Paula Hamilton (born 23 January 1961) is an English model, best known for her appearance in the classic 1987 Mk II Volkswagen Golf TV advert “Changes”. In 2006, she returned to public recognition as a judge on Living TV’s Britain’s Next Top Model, for two series.
Paula was brought up in South Africa by her mother and stepfather but moved to Hertfordshire when she was eight years old. She is dyslexic and didn’t learn to read and write until she was 11. Paula attended the Licensed Victuallers School in Slough along with Simon Cowell and Nicholas Cowell who both attended for 1 year. She left school at 16. Paula has eleven half-siblings.
At the age of 17, after several rejections as a model, Paula moved to Tokyo and worked for 18 months. She then established herself in Australia and Germany before moving to Italy.
After being discovered by photographer David Bailey, she became the main model of the Queen’s couturier Sir Hardy Amies. Her successful modelling career was, however, hampered by her battles against alcohol and cocaine. During a tough interview with top Italian photographer Fabrizio Ferrei, Paula was told her hair was too long for the job. She promptly cut her hair, got the job, and went on to learn the tricks of the trade at Ferrei’s side.
By the age of 24 Paula was signed to Elite, New York and lived in New York until 1988, working on campains for Coty, Revlon, Clinique and Gap.
Paula reached the zenith of her modelling career at the age of 27, when she appeared in an iconic 1987 television advert for the Volkswagen Golf. “Changes” starred Paula, made up to resemble Diana, Princess of Wales.She is seen leaving her husband, posting her wedding ring back through the letterbox, ditching her fur coat, and throwing the house keys at the cat – but keeping the car keys. “If only everything in life was as reliable as a Volkswagen” ran the tagline. The advert began a new era in car advertising.
In 2000 she went to New Zealand to study Business.
In 2006, it was announced that Hamilton, at the age of 45, had been re-signed by the leading agency Models 1, who hoped to capitalise on the popularity of more mature models, led by Twiggy and her successful advertising campaign for Marks & Spencer.
Television and Films
Paula got her first TV presenting break in 1991 with the BBC show Good Sport. She presented The Clothes Show and Swank, with Margi Clarke and David Emmanuel, for ITV in 1994. Paula could also be found driving a huge range of vehicles, including a Chieftain Tank on The Road Show in 1996/97.
In 1996, Paula featured in the music video accompanying hugely successful British boyband Take That’s last single “How Deep Is Your Love”. The single reached number one on the UK singles chart.
Paula was also a mentor and judge on the second and third series of Britain’s Next Top Model on Living TV, presented by model Lisa Snowdon. In addition to modelling, Paula turned her hand to presenting and acting, appearing in feature films Mad Dogs & Englishmen, Monk Dawson, The Ring and the Life of a Serial Killer. Paula released her autobiography entitled Instructions Not Included in 1996.
In May 2011 Paula starred in the second series of Channel 4s Celebrity Five Go To in which the celebrities visited South Africa.
Paula Hamilton is now signed to London-based MandP Models.
Paula received therapy in 2006 and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. It was revealed in 2007 that Paula was in fact suffering from dyspraxia. See Challenges for more information.