WOMEN took notice and men were delighted when Marsha Vadhanapanich stepped into the classy Lenotre Cafe in Bangkok that evening.
And why not? This Thai-German beauty has been an enduring face under the celebrity spotlight in the kingdom, appearing on at least 3,000 magazine covers in the past two decades.
This month alone, she will grace the cover of three women’s magazines. In the crowded showbiz world where much younger stars are the flavour of the week, this is a fine achievement for a model/actress/singer who will turn 36 in August.
She was pleasant and utterly without airs about herself throughout this interview. “Please excuse me, I don’t really speak good English,” she said, upon exchanging greetings.
Born in Germany where her Thai father met a local girl during his university education there, Marsha returned to Thailand when she was about five years old. Her parents had divorced earlier.
“I did not speak any Thai back then. I could not communicate with anyone because I spoke only German. Now, I have forgotten all my German,” she said, smiling at the ironies of life.
Her return to Thailand spelt the end of any contact with her mother. It was only when Marsha was about 30 that she learnt her mother had died. “I don’t know how I felt. Yes, there was sadness but then my life has been like that for so long.”
Indeed, she went through much in her young life. Marsha was 16 when her sister, who was a year younger, died in a road accident and she took the tragedy badly.
“I cried. I got myself drunk. My friend was driving and I opened the car door. I wanted to jump out but my friend was fast enough to pull my arm,” she recalled.
Marsha the model was discovered at 15. “My aunt, who worked in an ad agency, asked to have my picture taken for a candy advertisement. From then on, it was destiny; I did not lead the way,” she said.
“Besides, there were many problems in my family then. It made me decide to work, to do something.”
Later, she was spotted by a film director. She had starred in six movies, which included a musical, when a recording company offered her a chance to be a singer. However, she did not sign up with them until she turned 21.
In the meantime, she became a mother at 17. Her marriage to her movie star husband lasted nine years.
Despite previous reports of acrimony with her ex-husband, Marsha maintained that they were on talking terms. “It’s good for my son. Besides, the problems are ours. It is not the child’s problem.”
She has no regrets about becoming a mother so early. “At that age, you always think positive. You are always happy and confident. Your mind is pure and you don’t think too much.”
Marsha has made eight albums since her debut as a singer in 1991. Her latest, In Love, came out in December last year. “I like fast, dance numbers but Thai people prefer romantic ballads. They say my voice is suited for slow songs,” she said.
Asked to name her biggest triumph, she replied: “Becoming a mother. I love my work but I love my son more. I want to work harder because of him. Being a mother is a complicated but beautiful thing.”
She also talked about how the press sometimes made up stories about her, saying there had been unfair reports about her divorce and her son.
“They would wait for me to defend myself. But I tell myself: I don’t want to play their game. Sometimes I fight back and tell them to stop. But it’s not good to say too much.”
The good thing about being an artiste is that it allowed her to see so many sides of life, she said. “I have concerts in many places. It made me see so many things. It made me wiser. I respect people; I never look down on others.”
How has she survived 20 years in such a fickle business? “Normally I do one thing at a time. It is important to focus. I would be upset if my work is not up to standard. There must be quality.”
Marsha, who has been dating deejay Krit Sriphumiset for one year, said she was often asked whether she would marry again. “I really don’t know. When you are really sure of your feelings, it can happen again. I have not asked my son how he feels about it. But if I want to marry one day, I will talk to him about it. He is my son. I want him to know everything.”
Her goal in life now is to take care of her career and see to it that her son is happy. “He doesn’t have to become rich or a big businessman. What’s more important is that he takes care of himself and his family later.”
Marsha the celebrity versus Marsha the mother: Whichever it is, she is a star in her own right.
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