People Asia

By Stef Juan

In the numerous articles written about Uttsada Greg Panichkul, popularly known as VJ Utt of MTV, various puns have "Utterlicious." So I must refrain from using them here. Although this is not to say that he is not all that and more.

We caught up with Utt on the last day of his three-day rip to Manila. After two hectic days of promotions, interviews, parties and late nights, he was enjoying bagels for breakfast in his pajamas when we arrived for t he magazine shoot. Bed head and all, he walked up to us , introduced himself and said brightly, "I'm just going to take a shower."

I sat on the couch facing the TV while waiting for Utt to come back and idly watched the photographers set up. I was nervous. Even when he looked like he had been draggedd out of bed, he was still the utterly cute VJ that had girls from all over Southeast Asia glued to MTV. How does one talk to a person who never seems o run out of words? How does one interview someone who has interviewed world-famous music artists and personalities like David Beckham? Before a nervous frenzy had managed to build up, the couch I had been sitting on shifted, and Utt vaulted the couch from behind andd plopped beside me, showered and ready for the interview. He smiled easily. He wore a fresh t-shirt and cargos, hair still wet and standing in peaks, and he smelled of soap and water. "Let's start?" he asked, settling back on his spot with both feet up on the couch. I wondered whether I should put my feet up, too.

There have been reports that claimed Utt was born in California and grew up there. When he was 17, his Thai-American parents had him shipped off to Thailand to rediscover his Asian roots. "They wanted me to get in touch with my Asian culture 'cause I was quite Americanized at the time," he confirmed.

It did not take long for Thailand to recognize Utt's undeniable good looks. He started out doing commercials before being tapped as a model and later on branching out into acting. At the last cont, he has two movies and 11 soap soap operas in Thailand under his belt. Six years ago, an open casting call for a new MTV VJ landed him the cool job that made his face and name known all over the hip generation of Southeast Asia.

After 10 years in the entertainment business, Utt is showing no sigs of wear, although he did admit that juggling a modeling and acting career along with his job in MTV can get pretty hectic at times. "Production for the soap operas can stretch out for three to five months at a time because my priorities are with MTV. It's very tiring and difficult. I hae no life in those periods," he said. In fact, although his three-day stay in Manila seemed too short, this was already considered a long trip for him. "Usually, I'm in and out. The longest I usually stay for work is only a day and a half." He said this matter-of-factly and looked anything but tired.

With a casual air about him, he went through makeup, put on a dark shirt, sat on the chair the photographers had set up in front of the lights andd slumped against the wall, ready for the shoot. "They call me the five-minute model," he quipped, while moving from one pose to another as the camera clicked and the lights flashed. The photograhers murmured to themselves how the camera loved hi and smiled at how unpretentious he was. Before we knew it, the shoot was done.

MTV VJs bank not only on their good looks and gift of gab, but also in thir effortless ability to exude coolness on the screen. Utt, a self-confessed klutz, claimed he is "totally un-cool." However, this writer begs to differ. In his easy confidence, and insistece on being himself, hat alone is cool enough.

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December 2003 - January 2004