Meeting Srei Vacharaphol is like a writer’s dream come true. Known for both her prominence and a multilayered persona, the life of Srei is a goldmine of stories — all of which are equal parts surprising and incredibly insightful. The first and only daughter of one of the most renowned families in Thai society — the family seated at the helm of Thailand’s top daily newspaper, Thairath — Srei grew up surrounded by media veterans. While her father, Saravut Vacharaphol, is the newspaper’s powerful publisher and editor-in-chief, her mother Oraphan Vacharaphol Pantong was a former actress who today spearheads Polyplus.
Though born with the proverbial silver spoon, there’s something surprisingly passionate, grounded and genuine about Srei that makes it hard not to be captivated by her charms. In an exclusive interview with Prestige, she shares her adventures, life goals and literary loves. Read on to find out more about the dynamic newspaper heiress and online It-Girl.
She’s named after Cambodia’s most beautiful place.
For someone so compellingly original, it’s only fitting really that her name be equally chimerical and uncommon. A nod towards her father’s interest in Khmer culture, Srei is actually a Cambodian word, meaning ‘woman’. It also comes from Banteay Srei — the name of Cambodia’s most beautiful place, a 10th century temple made completely out of natural pink sandstone, dedicated to the Hindu God Shiva.
As a child, she preferred playing with briefcases over barbies.
A self-proclaimed workaholic, Srei distinctly remembers a childhood spent on the penthouse floor of the Thairath building, where her four-year-old self would scourge through her father’s closet to put on his shirts and pants. “I’d steal his work outfit and briefcase and pretended to go to work.”
While other kids were having make-believe weddings, she would step into her father’s shoes — literally. “I’d walk into his office and play with his colleagues, saying ‘Hi, I’m here to work now, sorry for being late.’ Being in that work environment, you absorb a lot of work ethics and such. I’ve known all my life that I was meant to work. I love work and I’m a workaholic. My parents are, too, and we’re proud of it.”
Though vivaciously charming, she prefers being behind-the-scenes than in the limelight.
Most of Srei’s time today is spent on her YouTube channel, @sreivphol. Launched seven months ago, her videos have rapidly become quite the sensation, clocking in over 500,000 views. Despite her amicable, talkative disposition and likeable charms, she admits to being quite a private person, and often enjoys making the videos more than starring in them. “I’m not born to be a vlogger though and only did it because so many people asked me to. What I like to do more is the behind-the-scenes stuff. I really enjoy editing these videos and putting in the effects and sound effects. I seem a bit confused and tense in the earlier episodes and in truth, I’m actually a very private person.”
Switching effortlessly between her roles both on and off camera, it’s possible that her versatility was influenced by her mother, who today sits at the helm of Polyplus, a business spanning television programs, a publishing house, as well as a renowned PR agency. She recalls having a penchant for creativity even in her youth, when she would hand-draw posters offering free art lessons for her grandmother’s 30 over maids. “Obviously no one showed up. But all their kids were forced to come!” she jokes. She even held fashion shows for the children in her room, “I’d put makeup on them and get them all dressed up,” she reminisces fondly, “it was a very good childhood and I always knew I wanted to be this sort of behind-the-scenes person.”
Her favourite authors include Nietzsche, Edgar Allen Poe and William Ernest Henley.
There’s a rare moment of shyness when Srei mentions that it’s her dark humour, and a shared interest in classical music, art and history that makes her mesh so well with her hotelier boyfriend, Pongvarut “Pai” Pangsrivongse. In truth, it’s no surprise that she would have such an impressive list of literary loves — the princess of print has been deeply immersed in the world of words since she was five. She looks back fondly on Sunday mornings spent with her father, where he would make her read other newspapers out loud to him. “It was hard for me to do that because I was a bit dyslexic!” she laughs, but in a more serious tone mentions that she enjoyed it anyway because it was quality time spent with her father. “He’d give me 10 Baht for every page I read.”
She didn’t only gain coins from these sessions, but important life lessons too. “I used to ask him why I had to do this since we (Thairath) were already number one. He told me that being number one doesn’t mean anything because nothing is constant. It doesn’t mean we should just close our eyes and not look at other people’s opinions.”
Her goal is to write.
A day in the life of Srei is far from uneventful. Along with her growing YouTube influence, she also has a cosmetic line on the side, and often takes on modelling gigs for fashion magazines and various brands. Though her highly visible persona and daily schedule is of the enviable kind of glitz-and-glam, she brushes it off as just work, because there’s something much closer to home that resonates with what her true goals are. “I like to write, so I want to be a columnist working under my dad. And in the future, I want to replace him as the editor-in-chief of Thairath. I think I do have the potential, because I have loved writing since I was a kid.”
Her love for words shines through the little things — she used to spend her time on airplanes writing gossip and political columns, and her witty Instagram captions are a tell-tale sign of a deeper, intellectual side. She describes her writing the same way she writes it “full of emotion that you want to cry, but then I throw in a joke. I like my writing to be up and down. I don’t want my writing to be a flat line. Medically, that means you’re dead.”
And her dream is to buy her mother a gift from Graff.
Srei might be known for her rebellious spirit and advocation of dare-to-be-you, when it comes to family she shows a softer side. Her near and dear always comes first, and it’s reflected in all her dreams for the future. “One of my biggest dreams is to buy my mum something from Graff with my own money,” she says excitedly. “I want to buy her something there because she really likes it. I was at a Graff boutique once and saw my aunt buy a ring for my grandma. I still remember the look on my grandma’s face… and I want to see the same look on my mum’s face!”
On a more serious note, she is also keenly aware of her responsibilities as the eldest daughter, and is prepared to look after her two younger brothers Saralun and Sarunvut when her parents are no longer around. “Unfortunately and fortunately, as the big sister, I have to take care of them. I have to, I want to. It’s my responsibility and I have to be the pillar of the family. I don’t mind that. When you’re the eldest, you have to take care of the younger. I’m a woman, but I can be a strong one, right?
She doesn’t believe in trends.
Though clearly a trend-setter, Srei has never been one to follow or care about trends. Even with her life choices, there’s a hint of the non-orthodox as she pushes forwards, intent on carving her own path. Having left Mater Dei for International School Bangkok, she continued to pursue Fine Arts post high-school at Central Saint Martins. Rather than simply going with the flow of her course, she found the education satisfyingly sub-par, and wrote a seven page essay referencing all the mismanagement of the course. She requested a transfer to Chelsea College of Arts, where she happily graduated in 2017.
Her bold, opinionated, and at times cheeky nature can be seen even in her fashion sense — like when she hangs an Adventure Time dog keychain over her Hermès Kelly bag. “I don’t care what the trend is… if I want to wear something, I will and I am going to rock it. You have to embrace your individuality and the fact that we’re all different. I think uniqueness has even more value than beauty.” And rock it she does, from dramatic eye shadow to the occasional vibrant colours i her hair — a truly otherworldly beauty.
She’s all about no-frills honesty.
Part of what makes her YouTube channel so successful is because, unlike many other scripted reality shows, she fulfills our curiosities about the life of an heiress by giving us the life — as it is. Whether it’s a scene of her touring the Bellagio, scarfing down Momofuku ice cream or even going on a dollar-store run with her father in LA, there is something highly genuine about Srei’s videos that make us want to keep watching.
Her advocation of media transparency extends to more than a willingness to appear on-camera straight out of bed sans makeup. She defends the gory headlines and sensationalist journalism that Thai newspapers often get criticised for. “How can you make the world seem pretty when it’s not? Yes, it’s gruesome and violent, but it reflects the cruel society we live in. I used to ask my dad that too and he said it reflects society. People need to see that because it could happen to anyone at anytime. These things happen all the time and people need that reminder.”
The best meal she’s ever had was pizza with a homeless man.
“When I came out of this pizza place with a tray, a homeless man looked at me like it was gold or something,” she recalls. “I asked if he would like to join me for dinner and sat down with him, right there on the street. We exchanged stories and by the end of the meal, he drew me a flower on his favourite page of the Da Vinci Code he was reading and ripped the page out for me as a thank you. I still keep it on my bedhead in London where I keep all my sentimental things. My mum freaked out when I told her the story, saying I could have been stabbed or mugged, and my brother was annoyed because the pizza was supposed to be for him. But it was one of the best meals in my life.”
One of her ambitions is to be even better and richer than her parents.
While Srei leans more towards spontaneity than planning too far ahead, there are some things in her visions for the future that to her appear crystal clear — her ambitions to exceed her parents success. “They are so smart and even if they weren’t my parents, I would still really, really admire them. I have to be even more competent and to grow. Mum started out with nothing and I really look up to her. And even though dad was born into privilege, he’s had to work really hard. I look forward to being like them. I’ll be working even harder than I am now. It keeps me going and gives my life purpose.”
Photographer: Vatcharasith Wichyanrat
Stylist: Pisit Jirathadaphan
Makeup Artist: Sukhon Srimarattanakul
Hair Stylist: Narongsak Yiamlaengamkool
Editorial Coordinator: Rattanachai Chaipornsantikul