Catching up with model mum Huda Ali: 'I was told I was big-headed'
She was a prominent face in the modelling scene in the 1990s and was among the top supermodels in Singapore then.
Touted as former model Hanis Hussey's protege, Huda Ali, the Asean Model Search 1993 second runner-up, started modelling at the age of 15 after she was discovered by Hanis.
She went on to enjoy a glittering career.
Back in the day, Huda was picked by haircare brand Vidal Sassoon and frequently fronted the covers of now-defunct local lifestyle magazine Go.
She recently appeared in a new SG50 2015 calendar that was a collaboration between Elle Singapore magazine and ION Orchard.
The calendar, which came with the January issue of the magazine, also features former top models like Lum May Yee, Wendy Jacobs, Junita Simon and Irin Gan.
It has been over a decade since Huda left her full-time modelling career.
In 2002, she left Singapore for Milan where she was offered a press relations position at English fashion designer Neil Barrett's company.
She considers that career switch within the fashion industry one of her greatest accomplishments, and held the position until she moved back here a few years ago.
"You can't model forever and for me, it was a step ahead in fashion, working hand-in-hand with a top designer.
"That was a breakthrough in my career. It was something I had always wanted to do," she told The New Paper.
These days, Huda, 39, devotes her energy towards her only child, four-year-old Raoul, with her Italian entrepreneur husband in Singapore. She moved back here after her son was born in 2011.
She also helps with her husband's Italy-based fashion distribution business which sees him on frequent business trips to Milan.
Looking back, one of the things Huda said she learnt from her modelling experience was that it was okay to make mistakes in her youth.
"A lot of people told me I was getting big-headed. I was at the peak of my career from when I was 15 till I was in my early 20s and at that age, the success can be overwhelming.
"But I grew up and learnt that you have to always work hard to prove yourself," she said.
Comparing the scene then and now, she thinks that things have become "more serious".
"Back in the 1990s, we did jumps and acrobatics... it was that crazy.
"Nowadays, people are getting way too serious about fashion but it takes us ahead and it places us as the front runners in the region.
"Still, humour is important for everything in life," she said.
On reuniting with her peers for the SG50 calendar, Huda said she jumped at the chance to work with familiar faces.
"I was a bit sceptical when contacted but when I found out all the girls would be in it, I said 'Hell, yeah!'.
Posing for the camera again was just like old times.
"It's not like we had to do acrobatics and flying sequences so we all felt comfortable and confident.
"The preparation came naturally. I was doing it with my best friends so it was not unfamiliar territory," she said.
Huda said she does not miss modelling at all.
Her son keeps her busy - motherhood, she insisted, is the toughest job of her life.
"I'm kind of a control freak who needs to know what I need to do in the next hour, next five minutes."
As she juggles motherhood, she has also discovered a new interest while she was in Milan - cooking.
"Living in Italy, I got to cook with the flavours of the Mediterranean and that inspired me a lot in my cooking.
"I also love watching cooking shows and I get inspired to add my own twist to my food," she said, adding that she enjoys creating and sharing recipes with her friends.
While she is better at Italian food, she struggles with Asian cuisine.
This passionate home cook even has plans to take her talents to the next level.
"Maybe one day I'll open a restaurant or a beach bar or cafe in Ibiza, who knows?" she said.
Her encounter with Yves Saint Laurent
Like Huda Ali, Junita Simon was a highly sought-after face on the runway in the 1990s.
She was thrust into the spotlight after winning the Ford Models Supermodel of the World Singapore contest in 1995 and has walked for top fashion labels Chanel, Dior and Louis Vuitton.
The 37-year-old enjoyed a successful career until the early 2000s.
In 2003, she married Singaporean general practitioner Dr Amal Dass.
These days, Simon continues her emceeing work while playing mummy to nine-year-old son Rayaan.
She is selective when it comes to modelling gigs, choosing "special jobs that pay well or if they are a favour for a good friend".
It did not take much for her to agree to be part of the SG50 calendar.
The experience, she described, was like a "homecoming".
"It was fun and it felt natural, everything just fell into place immediately.
"These are all people I used to work with all the time and no one was a stranger, so it felt very familiar," Simon told TNP.
One of the best memories of her career was meeting the late French fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent backstage at a show in Paris when she was in her early 20s.
It was for a local TV fashion programme which allowed her interview access to famed international designers such as Karl Lagerfeld and trips to cities like London and Paris.
"We weren't allowed to approach (Yves Saint Laurent) and do interviews but he came up to me and started speaking in French.
"Everyone, especially me, was stunned and in disbelief. I remember he was smiling and I managed a couple of questions before he glided away. I was one lucky girl," Simon said.
In fact, she admitted she has been blessed throughout her career.
"Everything a model could have dreamt of doing, I did it.
"The stars were really aligned for me, everything was mapped out beautifully."
When asked about career lows, Simon was unable to think of any.
"Not a single one, I was very lucky," she insisted.
Simon, who started modelling at the age of 16 and has been based in Hong Kong, Paris and London, barely squeezed in a break at her peak but said the challenge pales in comparison to motherhood.
"It's a lot of fun but it's harder being a mum. For me, I strive to give my son the absolute best in life.
"He's a happy boy and my job is to make sure he is well taken care of, has a great childhood and that I carve out a great life for him," she said.
Asked how motherhood has changed her, Simon, who has no plans at the moment for another child, said: "It's not just me, me, me anymore."
In 2015, her goal is simply to keep her family happy.
She also hopes to strike an item off her bucket list: visit Holland for the first time in 10 years.
Simon, who is of Dutch heritage, said: "I would love to go back even though it will be emotional as my late grandparents, who were a big part of my childhood, are not there anymore.
"Visiting my hangout spots as a child will be a bit tough - I'd be crying buckets - but I would like to show them to my son and husband."
WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
SHEILA SIM, 31
Actress-model, creative director and partner at modelling and artist management agency Nu Management.
This local top model, who was the face of Japanese skincare brand SK-II, is gradually trading the catwalk for the small screen, with recent TV roles in high-profile Channel 8 dramas You Can Be An Angel Too and 118.
In a recent interview with 8 Days, Sim said: "I was never able to call modelling a career but now I feel like I have a career, something I can build."
IRIN GAN, 43
Group product manager at pharmaceutical company Merck's consumer health division.
Best known as wilful older sister Vicky Tay in the hit 90s local family drama Growing Up, Gan now maintains a low profile.
She was unavailable for interviews despite repeated attempts to reach her.
Little is known about her personal life or marital status.
In this month's issue of Elle Singapore magazine she said: "I still have a passion for bikes. Planning to take my Class 2 next year and still want to own a cruiser one day."
LUM MAY YEE, 41
Jewellery designer and director of jewellery business bycanary.
This former model-actress is now a mother of two boys - Aiden, four, and Kinley, five months.
Lum juggles motherhood with her multilabel jewellery concept store at Tangs Orchard, which she opened in December 2013.
CHARMAINE HARN, 37
Founder of crystal jewellery line Charmed.
Even after she stopped modelling full-time in 2007, she was still sought after to walk for Chanel and Salvatore Ferragamo.
She is now busy with Charmed, where she creates customised crystal bracelets.
In a January interview with Elle Singapore magazine , she said she is passionate about "our innate ability to better and heal ourselves", which is something she ties to her business.
NADYA HUTAGALUNG, 39
Eco-activist and co-founder of green awareness website Green Kampong.
The model-host, last seen on the reality TV modelling series Asia's Next Top Model, is also an Earth Hour conservation campaign ambassador. She hosted and produced Let Elephants Be Elephants last year, a documentary about the conservation of the gentle giants and the ivory trade.
Hutagalung, who has three children aged seven, 13 and 21, is married to ex-national swimmer Desmond Koh and is based in Bali.
WENDY JACOBS, 39
Part-time etiquette and grooming teacher at the Institute of Technical Education.
The mother of five and wife of local football veteran and Lions XII coach Fandi Ahmad might one day see her 14-year-old daughter Iman following in her footsteps.
Iman was crowned New Look Miss Fashionista and Miss Popularity when she took part in The New Paper New Face last year.
In 2009, Jacobs suffered a mysterious illness that left her bedridden, paralysed and wheelchair-bound for more than a year.
Her health has since improved and she holds the fort in the family.
PHOTOS: ELLE SINGAPORE AND ION ORCHARD