Saturday, August 08, 2009

Meet Thailand's sexiest actress


GUESS what Thailand’s sexiest actress doesn’t see when she looks at herself in the mirror naked? Sexiness.

Araya “Chompoo” Hartgett, a 28-year-old lakorn (Thai for soap opera) star, confesses that she is oblivious to her sex appeal.

“I’ve been with myself for 28 years. I take a shower, look at myself in the mirror naked – I don’t know ... I am used to it,” she explains.

“It would be kind of crazy if I said ‘ah, I’m kind of sexy’ while looking at the mirror.”

The readers of FHM, a men’s entertainment magazine, would definitely disagree with Chompoo’s assessment. They voted her Thailand’s sexiest woman in 2007 and sexiest actress in 2008 and 2009. The sexy actress’ nickname is Chompoo (which means rose apple in Thai) because she was very pinkish when born.

She’s a luk kreung (literally half child, a person who is half-Thai, half-European). Her mother is Thai and her father is British.

Eleven years ago, a lakorn scriptwriter approached the then 17-year-old Chompoo, who was doing a bit of modelling, because her production company was looking for a main actress who was half-Thai, half-European.

She told Chompoo that she had heard from her friend that she was good looking and asked her to cast for a lakorn. Immediately after casting (where she acted out a script), Channel 7 (a Thai TV station) signed her up under a five-year contract.

Her first role was that of a nang ek (Thai for heroine) in Pleng Prai (Brilliant Song). And that character – which Chompoo describes as “the good girl who ends up with the good guy” – stuck throughout her acting career.

However, last year Chompoo starred in a dream role – the bad girl. (Like the nang ek, a bad female character is a must in a lakorn. The bad girl will do anything to prevent the nang ek from getting the good guy.)

But she was taking a career-breaking risk. She feared a backlash from her fan base.

“When you’ve been acting the good girl for 10 years it is hard to switch because you wouldn’t know whether your fans would accept you (as a bad girl),” she explains.

Thai soap opera fans obsessively love the nang ek character and fanatically hate the bad girl.

“When fans talk about the good girl, they will refer to her as ‘she’. But when they talk about the bad girl, they will say ‘it or that one’,” she explains.

Playing the bad girl also has financial disadvantages. Actresses playing the villain rarely get offers to do commercials.

In Dao Pbeuan Din (Dirty Star) Chompoo played a bad girl who was jealous of the nang ek. Her character schemed to take everything – wealth, family, boyfriend – from the heroine.

“It went as far as my character killing many people. But in the end – of course – I was punished. I was raped by about 10 men and I went crazy in the end,” she relates. The censor board, however, cut the rape scene.

“I was so mad, as (filming the rape scene) took a day. And I spent lots of energy. Imagine me fighting with 10 guys,” she explains.

And viewers who did not see the censored scene wondered why Chompoo’s character suddenly went mad.

Chompoo’s decision to act the antithesis role paid off. She won Thailand’s Golden Television Award for best actress for her bitchy role in Dao Pbeuan Din. And the actress, who has appeared in commercials for Samsung, Ponds and Wrigley’s, did not lose any contracts.

Early this year, there was a juicy soosip (Thai for gossip) that a politician offered to pay Chompoo to have dinner with him. There was no politician, the actress clarified, but two different CEOs.

“A CEO contacted my manager asking if I would like to do a job – sit down with him for dinner and entertain him – and how much would I ask for,” she relates.

Unclear of the job specification, Chompoo declined.

“I don’t know what he expected. Maybe he wanted to know me better, but he did not have the opportunity. And he thought money can give him that opportunity,” she added.

The CEO should know that in real life Chompoo is a good girl.

(Published in The Star on August 8, 2009)