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The transgender lingerie model who spent six years as a monk before becoming one of Thailand's biggest stars

By LAURA HOUSE (Mail Online)    14:07, December 17, 2015
The transgender lingerie model who spent six years as a monk before becoming one of Thailand's biggest stars
Eye-opening experience: Mimi Tao, 22, was sent to an all-boys temple school to become a monk at 12-years-old due to family financial issues - the experience and intense reflection helping her become more self aware

As one of the most successful and in-demand models in Thailand, Mimi Tao is a red carpet regular, stalks the catwalk in couture and appears scantily clad in lingerie shoots.

Life today could not be more different from the six years the transgender model, then named Phajaranat Nobantao, spent as a Buddhist monk, after being sent to a temple school as a 12-year-old boy.

After a strict Catholic upbringing and comfortable life, family financial ruin saw the future star's path change drastically - from a private education to the quiet monastic life.

But it was during this time that everything changed. 'I started to act like a girl, talk like a girl and become more interested in girlie stuff like make-up,' Nobantao, now Mimi Tao, told the Bangkok Post.

Despite knowing she wanted to live life as a girl, Tao became a monk and lived by over 200 strict precepts.

But Tao's desire was only getting stronger and she would secretly meet with four of her friends and they would put make up on and do 'girlie' things together.

'At the time the best we could do was put baby powder on our faces, draw our eye brows on with pencil and sometimes put on red lipstick,' Tao said, who would also put on small catwalk shows in the room by modifying her robes.

The group soon started experimenting with the contraceptive pill in an attempt to develop breasts, but Tao was caught by her mother, who threatened to disown her if she didn't stop.

Despite being caught, Tao was determined to live life as she had always wanted and after six years in the monastery decided to leave and try to pay off her beloved mother's debt.

After working in various cabaret shows including the well known Calypso show in Bangkok, Tao was inspired by supermodel Yui Phetkanha and pursued a career in modelling.

The determined aspiring model convinced Yui to teach her how to model - eventually convincing her after 12 meetings.

Yui taught Tao everything she knew - from posing skills and finding light to walking on a catwalk - for a period of three months before Tao went out on her own.

But in the real world, Tao faced rejection, gruelling interviews and many telling her the Thai modelling industry simply 'wasn't ready for somebody like her'.

'It was a wake-up call, Tao said. 'But I didn’t give up hope. I knew I was a good seed, I just happened to be in the wrong soil.'

Tao pushed through the rejection and spent time in Singapore where she slowly built up a reputation in the modelling world through local shows and commercials.

Once back in Thailand, Tao's name had spread and she landed her first job and her career took off.

Now one of the most well-known fashion and lingerie models in Thailand, Tao boasts many high-end campaigns and advertising gigs.

She has already made a name for herself in the international modelling scene, will soon star in a film about transgender models and now hopes to head to New York.

But modelling is not a life-long goal for Tao, who hopes to soon finally pay off her mother's debt.

'No one knows the future. I might go back to being a monk once I don’t have anything else to worry about...'Sometimes I think that was the ideal life for me.' 


(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)
(Editor:Zhang Yuan,Bianji)

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