Barely 12, Nadya Hutagalung already stood at a towering 1.75m.
"One day, you will be a model", her friends and family in Australia kept telling her.
But she herself was never convinced.
"I never believed them because I wasn't the typical kind of beauty," the Indonesian-Australian reasoned. "I was lanky and gawky."
Eventually she decided to give modeling a shot when a top photographer came knocking on her door.
It wasn't a breeze fitting in, though. The industry then always favoured the blonde-haired, blue-eyed models — "the beach bombshells", Hutagalung called.
But unlike others, the model never harboured thoughts of going for plastic surgery to enhance her looks, whether 20 years ago or even now.
"I think it's very important that women are aware that nobody is perfect," the 38-year-old told Yahoo! Singapore. "I tend to see people who will go and make adjustments to how they look externally but internally, they're still unhappy, sad, dissatisfied people. And ultimately, that will show through."
"If that was something that I was gonna fall for when I was trying to fit in, I don't know how I'd have transformed myself," the ex-MTV VJ added with a laugh. "So I was just lucky that I found my niche."
The Singapore-based model-actress-host, who's happily married to former national swimmer Desmond Koh, will soon be seen on TV hosting and judging Asia's Next Top Model (ANTM), the Asian franchise of hit modeling series America's Next Top Model.
But while the still radiant Hutagalung doesn't believe in the new wave of cosmetic surgery obsession, she recognised that her exotic, pan-Asian looks helped her become the successful woman she is today.
"I'd be lying if I said it didn't help at all," admitted the passionate eco-activist, whose face has adorned countless magazine covers and commercials. "I don't think it's always the case, but you need to be careful with how you package yourself and what you do with what you have been given."
"Without having started in the modeling industry, I wouldn't have had the opportunity and platform to talk about the environmental causes that I'm very passionate about," she added.
Currently the ambassador for the World Wildlife Fund's Earth Hour in Singapore for the fourth year running, the founder of GreenKampong.com is also on the board of The Green School, an international social project which champions the green cause. The designer of own line of sustainable jewellery has also just completed building an eco-friendly house for her family of five, from scratch.
With so much under her belt, what would her proudest achievement be then?
"My kids", the mother of three replied in a heartbeat.
Hutagalung has two sons — Tyrone, 18, and Fynn, 10 — from previous relationships and a four-year-old daughter, Nyla, with the 39-year-old Koh, whom she wed in 2006.
Their eldest son is now serving national service, Hutagalung said, but declined to share more about her private life.
When asked if we can expect a fourth child soon, the yummy mummy laughed.
"My husband is keen, I'm not," she said. "I don't know how that works!"
'My job is not a lifestyle'
Does her career get in the way of family life?
Not for this veteran TV personality, who revealed that she was "never really so attached to being in the industry".
"I enjoy my work but I'm also very cautious to know and to remember that it's a job and not a lifestyle," she shared. "I have my own personal, private life which I work very hard to keep a good balance with."
Having been in front of the camera for over half her life, Hutagalung said harsh criticisms and nasty put-downs just don't get to her anymore.
"The rumours that were said about me back in the day… they were quite fanciful, I don't even want to go into it," she recalled.
"Of course sometimes it hurts, but the reality is that these people don't know me."
"The reality is these people don't see who I am, what I do, the amount of work that I give for others and the motivation that lies within my heart," she added. "So I'm okay."
And her advice to the aspiring models? Have a professional attitude.
"The reality is that in this industry, you won't always be on top," Hutagalung let on. "So you have to learn how to diversify and make yourself adaptable to all kinds of situations, and also have a good, healthy lifestyle."
Shark diving with the ANTM models?
Turning to Asia's Next Top Model which will air here in November, Hutagalung promises the show will be "really, really exciting".
"We'll have an Asian flavour to it — the girls, the judges, the way that we mentor the girls… and of course, there'll be excitement," shared the host-to-be. "There's bound to be some drama."
And some diving trips with sharks, perhaps?
Earlier this year, Hutagalung accepted the challenge of going diving with sharks if 10,000 people pledged to give up plastic bags and straws for a year, in conjunction with Earth Hour's "I Will If You Will" campaign.
It was an impromptu decision, she revealed. Either way, with 10, 000 people having already signed the pledge, the beauty said she's now committed to take the plunge.
Is Koh cool with his wife's nearing date with the sharks?
"I think so… I think we also underestimated the power of the campaign," Hutagalung said with a laugh.
"Maybe I should take some of the top model finalists into the shark cage with me?"
Asia's Next Top Model is slated for broadcast in November in Singapore and across Asia.