Model "Yui" Rojjana Phetkanha
Like a shooting star, Thailand’s first model to make it big on the world stage burned bright and then quickly faded from view. Looking nothing like the Miss Thailand ideal, this farmer’s daughter from Ubon was discovered 12 years ago eating noodles on the street and then controversially took first prize in a career-making contest. Soon “Yui” was a covergirl, the face of a Chanel perfume and shuttling between New York, Paris, London and Milan. But with fame and fortune came parties and drugs, which would be her downfall, and the next thing we heard she was being arrested for beating up her mother. Five years later, Yui has reemerged—first on the talk show circuit and now modeling for Naughty Monkey. She’s also working on a pocketbook to tell her story.

By BK staff | Mar 01, 2007

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  • Model "Yui" Rojjana Phetkanha

I was with my family in the countryside, not working, for five years. I’ve been doing interviews and a little bit of modeling. But things have been going slowly, not like before. I want to work, but there aren’t a lot of jobs for me.

I’m 31 now. When people say things about me, it doesn’t bother me so much. Before I was so sensitive, but I’m more confident now. I believe in myself.

Sometimes I miss what I had before. I miss the catwalk. And the photo shoots. I miss doing commercials, too.

When I was 19, a lot of people said I shouldn’t have won that contest. That made me sad. But I was happy that the company from New York thought I was perfect for overseas.

I never felt beautiful. When I started shooting for Vogue, Chanel, seeing myself in magazines, I changed. I still didn’t feel beautiful, but once I saw the pictures I said, “OK, I can be beautiful”—well not beautiful, just photogenic.

When I see the Chanel poster, it makes me happy. I’m proud of myself. But also I remember it was not just me—it was photographers, stylists, assistants. Everybody worked together to come up with the picture.

When I was “hot” I was so full of myself. I was making lots of money, and money can make things easier. But then I started spending a lot. I mean a lot, a lot, a lot. And my ego was so big.

My family told me, “Yui, you must not go out so much, you must save money, you must get close to your mother.” They tried to tell me many times, but I didn’t want to talk to them. I was too cocky.

I lost everything because I was partying too much. I took drugs. It affected my work: like I was late a lot. And I didn’t do a good job. I became another person.

When I had money, I had a lot of friends. I spent a lot on them. But then when I didn’t have money, everybody was gone.

Family is important. When I lost everything, I had nobody—just my mother.

If I could do it all again, even if things would end up the same, I would do it. Even if it’s not all nice, I think it’s good to have experience. Experience makes you stronger. It helps you grow up.

I would tell a young model who wants to make it that she has to be strong. I would say, “Be yourself. Don’t let others try to make you something you are not.”

Don’t always believe everything people tell you. Keep far away from drugs and bad people.

I don’t believe in plastic surgery for myself. I might consider it, but not doing it is better. Because if I do it one time, I’ll have to just do it again and again.

Girls should realize that they can be pretty in their own way regardless of their race or nationality. Thai girls should be proud of how they look and should have the confidence to show it off.

I accept who I am. I’m a country girl. Normally models have to be from a good family, rich, a different background. So for me, a farmer’s daughter, to make it as a model, is something.

I’m lucky, because everyone has been really nice. Some people are proud of me, of what I did for Thailand. This gives me strength. So I’m very happy. And I’m happy that people still remember me.

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