So complete was the illusion that when Rebecca finally emerged, wearing only a skirt, she chatted with a Necker staffer for nearly a minute before he realized—with a deep and endearing blush—that she was topless.
Gair's talent is matched only by her stamina. Instead of grabbing a nap while Rebecca was being photographed, she and her crew got busy painting Yamila, whose black one-piece featured three roses on her back. The chiffon and roses called for makeup so fine that it must be applied with an airbrush gun.
Cold brewskis, friendly supermodels, power tools: Was this a dream assignment or what?