also available at:
Lifestyle

The OG "Social" Influencer: Nadya Hutagalung

VJ-turned-United Nations Environment ambassador Nadya Hutagalung talks impacting over influencing, sustainable goals and empowerment through contribution.
nadya hutagalung

Hutagalung wears cotton jacket, T-shirt and matching pants, Fendi

She’s an ambassador for multiple international bodies including the United Nations Environment and the World Wildlife Fund; and has been speaking out on conservation since at least 1996. This striking TV host – who first made her name as an MTV Asia VJ in the ’90s – is never not working for one cause or another.

At press time, she had just launched a T-shirt featuring the Tapanuli orangutan – the most endangered species – in collaboration with the ethical clothing label Pangaia, with all proceeds going to the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme. Swipe through her 833k-strong Instagram account and she’s always in some new destination – Bangkok, Jakarta, Dharamshala – for advocacy work such as a recent series of workshops on environmental sustainability, with about 80 per cent of it pro bono. (PS. She flies airlines that offer carbon offsets whenever possible.)

Then there’s her interest in mental wellness. She’s on the board of The Contentment Foundation, an organisation that prioritises well-being in education; and plays unofficial mentor to younger women of influence in their own journey towards social enlightenment. “Influencers need to move from influencing to impacting,” she says. “Once they change their messaging and their benchmarks for success, then the masses will change.”

Her mother has always been vocal about social issues, and becoming a mum herself made the need to do the same more urgent. “The most important thing that you can do is to educate yourself,” she says. “For example, look at the UN’s sustainable development goals and see which one resonates with you most, then find organisations that address those issues. What we can do as humans is to feel empowered that we can contribute.”

Photography Vee Chin Styling Imran Jalal Hair Linh/1tto+LIM Makeup Keith Bryant Lee, using Estee Lauder

This story first appeared in the December 2019 print issue of FEMALE.