updated 13 Oct 2013, 10:38
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Sun, Feb 17, 2013
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Models over 35: Harjana


After an operation at age 30 to remove a benign brain tumour the size of a 50-cent coin, Ms Harjana lost the hearing in her right ear and 70 per cent of the movement on the right side of her face.

"The doctors said I was lucky that the right side of my face hadn't collapsed like most who have a brain tumour that size," says the graphic designer, who goes by one name.

A part-time model then, she had to stop working as she could no longer balance well on the runway. Plus, her limited facial movements affected her confidence.

"It was a dark period," recalls the Indonesian permanent resident, who has lived in Singapore for more than 30 years. "For six months, I covered up all the mirrors in the house. I refused to meet anyone and rejected calls from my friends. I felt ugly and inferior."

Then, six months after the operation, she snapped out of the darkness.

"I just told myself that I had had enough of the negativity and I wanted to go back to who I was." One of the first things she did was to groom her brows and cut her hair. "From there, I started to dress up again to feel like the old me."

She then focused her energies on carving out a new career after taking courses in graphic design. The whole episode has made her stronger, she says, and she has since regained some movements on the right side of her face.

"It made me realise that if you don't give yourself a chance, no one will."

It was her resilience that impressed Ms Linda Teo, the managing director of Carrie Models International. On why she chose to sign Harjana on at Carrie Elegance, Ms Teo says: "She has a strong walk and a good body, and I'm impressed with the fact that she survived her brain tumour with a positive attitude."

Harjana, who is divorced, first heard about the reality TV show, Models Reinvented, from a friend.

When Ms Teo called to ask if she was willing to be a part of it, she hesitated.

"I told Linda I could not smile properly on one side of my face and asked if she was sure she wanted me," she recalls.

"And Linda said, do you care about what people think about you? I said no, and she said, then do it.

"So here I am."

What do you hope to get out of this experience?

I'm taking part in the show because it's something I've never tried. I'm not sure if I'm brave for doing this despite my condition because this is just for fun.

If I can represent a cosmetics brand or if anything comes out of this, it will be a bonus for me. If not, I'm cool with that.

Someday, I'd like to have a shot at acting on stage.

What has been your most memorable moment on the show?

I was sick with food poisoning on the day of the casting, which happened to be the first day of filming too. I was ready to pull out but Linda convinced me to give it a shot. I'm glad I did.

Somehow, I was even able to walk on the runway in heels, something which I've not done for ages.

What do you fear most about ageing?

I don't think about the fact that I'm growing older.

I don't have children and am divorced, so my life is filled with my work and spending time with my dad and brother. I don't actually feel my age. I never celebrate birthdays because I am not sentimental and it takes me a while to figure out my age when people ask me how old I am.

Physically, I am content with my body. I have a high metabolic rate, can fit into most clothes and that is good enough for me. I still wear low-cut dresses because I think I look good in them.

But I hate to see my eyes droop and my face lose its plumpness. And when I don't sleep well, the dark circles show the next day.

What do you do to maintain your looks?

I hate exercising but I swim occasionally. I get Botox every couple of months on my forehead to smoothen the lines and lift my eyes.

What do your loved ones think about you being part of a reality show?

My brother jokingly asks if I will be the first to be disqualified. My friends are looking forward to watching it so they can laugh at me.

What would you say to people who think mature women like yourself should not model?

This whole mature women modelling thing might or might not work.

There's no need to take it so seriously.

But I hope it would get more people to acknowledge the fact that mature women can still look good; and there are plenty of us out there.

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