I dropped out of school at 12 to be a model

You wanna be on top?

Even if you do, please get yourself an education.

That's what Singapore-based model-actress-host Nadya Hutagalung - who was recently announced as host and judge of reality TV modelling series Asia's Next Top Model (ANTM) - believes.

The Indonesian-Australian beauty dropped out of school at age 12, after just 11/2 years in high school in Australia.

With only primary school education under her belt, she went on to become a top model around the region.

ANTM is the official Asian version of the popular America's Next Top Model franchise created and hosted by US supermodel Tyra Banks, who also acts as head judge.

The reality series will air in November here and in other countries such as Thailand, the Philippines and Hong Kong. The channel on which it will be aired here is yet to be confirmed.

Hutagalung, 38, who is married to ex-national swimmer Desmond Koh, told The New Paper: "I really don't advise the models of today to follow in my footsteps.

"They should definitely get an education when they can. An education can be critical.

"Out of 100 models I see, not many have the potential to make it big in the business.

"If they don't make it, at least they'll still have an education to fall back on."

She added: "School wasn't the right thing for me then, but it's a different world we live in now. "I'm blessed to have landed on my feet."

Hutagalung recalled that at the tender age of 12, she was selected by her father's best friend - a top photographer who shot the likes of Aussie supermodel Elle Macpherson - to kickstart her modelling career in Japan.

She later strutted her stuff in Australia, Thailand and Vietnam before eventually settling down in Singapore in 1995.

She admitted that during her time in Japan, making a mark in the industry was tough as blonde-haired, blue-eyed models were favoured then.

But she claimed that because of the Japanese culture where people tend to be very polite, she didn't receive any criticism on her pictures.

The Japanese photographers would only give her instructions on how to pose for the shoot, she said.

Said Hutagalung: "I wasn't a conventional beauty. At age 12 with black hair and at 1.75m, I was lanky and gawky.

"But my thinking was, if I could make the extra pocket money, why not?

"You could say that I had an education at the school of the world."

Although she didn't further her studies in a classroom, she said that she read voraciously and had many "intense conversations" with the people she met.

But is a return to school on the cards for her?

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