When you look up “Over-Achiever in the dictionary you’ll find Sonia “Pim” Couling’s picture. Even at a young age Pim always had the desire to be the best at whatever she did. Born in Thailand to a Thai Mother and English Father, Pim started working as a professional model at age 13. Pim has been the face of L’Oreal Asia, Olay Asia & Clairol Shampoo Worldwide along with countless others.
Earlier in her career the UK magazine FHM chose her as the number one sexiest woman in Thailand and second in Asia. She was the 1st Thai VJ for MTV Asia which launched her career into the pan-Asian stage. Acting was next with a show on HBO Asia, Challenger Muay Thai on AXN and she appeared on Jessica Simpson’s show “Price of Beauty” as one of 6 worldwide beauty ambassadors on VH1. Pim has appeared in many Thai TV dramas as well as acting in feature films, both Thai and International. Pim also works behind the camera as a Producer. She is a pilot, has her own Polo team and speaks fluent Thai, English and French.
In between her trips to Corsica and L.A., HOT Magazine had the pleasure of sitting down with Pim to discuss her amazing life’s trajectory.
PC: I was born in Bangkok, moved around to various schools, in Asia, Singapore, Malaysia, where my dad was working at the time as an advertising executive.
My early childhood : my mother was very strict, preferring my sister and I to do extracurricular activities outside of school, piano, tennis, horse-riding, dance, swimming… learning Thai, math, my mother kept us busy (smiles), something I hated when I was younger, but appreciated at a later stage in my life.
HM: You went to an all-girls boarding school in England. At what age did you start, what was the experience like being away from your family in another country and do you have happy memories from that time in your life?
PC: I started working at the age of 13, nonstop everyday after school. So, my mother decided for me to focus on my studies it was better to send me away from Thailand, to a boarding school at the age of 15. Little did she know, that I only cried for the first day, and had the time of my life from then on.
I loved boarding school, it taught us a lot about independence, living amongst a community, people coming from various backgrounds and culture. I was also very popular having arrived being the only professional model there. A lot of the girls looked up to me for fashion advice etc.. I was also very mischievous, escaping the school at night taking friends out and sneaking back in during the day, prim and polished as a perfect role model and Head of House.
I was also voted the most popular girl in school receiving the most phone calls, gifts and flowers from boys in neighboring schools.
I landed a contract at Storm Agency and was working weekends going back and forth to London and back and forth to Bangkok during school holidays, working back to back.
HM: As a child you took up dancing and won many awards in jazz, tap and modern dance, before later taking up ballroom dancing, jive and salsa. Do you feel you had a natural talent for dancing or were your many accolades the culmination of much hard work and determination? Also, was it the dancing you enjoyed or the competition that came with it?
PC: My mother encouraged us to do a lot of activities and dancing was a form of sport and exercise. I entered various competitions because I liked the challenge and wanted to see how far I could go, for my own personal satisfaction. I was not a natural dancer, per se, but I enjoyed putting in the work to accomplish what I set my goal for.
HM: Was it during this period that you decided you wanted to be in front of people performing or did you always know that is what you wanted?
PC: I was already performing before I started doing dance, but I feel comfortable being in front of a crowd which made various studies like public speaking, something that came naturally for me.
HM: At the age of 13 you began your modeling career with an advertisement for the soft drink 7-Up. How did that turn in your life come about?
PC: I was scouted by a modeling agent in my school parking lot, landed the job immediately, and she became my manager for the most part of my career. My career was launched immediately as that was the first ever commercial for 7-up in Thailand. Which meant my face was plastered on every wall and billboards all over the country. I was called ‘the 7-up girl’
HM: While in boarding school and then university in the UK, you worked with the Storm modeling agency in London landing ads for L’Oreal UK and you did many fashion spreads. Did you find modeling difficult or were you a natural with the camera?
PC: From my first job with 7-up, I knew that it was something I enjoyed, and I felt that it just came very naturally to me being in front of the camera, I was not shy although I am more shy behind the camera. Being in front of the camera just took on another life and I loved the versatility.
HM: You graduated from the European Business School London (EBS London) with a Bachelor of International Business. Was your plan to go into International Business or by this time had you already made the decision that modeling is what you wanted to do and International Business could wait until a later period in your life? How did your parents feel about your decision?
PC: I actually wanted to major in graphic design, because I loved art and was very good at it, but my mother, being Asian, felt like it was not academic enough, so I took up international business with French and Italian, because I enjoyed learning the language more; Before EBS, I was at UCL (University College London) studying German literature, but left after two years because I realized that this degree would be pointless to me down the road and honestly, I could not stand reading another book in German language (laughs). My father was always supportive in whatever decisions I would make.
HM: Once back in Asia after finishing your studies, where did life take you?
PC: As soon as I arrived back into Bangkok from London, I landed a job at MTV Asia based in Singapore. That launched my international career, traveling to many countries and doing hit shows like US TOP 20 and US TOP 10. The social life was part of the job, because MTV would also host concerts in various bars all over Asia. We were very spoiled, traveling business class and 5 stars hotels only and given many body guards for our work. If only there was social media back in those days. My social life was working at night, and a few hours a day in the studio. Giving me plenty of time to appreciate my extra activities outside of work i.e. Horse riding, and beach parties
HM: From modeling you transitioned into the world of acting appearing in countless Thai TV dramas and then into movies. Again, did acting come to you naturally or did you take classes?
PC: Acting came to me fairly naturally but I had to take classes to act in the Thai shows as Thai dramas and international dramas required a different style of performance.
HM: You are also experienced working behind the cameras producing TV show’s such as Thailand’s Next Top Model and internationally as the executive producer on the International film A Stranger in Paradise. Which work do you find most gratifying and enjoyable, acting or producing?
PC: To be honest with you every job that I take on, being in front of the camera or behind the camera or any aspect of my life is something that I take as a challenge and gives me equal satisfaction to perform to the best of my abilities.
HM: Last year, in 2018, you appeared on The Face Thailand season 4 All Stars and The Face Men Thailand (season 2) as a mentor and The Next Boy/Girl Band Thailand as a producer. Has 2019 found you just as busy or are you taking more personal time for yourself?
PC: The first half of this year, I decided to take a small break and focus on my family and travels for pleasure. Also, focusing on a personal business that I am planning to launch. Nevertheless, not disappearing totally from the limelight.
HM: In addition to your show business life you are a pilot with a twin-engine rating. Who or what made you decide to get your pilot’s license, do you fly much and do you see jets in your future?
PC: I started flying over 15 years ago, as a challenge from a male friend of mine. I was very much focused on beating all the boys, being just one of four girls in a class with 50 guys. I flew solo on my 13th hour, pilots will understand that. (smiles)
I also had the privilege of being invited to ride in the F5 and F16 fighter jets of the Royal Thai Air Force, almost breaking the sound barrier, at 8.3 G
HM: You are also a polo player. Have you always had a love of horses, was polo a natural progression and how long have you been playing?
PC: I’ve always had a love for riding starting at the age of 6 and doing it on and off throughout my whole life. I took it up a lot more seriously 8 years ago, when I received my first horse as a gift from my loving husband.
Polo I took up 4 years ago, after I moved my horse to a polo club and out of curiosity I wanted to try and fell in love with it immediately. Part of it again being the challenge and the competition that bring out the competitive side in me. I now have my own team and play tournaments as often as I can.
HM: As if all of that wasn’t enough to keep a girl busy, you are a wife and a mother. Tell us about this aspect of your life and do you see more children in your future?
PC: Having my son was not an easy process, I couldn’t conceive naturally so we ended up using a surrogate mother. For now I am very happy to focus all my attention on him as this little monster can be rather demanding (smiles).
HM: What advice would you give a young person who would like to emulate the life and accomplishments you have achieved?
PC: The advice that I would give is a professional one, be polite, be on time, be professional, do your best and never give up.
HM: Finally, to wrap up our conversation, can you tell us about your happiest day so far and what made it so?
PC: The most joy filled moment of my life was the day my son was born. Having him in my arms and the unconditional love that was instantaneous.
HM: Thank you Pim