On the surface, model Aimee Cheng-Bradshaw is the envy of many girls.
Blessed with long, luscious locks, gorgeous Pan-Asian features and a slender 1.75m frame, the Asia's Next Top Model (AsNTM) 3 contestant - the only one representing Singapore this season - appears flawless.
But in the second episode of the reality TV modelling series which aired last week, Korean fashion designer Ha Sang Beg told the 19-year-old that she needed to "work out a little bit more".
Ha, a guest judge for the K-pop-themed photo shoot challenge, criticised Cheng-Bradshaw's figure and insinuated that she should lose weight. She was in the bottom three in that challenge.
He said: "From the picture, I see you've been a bit lazy."
In an interview with The New Paper, Cheng-Bradshaw, who is a Singapore permanent resident with English-Chinese parentage, said: "I was taken by surprise... nobody likes to hear that."
She declined to reveal her weight during the filming of AsNTM earlier this year.
The third season of AsNTM, featuring 13 other aspiring models from the Asia-Pacific region, airs every Wednesday on Star World (Singtel mio Ch 301/StarHub Ch 501) at 8.45pm.
Although Cheng-Bradshaw did not allow Ha's remarks to get her down, it led her to adopt a healthier lifestyle.
She said: "I decided to cut out things that are processed and stick to foods that are as close to nature as possible. I'm also a big fan of circuit training and I'm a dancer. So those are always incorporated into my weekly routine.
"I figured that I needed to take negative criticism and use it to build myself up stronger.
"It could have been my downfall, but I decided at that moment that it wouldn't stop me and I would prove to the judges that I can be a great model nonetheless."
In the following episode, which aired this week, Cheng-Bradshaw won the photo shoot challenge, which showcased the girls' dramatic makeovers.
"I was ecstatic. I remember in the first week, I was very conscious of all the cameras and everybody was watching. So I was nervous.
"But soon, I was a little bit more comfortable with that or maybe I just figured how to tune it all out.
"But something clicked that day and I learnt what it was that the judges were looking for," she said.
Cheng-Bradshaw, who graduated from Singapore American School two years ago, did her first modelling assignment at 13 and focused on her studies after that.
She said: "(I felt that) academics were really important and university as well. So modelling was put on the back burner." Cheng-Bradshaw has secured a place at Durham University in England to study biology and psychology, but has not decided when to matriculate.
Although most of her peers went on to university after high school, she decided to take a gap year to pursue modelling full time.
Signed under Basic Models Management in Singapore, she has travelled to Hong Kong, Bangkok and Taipei for various assignments.
She has modelled for brands such as Cathay Pacific Airways, McDonald's and Ferrero Rocher, walked at Digital Fashion Week and was also last month's cover girl of lad rag FHM Singapore.
"It's the best time for me to explore my options. By the time I finish university, I will be 22 or 23 and by then, it will be really difficult to break into the modelling industry because you'll be a little older than girls who started at 16 or 18," she said.
"It's always easier to stay in your safe zone, to do what all your peers are doing. But I don't want to do that," she said.
For Cheng-Bradshaw, joining AsNTM was a stepping stone rather than an end goal.
"I guess modelling is a platform for me to expand myself as a brand and start my own business one day," she said.
Her dream is to have her own shoe and skincare line.
And also to strut down the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show runway like her favourite model and Victoria's Secret Angel Miranda Kerr, in the brand's famed million-dollar bejewelled centrepiece, the Fantasy Bra.
This article was first published on April 11, 2015.
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