Heads turn when Kelly Huynh strolls through the crowded food court of a retail outlet in Melbourne’s CBD. The 20-year-old, clad in a white puffer jacket and jeans, could be any university student ordering a matcha milk tea, were it not for the 750ml bottle of Evian she has nestled into a dent atop her skull.

“Mum!” one child shouts, pointing to Huynh. “Why does that girl have a bottle on her head?”

Kelly Huynh finds joy walking with a bottle of water on her head, soaking up smiles as she walks the streets of Melbourne.Credit:Eddie Jim

Huynh takes a sip of her tea and laughs. “I always feel a little sorry for the parents. How are they supposed to explain that?”

For years, Huynh has been asked to explain why she does it – by friends, passersby, fans on social media. Still, she struggles to find an answer she feels to be exactly right.

Huynh balances the bottle effortlessly.Credit:Eddie Jim

“It all started,” she begins, “with a hoverboard accident.”

Late one night in 2017, a 15-year-old Huynh flew off her hoverboard, crashing into the top of a pole, blacking out and waking up three hours later in hospital. Scared and sore, but grateful there was no long-term damage, she spent the days after the accident gently tracing the dimensions of the small cavity in her skull, wondering if it would ever go away.

It didn’t. The dent, coupled with a desire to fix her posture, and a memory of making her classmates laugh by balancing her drink bottle on her head, gave her the idea of learning this unique skill.

“One day I walked into Woolworths and tried all the bottles of water. I ended up liking the feel of the 750ml Evian best.”

For years in private, she nestled the bottle into her dent and taught herself to walk quickly, to turn, to sit up and sit down, to get up and down steps, all with a bottle on her head. “Steps can be tricky.”

In 2019, she went public – first with a short stroll, then with longer walks.

Huynh, also known as Melbourne’s water bottle girl.Credit:Eddie Jim

Huynh, a softly spoken graphic design student at RMIT, never wears her bottle to school but almost always puts it on when walking with friends or alone. She often wears a mask and rarely posts pictures that show her face. Balancing for six consecutive hours is her record.

Huynh enjoys the attention as well as the playful joy she sparks in many others. First tributes and sightings started to flow into the feeds of Melbourne University and Monash University ‘love letters’ pages – social pages set up for students to send anonymous love letters to people they admire. (Huynh would often visit friends at both universities, but never studied at either.)

Spotted! Huynh walking, captured in a TikTok.Credit:TikTok/ maskitmati

“Spotted Evian girl at Chadstone!!!! I thought you were just a myth!” says one letter on the Monash University page. “I was mesmerised by the absolute finesse of it all,” says another. And another: “Even during these chaotic times it feels good to see how you bring balance to the world with you and your Evian.”

Huynh now has her own Instagram page. “I love the joy I can bring to others,” she says. This was especially true, she says, when Melbourne fell into a perpetual string of lockdowns.

Some social posts thank both “water bottle girl” and “carrot man” – a Melburnian known to carry a giant carrot to make people smile.

“I met carrot man on a tram!” recalls Huynh, smiling. “I sat opposite him one day and he said ‘Hey! Why do you have a bottle on your head?’. And I said, ‘Hey! Why do you carry a giant carrot around?’

“I met carrot man on a tram! I sat opposite him one day and he said ‘Hey! Why do you have a bottle on your head?’. And I said, ‘Hey! Why do you carry a giant carrot around?’”

And then we just smiled at each other.”

Is this the most Melbourne moment ever?

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