During a simple vacation, I suddenly got to be queen for a day
By NITAYA CHAYANGKURA
Blast Tennessee Bureau
BANGKOK -- To the outside observer, my life is as plain and ordinary as
anyone else's. I live with my parents, I have no boyfriend, no job, and
I stay at home most of the time. All I do all day watch television, eat
and sleep. I watch MTV and daydream of a glamorous life and stare at
beautiful girls in fashion magazines and wish, "Man, wouldn't my life
be so much more exciting if I was a cover model or something?" and sigh.
I graduated from high school this year, and for my summer vacation I
really wanted to go to Thailand and visit the folks, who I haven't seen for
seven years. The last time I went, I was eleven years old, skinny,
awkward, with huge glasses that were too big for my face and bangs that
were cut too short. I was hardly attractive.
I can't say that I'm beautiful now, but I've improved. I got contacts,
gained some weight, grew out of my awkward phase. I actually look like a
member of the human race now.
So I went to Thailand with my mother, sister, cousin and aunt for five
weeks. I was planning to do all the typical vacation stuff that people
usually do: hanging with relatives, sightseeing, shopping, that kind of
My family and I stayed mostly in Bangkok, the capital of Thailand, where
most of our relatives live. There we had the luxury of flushing toilets and
air conditioning. Once in a while we would make the hourlong drive to
the small town of Ayutthaya, which was once Thailand's capital before
Burma destroyed it in 1767. My grandparents live there in a house on
stilts in the middle of a rainforest. It was a tropical version of a
typical house in the American countryside. Roosters crowed at 5 every
morning and when it rained, it poured. There was no indoor plumbing and
no air conditioning.
My mother's side of the family consists of just regular folk, average
civilians like anyone else. They're not exactly rich, but they are
basically happy and life-loving people with whom I enjoy being around.
There's my two-year-old cousin, a beautiful and bright girl who loves to
laugh and smile, and with whom I share a special bond. There's my
grandmother, who loves us dearly and who is very strong, but stubborn.
There's my uncle, a mechanic who hardly speaks three words in a day, and
when he does speak, you don't understand a word he says because it's all
a bunch of mumbling.
My father's side of the family consists of civilians too -- but it's a
little more privileged. My great uncle is a famous author of several
books in Thailand. And somewhere along the line, I happen to be related
to the King of Thailand.
One of my great- or great-great or great-great-great grandmothers
married a son of King Rama IV. I'm not quite sure of the specific
ancestry, but I think that's how it goes. Who'd have thought it, huh? I,
the Thai-American couch potato kid, had royal blood running through my
I'm not saying that anyone has to bow down to me or anything, although
it would be nice. I love both sides of my family just the way they are. It
was so much fun to be reunited with them, to hug them again. It felt
In the middle of my fun-filled vacation with the folks, I received some
surprising news: SakulThai Weekly, the most widely circulating and
oldest magazine in Thailand, wanted to interview me.
How did this happen?
My aunt on my father's side, who happens to work at the United
Nations, showed a few of my better-than-average senior pictures to one
of her cousins, who works for the magazine. She showed the pictures to the
head honchos at that place, they were interested, and before I knew it,
they wanted me to appear in their magazine.
Wow! Me, in a national magazine, I thought. How unbelievable. I thought
for sure it was just going to be a little blip on page 29, one of those
brief little paragraphs profiling any kid. But I soon learned that I was
to be the subject of the cover.
They had it all set up: I was to be interviewed and photographed at the
Oriental hotel in Bangkok, which is one of the best hotels in the world.
Was I excited? Yes. Was I nervous? Very.
A couple of weeks before the big shoot, all of my family members told me
to be careful, take care of my skin, don't do anything too strenuous, etc.
For a brief period of time, I drastically altered my lifestyle: I had to
stay out of the sun, or wear long-sleeved shirts in 90-degree weather. I
couldn't go outside without a hat. Suddenly my relatives would nag me:
"Save your energy! Eat healthy! Watch out for mosquitoes!"
Another thing that bummed me out was that I couldn't really go see my
mother's side of the family in Ayutthaya, where there were more
mosquitoes. I was forced to take extremely good care of my skin. It
made me sad that I couldn't see them for almost two weeks, but I wanted
to try this new experience so much, I sacrificed my time with them.
The morning of the photo shoot, the unthinkable happened: I developed a
redness in my right eye. It was so red, so clear and so visible to
anyone who barely glanced in my direction. Of course, my family members
The magazine crew came, and my family explained to them the situation
with the red eye. There were maybe seven or eight people all staring at my
eye: the photographer, his assistant, the writer, the makeup artist, the
hairstylist and some important-looking lady. I started feeling really
self-conscious, because they were all examining me and my red eye. It
was decided that I should go ahead and be interviewed and the photo
shoot would be rescheduled for another day. In the meantime, I was
supposed to rest thoroughly and try not to strain my eyes too much.
The interview went pretty well. Since I can hardly speak a word of Thai,
I had to get my cousin to translate a lot for me. The interviewer and
the rest of the magazine crew asked me simple questions like: What do I
like about Thailand? How is the United States different from Thailand?
They were mostly interested in what I was planning to study in college -- civil engineering -- but their eyes lit up when I mentioned that I played
soccer in high school because that sport is the craze over there and
very few girls play it. Besides, we were in the middle of World Cup
fever, and any girl who played soccer was found intriguing.
After getting my eye treated with antibiotics and eye drops, it was back
to the Oriental the next week for the photo shoot. And, boy, was that
one hectic day.
For the shoot, I was supposed to wear my own clothes so they could get a
glimpse at the fashion sense of a Thai girl living in America. But I
only packed shorts and tank tops and they didn't want that. They wanted
something classier, more presentable for the cover, so I had to go
shopping for some nice outfits to wear. I don't think they were the
kinds of clothes I would wear back home. I also had to borrow some
dresses from my cousin's girlfriend. Everything was put in a closet at
my aunt's house. When it was time for the shoot, I grabbed everything in
the closet, but because of a mix-up I didn't grab the borrowed dresses.
My aunt got upset at me and everyone in my family started ragging on me
for forgetting the dresses! What could I say? I mean, I had to take good
care of myself and remember the clothes, not to mention I was extremely
scared of my first photo shoot, how could they be so critical? I think
the crew was probably less panicked about it than my family members
I liked the makeup artist a lot. He was very good-looking, and very
proper and polite and well-dressed. He was very good at what he did, a true
professional and all, but since the hairstylist wasn't there, he ended
up doing my hair, which wasn't one of his strengths. I felt sorry for
him. So for the first set, I had to do my own hair.
The whole thing was really fun. The thing was, though, since I was
wearing contacts, and since they used a flash, I kept blinking. There are probably like a million goofy pictures of me with my eyes closed. But I was glad that everyone was so great and nice to me. They made me laugh and they made what would have been a totally tense experience actually enjoyable. It lasted an exhaustive six hours. I had no idea that a photo shoot would be so tiring. By the last set, I was beat. I just wanted to get things over with.
When it was done, everyone clapped. I felt like a star. The photographer
looked very happy with my "work," but he also looked very relieved that
it was finally over. I was a little sad that it was over, though. The
crew had become kind of like a family to me. I was going to miss them,
even though I spent only six hours with them.
The magazine should be coming out on newsstands in Thailand any day now.
I'm still sort of overwhelmed by the experience. Even though I landed
one magazine cover, I figure my life will still be ordinary and boring
like it always was. I don't think I'll ever have that glamorous life
that I always envisioned. Still, I guess my ordinary teenage life isn't
so ordinary after all. I mean, how many people my age can say they are
related to the King of Thailand?
Nitaya Chayangkura is an 18-year-old freshman majoring in civil
engineering at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. She spends
her free time at home with her family or close friends. She can be
reached at AtSink2000@aol.com.