Why are ‘Luk kreung’ successful in Thai Media? Half-Asian Advantages…?

“The signs of beauty are the signs of health” (R. Elisabeth Cornwell, psychologist)

The topic I want to address today concerns the increasing success and dominance of ‘luk kreung’, half-Thai people, in Thai entertainment industry since the 1990s. I’ve already brought up this subject in my recent article about ‘Luk kreung’ and concepts of mixed race in Thailand arguing that half-Thais are preferred because of their Western appearance and adherence to the current Thai beauty ideal of fair skin, tall statue and large eyes.

This seems to be a lucid but also a superficial explanation. However, I’ve asked myself if there might also be a scientific interpretation for this phenomenon? Are we maybe justified in saying that half-Asian people possess genetic advantages? I know this sounds controversial but might not there be some truth in it?

Mario and Mai Davika on Volume magazine 180 VOLUME WONDER 9 Cr. Volume Magazine

Half-Asian advantages? Mario Maurer and Mai Davika in Volume magazine 180 VOLUME WONDER 9 (Credit: Volume Magazine)

Taking the example of the lovely ‘couple’ Nadech and Yaya, they have their good looks in common and they are both half-Thai. The same is true of half-Thai actors Mario and Mai Davika whom we know from the comedy ghost movie ‘Phi Mak Phra Khanong’. There are numerous other examples that show ‘luk kreung’ have become a kind of ‘elite’ in Thai entertainment industry. An interesting case is also the luk-kreung actress Florence Faivre in the movie ‘The Siam Renaissance’ (2004). What’s more, Thai youth culture also seems to have incorporated and favoured the presence of half-Thai entertainers in Thai media. Thus, some years ago, the Thai-British actress Paula Taylor said that ‘everyone in the entertainment industry is luk kreung nowadays’ and she seems to be right.

Nadech & Yaya (photo credit Amat Nimitpark via asianfuse.net)

Do ‘luk kreung’ have advantages? Nadech Kugimiya & Yaya Urassaya (photo credit: Amat Nimitpark via asianfuse.net)

Half-Asian advantages

In popular culture, people with mixed racial origins are generally referred to as ‘hapa’ which stems from the Hawaiian Pidgin word for “part” or “mixed”.

As far as ‘luk kreung’ are concerned, there are so many popular half-Thai people in Thai media today. Hence, it only seems natural if society would also go for and embrace a mixed look. Nonetheless, media exposure alone does not completely explain the perception of half-Asian, and in particular half-Thai beauty in this context.

We may assume that half-Asian people possess genetic advantages that let them appear more attractive. For instance, as Psychology Today (1/2006) claims it is a fact that Eurasian faces are generally considered to be more appealing and pleasant than European or Asian faces. One reason for this perception is that Eurasians and other ‘hapa’ people seem to be of good genetic health which makes them attractive. Like R. Elisabeth Cornwell, a psychologist at the University of Colorado, argues: “The signs of beauty are the signs of health”.

Markers of beauty = Markers of health? (photo credit: thebrightnessproject.com))

Markers of beauty = Markers of health? (photo credit: thebrightnessproject.com)

Consequently, we must assume that people who are beautiful must necessarily be more productive and more fit for survival than others…this is a controversial topic, I know and what is beauty anyway? We may define ‘beauty’ as a matter of symmetry concerning features and body statue. What is more, it is also a matter of subjective perception, preference and culture…

In fact, studies have shown that half-Asians seem healthier because of their diverse genetic ancestry which generally lower the chances of particular genetic diseases. Some studies in this field have also revealed that the perception of attractiveness is mainly connected to the appearance of a person’s skin. I’m aware of the fact that this subject is disputable but on the whole I guess the argumentation is right and plausible – diverse genetic ancestry seems to be beneficial to a person’s health 🙂

Nevertheless, it remains controversial if Eurasian features are generally the most attractive. There are also studies that claim the opposite. Well, I think this is primarily a matter of subjective and cultural perception. Considering the case of successful ‘luk kreung’ in Thai media, I think it might be their mix of being at home in different cultures that makes them particularly interesting and desirable.

Hugo Chakrabongse - example of a distinctively mixed heritage (img.kapook.com)

Hugo Chakrabongse Levy – example of a distinctively mixed heritage (img.kapook.com)

A very prominent example of a distinctively mixed heritage with Thai royal origins is Hugo Chakrabongse Levy whose grandfather Prince Chula Chakrabongse (1908-1963) was already a half-Thai. Hugo can be considered a good example of a person who seems to be both comfortable with Thai and Western culture even though he is only 1/8 of Thai origin (amazing!).

In a nutshell, we may certainly be justified in saying that there are half-Asian advantages, considering the fact that people of mixed heritage come inevitably into contact with different cultures generally. Nonetheless, this topic is broad and there remains a lot more to say about advantages and disadvantages that hapa people generally face in different contexts and cultures…this may be a subject for further posts concerning ‘luk kreung’ 🙂

Yours, Sirinya

Nadech and Yaya: Ideal of The Perfect Couple

When I first saw Nadech Kugimiya (Barry) and Urassaya Sperbund (Yaya) in a clip to the Rising Sun Series (Roy Fun Tawan Deard), a series with a Japanese setting, I thought to myself that they are just to good to be true. Both seem so sweet and cute in whatever they do, it’s unbelievable.

Yaya & Barry (photo credit: NY Always Nadech & Yaya)

Yaya & Barry (photo credit: NY Always Nadech & Yaya)

In addition, Nadech and Yaya are extremely good looking, embodying the Thai beauty ideal of a light complexion, large eyes, tall and slender statue and somehow Western features. Being both ‘Luk kreung’, i.e. half-Thai people, this does not appear so surprising at all 😉

Nadech and Yaya – the Ideal Couple

The constant acting and pairing of Nadech, a Thai-Austrian, and Yaya, a Thai-Norwegian, have made them the most favourite and desirable couple in Thai popular culture. Thus, they are greatly admired by a whole generation of Thai teens. In addition, Nadech and Yaya have captured the hearts and imagination of people who dream of the perfect match.

Nadech & Yaya (photo credit: Amat Nimitpark)

Nadech & Yaya (photo credit: Amat Nimitpark)

Nadech, born 1991 in Khonkaen, was adopted by the Japanese Yoshio Kugimiya and his wife Sudarat Kugimiya. He was discovered at the age of 16 and has been working as a model, actor and singer since then. What is more, he has been studying Communication Arts at Rangsit University. Hence, most recently he has presented his short film ‘Mr. Peters’, a project to complete his B.A. at Rangsit. The film is about the Nan’s forest conservation. Thus, Barry is ‘not just a pretty face’ as the Bangkok Post puts forward.

Here are Nadech and Yaya in a recent photo-shoot this month for Marie Claire magazine.

Yaya, born in 1993, has a Norwegian father and a Thai mother. She was discovered relatively early in her teens, at the age of 14, and has been working as a model and actress ever since. She is the darling of the Thai entertainment industry, extremely popular, and one of the highest paid actresses in Thailand. Everyone adores her and even Thai movie star Ananda Everingham admires her sincere personality. Once in Woody Talk show, Ananda spoke of her as “Yaya who always has an aura of sincerity”.

photo credit: NadechYaya.com

photo credit: NadechYaya.com

In fact, Nadech and Yaya have been very successful together. The first time they acted together was in the movie Akkanee’s Heart (Duangjai Akkanee, 2010) which is a kind of ‘Romeo & Juliett’ story. In addition, they starred together in a number of other ‘lakhon’ (Thai term for ‘soap operas’), e.g. ‘Love Game Evil Game’ (Game Rai Game Rak) and ‘Who Own This Land?’ (Torranee Ni Nee Krai Krong).

Apart from acting together, both Nadech and Yaya have several contracts for advertising campaigns with different companies. Together they have also been advertising for Lays potato chips.

I think people are so fascinated by Nadech and Yaya because they appear to be perfect young adults and simply beautiful people who do everything they do effortlessly 🙂 We might also speak of a Ya-Dech Factor in this context. What is more, they also strengthen the assumption that half-Thai people are very popular in the Thai entertainment industry.

Nadech & Yaya in The Rising Sun (phot:o konchke.blogspot.com)

Nadech & Yaya in The Rising Sun (phot:o konchke.blogspot.com)

What do you think about them? Have you been captured by the Ya-Dech Factor? 😉

Yours, Sirinya

Thai Beauty Ideals and Desire for ‘Fair Skin’

Thailand is an interesting case to study as far as beauty ideals are concerned. This is because Thailand, similar to Japan, has never been formally colonized by a European nation. However, the tendency can be observed that in particular Thai women generally strive for aesthetic ideals which can be considered Western. The most prominent beauty image is that of considering fair skin to be more desirable than dark skin.

Thus, it is not surprising that in many Thai advertisements and also in visual arts and paintings, women are generally depicted as light skinned. Perhaps you remember my recent article about traditional Thai make up? Well, the women in the pictures are all perfectly light skinned. Here is just one example:

Thai Beauty Ideals

Traditional Thai Make Up

Traditional Thai Make Up (photo credit: pantip.com)

Ad hoc we might say that this is because people generally desire things that they don’t have and which are not their own. For instance, people in Western countries want to be more tanned because the general conception is that one looks more healthy with sun-tanned than with pale skin. In Asian counties and also in Thailand it is exactly the opposite. Since most Asian people have medium to dark skin, they prefer a light complexion. They hold the opinion that fair skin looks cleaner and thus provides a better aura. Well, we might consider this as a trend that also has some dangerous consequences since some Thai people turn to the use of gluta injection to whiten their skin as the following video discusses.

Nonetheless, the roots of the Thai beauty ideal lies much deeper in history and cultural tradition. Hence, it is influenced by the Indian caste system. In accordance to the Indian thought system, the ideal of ‘whiteness’ was very important in Asia even before parts of the Southeast Asian subcontinent was colonized by European nations. Thus, this conception prevails in most parts of Asia that the lighter skin one has, the higher the future marriage partner’s social class might be.

Hence, the idea that fair skin offers social advantages is buried in the minds of Asian women. What is more, we can also argue that light skin stands for youth, health and wealth in Thailand. White skin is further considered as a symbol of high quality and modesty in women.

Ploy Chermarn Thai actress with fair skin (photo credit: baodoi.com)

Ploy Chermarn, Thai actress with fair skin, beauty ideals (photo credit: baodoi.com)

In addition, and this is a very interesting fact, the concept of ‘face’ is very important in Thailand. This means that on the one side, one should not lose one’s face by bad or immoral behaviour. One should rather maintain one’s reputation which is called ‘rak sa naa’ in Thai. On the other side, the ‘face’ (in the sense of reputation) is also determined by physical beauty. Hence, Thai people strive for ‘naa taa dii’ which means ‘good eyes and face’. Thus, ‘beauty’ is a matter of physical attractiveness and good behaviour and manners in Thailand. For this reason, we can also say that the pursuit of beauty by women and some men is a form of empowerment which lies in beauty in order to attain social acknowledgement.

In conclusion, I think we can say that Thai beauty images are mainly and generally about the desire for fair skin and a European look because this is connected with the idea of a ‘good face’ that also applies to the morals of the respective person. Hence, Thai beauty ideals seem to be a matter of colourism.  Nevertheless, we should mention that last year’s Miss Thailand partly shifted the country’s perception of beauty. Hence, Miss Thailand 2014, Nonthawan ‘Maeya’ Thongleng, has been celebrated and acknowledged as a ‘Dark Beauty’. In fact, she is considered as a walking advertisement against the need for whitening lotions.

Nonthawan 'Maeya' Thongleng, Miss Thailand 2014 (photo credit: bangkokpost.com)

Nonthawan ‘Maeya’ Thongleng, Miss Thailand 2014 (photo credit: bangkokpost.com)

The following video sums up what beauty ideals are about in the West and in Asia. They take the example of China but I think the main points generally apply to Thailand as well.

Have fun watching, it’s kind of funny and not to be taken to seriously 😉

Yours, Sirinya

(A comphrehensive insight into the subject of beauty images in Thailand offers Napat Chaipraditkul: Thailand: Beauty and globalized self-identity through cosmetic therapy and skin lightening, Eubios Ethics Institute, Bangkok, Thailand)