The highs and the lows
Nuntita Khampiranon, better known as Belle Nuntita, wowed audiences on March 13, last year, when she stood on the stage of the ever-popular Thailand’s Got Talent TV show. The 29-year old walked out – looking stunning and all-woman – and started singing like a trained songstress. Her voice was soothingly feminine and note-perfect. But then, halfway through the performance, came something which had barely ever been seen – or heard – before. Nuntita ‘switched voice’ completely and began to sing in a powerful and moving masculine tone, octaves lower. Jaws dropped – but the audience quickly developed smiles before their cheers rang out. They instantly realised that Nuntita was born a man – but is now a transgender woman. And no-one criticised. A star was born.
Nuntita’s performance went instantly viral and it wasn’t long until she released her debut album, Belle Nuntita. She’s been riding on a cloud ever since, loved for her incredible talent and for the fact she’s a transgender person who’s been ballsy enough to gun for international fame – and got it.
The transgender community is often misunderstood. And those who enter the spotlight more often than not run a big risk of a public backlash. But that hasn’t stopped Nuntita – and now the young starlet sits with Time Out at the Palace IFC Theatre after a showing of her first feature film It Gets Better (which was also the closing film for the Hong Kong Gay and Lesbian Film Festival) and tells us her story.
What have you been doing since that amazing episode of Thailand’s Got Talent?
Before the fame, I was a DJ at a local radio station and also a singer in a restaurant. After the fame I went straight into the entertainment industry – singing, acting, DJing and TV work. I’m swamped every day.
Are you comfortable with people acknowledging you as a transgender singer rather than just a talented singer?
I am proud of it. If I wasn’t transgender I wouldn’t have had the fame. If I didn’t come out, I wouldn’t be able to be a role model or an idol for transgender people in Thailand. Right now, most of the transgenders adore me – and I will never forget where I come from.
Do you plan to be an activist for the transgender cause?
No, not too much activism. I just want to focus on my career. I think, when people see me, it will help the transgender community in terms of career. I really want transgender people to be able to find work. I hope when transgender people see me as a singer, they know that they can make it in this industry too. I want to open up their options and give them more confidence to work.
Were there struggles when you were growing up?
My family is happy now. There were definitely struggles in the beginning and it’s a bit of a sad story. My father was a soldier and I’m his only son. My father hated me being a sissy, so I got beaten a lot. My father believed that beating me would make me stronger. My family was very poor and, after primary school, my father didn’t support me, so I had to start working. I didn’t learn much English. I didn’t get to go to university. Now they’re used to me looking like a woman, so cutting ‘it’ off didn’t make any difference.
When did you complete your final surgery? When did you snip ‘it’ off?
It was just last July, before shooting the movie. Before that I was just halfway through.
So on Thailand’s Got Talent you still had ‘it’?
Okay. Now that you’ve had a year to adjust, how do you feel?
And how did you know you wanted to become a full woman?
I’ve known since I was born. I never thought I was a boy. I’m always thinking like a girl. It’s an instinct. I never liked my own dick but I love other people’s dicks.
How did you approach your role in It Gets Better?
When I sing a song, I pass on a story, so when I act, I use the same feelings. I was very excited about this role because of the love scene. I kissed the actor on the first day of shooting. There were three takes. [Laughs] At first we were worried if he would kiss someone who’s transgender – but he was fine with it. He actually blushed a little.
What’s next in your career, then?
I’m going to continue singing and I also want to dabble in songwriting and production. Tannia Tanwain Sukkhapisit, who is the director of It Gets Better, is also the director of the film Insects of the Backyard, which the Thai government banned. She is my idol. I want to work more with her in the future. Interview by Arthur Tam
Get in touch with Belle Nuntita