It’s surprising to discover then, that during her incredibly successful modelling career, Hutton wasn’t nearly as confident as she appeared in the public eye. In fact, quite the opposite. “Was there a time I felt uncertain or fearful during my career? Ha! My whole life I felt that way,” she exclaims with a laugh. “I left school during fifth form, so I was almost 16, and because I didn’t do my HSC (Higher School Certificate), I had a bit of a chip on my shoulder. For a long time, I thought I was uneducated, even though I went to a very good school and learnt about life ‘on the road’. But I always felt a little in over my head – like I had to pretend to be a bit older, or appear more worldly or mature, because I started working at such a young age.”
“There was this image I was projecting and people were buying into that. Little did they know, I like to swear and I love a drink. But I always felt I needed to be a particular type of person; so there were many decades of great insecurity.”
It took Hutton two decades, in fact, to finally be comfortable in her own skin. “I didn’t really allow myself to be who I was until my 40s. So it took a good 20 years of trying to figure it all out. I think because I was ‘the face’ of Myer and ‘the face’ of Holden, I had to be who they wanted me to be. “There was this image I was projecting and people were buying into that. Little did they know, I like to swear and I love a drink. But I always felt I needed to be a particular type of person; so there were many decades of great insecurity.”
All this, despite the fact she graced countless magazine covers (both internationally and in Australia), was the editor of Australian Women’s Weekly for a decade, had high-profile brand campaigns, had her own homeware line and hosted multiple TV shows. “Even though I’d host these incredible events and people would always compliment me on my confidence, I would think to myself, ‘No, that’s all bullshit.’”
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An Introduction To Modelling
Born in England (Hutton’s father was a Qantas flight engineer and the family were based in the UK as part of the new ‘Kangaroo Route’), her family returned to Australia when she was about six months old. “We lived in Brighton-Le-Sands, I think on Bay Street – and I have this vivid memory of being very young, sitting with my two brothers on a little brick wall in the sun, playing… That’s probably my earliest memory,” she says with a big smile.
Then, during her formative years, Hutton and her family moved around. “I went to like eight or nine different schools. I was always the new girl on the block, always the one saying ‘G’day, I’m Deb’. Just before I turned 16, my boyfriend at the time thought I could be a model. I had left school without a plan and he was the one who suggested I get some photographs taken. My life was a blank canvas and I was able to paint it the way I wanted to. It made me very resilient.”
Hutton now sees this resilience as her greatest strength – something she calls on when things get tough. “I grew up under a very strong, resilient, independent mother. I’ve had a lot of challenges in my life and when things didn’t work out, I found a strength within myself. I can actually feel it, the whole ‘big girl britches’ thing. I’ve been through some really dark times and I’ll allow myself to be in that space. But when I start to come out of it I can almost literally feel my hands going down and pulling myself up within my body. I’ll also hear, ‘You’ve got this – you can do this’.”
Hutton’s Second Cancer Scare
These words would have certainly rung in Hutton’s ears when she discovered she had skin cancer for the second time. “I’d been at that same point 11 years prior when I got the same skin cancer again. But the shock was a little different because I thought, ‘Oh no, we’re back here again.’ Knowing what I’d been through the first time, it scared me more because I kept looking at the area on my face, wondering, what are they going to do now?
“You know, the vanity element came into it because my face has been my career. I didn’t know if they would keep cutting, or if I’d need a skin graft because that wasn’t going to be pretty. All these things went through my mind. And then there was the photograph that changed everything…”
“In my 45 years of modelling, THAT photograph is probably the best photograph I’ve ever had taken.”
It was a nurse who took a photograph of Hutton’s face, post-surgery, that quickly went viral. “I think about all of the magazine covers I’ve appeared on, and the hundreds and thousands of photographs that have been taken of me. In my 45 years of modelling, THAT photograph is probably the best photograph I’ve ever had taken because it’s done the most good. It’s led me onto this whole new path that I’m eternally grateful to be on. When I posted that image, I went from seeing social media as this horrible place to it being positive and inspiring. It has connected me with so many people, and it’s given me a new impetus in life.”
Part of that impetus is to share her story with others and shine a light on the importance of skin protection. “I want to talk about skin cancer, about how important it is to get your skin checked and how important it is to protect yourself from the sun. The most important message to get across is to get onto these things early. As soon as they start entering the bloodstream, you can be in serious trouble. It doesn’t even have to be melanoma – even if it’s a BCC(basal cell carcinoma) or an SCC (squamous cell carcinoma) – unattended, they can be infiltrating.
“This conversation has become something I’m so passionate about. I know I’m going to have more cancers cut out in the future. I know this area (she circles the lower half of her face) is like a freeway for cancer cells to run around and, god forbid, it comes back in the same place. But I’m prepared for whatever is going to come my way.”
Taking Care Of Herself Inside and Out
Part of Hutton’s preparation is living a very healthy lifestyle, something she admits to not always adhering to. “When I was younger, I was the worst model,” she exclaims. “I ate really badly, I didn’t exercise, I smoked too many cigarettes – it was terrible. And you take it all for granted because your body is your body, but as you get older, things start to slip. I actually started looking after myself quite late in life.”
Health is now Hutton’s most treasured possession, without question. “It is the most prized possession any human being can have,” she says. “For the past 20 years, I’ve been very conscious of exercising, supplements and having a good therapist. However, this last year has been interesting…
“You only have one life to live and you have to live it to the fullest, in every way possible.”
“I moved out of Sydney recently and it’s been very disruptive in terms of the pillars I’ve had for so long. I went to Bondi Icebergs Gym twice a week religiously for 21 years! I did Pilates for 10 years. I lost those pillars when I moved. Before I knew it, I was completely out of whack. I realised how important exercise is for me – for my emotional and physical strength, and to always feel grounded. So I’ve only just found a great gym, and good Pilates teacher down here. I can’t tell you how much better I feel because I know I’ve got things in place. You only have one life to live and you have to live it to the fullest, in every way possible.”
The Launch Of Canopy Hats
For Hutton that means a myriad of things, including launching not one, but two brands at around the same time: Home With Deborah Hutton, and Canopy Bay – a hat line that’s close to Hutton’s heart because it offers UPF50+ protection. “Going back to that one photograph, I was inundated with so many messages and emails from people. In the mix was a message from a Rigon, an Australian hat company. They said, ‘Do you realise the hats you’re wearing aren’t necessarily giving you the right protection?’ I did not. So we set up a meeting and they introduced me to this thing called ‘Flexi-braid’. It’s this part-recycled material that is braided together in a specific way to reflect UV rays.
“I genuinely had no idea there was such a thing,” admits Hutton. “I’ve been a golfer for 20 years and I’d wear a golf cap or visor, which does nothing to protect your ears or neck. Of course, I’d slap on a bit of SPF – that’s a given – but in terms of five or six hours out in the full sun, there was no protection whatsoever. So, this material was a revelation to me. They asked if I’d be interested in designing a hat range and I instantly said yes.”
Not only are Canopy Bay hats Australian-made, the width of the brim and the tightness of the weave are what allows them to be UPS50+. They also look fantastic, and the material is incredibly durable. “I wear an SPF50 tint on my face every day, and when you wear a hat, your make-up normally transfers onto the inside of it, right?” says Hutton. “Well, I just put the brim bit under the tap and with a little scrubbing brush I can scrub off any make-up. The hats are waterproof and they flat-pack beautifully so you can travel with them – I take three with me when I go away. They’ve also got this really soft insert that doesn’t leave any marks on your forehead, and you can pull them tight so they sit on your head perfectly,” she explains.
“My boyfriend is a meditation teacher and he once said to me, ‘Spend your celebrity well.’ … My ‘celebrity’ has given me a platform that is more meaningful now than anything I’ve really done in the past.”
Above all, the range has purpose and meaning – essential proponents for any collaboration that Hutton will put her name to. “My boyfriend is a meditation teacher and he once said to me, ‘Spend your celebrity well.’ This opportunity has allowed me to share my story and perhaps change lives. My ‘celebrity’ has given me a platform that is more meaningful now than anything I’ve really done in the past. With every opportunity I ask myself, does this fit me, does it feel right, and is it good for me? I’ve been lucky that I’ve chosen well, or I’ve been advised to choose the right things.”
Choosing The Right People To Work With
Hutton refers a lot to the people she surrounds herself with and trusts, and says she thrives in a collaborative environment. “I’ve been self-employed all my life, but I love working within a team. In television you work with the team, in creating a home line you work with the team – everything I’ve done, I’ve worked with somebody. It’s about choosing those people, and I’ve chosen well. I’ve made those relationships work and that’s given me longevity. The critical thing in business is the human relationships you have around you – choosing well will always help pave the way for a positive future.”
And if there is one thing for certain, Hutton’s future is positive. This is a woman who embraces each and every day, especially if her ‘life motto’ is anything to go by; “It’s ‘live each day as if it’s your last because one day you’re going to be right (laughs)’. I believe every day is a gift. Life is very short, particularly as the decades go on, and I don’t regret anything – there’s not one thing. Even though things have gone sideways – whether it be a relationship or work situation – I’ve never thought, ‘Well, that’s a shame I did or didn’t do that.’ It’s all a learning curve. It’s about evolving as a human being because that’s going to allow me to take the next step, whatever that step may be.”
Take Five With Deborah Hutton
Describe yourself in three words: Grounded, empathetic, fun.
What did you want to be when you were little? Oh, that’s easy! I was growing up to be a primary school teacher! I was obsessed with… I don’t know… telling people what to do (laughs). Maybe chalk boards. I loved the whole environment of teaching, books and the smell of stationery.
One thing about you that would surprise people? I’m a bit of a crazy dog lady. I bought a T-shirt the other day that says, ‘So sorry I’m late, I saw a dog.’ I had a dog for nine years and I lost her, unfortunately. I’ve never quite gotten over that. But I’m desperate to get another one.
How do you celebrate success? Usually with a drink (laughs). I definitely like to celebrate success as I go. I also have this annual thing I’ve been doing for about 25 years; I call it ‘The Hutton Office Christmas Party’. Well, it started as a ‘lunch’ but it always goes on way too long.
What’s the best decision you ever made? I think leaving school at 16, I really do. As much as I didn’t have a clue where I was going, I’m grateful for the life I’ve had because of it.
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