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Nong Toom at Fairtex Gym in Bangkok.
June 9, 1981
|Other names||Parinya Kiatbusaba|
|Occupation||Muay Thai boxer, actress, model|
Parinya Charoenphol or Parinya Kiatbusaba (born June 9, 1981), more popularly known as Nong Thoom, Nong Toom or Nong Tum (Thai: น้องตุ้ม ปริญญา เจริญผล), is arguably the best-known kathoey in Thailand. She is a former Muay Thai (Thai boxing) champion and has also worked as a model and actress.
As a child, she was already aware of her female gender-identity. After a short period as a Buddhist monk, she started to train as a boxer, and eventually joined a Muay Thai camp in Chonburi. Her goal was to make enough money to support her poor parents and to pay for sex-reassignment surgery.
Career and current projects
Her public life began in February 1998, with a victory in Bangkok's Lumpini Boxing Stadium, the center of the Muay Thai world. The Thai media were understandably intrigued by the novelty and incongruity of a make-up wearing 16-year-old kathoey, or "lady boy", defeating and then kissing a larger, more muscular opponent.
Although the Thai government had previously blocked kathoey athletes from participating in the national volleyball team for fear of negative reaction from the rest of the world, the Muay Thai establishment embraced Nong Toom, and tourism officials promoted her as "indicative of the wonders to be found" in Thailand. Muay Thai had been in a several-year slump at the time, and Nong Toom had greatly revitalized both media and public interest in the sport, as shown by increased ticket sales and stadium revenue.
She was profiled in several magazines, and appeared in many Thai music videos. Subsequently, her public profile began to fade, but her bouts with a foreigner, as well as her trip to Japan to fight a Japanese challenger, kept her in the news. By fall of 1998, there was little coverage of Nong Toom to be found in either the mainstream or boxing media.
In 1999, Nong Toom caused considerable publicity by announcing her retirement from kick boxing, her intention to become a singer, and her plan to undergo sex reassignment surgery. She was initially turned down by some of the Bangkok surgeons she turned to, but was able to undergo the sex-change surgery in 1999 at Yanhee International Hospital.
On February 26, 2006, Nong Tum made a comeback as boxer. She fought an exhibition match for Fairtex Gym's new Pattaya branch (re-dubbed Nong Toom Fairtex Gym) by fighting a 140-pound contest against Japan's Kenshiro Lookchaomaekhemthong. Nong Toom won by unanimous decision after the three-round fight, leaving her rival with a cut near his eye from an elbow in the last round.
In 2010, Nong Toom opened a boxing camp, Parinya Muay Thai, in Pranburi, Thailand which she owns and runs with American actor-writer Steven Khan. She currently teaches Muay Thai and aerobics to children at the Baan Poo Yai School.
Movie and other media appearances
Her story is related in the 2003 film Beautiful Boxer in which she was portrayed by male kickboxer Asanee Suwan. The film won several national and international awards, yet opened to limited success in Thailand. She came to United States theatres in 2005. The film's director, Ekachai Uekorngtham, also wrote the solo performance Boxing Cabaret for Nong Toom which she performed in the summer of 2005 at the Singapore Arts Festival and later in Bangkok.
Nong Toom's life as a kathoey is also part of the book Ladyboys: The Secret World of Thailand's Third Gender by Maverick House Publishers.
She had a prominent role in the 2006 superhero film-action film Mercury Man, playing the title character's transgender sibling and demonstrating her kickboxing prowess on the villains. In 2006, she appeared as a guest star on SBS television series "World Record Pizza" and Rallarsving (Sweden).
- Thai "Ladyboy" Kickboxer Is Gender-Bending Knockout", National Geographic News article on Nong Tum, March 2004
- Joseph Kahn: "Was That a Lady I Saw You Boxing?" The New York Times April 4, 1998
- Somporn, Supop (February 23, 2006). "Sex change boxer is back in the ring", The Nation (Thailand).
- "Ladyboys: The Secret World of Thailand's Third Gender" by Susan Aldous and Pornchai Sereemongkonpol, published by Maverick House Publishers (2008)