She is one of Southeast Asia's most famous models, appeared not only in Asia but in the US and European markets as well.
Growing up at a small village in northeastern Thailand, Rojjana Phetkanha, 23, spent her childhood working in rice fields and helping tend the family’s water buffalo. She never went beyond sixth grade in school. But four years ago she was discovered by a fashion designer and rose quickly to stardom. Now she is a lead model for Chanel, and her face appears at bus stops in Paris and in leading fashion magazines around the world. She’s had a bit part in a Bruce Willis movie and a role in a George Michael music video. Her success, she says, may signal a breakthrough for Asian models who–like her–are darker-skinned, and have suffered from a prejudice against women considered too “”Asian-looking.” In Bangkok, Yui (as she is known) talked with the help of a Thai translator to NEWSWEEK’S Ron Moreau.