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  1. #1
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    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."

  2. #2
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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.

    http://www.time.com/time/asia/news/m...106427,00.html

    Quote Originally Posted by [b
    Quote[/b] ]Tata Young certainly knows how to let loose. Back in 1995, when she broke into Thailand's entertainment industry at the age of 15, the pert half-Thai, half-American singer was on the forefront of the Eurasian trend. Today, the majority of top Thai entertainers are luk kreung. Now 20, Young is the first Thai to sign a contract with a major U.S. label, Warner Brothers Records (owned by AOL Time Warner, parent company of Time), which she hopes will elevate her into the Britney Spears/Christina Aguilera pantheon. Back at home, Young has to contend with a gaggle of luk kreung clones who mimic her brand of bubble-gum pop. The hottest act now is a septet called, less-than-imaginatively, Seven, and three out of seven are of mixed race.

    The luk kreung crowd tend to hang tight, dining, drinking and dating together. "We understand each other," says Nicole Terio, one of the group. "It comes from knowing what it means to grow up between two cultures." But the luk kreung's close-knit community and Western-stoked confidence sometimes elicits grumbles from other Thais, who also resent their stranglehold on the entertainment industry. The ultimate blow came a few years back when Thailand sent a blue-eyed woman to the Miss World competition. Sirinya Winsiri, also known as Cynthia Carmen Burbridge, beat out another half-Thai, half-American for the coveted Miss Thailand spot. "Luk kreung have made it very difficult for normal Thais to compete," gripes a Bangkok music mogul. "We should put more emphasis on developing real Thai talent." The Eurasians consider this unfair. "I was born in Bangkok," says Young. "I speak fluent Thai and I sing in Thai. When I meet Westerners, they say I'm more Thai than American." Channel V's Asha Gill senses the frustration: "A lot of Asians despise us because we get all the jobs, but if I've bothered to learn several languages and understand several cultures, why shouldn't I be employed for those skills?"

    The jealous sniping angers many who suffered years of discrimination because of their mixed blood. Eurasian heritage once spoke not of a proud melding of two cultures but of a shameful confluence of colonizer and colonized, of marauding Western man and subjugated Eastern woman. Such was the case particularly in countries like the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam, where American G.I.s left thousands of unwelcome offspring. In Vietnam, these children were dubbed bui doi, or the dust of life. "Being a bui doi means you are the child of a Vietnamese bar girl and an American soldier," says Henry Phan, an Amerasian tour guide in Ho Chi Minh City. "Here, in Vietnam, it is not a glamorous thing to be mixed." As a child in Bangkok during the early 1990s, Nicole Terio fended off rumors that her mother was a prostitute, even though her parents had met at a university in California. "I constantly have to defend them," she says, "and explain exactly where I come from."

    Ever since Europe sailed to Asia in the 16th century, Eurasians have populated entrepots like Malacca, Macau and Goa. The white men who came in search of souls and spices left a generation of mixed-race offspring that, at the high point of empire building, was more than one-million strong. Today, in Malaysia's Strait of Malacca, 1,000 Eurasian fishermen, descendants of intrepid Portuguese traders, still speak an archaic dialect of Portuguese, practice the Catholic faith and carry surnames like De Silva and Da Costa. In Macau, 10,000 mixed-race Macanese serve as the backbone of the former colony's civil service and are known for their spicy fusion cuisine.


    Despite their long traditions, though, Eurasians did not make the transition into the modern age easily. As colonies became nations, mixed-race children were inconvenient reminders of a Western-dominated past. So too were the next generation of Eurasians, the offspring of American soldiers in Southeast Asia. In Thailand, luk kreung were not allowed to become citizens until the early 1990s. In Hong Kong, many Eurasians have two names and shift their personalities to fit the color of the crowd in which they're mixing. Singer and actress Karen Mok, for example, grew up Karen Morris but used her Chinese name when she broke into the Canto-pop scene. "My Eurasian ancestors carried a lot of shame because they weren't one or the other," says Chinese-English performance artist Veronica Needa, whose play Face explores interracial issues. "Much of my legacy is that shame." Still, there's no question that Eurasians enjoy a higher profile today. "Every time I turn on the TV or look at an advertisement, there's a Eurasian," says Needa. "It's a validating experience to see people like me being celebrated."

  3. #3
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    Yes, i think they dug it out because of the recent exposure during the MTV sponsored concert in Pattaya.

  4. #4
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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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