Ardilla was born Raden Rara Nike Ratnadilla on 27 December 1975 in Bandung to parents of Ciamis and Bandung descent. Her father worked for the Indonesian railway operator PT Kereta Api, and the family had to move periodically throughout her childhood. They eventually settled in Bandung, West Java, where Ardilla began performing in talent shows at the age of 5, winning a local singing competition in 1980. In 1986 she joined the cast of the film Kasmaran, starring Ida Iasha, and Slamet Rahardjo. Ardilla played Ida Iasha's daughter.
In 1987 Ardilla contributed to a compilation album titled Bandung Rock Power, which featured Nicky Astria, Mel Shandy, and other well-known artists. In 1988 she recorded a single on the soundtrack of the film Kabayan Saba Kota and made a cameo appearance in it. In the same year, she won Best Model Catwalk in the "LA Model Contest" in Bandung.
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