Nuraini Noor, or Tuti, views Asia’s Next Top Model as a great platform to launch her career globally.

LAST Thursday night, I managed to catch the premiere episode of Asia’s Next Top Model (AsNTM).

And, I bet many Malaysians were tuning in to the show, too, since this Asian spin-off of the popular US TV show America’s Next Top Model features our very own as a contestant.

Nuraini Noor, or Tuti as she is more fondly known (and her name rhymes with my favourite yoghurt ice-cream yay!), does seem to be made for high fashion, especially with her angles and long perfect pins that go on for miles.

With her down-to-earth demeanour and the Malaysian flavour vibes that she gives out, these elements will surely make her a strong favourite to move on forward.

Her model-stares can leave men, and some women, frozen in their tracks.

As I watched the show, I recall the first time the Entertainment Desk was told about the sole Malaysian Malay contestant, at the beginning of last month.

We were, of course, pleasantly surprised by this new development.

I hope Tuti would repeat the win made by our very own Sheena Liam, who took home the title of AsNTMin Season 2.

For the uninitiated, other Malaysian contestants who made it on the show were Melissa Th’ng (Season 1), Josephine Tan (Season 2), Shareeta Selvaraj and Melissa Tan Li Hsia (Season 3).

Naturally, I felt proud and happy that I ordered buckets of popcorn to celebrate the momentous occasion! No, actually, that was just an exaggeration. I was on a diet and needed a cheat day.

Anyway, a sense of pride and accomplishment quickly enveloped me.

My heart smiled.

It felt wonderful.

The caramel flavoured popcorns were delicious, too.

We quickly made plans to set an interview with Tuti.

After what seemed to be an endless email communication between the agency (which is responsible for promoting the show on our shores), and our desk, we finally managed to block a date with the hot model.

A day before the confirmed interview was to have taken place, one of our writers prepared a long list of questions to pose to her, only to be informed by the agency, via email, that it had to be called off.

However, the agency said we could still catch up with her at the show’s official launch, held a day before the show was to go on air.

I felt a little disappointed that the planned chat with Tuti over coffee went out the window.

I figured that the last-minute cancellation must have been connected to the controversy surrounding her participation in the show.

Tuti is a Muslim.

So, when news of this Kuala Lumpur-born participating in AsNTM broke a couple of weeks ago, it went viral on social media, triggering an influx of online comments.

Some were rooting for her, while some were quick to express their resentment, calling for her to withdraw from the show as they deemed her participation as inappropriate.

But, at the launch, Tuti hit back at her critics.

“I try to be as balanced as possible and not cross certain boundaries, but, at the same time, still make progress in my career.

As a Muslim woman, I am proud to be able to be a part of this international competition and show that my religious beliefs can co-relate with my career in the modelling industry,” she told the press.

“I want to learn, grow and stretch my horizons but still stay true to my beliefs,” she said, when asked if being a Muslim model would send a wrong message to the rest of the local girls who shared the same beliefs and religion.

While I admire her bravery to stand her ground, I am sure Tuti was all prepared and aware that it was not going to be an easy ride the moment she decided to be in this competition.

Well, it looks like this bubbly 24- year-old has made her choice and she is sticking to it! Everyone has her own story to tell, and whether we agree with her stance or not is entirely another matter altogether.

We should learn to respect others and let people make their own choices, whether it’s a mistake or not in our minds.

It’s their life really, and not ours to call the shots.

Besides, our jobs in life aren’t to judge what someone else does, but rather to be there if, in the end, he or she makes a wrong decision and needs us.

Passing judgment is probably one of the most unproductive things one can do.

And, I wish I could say I have never been the judgmental kind, but looking back, I know I have.

Often, it is subconscious, where you automatically frown at something someone tells you, or even roll your eyes when you see someone does something not to your liking.

Yes, my advice can be sagely but do read more on what I have to say.

I think the best thing to do is to try to understand where someone might be coming from.

And, if you can’t do that, accept that you can’t understand and move on before making a judgment.

It is certainly okay to have an opinion on anything but make it more about you.

Tuti views AsNTM as a great platform to launch her career globally, and we cannot deny that at the end of the day, it is a real Asian-level competition to see who has what it takes to make itto the top.

Let’s view AsNTM as a sporting event with Tuti aiming to give Malaysia that big coveted win.

Bottom line, Tuti represents our nation and she is up against bigger Asian countries in this showdown.

And, the only thing she wanted from her fellow Malaysians is to root for her.

That’s all.

Let’s hope that Tuti succeeds to be the last model standing and puts Malaysia on the global map.

So, chin up dear Tuti and keep your head high.

Take on the runway with a proud swagger.

Oh, and just bring home the champion title while you’re at it will ya! Hail Tuti!

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Hizreen Azleena Kamal is a passionista with a keen interest in showbiz and pop culture (online shopping included!). And, oh, she is also the entertainment editor