That’s an interesting family name – how do you pronounce it and what are its origins?
‘Shrub-sole’. The name was first found in Kent where they held a family seat as Lord of the manor.... I quite fancy myself as a Lord.
Nickname: I’ve heard myself called many things over the years, so let’s make it easier. Shrub works for most.
Age: Older than I was ever meant to be, but 58 years of sheer brilliance.
Born: Adelaide, Australia.
Education: Hated school at all levels. Mind you I was the one that always organized the social calendars but as for sitting still and looking at the black board, not likely - too much excitement outside the school bell. Mom and Dad insisted I could not leave without a good job, the day I was 16 I got my hair dresser apprenticeship with one of the Australian top stylists and said goodbye to school.
Family background: Mums is Mum and my greatest fan Dad worked for Australian post all of his life. Our entire family are so proud they belong to us.
Family today: Coolest family ever. We grow and learn from each other daily and are kept under the reign of our fantastic parents.
Life before Thailand: Lived in Adelaide, Australia, which was relatively successful with hair salons, TV programs, fashion show and renovating houses which thankfully ended up a great apprenticeship for what would unfold for me in this Asian chapter.
Where do you live?
In Sathon and love it. Found a fab condo that was in need of a Dr. and my engineering team and life partner threw some ideas together that really worked, so we live in a Shrubsole Surprise.
How long in Thailand?
25 years but has gone in a blink.
What brought you here?
Hair and make-up. Before Thailand it was spas and glamour. Originally I was under a contract with The Best group which opened Thailand’s first international hair and beauty group. Fab, Fab, Fab – spent my early years with truly spectacular people from around the world.
Can you speak Thai?
I have been in the kingdom for 25 years and my Thai is still horrible, but must confess I do understand far more than I wish to admit too.
Current projects: We are working with the Burasari group on its W22 Hotel in Chinatown, where we’ve launched Fork & Cork Bar and Restaurant, and the Rooftop, with a 360 degrees view of Bangkok. We are also building Fork & Cork in Silom Soi 4, which will have a special feature known as The Upstairs. We take great pride in the fact that all of our ideas are original and created in-house.
Best friend: My best friend wears many hats. Not only is he a brilliant and extraordinary human being, he has become a true guardian angel for me, and all the adventures I have invested into here in Thailand. He was the chairman of our first hotel company and our friendship has just evolved. He shares such wisdom and kindness to us every day. I know I speak for every member of our many Thai companies when I say we truly love our angel. His name is David Leo Martin and is indeed our icon. Friendship is something I hold very dear to me and am really privileged to say I have truly great friends in Thailand, Australia and indeed around the world.
Do you consider yourself an expat?
I guess the reality is I am an expat. Thailand is home now I know more about the kingdom and how it works than I could ever tell you about Australia today. I have lived in all parts of the country Phuket, Chiangmai, Pattaya and have ended up in the Big Smile and adore it. So really feel I belong.
Met some amazing people over the years working with the hotel chains. pop stars, King, Queens, and politicians. They were all sensational and was honored that they included me in their adventures.
And the most amazing?
Michael Jackson was by far the most creative. He was just brilliant, sheer excitement every second. I feel I should gush more but the time was so magical that there really are no words.But by far Margaret Thatcher was my favorite. She was here as advisor to Citibank and something to do with Mark & Spencer. She was strong, bold and scary but she commanded attention from everyone in the room. I am sure I would have been beheaded had her hair hadn’t been correct. She was a gem and I did her hair every time she was in Thailand from then on. Yes, my favorite.
Most boring and disappointing celebrity you’ve met?
By far the worst was Lauren Bacall. I want my hair like this…. got it? Rollers in … rollers out… Anyway, when the rollers came out, she had me physically removed from the hotel floor. She hated it…I remember standing in the corridor saying to myself “What a bore”. It still makes me laugh when I think about it…. she’s precious.
What services does your current company offer?
At the moment we are excited with our design work and are presenting out-of-the-box concepts for a new funky hotel. Eventastic was born when we wound down our theaters, but love creating fantastic events. We have stores and stores of costumes, decors and props. Not to mention the availability of talent. So again if it’s creative and different, we are most definitely up for the challenge.
Mention some examples of your work : Founder of Manathai Hotels and Resorts group, Aquarian entertainment, Banyan Tree Spa Bangkok, Kinaree Park Chiangmai, Playhouse Theatres Bangkok, Eventastic, DPS Design, The Chofa Spa, Fork & Cork, The Roof, Weave Restaurant, The Stage Bar… You name it, we have done it.
For me Manathai Village Chiangmai was my pride and joy. We sold it five years ago to a developer and it was demolished. It was a truly gorgeous boutique hotel, always at high occupancy, beautiful design, unique fantastic staff, and extraordinary guests. One of our biggest mistakes and regrets.
Favorite hang-out places in Bangkok: Bangkok is so fast – there’s always something new. I love seeing what other people do so when I am not hanging out with our concepts, I am always sharing with others about theirs.
Venue you miss the most: Manathai Village Chiangmai.
Favorite restaurants : Anywhere that serves pizza, I could eat it 24/7.
Favorite hotel :
I adore the Sukhothai hotel, the design, its yum, it’s Thai, it’s cultural, it’s kind, it’s simply gorgeous - one of the best ambassadors we have. Well done Sukhothai.
Best life experience: This will sound crazy. But we had just bought what was to be Manathai Phuket and I had my family with me from OZ for Christmas, the year of Tsunami. My Dad was first to realize something was up. We lived on a hill overlooking the bay. The seas had gone out by the time we got downstairs and the rest is history. Once we had found all our loved ones and realized we were all ok, what happened over the next weeks changed our lives forever. We all went our different ways to do what we could, and for who we could. We saw how exceptional humans can be…. strangers, cultural differences, language barriers, no medical facilities, all coming together. All of that was unexplained. Yet there was kindness that was limitless, and as a family we were so grateful to have survived and privileged to help where we could. What I learned about life that week remains a big part of who I am today.
Worst moment: I woke up one morning and looked in the mirror, I was horrified…. Brad Pitt was no longer looking back!! We’ve had blinds put on the mirrors as a result of that morning.
Has Bangkok changed for the better or worse?
I adore the hustle of the big city, it’s excited from the moment I came here. I thought the King’s Coronation showed us at our very best and unique to the rest of the world. Change waits for no one.
Describe Bangkok in one short sentence: Fast, Fantastic, Frivolous and Fabulous.
Is it a good LBGTQ city?
In the year of 2019 every city should be a great LGBT city. Thailand has always been a leader with the gay community. That must continue to develop, as I am sure it will. But for me, I found my life partner here. We’ve been together 18 years so for us BKK is the greatest LGBT city.
What would you change about the city?
If you change it, it’s not the same... Same Same but Different. I think there is a T-shirt that says that.
What do you miss miss about Australia?
My Dad’s BBQ. I don’t know what he does, he’s just got it. So every time he visits, he ends up in the kitchen. Miss my family but they visit so often now (probably see them more here than if I lived in OZ)
Where do you exercise?
I walk to the fridge to get ice cream… and I walk faster to the end of the house where the bar is because there is a large jar of jelly beans on it... Is that what you meant?
Best hair salon in Bangkok: Young Thai stylists have become so very talented. Fashion and grooming are such an important part of the culture. I still have to say The Best Salons had a vision that allowed young Thais to express themselves through their craft. Khun Yupin McLoud was the visionary and produced some of Thailand’s greatest hair and beauty ambassadors. So her Best Salons win hand down.
Can you imagine living elsewhere?
Absolutely not. I did say Disneyland once…. I got the reply Shrubsole you are already there.
What’s next for you?