Veteran actress and TV personality turned restaurateur, Yanee Jongwisut, 52, is back in the spotlight as host of the popular game show Ma Tam Nad, which has returned to screens after a 17-year absence. She opens up to BK about the state of Thai entertainment, her divorce and being a pessimist.

I’m open to any opportunity that comes along. I got scriptwriter jobs when I was a drama student at Chulalongkorn University, that’s how I ended up in entertainment.

I love everything about being a scriptwriter. But the workload is so huge and it was really low paid back then, so I had to quit. I took up acting and hosted game shows like Ma Tam Nad that ran for 11 years before it was taken off-air in 1995.

There are no real game shows on Thai TV these days. It’s all variety and comedy. Ma Tam Nad is a game show, pure and simple. I’m glad we’ve brought it back. The production team is the same as 20 years ago!

Don’t compare our entertainment industry with Hollywood. Their high-cost productions can be sold all over the world, while ours are limited to Thailand or neighboring countries. Do you think we could sell Baan Sai Thong [a famous Thai remake] to the world? Hell, no.

We’re too preoccupied with Thai culture. Thai entertainment can’t grow to an internationally accepted level, like Korea or Hollywood, because our censorship is really picky about details like cigarettes, booze and boobs. Their restrictions limit our creativity.

I started Pizza & Pizza by Yanee because my ex-husband [Sergio Armenio] is an Italian chef. What could be more perfect than opening a pizza place?

Fine dining is exhausting work, as I found out when we were partners in Scoozi. But running a gourmet fast-food restaurant means we don’t have to be open late into the night.

Having critical customers is better than having none. At least they help us know what we need to fix.

Good intentions can easily be mistaken for butting into someone’s business. When you try to be nice to someone, remember that they may not see it the same way. That’s why I only say what I really think to my close friends.

Every problem has a solution. I’ve endured lawsuits and a divorce, but everyone is born with problems; you just need to learn how to deal with them.

Approach your problems like you’re watching a boxing match. You will know how to fight once you take a step back and see the whole picture.

Don’t be negligent in your relationships. I was shocked when my ex-husband told me that he wanted a divorce. But then I realized that we were both neglectful in our marriage.

Don’t waste your life on someone who doesn’t want to be with you. You were born alone, you don’t need someone to die with.

Sometimes it’s better to hold onto the good memories rather than keep fighting. I maintain a relationship with my ex because, no matter how much we fight, he’s the father of my son. What’s the point in hurting one another’s feelings?

I love to touch. Sometimes you don’t need words; a pat on the back is enough.

There is no fixed formula for married life. It’s all about the chemistry between two people. 

I follow a strict diet. I eat only boiled vegetables and seafood. I could eat cauliflower and mackerel all day!

I’m addicted to music. I listen to it when I wake up, take a shower and get dressed. I take my iPod everywhere.

I hate techno. It’s not music. It reminds me of a theme park. I lean more towards jazz or blues. It makes me happy. 

Thais love to play the blame game. It’s in-built. When a kid bumps into a table and cries, the parents will question why the table is there. This is insane. You should tell the child to be more careful!

Teaching kids through actions is far better than through words. For example, I would always put away my shoes using my hands, not my feet. One day, my son, at the age of two, started following my lead.

We should foster people to say sorry. These days it’s rare to see Thais apologizing for their actions. To comfort someone they’ve wronged, they just give them gifts or money. It’s not right. We should say sorry so that we can be forgiven.

People should be valued by their virtue, not their degree or their status.

I don’t agree with the policy of increasing the salary for grad student to B15,000. Some of them barely have the skills of a high school student. We should value people for their abilities. My maid only finished sixth grade but she can do all sorts of things for me!

Forge your own future. I’ve always done my own thing and I encourage my son to do the same. I tell him to decide on things like what he wants to study. He must determine that, not me.

I’m a pessimist, or so my ex would say. I would explain that it’s better to expect the worst because then when something good happens, it’s a blessing.


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