Nadech Kugimiya: Thai-Austrian Actor

For some years now, half-Thai actor and model Nadech Kugimiya has been a popular face in Thai media and the entertainment industry. Hence, he is famous on Channel 3. I think there is hardly any Thai teenager who does not know him. As a devoted reader of my blog, you may know that I have dealt with him shortly in my article about Nadech & Yaya. Nonetheless, there is of course a lot more to say about him seen individually 🙂

Nadech Kugimiya

Nadech (photo credit: Nadech Kugimiya FC, FB page)

Nadech (photo credit: Nadech Kugimiya FC, FB page)

Nadech, nicknamed Barry, was born 1991 in Khonkaen and his original name was Chonlathit Yodprathum. He is considered to be of Thai-Chinese and Austrian descent. At the beginning of his career there was some confusion about his origins and background because people generally assumed that he must be part-Japanese because of his last name ‘Kugimiya’. What is more, he also has the appearance of a Japanese manga character with his light complexion, thick eyebrows and doe eyes 🙂


However, Barry was brought up by his aunt Sundarat and her husband, the Japanese Yoshio Kugimiya. Nadech adores his Japanese foster father and this is the reason why he himself claims to be half-Japanese, even though he is not. However, Nadech does not know Japanese but speaks fluently in Thai and Isan dialect.

Barry (photo credit: women.sanook.com)

‘Barry’ Nadech Kugimiya (photo credit: women.sanook.com)

Barry was discovered at the age of 16 and has been working as a model, actor and singer since then. Up until today, he has been in numerous Thai commercials and on magazine covers. For example, he was in commercials like Trident chewing gum with actress Pachrapa Chaichua, Shokubutsu shower cream for Men, Samsung Monte 3G, Yamaha Fino, Baoji shoes and Lays with Thai-Norwegian actress ‘Yaya’ Urassaya Sperbund.

What is more, he was the first brand ambassador and brand presenter for Thai Air Asia. He was also a surprise guest flight attendant serving snacks to the delighted passengers in 2014 🙂

Nevertheless, Barry is not only a ‘pretty face’ – he has been studying Communication Arts at Rangsit University. Hence, most recently he has presented his short film ‘Mr. Peter’s Project’ which is a work to complete his B.A. at Rangsit. The film is concerned with the Nan’s forest conservation. Hence, Barry’s aim is to raise an awareness of deforestation. Here is the film, though only available in Thai.

Nadech has been in numerous TV series and films since 2010 when he debuted in Ngaorak Luangjai.  Furthermore, he gained  popularity with his work in the series 4 Hua Jai Haeng Khun Khao (Duang Jai Akkanee or Akkanee’s Heart). He played the character of Fai Akkanee Adisuan starring alongside Urassaya Sperbund.

Nadech & Yaya in Akkannee's Heart (photo credit: iheartlakorns.com)

Nadech & Yaya in Akkanee’s Heart (photo credit: iheartlakorns.com)

What is more, he was in Gamerai Gamerak or Love Game Evil Game as “Saichon/Charles Makovich” and in The Rising Sun series also starring alongside Yaya Urassaya. He had a very popular role in Sunset at Chaophraya (Khu Kam, 2013) playing the Japanese engineering officer Kobori who falls in love with a nationalistic Thai beauty called Angsumalin. He also sang the song to this movie.


Hence, it does not come as a surprise that he also won Best Actor from Starpics Thai Film Award for his role of Kobori in Sunset at Chaophraya. This is really well-deserved!

Finally, we may say that Nadech Kugimiya is certainly one of the hottest luk kreung actors in Thailand at the moment. With good reason, he can be called Mr. Everywhere because he is frequently spotted on magazine covers, in television commercials, billboards and soap operas. You cannot escape Barry, thus you must love him 🙂

Yours, Sirinya

Media Review: Very Thai – Everyday Popular Culture

Today’s media review is about Very Thai: Everyday Popular Culture by Philip Cornwel-Smith (text & photographs) and John C. Goss (photographs) (ISBN: 978-6167339375). The 2nd edition of this book was published in 2013 by River Books Co., Ltd. Bangkok, Thailand. Compared to the 1st edition from 2005, the 2nd edition has been expanded and fully updated comprising 209 new photos, 64 more pages and four extra chapters. The book is in English language, comprises 320 pages and 590 colour photos, hardcover. It costs 995 Bath, on Amazon the book is about 22 EUR.

Very Thai: Everyday Popular Culture

'Very Thai', cover of the 2nd edition 2013

Very Thai: Everyday Popular Culture, cover of the 2nd edition 2013

Very Thai: Everyday Popular Culture by Philip Cornwel-Smith & John Goss (photographs) can be regarded as a very influential best-selling guide to Thai pop culture and street life. The 2nd edition has been revised to reflect the dramatic changes in Thailand.

The British author Philip Cornwel-Smith has been living in Bangkok since 1994. He is the founding editor of Bangkok’s first international-standard city listings magazine called ‘Bangkok Metro’. Furthermore, he has written for various international media concerning Thailand. A few examples of his works are guidebooks like ‘Eyewitness Thailand’, ‘Thailand: A Traveller’s Companion’, ‘Lonely Planet’s World Food: Thailand’ and ‘Time Out Bangkok’.

‘Very Thai’ can be described as a book reflecting modern Thai consciousness which may also be referred to as ‘Thainess’. In an amusing manner, the work gets to the bottom of what makes something ‘very Thai’. The books starts off with a a preface by Alex Kerr who is also the author of ‘Bangkok Found’. Next follows an introduction addressing the central question of what makes something ‘very Thai’ and explaining how the 2nd edition differs from the 1st one. In this context, the author points out that the new edition records how Thailand has changed since ‘Very Thai’ was launched a decade ago.

What could be more Thai than a farang in a Tuk-Tuk? (photo credit: Very Thai, FB page)

What could be more Thai than a farang in a Tuk-Tuk? (photo credit: Very Thai, FB page)

Hence, ‘Very Thai’ has five chapters which are divided into several sections. The chapters are about ‘Street’, ‘Personal’, ‘Ritual’, ‘Sanuk’ and ‘Thainess’.

The chapter ‘Street’ is concerned with streetlife in Thailand. Thus, it covers topics like street food ranging from drinks in bags to insect snacks. It also deals with common sights on Thai streets like different kinds of vendors, soi animals, blind musicians, tangled wires and trash recyclers. What is more, ‘Street’ is also about the different and sometimes funny and amusing means of transportation on Thai streets ranging from Tuk-tuks to floral truck bolts and colourful bus art.

Amusing way of Thai transportation (photo credit: wilkipedia.com)

Amusing way of Thai transportation (photo credit: Les Wilk, wilkipedia.com)

‘Personal’ reveals a lot about Thai mentality and lifestyle. For instance, this chapter addresses themes like male and female grooming habits, nicknames, high society (Hi So) and the delight in dressing alike in uniforms. What is more, there is also a section about the ‘Katoey, Gay & Tom-Dee’ community. However, it also addresses other topics like potted gardens, portable plants for luck and lifestyle, and the urban Thai dream in form of malls, theme parks and the suburb.

Bangkok as a World City & the urban Thai dream

Bangkok as a World City & the urban Thai dream (photo credit: Siwaphong Pakdeetawan, Instagram@knack66)

As the title of the chapter ‘Ritual’ suggests it is all about Thai traditional rituals and culture. For instance, the author explains the use and meaning of royal portraits in establishing the Thai sense of identity. He further explains that the days are colour coded in Thailand, and that lucky numbers dictate prices. The sections about ‘Amulet Collectors’, ‘Trade Talismans’, ‘Taxi Altars’, ‘Fortune Tellers’, ‘Ghosts Stories’ and ‘Mediums & Shamans’ are all concerned with superstition and animist beliefs in Thai culture. Thus, the author is also concerned with ‘Magical Tattoos’, which we know as Sak Yant, entrancing the wearer.

Tattooed Monk of Wat Bang Pra (photo credit sak-yant.com)

Tattooed monk of Wat Bang Pra (photo credit: sak-yant.com)

‘Sanuk’ (Fun) is very important in Thai culture. Thus, this chapter is about ‘sanuk’ activities like temple fairs, festivals, gambling and animal contests like cock fighting. In addition, there is also Muay Thai, different kinds of beauty contests, celebrities, comedy and soap operas that make Thai life fun. What is more, it also mentions the importance of Thai folk-blues (‘Songs for Life), Thai country music (luuk thung) and the Thai independence music scene which produces ‘Songs for Lifestyle’.

The final section ‘Thainess’ is the new chapter in this book. It is about ‘Vernacular Design’, ‘Contemporary Thainess’, the rise of ‘Thai Thai’ retro culture and an afterword concerning the ‘Role of Very Thai’ by Pracha Suveeranont who is an expert on visual culture.

In my view, Very Thai: Everyday Popular Culture is an amazing and amusing read providing profound insight into Thai mentality, pop culture and street life. Mixed with presenting some oddities in Thai culture and tradition, this guide is truly fun and cool to read 🙂 In fact, the book itself is cult! I can highly recommend it to everyone interested in modern Thai culture and Thainess in particular.

Yours, Sirinya

‘Yaya’ Urassaya Sperbund: Thai-Norwegian Actress

If you are into Thai popular culture, you certainly know the lovely Thai-Norwegian actress and model ‘Yaya’ Urassaya Sperbund. I have dealt with her shortly in my post about ‘Nadech & Yaya’ because they are the most favourite and desirable couple in Thai media today. However, there is a lot more to say about the young actress seen individually 🙂

Yaya Urassaya (photo credit: Lostinheaven, sharerice.com)

Yaya Urassaya (photo credit: Lostinheaven, sharerice.com)

Yaya Urassaya – Her Story

Yaya (ญาญ่า) was born in 1993 to a Thai mother and a Norwegian father in Pattaya. She was discovered as a model at the age of 14 but when she was younger, she claimed to have been like the ugly duckling. Thus, for some years she had to wear braces but that is in the past. Today, she is a gorgeous and amazing actress famous in Thailand.

Yaya (photo credit: women.sanook.com)

Yaya (photo credit: women.sanook.com)

Even though she grew up in Thailand, she could not speak much of Thai language in her younger years because she went to an International School, had predominantly American friends and at home she would talk English to her father. Later when she worked with Channel 3, she had to learn Thai in order to be able to speak the language properly.

Nevertheless, Yaya is a Thai girl at heart and her mother also taught her Thai mannerisms and politeness. What is more, she is a Buddhist and went frequently to the temple with her mother as a small girl.

Yaya (photo credit: Volume 183, NadechYaya at Pantip.com)

Yaya (photo credit: Volume 183, NadechYaya at Pantip.com)

She is a self-confident model and actress today but when she talks she sometimes appears to be shy. However, Yaya smiles and laughs a lot. Hence, it is really surprising that she actually wants to become a lawyer or a politician. Being an actress was not her first career choice but of course she is happy with that too 🙂 In fact, she is now one of the highest paid actresses in Thailand! In the following clip, she talks about her upbringing and her career as an actress. This is really interesting!

Hence, Yaya has been in numerous commercials and she is also frequently spotted as a cover girl on glossy magazines like Volume, Image, Mistine and WE, just to name a few.

As far as I know, she has been in about 13 dramas up until today. In TV series, she is frequently paired with Nadech Kugimiya, for instance in The Rising Sun. Thus, it does not come as a surprise that she has already won many awards for her dramatic ability. For instance, she was titled ‘Popular Leading Actress’ by the Mekkhala Television Awards. Her most famous series is ‘Game Rai Game Rak’ starring as Nang Fah (Fahlada) alongside Nadech Kugimiya.

In her second series called ‘Torranee Ni Nee Krai Krong’, she also starred with Nadech. In this film she played the character of Nong Nee (Darunee). Yaya herself also recorded the theme song for the series ‘Torranee Ni Nee Krai Krong’ which is called ‘Ar Karn Ruk’ (Symptoms of Love).

What is more, she also was in Thai-French singer Chin Chinawut’s music video ‘My bad habit’. Hence, she is also a skilled dancer and a talented singer as demonstrated in the first clip, in which she sings a duet with James Ji.

Finally, we may say that Yaya Urassaya is an amazing, versatile and promising young luk kreung actress. With good reason, she is so popular and has millions of fans 🙂

Yours, Sirinya

Ananda Everingham on Personality and ‘Hi So’ (High Society)

Ananda Everingham can be considered an outstanding Thai movie star, even though he is not Thai but of Australian-Lao descent. In addition, Ananda also seems to be a contradictory personality. You may already know all of this if you’re a devoted reader of this blog 😉

Hence, he calls himself a shy person who does not know how to entertain people well. What is more, in his youth he had troubles with the establishment but at the same time he was very much interested in classic world literature. However, nobody can deny that Ananda is a prominent and self-confident actor in many recent high-budget Thai films today, although he claims to suffer from stage-fright. Thus, one might be inclined to ask oneself how this all goes together and what it does reveal about his personality?

Ananda Everingham

Ananda Everingham in 'Hi So' (photo credit: theguardian.com)

Ananda Everingham in ‘Hi So’ (photo credit: theguardian.com)

It seems that the actor does not want to reveal to much of his actual personality. Hence, Ananda is very versatile in his roles and filmmaking thus avoiding to be stereotyped. He claims that he does not want “(…) to get stuck in a genre and I don’t want to be stereotyped. I don’t want to be seen as the action guy or the comedy actor or even the cool guy. I like it when my personality has nothing that associates with the characters I play”.*

Scene from 'Hi So' (photo credit: frontrowreviews.co.uk)

Scene from ‘Hi So’ (photo credit: frontrowreviews.co.uk)

Thus, we might call Ananda chameleon-like when choosing his roles. However, in this context, I think it’s also interesting to take a look at the independent art house movie ‘Hi So’ (High Society, 2010) because Ananda plays himself in this film and thus it is very personal and intimate to him. Thus, he claims ‘High Society’ “a very personal film because I’m playing myself, but it includes my director’s (Aditya Assarat) past and his story”.*

In short, we may say that the movie ‘Hi So’ is about the cultural confusion of a young Thai man who has become a movie star and who never fits in anywhere. Thus, there seem to be two opposing sides of the protagonist Ananda. On the one hand, he is privileged and grew up in overseas (Australian) influence. On the other hand, he has lost connection with his native country. However, abroad he is Thai and thus a foreigner. His life seems to be torn apart because he is unable to deal with and adapt to the different cultural demands. In addition, in the movie, Ananda left behind an Australian girlfriend and hooks up with a new Thai girlfriend. However, she feels alienated by his English-speaking friends and Western ways.

'High Society' (photo credit: huffingtonpost.co.uk))

Feeling the alienation, ‘High Society’ (photo credit: huffingtonpost.co.uk))

In fact, in real life Ananda also went through some troubles finding his identity. This was because he held Australian citizenship, mainly grew up in Thailand and started his acting career there. He felt very much Thai but had to struggle with work permits because he was not officially Thai. However, a few years ago he was granted Thai citizenship. Nevertheless, I don’t think the ‘real’ Ananda underwent any kind of cultural confusion, although being a half-child and ‘luk kreung’. He seems to be very much integrated in Thai society and popular culture. Whether as model or as an actor, he cuts quite a figure 🙂

In a nutshell, we may say that Ananda Everingham prefers to be a chameleon when acting and choosing roles. Even though we might find that there is always a lot of Ananda in every character that he embodies, we will not be able to fathom his true dynamic personality.

Yours, Sirinya

(*Quotes from Bangkok Post, Ananda Everingham on Movies)

Thainess, ‘Luk kreung’ & The Siam Renaissance

The Siam Renaissance (Thawiphop, dir. Surapong Pinijkhar, 2004) is a movie about a young Thai woman named Manee/Maneechan (Florence Vanida Faivre). She is from the early 21st century and educated in France but with the help of a mirror she is able to travel back and forth in time.

Hence, she visits Siam’s early modern past and then goes back to the present. The movie is adapted from the historical Thai novel “Tawipob” (Two Worlds) by Tamayanti which is also a love story. Thus, the movie can be classified as historical and romantic film because apart from time travelling, Manee finds valuable lessons in life and love along the way with soldier Dhep (Rangsiroj Panpeng).

The Siam Renaissance

The Siam Renaissance (photo credit: viki.com)

Scene from The Siam Renaissance, Manee & Dhep (photo credit: viki.com)

Being in 19th century Thailand at the court of King Mongkut (r. 1851-1868), Manee criticizes the Western influences in modern Thailand. When asked by two nobles at the court, she generally presents the ‘farang‘ (Westeners) and tawan-tok (the West) as a threat to Siamese cultural identity. Thus, it seems that her point of view is in accordance with Thai nationalist discourses.

Although we know that Thailand has never been colonized, there have nevertheless been strong Western influences. Hence, the movie also raises the question what Thainess is or rather what remains of it considering these influences. In addition, it also deals with the question of Thai national and cultural identities and points out ambiguities implied in a modern construction of Thainess which is devoid of Western contamination.

Here is a trailer to the movie. By the way, you may also watch the full movie with English subs here.

Florence V. Faivre in the part of Manee is interesting in the context of this film, since she is luk kreung (Thai-French), considering the fact that Thainess in brought into question by the threat of the farang Other. That is to say, it might appear weird that a half-Thai (who is herself partly farang) expresses nationalistic thoughts. However, we must also note that in the movie the protagonist Manee is supposed to be a full-Thai woman. Nonetheless, since the film dwells very much on her beauty and often focusses on her body and facial features, we may assume that she, Florence Faivre, as a luk kreung, represents the Thai beauty ideal of the day.

Focussing on Manee's beauty (photo credit: 2g.pantip.com)

Focussing on Manee’s beauty (photo credit: 2g.pantip.com)

Nonetheless, the half-Thai actress might also reiterate the message for the Thai need to accommodate and to move with the times but above all the movie is about a young woman’s quest for her identity.

Manee's transformation (photo credit: 2g.pantip.com)

Manee’s transformation (photo credit: 2g.pantip.com)

This is emphasized in the scene when Manee/Faivre is transformed from a traditionally dressed lady of the Siamese court to a kind of ‘farangized’ guest at the French diplomat’s residence. The film pays very much attention to Manee’s transformation. Thus, she is shown rotating behind a screen until her naked form is revealed. She is then bathed and massaged in a traditional and aestheticized Thai manner. Finally, she is dressed in a Victorian garb.

Manee farangized (photo credit: 2g.pantip.com

Manee is farangized (photo credit: 2g.pantip.com

However, despite her outer appearance, the protagonist Manee is and remains essentially Thai at heart. The point is that she may look and seem to be half-Thai and hence, all the prettier for being so in contemporary Thai viewers eyes. Nevertheless, her core and heart are completely Thai through her performance of the protagonist Manee. For this reason, we might be justified in claiming that the movie is not so much about the ‘farangization‘ of Thainess than it is about the ‘Thai-ization’ of the farang.

The Thai-ization of the farang (photo credit: 2g.pantip.com)

The Thai-ization of the farang (photo credit: 2g.pantip.com)

In other words, we may argue that the Siam Renaissance shows how the concept of the powerful West is stripped of its foreignness in order to become part of modern Thai selves. This might seem a controversial topic. What do you think about it?

Yours, Sirinya

(Reference: Rachel V. Harrison & Peter Jackson eds. The Ambiguous Allure of the West. Traces of the Colonial in Thailand, 2010)

‘Luk kreung’ and Concepts of Mixed Race in Thailand

Recently I’ve written a post about Thai beauty ideals and the desire for ‘fair skin’ pointing out that in Thailand, Western beauty concepts prevail even though the country has never been colonized by a European nation. In this context, it is interesting to note that there is nowadays a considerable number of part-Thai people who are successful and prominent in Thai popular culture. We might be justified in speaking of a rise of the so-called ‘luk kreung’ in Thailand’s entertainment industry.

Concepts of Mixed Race

Hugo & Palmy (photo credit: music.mthai.com)

Hugo & Palmy, successful Luk kreung, mixed race people (photo credit: music.mthai.com)

In fact, in the time of the Vietnam War, during the 1960s and 70s, a large number of mixed race children were born from Thai women and American soldiers. Literally translated the Thai colloquial term ‘Lukkreung’ (ลูกครึ่ง) means ‘half-child’. It is used to refer to people who are of mixed Thai and European origin. Nevertheless, according to the official dictionary of Thai words, the term describes “a person whose parents are of different races, also called khrueng chat (ครึ่งชาติ)”. That is to say a ‘half-child’ does not necessarily have to be Eurasian.

Nevertheless, ‘luk kreung’ were perceived sceptically and also paradoxically in the 1960s and 70s. On the one hand, they were regarded as the offspring of Thai prostitutes, ‘rented wives’ or ‘mail-order’ brides and American GIs, even though this was not always true, since some of the American soldiers formed lasting relationships with Thai women and settled down in Thailand. On the other hand, ‘half-children’ have been seen as desirable, modern and attractive racially mixed people.

On the whole, we may say that in the 1960s and 70s racially mixed children faced some discrimination but generally society in Thailand was accepting. However, today there are many racially mixed people who have attracted Thai public attention, with growing numbers of celebrities, television stars and actors of mixed origin. Some examples of these stars I’ve recently mentioned in my posts. Think of Hugo Chakrabongse Levy, the ‘royal rocker of Thailand’, Palmy, the popular Thai-Belgian singer, David Usher, Thai-Canadian singer and creativity expert, Thai movie star Ananda Everingham, actress and fashion model Florence V. Faivre , the lovely actress Mai Davika Hoorne, actor Mario Maurer, singer Chin Chinawut or the Thai-Danish entrepreneur Michael Corp Dyrendal who is the younger brother of the well-known half-Thai singer, model and actor Peter Corp Dyrendal. And think of the ‘Princess of Thai Entertainment’ Ann Thongprasom and popular Thai-British actress Paula Taylor. Indeed the list is long… 😉

David Usher, Thai-Canadian singer went from 90s rocker to today's creativity guru (photo credit: lametropole.com)

David Usher, Thai-Canadian singer went from 90s rocker to today’s creativity guru (photo credit: lametropole.com)

Thus, today the majority of ‘luk kreung’ people in Thailand are born of relationships and marriages when Europeans come to live and work in Thailand. Another possible case is when Thai people go abroad to study in Western or foreign countries and settle down and start a family there. Hence, in the last decades Thailand has become quite enamored with half-Thai people. That is to say that many mixed race, part-Thai people have ridden a wave of popularity in the Thai media and entertainment industry.

There are different reasons why ‘luk kreung’ people are successful in Thailand today. A very important factor is their Western features and often proficient English language skills. In fact, half or part-Thai persons also match the predominant Thai beauty ideal of a Western look (i.e. light skin colour, large eyes and a tall physique). These are features that are generally considered attractive and desirable in Thailand. An extremely prominent example of this popularity is the acting and pairing of Urassaya Sperbund (Yaya) and Nadech Kugimiya (Barry). They have captured so many fans in Thailand where the two are now the most popular ‘couple’ of this generation. Both Yaya and Barry are half-Thai people. Yaya Urassaya is Thai-Norwegian and Nadech Kugimiya is Thai-Austrian.

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

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

Thus, today Thai youth and teenage culture is deep in love with the looks of the ‘luk kreung’. For this reason, it doesn’t seem surprising that part-Thai people are prominent in Thai popular culture and are thus also important in constructing Thainess.

Nonetheless, the prominence of half-Thai people in Thailand today does not only apply to those who are of Thai and European heritage. If we consider the example of the world famous golfer Tiger Woods, who is of Thai and Afro-American origin, we realize that he has become a symbol that linked success to Thai identity. In addition, he was portrayed as a cultural hybrid through his career and international golfing tournament success. Hence, this shows that although dark skin is generally less popular in Thailand than fair skin, people of racially mixed origin with non-European heritage can become acknowledged and grab Thailand’s public attention too.

Tiger Woods (photo credit: people.com)

Tiger Woods (photo credit: people.com)

Summing up, we may claim that today mixed race people with part-Thai origin are acknowledged and quite popular in Thailand. This is particularly true of Thai-European people matching the predominant Thai beauty ideal of a light complexion and a tall statue. What is more, there also seems to be proof that half-Asian people have general advantages

What do you think about the rise of ‘luk-kreung’ in Thai popular culture?

Yours, Sirinya