“I was never someone outstanding, and to tell you the truth, I never really had a goal in life,” Suquan Bulakul says. “You may see me as someone who is very successful and having a great life, but I’m not that ambitious or competitive – I’m not your typical go-getter. What I did was just to give my all in everything I do; doing my best every day.”
The youngest of the two daughters of Swai Vivorakij, who qualified as a certified accountant in the UK and went on to become a co-managing partner at Ernst & Young, and housewife Duangrutai Verasa, Suquan describes her childhood as “normal”. “I was a shy, prim and proper child. I was doing okay in school. But while my friends seemed to have solid goals and aspirations since a very young age – to become doctors, designers, architects and so forth – I didn’t. I never had a favourite subject. I had no particular passion. It was quite scary to be somewhat lost when friends around you had purpose to hold on to. There were people that rarely went to classes and did very little studying, yet they still scored As. Success comes easily to some, but not me. I needed to put in extra work and struggled to get where they were.
“I was worried, of course, that I would ever become something or someone at all. I wondered if I had possibly already failed in life because I didn’t have a goal. But I somehow managed by doing my best at whatever choice I had made in my life. So if you are a little lost and confused in life, don’t sweat it too much. Do your best, work hard and it will definitely pay off.”
Suquan’s attitude might seem lax and casual, but there’s no denying that she’s a fighter. As she drifted through the last year of middle school with average grades, one teacher showed Suquan her own fullest potential – the hard way. “Back then it was considered acceptable for teachers to spank students, and this particular teacher made spanking her forte. But she didn’t do it out of malicious intention. It was just the method she chose – to be cruel to be kind. She targeted less attentive students like me and she would scold us very harshly in front of the whole class to embarrass us. I was terrified, but I didn’t retreat. I pushed harder until I became one of the top students in the class, much to my own surprise. And just like that I realised that I could succeed in most anything if I set my mind to it.”
From being an average student Suquan went on to become a top achiever, earning her a place in the prestigious Faculty of Communication Arts at Chulalongkorn University. Here, she majored in Advertising and Public Relations. “Even at this point, I was still blank,” Suquan admits. “I didn’t know what I wanted to study in university – the choice was based on the fact that my entrance exam result was good enough to be accepted into this faculty, which required the highest admission score that year. Up until graduation I still couldn’t figure out my next move in life, but I didn’t put myself under too much stress. I just knew that if I kept doing my best everything would be alright.”
Suquan’s positive outlook on life, she says, is the result of her father’s parenting. After her parents divorce, she was raised mainly by her father who gently groomed her to be an independent young woman that believes in herself, no matter what.
“I was aware of his concerns as a parent, but I never felt stifled or overly pampered,” Suquan says. “He let me take a public bus home, stay late at the faculty to work on projects and even occasionally allowed me to go out partying with friends. He gave me enough freedom to live a life of my own and never dictated or pressured me to be something I wasn’t. At the same time, he taught me to be responsible and considerate. When we agreed that I had to be home by 1am, it had to be exactly 1am and not five minutes later. The best thing he ever taught me is probably to try and do my best in everything.”
After graduating from Chulalongkorn University, Suquan pursued a Master’s Degree in Communication Arts at Emerson College in Boston. Upon her return, she had already imagined herself working in an adverting agency, but fate had something else in store for her. “An alumnus from Emerson College who previously worked at The Nation newspaper called and told me about Nation TV that would soon be launched,” Suquan recalls. “She remembered talking to me during our time at Emerson College about the conventional news programmes in Thailand at the time and the modern, casual touch I imagined they could use. She asked if I wanted a job as a producer there and I decided to go for it. I didn’t get the producer job – instead I was appointed as a news anchor for economic and business programmes.”
Completely out of her element and beyond her expectations, Suquan found herself taking on a task that required much more than just a pretty face and a beautiful smile. “I struggled a lot in the beginning to equip myself with insights, background information, current happenings and analytical aspects in the realm of local and international economies,” Suquan says. “The station was first launched in 2000 to revolutionise TV news reporting and there was a very high expectation from the public. I couldn’t fail the station and needed to prove myself. For me, it felt like starting from not just zero but from minus one hundred.
“I never gave up on anything, ever. And looking at it in retrospect, being an average kid my whole life helped. I never overestimated my abilities – I expected hard work and struggle to earn success. I never had it easy and I never expected it to be so. Also, I don’t usually look too far ahead. I didn’t land a job in the news studio and then dreamed about being the greatest and most popular news anchor. I tend to focus more on the tasks at hand, getting the job done and making sure I did my best. I kept my head down, taking one step at a time without even looking up to see how far I still had to go.”
During the four-year tenure at Nation TV – filled with panic-stricken sleepless nights, overnight study and round-the-clock hard work – Suquan quickly stepped up to become one of the station’s most notable news anchors. And just when she was contemplating the prospect of her career in TV, another turn of fate occurred when she was tasked to interview Choak Bulakul, group managing director and heir of Farm Chokchai, Thailand’s well-known multifaceted dairy farm, and whom she went on to marry in 2004.
“At the time there was an outbreak of mad cow disease and I was assigned to interview Choak. That was the first time we met,” Suquan recalls. “We met again three years later when I had to interview him again after Asia Week Magazine named him one of the top 25 of Asia’s new generation of “Young, Wired & Rich”. This time he gave me his personal mobile phone number.” Slowly but steadily, a romance blossomed.
“I always tease him that he must have fallen for me the very time we met,” Suquan laughs. “He admitted though that I made a very memorable first impression on him. Unlike most reporters that usually dress casually, I was wearing my Prada shoes and covered the interview desk with my Louis Vuitton stationery set. After getting to know him more on a personal level, I started to admire his tenacity and never-give-up attitude. At 25 he turned the family’s near-bankrupt business into the Farm Chokchai that we see today. He’s not the most romantic guy but he is very honest, kind and straightforward – everything I look for in a husband.”
Suquan, now also the mother of 12-year-old Prarb, left the hectic life of a news anchor behind and broke into show business in 2012 with film “Seven Something”. Her most recent acting work was digital TV series “Side by Side”, released early last year to critical acclaim.
“This could be another shift in my life,” Suquan says about her budding acting career. “I asked myself at one point whether I was obliged to do anything anymore in life, and the answer was no. I worked hard and succeeded as an independent daughter, a dutiful wife and a loving mother. Now is the time to embark on something new, on a life that I can design for myself. I enjoy acting a lot because it gives me an opportunity to be someone else, to live other people’s lives and feel their joy and pain even for just a few moments. Anyhow my son, my husband and my parents always come first.”
As glamourous and elegant as she is, Suquan’s idea of luxury is very simple. “Luxury to me is having something that no one else has, and it does not have anything to do with price or money at all. My ultimate luxury moment is when I’m jogging on our over 3,000-rai farm. I’m completely alone in this vast, picturesque green farm, breathing in fresh morning air. To me, nothing in the world can compare to that.”
Photographer: Vatcharasith Wichyanrat
Stylist: Pisit Jirathadaphan
Makeup Artist: Soravudh Chatrakul Na Ayudhaya
Hair Stylist: Mongkolwat Taveraksakul
Art Direction: Kanda Charanawat
Editorial Coordinator: Sirinart Panyasricharoen
Venue: 28 Chidlom