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Tue, Nov 25, 2008
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Struggling for identity
by Parinyaporn Pajee

This is a sad story of a superstar who grew up wondering who she really was.

Former superstar Jarunee Desneiges - aka Jarunee Suksawat - recently returned to the big screen after a break of several years, playing Queen Hijau in Nonzee Nimbutr's lastest action fantasy "Puenyai Jom Salad" ("Queens of Lang-kasuka").

The 46-year-old actress was one of Thailand's most bankable stars back in the 1980s, yet few people realised that behind that smiling face on screen was a young woman struggling with her identity.

Raised by her grandmother, Jarunee didn't even know who her real father was until she was almost 40. She met the man in question, Frenchman Fernand Desneiges, just once before his death - but says the knowledge set her free.

"He didn't know that he had a Thai daughter. But that didn't matter. Knowing who he was made me feel complete for the first time in my life," she says.

Jarunee was teased for her farang looks as a child but her mother kept her father's identity quiet until she asked for the truth at the age of 38. She used her stepfather's surname - Suksawat - and only changed it to Desneiges after proving the biological relationship to the Frenchman.

Today, the actress runs a healthcare-products company called Thaidham Alliance but    is heavily in debt. She still suffers, both physically and mentally, from two bad accidents suffered while on location,     and especially the trauma that landed her in hospital while shooting "Baan See Dokrak" in 1985.

Yet instead of being sympathetic after she suffered injuries that almost led to paralysis, the film's investors blamed her for losing them money.

With no savings and still in pain, she suffered another blow when she developed a hyperthyroid condition that caused her weight to balloon.

Over the last few years, she has appeared in a few TV dramas but has been forced to turn down roles in order to look after her business.

Retirement is still a long way off for the woman who started work on a construction site when she was 12.

"I can't stop working. If I do, I feel useless," she says with a sad smile.

This article first appeared on Daily Xress on Nov 13, 2008.

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