EYE OF THE BEHOLDER. Top model Paula Verhoeven has sauntered down the catwalk with some of the world’s most well-known models, worked with noted international designers and traveled to Europe on several cultural missions. She is quite possibly Indonesia’s hottest export ever
Only a few things have stayed the same since the last time DA MAN met Paula Verhoeven in early 2010 “Coincidentally, when last we talked, I didn’t have a boyfriend,” she says. “Now I’m single, too.” As for other things, they have all changed for the better. Paula was recently chosen by London based Singapore-born designer, Ashley Isham, to be the face of his spring-summer 2013 campaign. Isham’s fellow Singaporean Londoner fashion designer, Eugene Lin, had also booked Paula for his spring-summer 2013 presentation at Digital Fashion Week that took place in Singapore in October 2012. There, she shared a runway with androgynous supermodel Andrej Pejic, who opened the show. It wasn’t the first time Paula ever did a fashion show with a big name; she had previously walked the DSquared2 runway show at 2010 Singapore Fashion Festival with Estonian supermodel Carmen Kass. Paula is equally loved by local designers.
For two years in a row, she was a part of a fashion entourage that flew to Italy for a cultural promotion event there. More recently, she joined renowned batik designer Ramli for an exclusive fashion show in Hamburg, Germany. In April 2012, Paula took part in a modeling competition, held in conjunction with Fashion Steps Out at Orchard (FSO), which saw famous shopping street Orchard Road transformed into a 600-meter long runway. Selected from 12 finalists from six countries around Asia, the winner of the competition not only got to take home pricey prizes, but also acquired the title of the Next Face of Asia. The winner also got the right to be the face of this year’s FSO. The winner also happened to be Paula.
“A choreographer in Singapore said I should join it,” she says of her involvement in Next Face of Asia. “It was my first modeling competition since 2005. And I thought, it wasn’t like a beauty pageant with a lot of questions or anything; it was strictly modeling, so I thought it was okay [to join]. Besides, I thought it would be fun. Turns out I won, so I was very grateful.” If she sounds like she has had her fair share of pageants, it must be because she has. She was a contestant in a Fashion TV model contest in 2005, the winner of Elite Model Look Indonesia in 2003 and, the one that started it all, a finalist in Gadis Sampul, Indonesia’s most prestigious teen model competition, which is held by one of the oldest magazines in the country, Gadis (Girl).
Paula was only 13 when she first began modeling, but even then, she was already unusually tall for an Indonesian girl. “I was born tall,” she says matter-of-factly. With a pair of legs that seems to go on forever, she now stands 182 meters tall. With a height that’s beyond average, most would think her modeling career has been a breeze, especially in her home country. But that wasn’t the case at all. Magazines and multiple news portals have repeatedly told stories about Paula’s former weight problem. None of them were fabricated – the willowy Paula used to be too fat to model, at least according to a number of designers who refused to book her at the time.
“Five, six years ago, I would wonder what it would feel like to walk the [wellknown Indonesian designers] Sebastian Gunawan or Biyan runway shows. I moved to Jakarta [from Semarang] in 2005 and there was a whole year where I couldn’t really get my modeling career going,” she says. “No designer wanted to hire me,” she continues. “The funny thing is, back then, I always blamed other people. Like, for example, if my cheeks looked chubby in a picture, I would blame the photographer. I was so young then. I would say, ‘The photographer only used one light!’ or ‘The clothes made me look fat!’ I didn’t realize that I was indeed too weighty. Slowly, I started losing job offers.” Paula may look calm and collected, but she confesses to “hitting rock bottom” and feeling “hopeless” at the time. “I tried everything: doing acupuncture, wearing ear magnets, smoking.” In December 2006, she found a turning point. “I started to look for information [on losing weight healthily],” she says. Paula created a sanctuary for working out and eating healthy food. Nowadays, you can regularly find her at the gym, doing her favorite routine – weightlifting. Paula considers herself transformed now.
“I used to be fat. I used to not know what my responsibilities as a model were,” she says. “Now I have an entirely new mindset. I changed my perspective and way of living life. [As a result], I’ve gotten more modeling jobs.” And she has decided to give back. “I really want to publish a book. I’ve been wanting to share [what I’ve learned about exercising and dieting],” she says. “People tend to think that dieting is a form of torture, or that working out is boring. But I want to let everyone know that if they can just change their outlook, try to find pleasure in it, everything should go smoothly. That’s what I want to share. But I just can’t find the time yet! Next year, God forbid!”
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