“There is a beauty in ma­tur­ing”

A dra­matic child­hood, fam­ily tragedies and the glare of the spot­light may have chal­lenged Deb­o­rah Hut­ton – but, as she tells Stel­lar’s Jor­dan Baker, at 56, life has never seemed eas­ier

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Contents - Pho­tog­ra­phy DAVID MANDELBERG Styling KELLY HUME

She weath­ered a chal­leng­ing child­hood, fam­ily tragedies and a sober­ing health scare. But model and brand am­bas­sador Deb­o­rah Hut­ton, who is once again team­ing with Myer, says she has never felt more grate­ful for the life she has led.

On the day man landed on the moon in 1969, Deb­o­rah Hut­ton felt a lit­tle like she was on the moon her­self. She was seven years old and liv­ing in Port Moresby, Pa­pua New Guinea, where civic lead­ers had erected a huge screen in a pub­lic square so peo­ple could watch. “We didn’t have tele­vi­sion at that stage,” Hut­ton tells Stel­lar. “No-one there had ever seen mov­ing im­ages, let alone [as­tro­nauts]. We were all watch­ing this thing play out on this mas­sive screen.” Hut­ton’s fam­ily had moved to Pa­pua New Guinea a year ear­lier to fol­low her step­fa­ther’s real es­tate dream – but that never worked out. She would live there for four years, at­tract­ing stares wher­ever she went be­cause Western­ers were rare, and lit­tle blonde girls even more so. Her main com­pan­ion was a cus­cus, a pos­sum-like crea­ture. But even he wasn’t great com­pany, given he was noc­tur­nal.

“It would run around and crawl around the cur­tains at night, and keep ev­ery­one awake,” she re­calls. “Then it would sleep dur­ing the day. I was like, ‘ Wake up, come and play with me,’ dur­ing the day, and he would be snor­ing and go, ‘No, leave me alone.’ I re­mem­ber think­ing, what kind of stupid pet is this?”

The con­tours of Deb­o­rah Hut­ton’s life have been any­thing but con­ven­tional – from the un­usual child­hood de­tour to Pa­pua New Guinea to an ac­ci­dent that left one of her broth­ers brain dam­aged, her per­sonal his­tory has been touched by tri­als and tragedy. But pub­licly, it’s a dif­fer­ent story: she has been a house­hold name in Aus­tralia for more than 40 years, and the glam­orous-yet-ac­ces­si­ble face of some of our most es­tab­lished brands. So, as she tells Stel­lar, her life has also been quite for­tu­nate. The girl with the no­madic, tu­mul­tuous child­hood who left home at 16 went on to achieve things she’d never imag­ined. And now, more than 30 years af­ter her first am­bas­sador­ship with Myer be­gan, she is work­ing with the store again, this time as an ex­am­ple of how beauty can tran­scend age.

THE GIRL ONCE known as Deb­o­rah Hay­lock was two years old when her par­ents sep­a­rated. It was ac­ri­mo­nious, and both par­ents wanted full cus­tody. The court would de­cide that Hut­ton would stay with her mother, while her two older broth­ers would live with her fa­ther. And so the three sib­lings were wrenched apart, des­tined to see each other only a few times a year. “That was re­ally hard,” she re­calls. “Then you would see them and it was won­der­ful and, as sib­lings are, within a week you’d be scream­ing at each other, then in tears when they had to go, or I had to go.”

Hut­ton watched her mother strug­gle, not only with miss­ing her sons, but also to pro­vide for her daugh­ter as a sin­gle woman with a tiny en­dow­ment cheque and no gov­ern­ment sup­port. “It was a very un­pleas­ant time,” she says. They moved around Queens­land and, when her mother re­mar­ried, packed their tea chests onto a con­tainer ship and left for Port Moresby, where they lived in what Hut­ton de­scribes as a “tiny shack place” and opened a small cin­ema af­ter the real es­tate dream died. “I re­mem­ber go­ing to school and was the only white girl there,” she says. “I can’t say I had a great time. It was very prim­i­tive. I kept think­ing, ‘ Why did we come here?’ ”

Af­ter a stint on a stone fruit farm in Stan­thorpe, Hut­ton and her mother moved to Syd­ney. When Hut­ton was 16, she moved out with a 26-year-old boyfriend – much to her mother’s hor­ror – who in­tro­duced her to mod­el­ling. She was told, she re­mem­bers, “My smile would make mil­lions… but that name [Hay­lock] is never go­ing to work.” So the agent looked through the phone book and set­tled on Hut­ton. This Oc­to­ber marks the 40th an­niver­sary of her first mag­a­zine cover: the Oc­to­ber 1978 edi­tion of Cos­mopoli­tan.

“In those days, you did ev­ery­thing your­self,” she says. “Your hair, your make-up, you took all your shoes, your un­der­wear. I was like a cub, and the older women would look af­ter me, and say, ‘ You

all right, dar­ling?’ I learnt to model by watch­ing these ex­traor­di­nary women.” Hut­ton is of­ten de­scribed as a model, but it was ac­tu­ally only a tiny part of her ca­reer. Be­sides which, mod­el­ling was never go­ing to be enough for her. She did well in the Aus­tralian in­dus­try and worked in Europe. But, she says, “Be­cause I was never 100 per cent pas­sion­ate about mod­el­ling, I didn’t give it my all. When you are sit­ting there smok­ing a pack of ci­garettes, knit­ting, cro­chet­ing, wait­ing for that one shot, chat­ting to other women about – what, curl­ing your eye­lashes 20 times a day be­cause you are so bored? – you are count­ing the dol­lars. Lit­er­ally, that is all you are do­ing. There­fore it has a time limit: get in, make your money, go and do some­thing else. Un­less you are Kate Moss. I wasn’t. I had a re­ally good run, and loved it, and got out.”

Hut­ton has fond mem­o­ries of those years, not only be­cause of the women she met through mod­el­ling, but be­cause it was a brief win­dow in time when the three Hay­lock chil­dren were able to spend time to­gether be­fore tragedy struck.

In the late 1980s, her brother Rod, then 27, was liv­ing with his mother in Syd­ney. “It was all about him re­ally get­ting to know his mum,” Hut­ton says. But one night, he and a mate were cross­ing a rail­way bridge when they lost their foot­ing and fell through an un­se­cured fence, drop­ping 30 me­tres onto the track. Rod landed first, and his mate fell on top of him. “Rod was in in­ten­sive care for seven or eight weeks; we didn’t think he was go­ing to make it,” Hut­ton says. “He didn’t break a bone in his body, but [there was] mas­sive brain dam­age.”

He needed full-time care, so the fam­ily sued the State Rail Au­thor­ity and won. The vic­tory gave them enough money to take Rod out of nurs­ing homes and set him up in a home with his own 24-hour carer. “He got to the point where he was pretty good, he could get on a train – Mum was liv­ing in the Blue Moun­tains, he could go and see her,” says Hut­ton. “What was left [af­ter the ac­ci­dent] was this beau­ti­ful spirit – he was a beau­ti­ful boy.”

“Mod­el­ling has a time limit; get in, make your money, go”

In 2007, Rod Hay­lock died from an epilep­tic fit. Within a year, Hut­ton’s other brother David had died, too, from sud­den, ag­gres­sive liver can­cer. For the sec­ond time, her mother, Dell, had lost a son. “Mum has had a very tough life,” says Hut­ton. “And she’s tough, very tough. She does wear a suit of ar­mour. She is ex­traor­di­nary, she is an ab­so­lute sur­vivor. And she is as strong as you will get.”

HUT­TON’S strength comes from her mother. So, too, do her cheek­bones and her ex­traor­di­nary mane of hair, which bounces jaun­tily as she ar­rives at Wylie’s Baths in Syd­ney for her Stel­lar cover shoot.

Hut­ton’s ge­netic hand-me-downs were her ticket to the world of mod­el­ling, which was a mixed bless­ing. The in­dus­try is based on per­fec­tion, so she spent her 20s wor­ried about be­ing judged for her im­per­fec­tions. The fear faded as she grew older. “In my 40s, I felt much more beau­ti­ful than I did when I was younger. I looked at my­self, and I thought, ‘I like the woman I am grow­ing into.’”

She also cred­its not hav­ing chil­dren with be­ing able to re­tain a “child-like sense… You are re­spon­si­ble for your­self and what you do, but there is a thing where you do have a child-like view on life.”

Hut­ton has no in­ten­tion of get­ting a facelift, or stuff­ing her face with filler. “Age is a re­ally beau­ti­ful thing,” she de­clares. “There is a beauty in ma­tur­ing, watch­ing all the lines de­velop. To me it’s the essence of who you are.

“Peo­ple can do lit­tle bits and pieces – I don’t mind a bit of Bo­tox for a bit of cor­rec­tion – but to turn it into some­thing else, to turn your face into some­thing that it’s not, is not me. And I think it hap­pens to a lot of peo­ple, and they lose sight of the per­son within.”

When it comes to her face, Hut­ton has more to worry about than lines. She has had many skin can­cers re­moved, in­clud­ing a par­tic­u­larly dan­ger­ous one that be­came so se­ri­ous doc­tors had to cut from the tip of her nose down to her chin to find the tu­mour. She went into surgery not know­ing how it would af­fect one of her key pro­fes­sional as­sets, her face.

“I might not have had a nose, or I might have had half a lip. It was ter­ri­fy­ing.” In the end, they took out a thumb-sized tu­mour, but left lit­tle scar­ring. The threat is on­go­ing, though. I know [skin can­cer] is my fu­ture,” she says. “We grew up in Queens­land, we didn’t have skin pro­tec­tion then. My fam­ily is rid­dled with them. You have to con­tinue be­ing re­ally stri­dent with pro­tec­tion, lay­er­ing, put­ting a hat on.”

When Hut­ton left mod­el­ling in the early 1980s, she pi­o­neered a ca­reer path in brand am­bas­sador­ship for depart­ment store Grace Bros, which later be­came Myer. “It ended up be­ing one year that turned to three that turned into 14 years,” says Hut­ton. She hosted fash­ion pa­rades, lunches and work­shops. She fronted ad­ver­tise­ments. “I loved it,” she says. “That’s where I did all my train­ing, where I learnt how to get up on stage and talk to peo­ple.”

This year, the part­ner­ship is be­ing reignited. Hut­ton will fea­ture in Myer’s 2018 Beauty Book, which also in­cludes model El­yse Knowles and tat­tooed AFL star Moana Hope. She jokes she’s the “old chick” of the cam­paign.

She looks af­ter her­self – clean diet, plenty of ex­er­cise, lots of wa­ter, am­ple mois­tur­is­ing – then em­braces what she sees in the mir­ror and gets on with her life.

She still vis­its Harry M Miller, her one-time man­ager and, de­spite their 28-year age dif­fer­ence, one of the great loves of her life, who is 84 and suf­fer­ing de­men­tia. She cred­its Miller with trans­form­ing her ca­reer from model and com­pany spokes­woman to ed­i­tor, tele­vi­sion pre­sen­ter and brand am­bas­sador. “For such a bril­liant man, bril­liant brain, such a life, to be suf­fer­ing de­men­tia is in­cred­i­bly sad,” she says.

Hut­ton has an­other ro­man­tic part­ner these days, whose pri­vacy she is care­ful to pro­tect. All she will re­veal to Stel­lar is that his name is Rob, he works in the area of fi­nance, he has young chil­dren, and they have been to­gether for five years. They are build­ing a house to­gether.

“He is a re­ally lovely man,” she says. “He is my bal­ance, he is very grounded. He is the yin to my yang.”

And if life has at times tried Hut­ton, it also seems to be get­ting bet­ter with ev­ery pass­ing year.

“Ev­ery­thing is so much eas­ier, be­cause you are not fight­ing your­self. You are not sec­ond-guess­ing half the time. You are more at ease, more ac­cept­ing. There is a free­dom. You never know where life takes you. You take it on and do your best, and some­how the uni­verse de­liv­ers.”

Shot on lo­ca­tion at Wylie’s Baths, Coogee Beach, Syd­ney

DEB­O­RAH Peter myer.com.au; Pilotto WEARS top, Asilio pants, asilio.com.au; Fer­rag­amo ear­rings (worn through­out), fer­rag­amo.com; Najo ear­rings (sold as a set, worn through­out), najo. com.au; Tony Bianco shoes, tony­bianco.com

DEB­O­RAH WEARS Vic­to­ria Beck­ham shirt; myer.com.au; Scan­lan Theodore skirt, scan­lan theodore.com; Fer­rag­amo ear­rings, as be­fore; Najo ear­rings, as be­fore.

ROLE MODEL (clock­wise from right) Deb­o­rah Hut­ton (sec­ond from left) and friends in Pa­pua New Guinea; with Harry M Miller; Hut­ton (cen­tre), in Myer’s 2018 Beauty Book, with (clock­wise) El­yse Knowles, Ste­fa­nia a Fer­rario, Moana Hope and Tina Yong; mod­el­ling in 1991.

DEB­O­RAH WEARS Vic­to­ria Beck­ham coat, myer.com.au; Anna Quan shirt, myer.com. au; Sport­max pants, sport­max.com; Fer­rag­amo ear­rings, as be­fore; Najo ear­rings, as be­fore

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