Ithought of many different ways to write this Sumanee Guna-Kasem article. But in the end I decided to be as straightforward as possible since honesty is possibly one thing that a woman who has everything, a woman as rich as King Solomon, would appreciate.
To say Sumanee, 76, is an enigmatic socialite would be an understatement. A personality in her own right, Sumanee was the loving wife of the late ambassador to the United Nations, Pracha Guna-Kasem. She's also known as one of the most prolific antique collectors in Thailand and her priceless valuables will go on public display when she is no longer with us.
As an unintentionally colourful social figure, Sumanee's appearance has been a debatable subject for many to sink their teeth into. Some might say she rose to public attention because of her plastic Barbie-lookalike features as well as for her blonde wigs and tailored wardrobes.
Venturing into Sumanee's Lang Suan building, where she still rents out rooms from the first to seventh floor to long-time residents, was like entering a private, well-guarded hidden palace where eunuchs were of high power and timid ladies in waiting lurked quietly in corners only to appear when needed. To get to Sumanee's residence on the 8th floor, I waded through a dimly lit hallway already peppered with impressive amounts of wooden antiques towards an equally antique-looking elevator.
To crass eyes like mine, these artifacts hail from all corners of the world, and one is possibly more expensive than the next. But when cluttered together in high density, I couldn't help feeling that Sumanee's acquisitions would have appeared as valuable as their price tags if placed within more space. It was more overwhelming than walking around museums because there was neither protection glass nor ropes between these rarities and me. Like walking in a house of glass and dust, it took some time to acclimatise.
As soon as I stepped into the holding room for visitors, one of Sumanee's assistants handed me papers, which held answers neatly typed out. They were answers to rough talking points I'd submitted for review. Shocked, I was informed that Sumanee wouldn't be giving an interview. Somewhere along the line, there was a miscommunication, and her principal assistant, her main minder, who waltzed around barking orders, sternly informed me that Sumanee's voice wasn't loud enough, and sometimes she was misquoted, so this was the best way.
Needless to say, I was disappointed, but decided to stick around for a photo session. The principal assistant, who seemed to be in charge, further informed us that Sumanee would be photographed with one look for Life. That was fine, I said.
After a wait, Sumanee walked in, helped by her two other assistants. With her blonde wig, gold headpiece and tiny waist, Sumanee appeared in good spirits, asking our photographer which poses he would like. Even with all the protocols, Sumanee just seemed "normal" _ a kind grandmother through her quivering voice, yet a ferocious doll with her preserved looks.
Questions still remain, and I don't know when we will have another opportunity to be in close proximity to such a guarded, elusive figure again.
Below are the typed-out "answers" from a woman who has everything, a woman whose public image is majestically absurd and whose wealth so great that it's become a thing of legends, which will continue to be told.
On her life philosophy...
I was born in a rather traditional period, so I didn't really have a personalised philosophy. Since I was a kid, I studied what my parents saw appropriate. But if I liked something extra, they would support my choices. I don't think I can use all that I've studied, but it serves as a life foundation. When I got married, I followed my husband's career until he retired, and until he passed. Now my time is running out, so I try to not hold on to anything or anyone. I just try to do the best for each day since each day is already a benefit.
One being an antique collector...
At first, I didn't think I wanted to be a collector, but I bought items to decorate our house when I got married. I've also inherited some stuff from my ancestors, and wanted to decorate according to our lives and our styles. So I began collecting, and when I thought I had all I wanted, I couldn't stop. Along the way, I've always found new things, and then it's become a habit. These days, it's quite a burden to look after them, but otherwise they would get ruined.
On her upcoming pocket book...
It's almost finished. I'm in the process of selecting photos to accompany my stories. The pocket book will also include over 60 fashion shoots. I think the launch will be in September this year.
On her health...
I am trying to be as close to nature as possible by using products that have the least chemical substances. I get my blood checked every two months, and see nine doctors every month. I apply mindfulness to every aspect of my life. I also exercise regularly. If nothing bad happens, I'll try to live a good, healthy life as soon as possible.
About the author
- Writer: Onsiri Pravattiyagul
Position: Entertainment Editor