By VERONICA SHUNMUGAM
Contributed by: Pui Yee Kong
GREG Uttsada Panichkul who? Having stopped watching MTV a few years back, I wasn’t impressed on being told I was to interview VJ Utt, as Panichkul is known. Younger, hipper colleagues soon put me right, gasping and hyperventilating over the fact that I would be meeting him.
I wasn’t impressed to begin with when he was more than half an hour late for the interview. But when he finally made his appearance, apologising profusely ? well, they say a pretty face is forgiven anything. Up close, it was clear why he’s the stuff of many a girl’s (and guy’s) dreams. Green eyes, strawberry blonde tinted hair and sculpted features – the 30-year-old is so cute he’s unreal. Really. Photos simply do not do him justice. He’s also 100% Thai, according to MTV Asia’s website, and speaks flawless American English as well as Thai. The odd combination of parentage and language came about because Utt was born and raised in San Fernando, California, where his parents worked. At 17, Utt was sent to Bangkok to purge him of his wild Western ways and instil him with Thai culture. Frantic to buy the return ticket his parents wouldn’t get him, Utt leveraged his good looks and modelled and dabbled in acting. In the process, he came to terms with his Thai heritage, earned a Communications Arts degree from Assumption University and found his calling – VJ-ing for Thailand’s pre-MTV 24-hour music channel, Smile TV, before clinching the most-wanted post of an MTV Asia VJ. Currently based in Singapore where he tapes his MTV show, Utt was in Kuala Lumpur recently to host the grand finals of the MTV Asia third MTV + JVC Sound Education.
Where was your very first modelling job?
I’ve been in the modelling business (in Thailand) for 13 to 14 years now but I still remember my first modelling shoot. It was in Pattaya and I was about 16 years old. It was a fashion shoot for Image magazine and the cover page was to feature this hot celebrity who had just broken up with her celeb boyfriend. She went topless for the shoot. My shoot was a separate shoot but since I was around, I peeped. Well, she didn’t go topless like in Playboy –she just went like this (crosses his arms to cover his chest, and giggles).
Were you spotted like how Naomi Campbell was? Did someone come up to you in a supermarket and say, “You’ve got such beautiful skin, high cheekbones, etc”?
No, actually, I was scouted two years earlier during a visit to Thailand. But I didn’t take up the modelling offers until two years later when I was back in Thailand and wanted to make some money.
So, you were really sent back to Thailand by your parents at the age of 17?
Yes, yes, I was. Really.
With no money in your pocket?
DYeah, yeah! And they planned it out with my relatives ‘coz my relatives took my passport without me knowing. So I had no way of going back whatsoever. Yeah, it was evil. For a year and a half (afterwards), I was brutal to my parents ‘coz I was really pissed at them. I’m much older now and I understand why they did that – they wanted me to get in touch with my roots and understand the whole Asian culture thing. When I was living in the (United) States, I was so Americanised that I was thinking, “When I hit 18, I’m out and I’m gonna focus on my own thing”.
Tell us something about your younger brother Gerald.
He’s my only sibling and he’s 23. He used to host a TV show when he lived in Bangkok for about two or three years. He’s a riot! I don’t know what it is about us two but we were just hyper as kids – I think it’s to do with how we grew up. There was a period when I used to bring him on my shows and, eventually, they wanted us to do a show together. So, we did a show together for six months.
Your dad’s a professor in social science. How much has his work influenced you?
I think my father has influenced me as I’ve gotten older. I write on the side. I am very philosophical. And I read a lot – my dad has a huge library. (Utt’s mum is a psychiatric nurse who, he says, works with troubled teens.)
What’s your favourite book?
The Seat of The Soul by Gary Zukav.
You reportedly have an alter ego to the hot-’n’-happening VJ, we hear?
I do, I do. My Singapore bachelor’s pad is very MTV and fun. But when some of my friends from Singapore came to visit me in Bangkok, they found that my home showed a whole different side of me – very Zen and peaceful. I think I need that balance for myself.
What was the most philosophical moment in your life, a moment that made you think a lot?
Probably the overall process of coming back to Asia. Because, at first, there was a culture shock – of just being thrown back into a culture where “it is not by your right but it is more of force”. And, just the whole process of living in Asia and learning the values and culture.
What’s the best Thai value that you have?
Um ? probably being humble and having gratitude.
And the strongest American value?
Being confident. But you need a balance ‘coz if you’re too confident, then you’re cocky. There’s a fine line, seriously.
How supportive were your parents when you auditioned to be an MTV VJ?
Well, there was that process before I became an MTV VJ when I was hosting and doing odd jobs (at that time, Channel V and MTV had not broken into the Asian markets yet). I didn’t have any tension with my parents. I think the main focus was just ”putting” me in Asia. Whatever I wanted to do, I was on my own. If anything, I think they wanted me to do business or management. But I was so far off from wanting to study business and studied advertising instead at Assumption University. And growing up with MTV in the 80s back home in the States ... well, I think it’s every American boy and girl’s dream to be a VJ.
In earlier interviews, you said that you had originally wanted to be a doctor! What happened?
Yeah, I was already in my first semester of Biology in the States when my parents sent me back to Thailand. They had told me that my grandma was really ill so I paid a visit, only to find out that I didn’t have a ticket back. Of course, eventually, I got my modelling and hosting jobs for about six months after which I finally decided to study in Thailand. But, for some reason, I decided not to continue with the medicine route.
Of all the shows that you’ve hosted, what is your favourite now?
Now, I like (MTV) Screen ‘coz I love movies. It’s really cool to interact with a show where you can present the movies you like. MTV Most Wanted is cool ‘coz you have requests coming in from the kids so it’s actually their show.
What’s your favourite movie?
Kill Bill. It’s the favourite right now.
Which VJ was or is your idol?
Mike Kasem (son of the famous pioneering “Countdown King” DJ and VJ Casey Kasem). I like Mike a lot. He’s really cool.
So, are you seeing anyone right now?
(Breaks out into a grin) I wish I was seeing someone right now. That would really take some stress off me. Really.
Do you have anybody in mind?
Umm ... (sighs), no! (Nervous laughter.)
Come on, no names needed, just a “Yes” or “No”.
No. It’s a one-sided thing, so my answer has to be “No”. I mean, if it is a two-sided thing, then I’d say “Yes”! (more nervous laughter).
I am, I am. It’s easy for me to blush. You can peck me on the cheek and I’ll blush!
So, other interviews say that you are a woman’s man....
Okay, I don’t know how that got written ... that’s so funny.
Who’s your ideal woman?
Oh ... I am so in love with Jessica Alba. She gets me through the day. Yeah.
I don’t know, I don’t know. Whenever I know I’m going to have a bad day, I bring along stacks of her magazines. And it’s so funny ‘coz all the producers know. Last month, I was on a 10-day break with my folks in Los Angeles and her new movie was out. Before I went, I told my producers that I would bring her back with me.
But it didn’t happen. Well, this is the one-sided thing I’m talking about.
What would you say to her if she was sitting right next to you now?
I wouldn’t know what to say! I’d probably blush.
What’s in the pipeline after MTV?
Eventually, I plan to work behind the scenes because I’ve had a small production company in Thailand. I’ve put that on hold since I moved to Singapore because I can’t focus on it that much. I will probably relaunch the company. My partners have all gone overseas to study or to travel so I’ll wait till we all get back before deciding for certain what I wanna do.
Taken from: http://www.star-ecentral.com/news/story.asp?file=/2003/12/28/tvnradio/6978354&sec=tvnradio
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