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26-03-05, 12:10 AM #1
Mixed race Thai entertainers ride a wave of popularity
Fri Mar 25, 3:19 AM ET Asia - AFP
BANGKOK (AFP) - Their eyes are rounder, their noses are sharper and their collective clout is skyrocketing; mixed race entertainers, the Eurasians once frowned upon by Thai society, are dominating show business in the Land of Smiles as never before.
After years of their rising popularity, Thailand has fallen under the spell of its so-called "luk kreung" (half Thai, half foreign) singers, actors, models, veejays, and international beauty queens, as young generations embrace a new worldliness and the look and sound of foreign cultures.
"Everyone in the entertainment industry is luk kreung nowadays," popular half-English actress Paula Taylor, who rode the crest of the Eurasian wave a few years ago, told AFP in an interview in a trendy Bangkok neighbourhood.
Like many of today's top models in Thailand, the 22-year-old starlet was spotted as a 12-year-old by an agency scout as she hung out with friends in a Bangkok shopping mall.
She spent summers modelling in Thailand, but for the rest of the year she returned to Australia, where her family had settled and which she says has an environment which fosters independence and self-confidence.
"Luk kreung is like a new generation that has the 'manjai' -- the confidence," she says. "We're not too shy to show how we feel and say what we want, and that's new for Thais."
Not so new, actually. While the kingdom's citizens have long prided themselves on deftly juggling Western influence and traditional "Thai-ness", Thai stars have been steadily venturing further afield and winning fame overseas.
Thai contestants have twice won the Miss Universe (news - web sites) beauty pageant, first in 1965. The 1988 winner, Porntip Nakirunkanok Simon, has rarely spoken publicly about her Western heritage, but it is broadly understood that she is luk kreung.
"I think you can still have national pride and have love for other cultures and other nations and people and not compromise your own heritage," she told AFP.
"The scope of our heritage is an advantage to us because it's so broad, it doesn't limit us to one culture," she said.
"We are not just one tribe in different areas anymore."
Teddy Sombatsiri, managing director of Sony BMG Music Entertainment in Thailand, calls it "globalisation at work".
"We're opening our eyes to the world," he said.
And likewise introducing the world to Thailand. Sony is distributing the latest smash record by Thai-American singer Tata Young, the teen idol turned sexy-naughty diva who has emerged as the kingdom's first bona fide international superstar.
At age 24, she has sold more than 12 million records, and her latest, "I Believe", was Thailand's best seller last year, Sombatsiri says. She's gone platinum in Japan, has won awards in India, and ambitiously says she is set to conquer America next.
"I think it's a new look that everybody's going for, and they all like it," the sultry star told AFP at a recent red-carpet event, the MTV Asia music awards, in Bangkok. "I think they like the fact I speak English and Thai."
Appearance counts too. Luk kreung are featured all too prominently as presenters or fashion models, or in Thai advertisements where their looks speak volumes.
They are also tapped by the government. Thailand's biggest star of the past decade, singer Thongchai "Bird" Macyintyre, whose father was Scottish, has signed on with the Tourism Authority of Thailand to help revive the kingdom's tourism industry in the wake of the Asian tsunami.
Bill Roedy, the president of MTV Networks International, describes the luk kreung appeal in a word: fusion.
"I think diversity really has an attraction," Roedy told AFP at the MTV Asia awards, which featured performances by Tata and Thongchai. "The world is getting closer, and as it becomes more globalised, you're seeing a lot more fusion."
Many mixed race stars have Thai mothers, but spent large chunks of their childhood overseas, only to discover that in Thailand their heritage carried a certain appeal.
Luk kreung have not always felt welcome in Thailand. For generations they symbolised the shameful union of the colonising Western man and the subjugated Eastern woman. Thailand was never colonised, but as a US ally during the Vietnam War, it saw thousands of GIs pass through. Many married locals.
One of the world's most recognised athletes, world number one golfer Tiger Woods, was a child of such a pairing.
More than one luk kreung star told AFP that while growing up they had been confronted by prying Thais who demanded to know if their mothers were Thai bar girls.
But such affronts have faded, many say, especially as Western media such as MTV glamourise the Eurasian look and lifestyle.
"They're definitely over the soldier-bar girl thing," Taylor says.
Also signaling the changes: the number of model scouts combing the international schools in Bangkok for the next pretty Eurasian face, and if they're lucky, the next Tata.
Some entertainment sources note an undercurrent of resentment against luk kreung for dominating the industry, but Sony's Sombatsiri says there is enough room to accommodate luk kreung and traditional Thais.
"And I don't think this trend will affect Thai culture," Sombatsiri says.
Areeya Chumsai, a Thai born and raised in the United States who returned to enter the Miss Thailand competition, which she won in 1994, acknowledged that her appeal stemmed in large measure from her immersion in the West.
But she believes it is the look of the mixed race that sparks immediate interest in the luk kreung sweeping Thailand's radio waves, films, and fashion houses.
"Talent can only take you so far," the beauty queen says. "But good looks open the doors. And when you have the two, you're a superstar."
26-03-05, 04:14 PM #2sabai sabai
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This article seems like it belongs to a few years ago, as this trend has been going on for ages. It's basically saying the same thing as this Time Magazine article from 4 years ago.
Originally Posted by [b
26-03-05, 04:24 PM #3
Yes, i think they dug it out because of the recent exposure during the MTV sponsored concert in Pattaya.
27-03-05, 11:05 AM #4Forum Member
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i hope this luk kreung craze stays hot forever! or at least till i can break into the bizz
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