Nadya Hutagalung: Beauty with a purpose

  • TV
  • Tuesday, 10 Dec 2013

Nadya Hutagalung shares her role as a model mentor with an environmental conscience.

NADYA Yuti Hutagalung, currently known as the head judge and host of Asia’s Next Top Model (AsNTM), is quite possibly one of the most recognised faces in Asia.

In fact, according to Asiaweek magazine, she was voted one of “Asia’s Leading Trendmakers” along with the Dalai Lama, Tan Sri Michelle Yeoh and Chow Yun-Fat for her ability to inspire and fascinate.

“I wouldn’t put myself on the same level as his Holiness, but I am indeed happy for the title,” said the practising Buddhist, who looked ever so chic in her black sleeveless jumpsuit and simple gold link necklace.

Hutagalung was in Kuala Lumpur recently to promote the show.

Hutagalung in a promo shot for season one of Asia’s Next Top Model.

Born on July 28, 1974 in Sydney, Australia, Hutagalung has certainly led an adventurous life with roles as a model, film actress, a MTV VJ, TV host and painter under her belt.

Married to Desmond Koh – a former competitive swimmer from Singapore – Hutagalung is also an eco-activist as well as an eco-centric jewellery designer; she has launched her own sustainable jewellery line called OSEL (meaning “clear light” in Tibetan). Despite all of that, this mother-of-three says she is a “full time mother and a part-time everything else”.

The environmental plight is one that the half-Indonesian, half-Australian has devoted much of her time and voice to outside of her modelling career.

She created major waves when she began the three-year project of building one of Singapore’s first few eco-homes from its foundation up.

Having been an ambassador in Singapore for the World Wildlife Fund’s Earth Hour for the last five years, she is now an Earth Hour Global Ambassador. The Green School, where she’s also a board member, was just awarded the “Greenest School on Earth” title by the US Green Building Council.

Her presence in the environmental arena has certainly expanded with Hutagalung’s tasks growing to include her now favourite project by far – – which became an online resource for anyone looking for information and news on sustainable living.

“I am passionate about my work,” she said of her green focus, adding, “I don’t have a lot of time to prioritise everything, especially since I have three kids waiting at home for me. But I do whatever I can. I travel a lot though, and find that I exhaust myself with the additional flying.”

She has received accolades for her work: she was the runner-up for “The International Green Awards: Most Responsible International Celebrity 2013”, alongside other eco-warriors such as George Clooney, Ian Somerhalder, Penelope Cruz and Vivienne Westwood.

This year, Hutagalung focused her efforts on a campaign for ivory reduction, which is due to launch in the first quarter of 2014 and is targeted at the South-East Asian audience.

With a face that attracts and a personality that is a natural cocktail of confidence and humour, it comes as no surprise that Hutagalung has returned as the lead in the second season of AsNTM.

“I always find it amazing to see how the girls evolve throughout each season of the show. This season is especially great since it is a FOX production and they have such an amazing team who have worked with the girls and the producers and have come up with something that is quite stylish.”

“It certainly makes for great television when you see how the girls develop a bond with each other, although there definitely were moments of tension between them and even the judges.”

This is FOX’s first production in Asia and the show reflects that.

Judging the best: Joining Hutagalung’s team of judges are (from left) model mentor Joey Mead King from season one, resident photographer Mike Rosenthal and movement coach, Adam Williams.

“Firstly, being an Asian production, it is for the Asian audiences and with that, you can see a lot of Asian talent. I do love the fact that they are supporting local talent and local designers. And not only is it a modelling show, but it is also a platform for the designers. How is it different you ask? It’s just Asian!

“Secondly, it is just more glamorous and there is a lot more depth from all sides.”

Glamorous it is, especially in terms of styling and the great array of guest judges, which includes Datuk Jimmy Choo, international songbird Coco Lee, , Rob Scheppy (beauty guru to the Kardashians) and Australia’s premier couturier, Alex Perry. “It’s great for the girls to meet these people who have had years of experience in their various industries as it will boost their career,” says Hutagalung.

As for what she hopes the contestants and viewers take away from the show, she says it’s about anything you want to be.

“You can be fabulous, strong and powerful, but the most important thing is to be committed. Just like in any profession, study your craft, understand fashion and watch the runways. Always do your homework.”


Related story:

Raising the stakes of 'Asia's Next Top Model'

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