Crossing boundaries

Transgender actress Treechada Malayaporn looks for new fields to conquer

On a recent afternoon, Muse dropped by a private residence on Sukhumvit 31 where we met Thai transgender actress Treechada "Poyd" Malayaporn.

The 30-year-old beauty was perched high on a stool when we entered. She was surrounded by a make-up artist and a hair stylist who were putting finishing touches on her porcelain skin. That same evening, she was due to appear at a fashion event at EmQuartier.

Video by Jetjaras Na Raong and Melalin Mahavongtrakul

It was 13 years ago when Treechada surfaced in Thai showbiz. Originally a beauty queen, she took home the crowns of both Miss Tiffany's Universe and Miss International Queen transgender pageants in 2004. More than a decade later, Treechada has become a superstar in her own right with various local and international projects attached to her name. Her Instagram has 2.3 million followers, which does not include another 145,000 fans on the Chinese site It's not too far off to say that Treechada is the best known and most popular Thai transgender woman on the world stage.

Currently airing on the Workpoint Channel is Nang Khaen (The Scarlet Night), a thrilling drama that sees Treechada in her first leading role in a lakorn. She plays Cindy, a feisty showgirl who's the star of a cabaret in Pattaya. Fellow showgirls eye her with jealousy and hatred, while men ogle at her with lust.

"It's a mega project," said Treechada. "We spent a year filming it. There are different sides to the story, like mixing elements of romance, jealousy and even Broadway and ghost stories. I'm at times evil, at times weak and the next thing I'm dancing as a showgirl on stage. I even get to play a ghost!"

Some of the scenes in Nang Khaen were filmed inside Tiffany's theatre in Pattaya, bringing Treechada back home to where it all took flight for her.

Inside the home of Treechada 'Poyd' Malayaporn.

As a transgender actress who is famous in Hong Kong and China, Treechada stated that international markets have been quite welcoming and accepting of her. Last year, she appeared in a leading role in a Chinese romantic comedy Shi mian nan nu (Insomnia Lover), as well as the Chinese-Thai horror Thailand's Love (Witch Doctor). The actress also guest starred in Hong Kong-Chinese projects like Du cheng feng yun III (From Vegas To Macau II) in 2015 and Sao du (The White Storm) in 2013. Transsexuality was never a problem for her, she said.

"In fact, they barely mention the word transgender next to my name. Of course, everyone knows of my gender identity, but they don't really talk about it."

Admitting she was sometimes confused by such an approach, Treechada said she thinks it's probably better this way. At least, people choose not to judge or discriminate her because of her gender, but rather see what skills she can offer as an actress.

"Acceptance doesn't just happen and I think it comes depending on your talents, too. The better you get, the more people would feel welcoming of you."

After the filming is wrapped up for the lakorn, Treechada will head back to Hong Kong to commence another project. In a few months, her new film Game Two, a crime thriller -- is a collaboration between China and Hong Kong -- will also be released.

It's suffice to say the actress is one busy woman, jet setting the globe to attend shootings and high-profile events. Still, despite all her other engagements, Treechada said she is also pursuing another dream goal -- becoming a scientist.

In 2012, Treechada founded Furefoo Pacific, a company that distributes dietary supplements. She is interested in the innovation and development of Thai herbs, which she hopes would add value to the natural resources available in Thailand and, in turn, help local farmers. She also revealed that she has plans to build a museum of Thai herbs, with scientists on-site to provide herbs at an affordable price, as well as teaching farmers about toxin-free agriculture.

To follow this dream, Treechada has found her solution and pathway through education.

The younger Treechada was a diligent student in high school, especially in math and science. But after winning her first beauty crown at the age of 18, she never pursued her tertiary education until recently. She is studying cosmetic technology at North Chiang Mai University's Faculty of Science and Technology where she will soon start her third year. "I'm quite happy. I'm even getting 3.86 GPA," she proudly tells us.

If anything could reflect her vast interest, it would be the actress' condominium. The residence is adorned in white and silver grey, with different books on Jamie Oliver's recipes, Lonely Planet's travel titles, The Da Vinci Code and tomes on advanced biology stacked high on her shelves. In her kitchen, magnets of a kangaroo, the Sydney Opera House and a boomerang are plastered on the refrigerator. Different potted plants can be found throughout. The actress reportedly handpicked them herself at the Chatuchak Night Market.

Making sure all her interests and dreams fit together in her tight schedule, Treechada shared that it's all about knowing one's priority. During the filming of Nang Khaen, she would devote Monday to Wednesday to study and Thursday to Sunday to filming.

"You need to know what comes first, second and third for you. If you put everything at the same level of importance, that's when it gets tiring real quick," she advises.

Getting to this point in life, Treechada said she has been through various disappointment and obstacles. She cited her inspiration as Jack Ma -- the founder of Alibaba -- who she views as starting from a point even below nothing and yet he is able to reach a global success. If Ma can do it, and if she -- a girl from Phuket with a big dream -- can do it, Treechada believes anyone can be successful.

"Big obstacles would mean a big success in the end, so long as you don't give up first," she believed. "I still think the world is fair. But you also have to look at it in a not so dramatic way. Success starts with a belief that you can and then you will."

Nang Khaen airs on the Workpoint Channel on Monday and Tuesday at 9pm.

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