Nadine Chandrawinata and Her Passion for the Sea

HEART OF THE OCEAN. Nadine Chandrawinata recounts her journey as an environmentalist with DA MAN’s Ricky Ronaldo

Top by Diane Von Furstenberg

Claiming to love the environment is an easy thing to do. Actually doing it, however, is something else. When I had the chance to catch up with Nadine Chandrawinata during her photo shoot for DA MAN, I couldn’t help but notice her tenderness when she talks about the environment. Underneath her soft spoken demeanor, there is thoughtfulness and authenticity that projects humility. She keeps it real about meeting her commitments—very down to earth. Which is, quite literally, what she is fighting for right now.

“When I was at Miss Universe Indonesia, the committee pointed me towards education, but I was focused more on the environment,” the German-Indonesian environmentalist recounts. “So after my arrangement with Miss Universe Indonesia was over, I continued to pursue ways to help the environment.” The critically acclaimed 2011 movie “The Mirror Never Lies,” in which Chandrawinata served as producer is a prime example.

Dress by MICHAEL Michael Kors

The movie, which tells a story about a young girl from the Bajou tribe (which, by the way, is also the inspiration for her perfume Sea Gypsy—a nickname for the Bajou tribe) in the Wakatobi regency, has been noted as an environmentalist piece due to its message about the marine environment. Furthermore, the movie was made in collaboration with the World Wide Fund for Nature (or WWF) which counts Chandrawinata as one of its most ardent advocates. This has then lead to several campaigns against shark finning and preservation of turtles back in 2013.

“When I was swimming with dolphins, I could feel their freedom and harmony”

Her commitment to environmentalism, though, was not something she just picked up along the way. There are also no inspirational tales of a sudden awakening. Instead, it has been there ever since she was a kid. “When my parents took me to beach when I was a kid, instead of picking up sea shells I picked up rubbish,” she says. Chandrawinata notes that cleanliness was a habit she picked up early on, and which culminated in the establishment of her own movement—dubbed Sea Soldier—to motivate people to protect the environment.

Of course, it goes without saying that this is a most challenging venture. Chandrawinata herself admits that changing old habits is the hardest challenge for anyone aspiring to become a Sea Soldier, especially without supervision. One way she thought of to combat this problem was a bracelet scheme. “I want this bracelet to act as an alarm,” she elaborates. “Whenever people see this bracelet, they would think about what they had done today to help the environment.” While it might come off as relying on guilt-tripping people to act, the bracelet appears to be an effective technique for behavioral change.

Dress by Diane von Furstenberg

But clearly guilt was not something Chandrawinata wanted to rely on. As it turns out, even getting the bracelet requires a certain amount of effort. You need to be qualified as an environmentalist in order to wear one. “I do not give away this bracelet arbitrarily,” says Chandrawinata. “Every bracelet is numbered and I have the data of every person wearing the bracelet so that I can keep track on what everyone is doing.” Currently, there are only about 400 numbered bracelets worn by people all across Indonesia. She describes that each wearer has a responsibility to the environment relating to the most pressing issues faced by each region. In Banyuwangi, for instance, it is about sand dredging. In Surabaya, pollution and in Gresik it is about traveling dolphin circuses, which is what Chandrawinata is focusing on at the moment.

As a keen and passionate diver, dolphins are creatures she holds dear. “When I was swimming with dolphins out in the sea, I could feel their freedom and their harmony with one another. I could hear their whistles and sounds as they happily communicate with each other,” Chandrawinata explains. “At the pool, however, they get stressed and they would bang their noses up against the wall. Their natural grey skin would turn white due to the chlorine in the pool.” She also notes that these dolphins are treated horribly, from being moved from one truck to another to having to perform up to three times a day.

Dress by MICHAEL Michael Kors

“I am working now with the Jakarta Animal Aid Network (JAAN) to investigate traveling dolphin circuses,” she adds. Apart from that, she also plans to visit universities and schools to present facts about dolphins, because she believes that the problem boils down to ignorance about the nature of dolphons. “We don’t want to blame kids who buys the tickets, nor their parents,” Chandrawinata clarifies.

Having also been in the entertainment industry for a long time, Chandrawinata expressed that she is grateful to have established quite a name for herself in the public eye. It is through this world, she says, that she is able to join forces with musicians, designers, models and public figures to step out and communicate these issues which are close to her heart.

“I am inspired by a lot of people and I hope that my work will be an inspiration for other people as well. From there i hope that it will go on inspiring.”

As the interview came to an end, Chandrawinata mentioned another new venture she has recently embarked on: advocate for New Zealand. And as any of her Instagram followers can tell you, she is also busy promoting her perfume, Sea Gypsy, and her own clothing line, Gamma. Apart from that, Chandrawinata is also an ardent traveler—so ardent, in fact, that she had not been able to stay in Jakarta for a long time. But that’s no longer the case now because she will devote more time to the Sea Soldier movement, and she couldn’t have been happier about the situation. “It gives me great pleasure that now I can finally say I am in Jakarta,” she says with a huge smile.

Dress by Karen Millen

She certainly has a lot on her plate, but thankfully, she hasn’t been overwhelmed by the weight that she has to shoulder. “I’m just making my live more colorful,” she claims. Her ultimate goal, however is not only to inspire, but to create a larger source of inspiration for everybody. “I am inspired by a lot of people,” Chandrawinata concludes, “and I hope that my work will be an inspiration for other people as well. And from there I hope that it will go on inspiring.”

True, there’s no way of knowing how far her influence will go. But it should never be a reason to admit defeat, just like Chandrawinata’s motto in life: “Just do what you have to do.”


Photography Vicky Tanzil
Photography Assistant Juan Sintara & Kezia Adina
Styling Peter Zewet
Styling Assistant Primawan Hakim
Makeup & Hair Morin Iwashita
Text Ricky Ronaldo
Videography Sadam Dwi Satria
Location Fairmont Jakarta