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Bangkok Post : I Am What I Am

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Leisure » Women

I Am What I Am

Panissara 'Opal' Pimpru exposes her true colours: A fun, fearless female about town.

By: Yanapon Musiket
Published: 3/01/2009 at 12:00 AM
Newspaper section: Muse

Coming out of her Honda CRV with one hand holding her clothes and the other a big make-up box, Panissara Pimpru - widely known as Opal - looks stunning as she struts her way to the interview room wearing a pair of sexy black shorts and leather high heel ankle boots. At the very first sight of Opal walking in, 'Muse' greets our cover girl with a compliment on her fierce outfit and perfectly styled straight-fringe, and teasing her that she could be easily mistaken for an identical twin of US pop idol Rihanna.

 

"Oh, how sweet of you," she responded with her ear-piercing voice. "But that is an insult for Rihanna, don't you think?" Opal laughed. And there it is, a joke from one of the funniest female personalities in the Thai movie and TV industry at the moment.

Opal excuses herself for polishing her fingernails while having an interview and explains that there will be a fashion set for a women's magazine and a fashion TV programme, queuing after. Opal shares that she does not see herself as someone who is a pretty girl, and according to her, when she was younger people would always make fun of the way she looked.

"I used to hear people say that if you have dark skin, never ever paint your fingernails red. Well, red is my favourite colour and I want it on my dark skinned hands, and no one can stop me!" she said confidently while stroking a brush soaked in red tint.

"This is one of the most disturbing concepts in our society. That having dark skin is like having a curse. You can never, in this life, be called a 'beautiful' or 'handsome' person without having fair skin. Every time I watch TV I am fed up with the tonne of whitening products constantly being advertised - picturing paper-like white skin girls walking with a big smile while a dark skinned girl who, following behind, can barely keep her chin up. This is completely wrong.

"That is why before I never thought I could work in the entertainment industry. I used to believe that in the showbiz world there was only room for very attractive people, which is obviously not me," said the 27-year-old media personality with a bitter tone.

But if it wasn't acting, then what kind of job did she desire before?

"My dream job is, like many Thai girls, a job where you can earn a high salary, get to dress beautifully and travel around the world - like a flight attendant," responded Opal, making an amusing facial expression as if to make her answer more convincing.

After graduating with a major in Public Relations from the Faculty of Communication Arts, Chulalongkorn University, Opal first followed her dream by applying for a flight attendant or so-called "angel" position . With her appraisable education background and friendly personality, Opal received offers from two airline companies, and on top of that, she was approached by a prominent firm with a PR position, she adds.

"I was lucky to get a job offer from such a stable organisation as well as two flight attendant jobs, which I've always wished for. Between the two options, however, the first was actually not that well-suited to who I was, and besides I couldn't see myself doing a routine job. But my mother was worried because it would mean that I would have to be away and overseas for long periods. Though the time in between deciding which career path I was going to take, I was asked to go in for an audition to play in a movie as one of the acting coaches for the film company, GTH [GMM Thai Hub Co Ltd], who saw me perform in a play at my faculty's annual show. In the end, I decided to ignore both job offers and gave the audition a try," she recalled. "And that is how my life in the spotlight began."

In 2004, Opal appeared in her first film, Jaew (M.A.I.D), playing an arrogant maid named Jim Dam who believed she was the most hi-so maid in the house, and who had the annoying habit of speaking using Thai mixed with English. According to Opal, her character was the least important role, but her outstanding performance was remembered by many audiences. "When I received the script I knew right away that Jim Dam was a maid but I thought it would be so much more fun to play her role and add some flavour to her character. It spices up the character and helps make Jim Dam memorable to the audiences, even though this character only appears a few times throughout the entire film."

Since her acting debut in the film was released, Opal has been recognised as a newcomer actress for comedic roles. One year later, in 2005, her second film Peun Sanit (Dear Dakanda), in which Opal played a character named Tan - a native girl of Koh Phangan who works as a nurse and who is madly in love with Kai Yoi, the leading male character - received a landslide success. The role spotlighted Opal as a rising star in the Thai movie industry. Playing Tan, nevertheless, was one of her toughest tasks.

"I grew up in Bangkok and have no relatives from the South. So playing Tan was quite challenging, especially to speak Thai with a Southern accent. Well, not just the Southern dialect but the Koh Pha-ngan dialect," she recalled.

"I remember while I was shooting one scene near a fresh market in Koh Pha-ngan there was a huge crowd watching us film. Once I finished my first take, I heard someone shout out: 'No, that's not a Pha-ngan accent. It sounds more like a Phatthalung accent'. I was so embarrassed. However, I took it seriously and practised harder. Although my friends said that it wasn't a big deal I told them it wouldn't hurt to try my best to make it more genuine. After that, when we filmed the other scenes, I heard no more complaints about my accent. I was very happy. After the film was shown, many believed that I was originally from the South," she shared her proud moment.

Thanks to her hilarious sense of humour, flawless acting skills and a wholehearted dedication to her work, this role landed Opal the best supporting actress award from the Star Entertainment Awards in 2005. The award was organised by the Entertainment Correspondents Association. Since then she has become a "must-have" character in the majority of films produced by GTH.

Opal also revealed that after the film Puen Sanit, many film companies approached her with offers but she kindly declined. "GTH got me to where I am today and if I am going to work in the film industry, I prefer to stay with them, because I am comfortable with this team and I don't feel like going to work when I'm around my old folks."

But, as many wonder, in this crazy, chaotic world, how could someone manage to stay positive and always make people laugh?

"Because I have seen the worst, so I know what and how to look at life and the outside world from different angles," she replied spontaneously.

"When I was young people had no idea that I went to a top school and university, surrounded by well-off friends, but was once almost homeless," she said. "My family is an average middle-class family in Bangkok. Since I was a teen my parents had financial trouble. My mother used to hide and go somewhere abroad just to dodge the debt collectors. So the reason why I was able to attend good public schools was because my parents were in a lot of debt to support my education.

"We used to eat tinned fish every day for a whole month and light candles on our small porch/dining room, since the electricity was cut off because we couldn't pay the bills. I learned the truth about life at a very young age, while other kids were still full of innocence. I know life is tough and full of obstacles, but that's the way life is. My dad told me to never waste time whining about it and keep in mind that nothing could be more miserable, as for me, the worst has already come into my life a long time ago. So that is why I could always stay lively and be able to turn bitterness into a good joke."

Along with her unbeatable sharp tongue, loud-mouthed personality coupled with her wit, Opal is now a regular face in Thai media, from glossy magazines and television to cinema and radio, where she worked as a radio deejay. For her true fans, this year, Opal takes another step forward in her showbiz career and takes on the role of a producer in her first sit-com drama, Nua Koo Pratoo Tud Pai (True Love Next Door), which airs every Saturday afternoon on Modern 9 TV. In this show, Opal also plays, again, a funny character named Thida along with lead actor, Sunny Suwanmethanond, who she worked with in Puen Sanit and media sweetheart Paula Taylor.

"I think situational comedy fits me well," said Opal. "As far as I know people like the way I am because I'm real. I don't walk with a glitter aura like other movie stars. I look just like one of your neighbours. So that is perfect for a sit-com. As I see it, my character is convincing to the audiences.

"There were many times people come to me and say, 'Opal, you look just like one of my friends' or 'I have a friend who is always an entertainer and makes us laugh, whenever I see you, I think of him/her'. I got this a lot. So I believe, for my fans anyways, that my character is related to someone they know. I am the touchable kind, well, not literally, okay," Opal concluded.

And before she made her way out of the room, Opal turned back, spread her freshly painted crimson fingernails and gave a cunning smile. Red does look absolutely fabulous on her!

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  • Jett

    Discussion 4 : 07/01/2009 at 08:47 PM4

    Good for you Opal,you always polish your finger nails any colors as you like, it doesn't matter only in thailand the girl who has tan skin can not wear certain color, that's absolutely stupid. All the farang girls would pay anything to have her skin tan because it is very pretty and healthy looks and the farang belives when your skin is pale it makes you look sick, any way, all the thai girls who has the face like a dog but as long as they have the pale skin and they still thik they are beautiful,give me a break,whew! that's my rants of the day.Good luck Opal.

  • jackie

    Discussion 3 : 07/01/2009 at 05:55 AM3

    this girl is so annoying. and by the way, in farang society, a stewardess is nothing more than a "maid in the sky." A stewardness is not glamorous, a stewardess is my servant. "angel position" what a load of garbage!!!

  • jim

    Discussion 2 : 07/01/2009 at 05:52 AM2

    what a brainless idiot. no wonder thai girls have a terrible reputation in the world

  • Donald

    Discussion 1 : 05/01/2009 at 02:40 AM1

    Nice Story, Never heard of this girl before, but she seems very together & cool!!! Come to think of it, I might of glanced her on one of those Thai sitcoms I saw the last time I was in BKK.

    Just sitting here in New York, reading the Sunday BKK post online. After reading all of the gloomy, sad stuff this was a nice, happy story.

    Here's to all of the beautiful, dark Thai girls that make the world go round. Keep smiling!!!

    Peace,
    d.j.

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