Nuntita ‘Bell’ Khampiranon hypnotises audiences on ‘Thailand’s Got Talent
The road to stardom of Lady Gaga and Nuntita “Bell” Khampiranon have something in common.
There was a time when the world wondered, “is that a man or a woman?” when Lady Gaga stepped into the music scene with her ambiguous sexuality, caused by the rumours of her being a hermaphrodite – not to mention her outrageously, out-of-this-world character. The same question was repeated when millions of viewers of Thailand’s Got Talent watched the performance of beautiful transgendered Nuntita who hypnotised the audiences for the very first minute of her act, with her dreamy voice that came out of a slender female figure and girlish complexion, until she KO-ed everyone after unleashing her masculine bass.
Nowadays, we know the US pop icon is a “miss” and our Thai YouTube star is a “mister” – though, if you put their images next to each other, you might see things reversed. But, after all, the two stories shared the same ending: once they showed the world their musical talents, the gender issue had little to do with it.
One evening I was online and received an instant message from a pal in China. He sent me a link to Nuntita’s video on a Chinese version of YouTube. He begged me to translate the reaction of the judges, while sharing his excitement after watching the clip and shared how this petite Thai transgender became famous in China. Apparently, the original video of her performance was posted on YouTube last March and today has been seen by almost three million viewers.
“I am very happy about it. And, as a Thai, I am proud for Thai people for such good feedback; that people from around the world have admired my performance,” said Nuntita, who is the talk-of-the-town in Thai showbiz and everybody wants to know more about her. I was lucky enough be offered a phone interview during her trip from one studio to another.
“As far as I could recall, I knew I was a woman trapped in male body,” said the native of Nakhon Ratchasima.
Being the only son of a father who served in the army, expressing her femininity while being a boy caused her troubles.
“Boys made fun of me at school. They picked on me a lot. At home, my dad used to beat me [almost] to death,” she said. “He wanted me to be ‘normal’,” she said.
Asking how she survived the bullying, Nuntita said that her growing passion for singing was somehow her saviour.
“I’ve loved singing since I was young. My dad loves karaoke. My grandmother used to be a singer. So it’s in our blood,” Nuntita said.
“During my teenage years, I tried to get involved in a singing club, as it is one of the activity I could do to fulfill my dream and to stay away from other boys.
“More importantly, it is much better to be acknowledged as a school’s representative in singing contests, than being referred to only as a gay boy in school.”
After completing her education at a vocational school, Nuntita planned to further her studies in Bangkok, but had to give up the plan due to her family’s financial problems.
“After I finished school, I got a job offer as a DJ for a local radio station and I also began singing in a pub,” said Nuntita.
One night a playful thought popped into her mind – Nuntita decided to please her peers with her two-voiced magic.
“Some of the guests realised that I am a transsexual when I did a male voice,” she said, laughing. “They loved it. And I have been playing this trick with my audiences since then.”
With such a unique talent, when asked who is her role model, Thailand’s most famous transgendered singer Mum Laconic was her quick answer.
“She is so talented and has always been my idol,” Nuntita said. “When you watched her perform, singing or talking to the audiences with her sense of humour, people fall in love with her. No one talked about whether she was a man or a woman, they talk about her beautiful voice and music.”
Not only was her talent discovered while singing with the band, she also found a boyfriend.
“My boyfriend is also my band mate. We have been together for eight years. But things are getting rough since I decided to join the show in Bangkok.”
It was rather hard to blame her boyfriend for his growing jealousy, even former boy band member Robbie Williams thought that she was a woman with a male voice. A video appearance on a talk show on Dutch television captured his reaction after watching a video of Nuntita singing had gone viral on the internet since last week.
“I am glad to know I could fool a man, a famous one,” she joked.
When the door of opportunity opened, Nuntita quickly leapt in and followed her heart. There is one thing in particular she appreciated about Thailand’s Got Talent and that was the fact that the show offers an equal chance to anybody of any gender.
“The reason I decided to join the show was because it is open to people of all genders,” she explained. “That is the main reason why I think this is the perfect stage for me to show what I have got and who I am.”
The lyrics of the latest gay anthem, Born This Way by the unabashed Lady Gaga – “No matter gay, straight or bi, lesbian, transgendered life/ I’m on the right track, baby. I was born to survive” – have spoken to the hearts of many people with sexual diversity, including the talented Nuntita’s.
“For me, everything in this world happens for a reason. And there must be a reason why I was born this way. But I don’t bother asking ‘why me?’. What’s more important is that we know who we really are and must stay true to ourselves.
“To live happily, we should follow our passions or find out what is our hidden talent … and let it shine.”
After three judges gave her their unanimous votes, the last part of the video was when Nuntita talked to the camera and left a short message to her father that she loves him so much and she has finally made it. As I asked her whether she got to talk to her father afterwards, Nuntita replied “yes” and shared his words.
“I am glad to hear that he is now proud of me. And, no matter who I am, he said, just be a good person.”
Video of Bell Nuntita singing on Thailand’s Got Talent