Woody Milintachinda on the old Woody, the new Woody and what he's learned during the past few years
Woody Milintachinda is now at the top of his game. With TV shows, Facebook Live, social media channels, an event organizing company and a trillion of the projects in the pipeline, the talkative TV host can’t deny he is having the best time of his life.
By Top Koaysomboon|
I’m really nervous because you’re Woody! Please don’t say that. Because once you say that, I feel so old. Once you reach thirty-something and people say they get excited around you, it’s both good and bad. It’s good because I feel like I mean something to them, which is great, and I love them for that. But it also feels like I’ve been here for a long time. I feel like an institution, which is really okay, but sometimes they compare me to wines of the eighties. (laughs) I feel honored, but at the same time, I can’t get over the fact that I feel a bit, you know, old.
But you always look the same Because I have great doctors and great people taking care of my face. Don’t get me wrong now. I don’t like to do anything with my face, but I’m forced to by my three assistants.
But isn’t it essential in this business? You looks do matter. It is. When I look in the mirror, I can tell whether I’m okay-looking or not-okay-looking. But I have so many things to do each day. I think my face is the last thing that I think of. I tried to do [medical treatment] every six months. To me, laser treatment is the best thing that’s ever happened. I never thought that I would be able to handle the pain, but once I realize that the pain is good, I started to smile.
During an old interview you mentioned that you didn’t like looking at yourself in the mirror. Why? I gave that interview a few years back. At that time, I wasn’t okay with my skin. I wasn’t okay with who I was. I looked in the mirror and always saw flaws. That’s why I always looked down. Now I’m able to look myself in the mirror and really see myself for who I am and who I am not. Now I’m able to look at myself in the eyes and be happy with what I have and what I don’t have – and just be thankful that I’m still alive. I smile in the mirror now looking at myself, and that’s something totally new that I’ve never be able to do until a year and a half ago. In that time, I found myself in a lot of situaitons that have allowed me learn and evolve. I would say that 2015 and 2016 were a metamosphosis for me. It was probaby the biggest change that’s happened to me since I was born.
As your audience, we do agree. We’ve noticed the change. You were aggressive and now you’re pretty kind. I came to the industry wanting to beat everybody. I came and I felt so confident I thought I was The One. And once I became famous, I was like – I’m gonna push everyone aside and I’m gonna win this race. That was my attitude. I didn’t interview my guests and I hated them, but I thought, ‘this is Woody. Woody has to be strong and to the point.’ And then I asked myself, ‘am I happy?’ Eight to nine years after doing the show, I felt like I wasn’t happy with myself. I felt that people looked at me and knew who I was – but I didn’t feel the love. I got the respect, but I wasn’t able to say I love who I am. Then I asked myself, ‘why am I not happy?’ I think I’ve been pretending to live the life of that Woody, which isn’t real.
There must have been a turning point. It just happened. I was just sad.
I think something happened during my childhood. I remember when I was a kid, I was really friendly, outgoing and kind to everyone. And then something happened in New York. I was bashed by people. I was put down. People were saying, ‘you’re not good enough.’ Once they said that, I cracked. I became really confident. I created this character, the monster, and I was totally comfortable in that skin. I thought, this is Woody! Woody needs to be straightforward, Woody has to be strong.
I was living that role, that definition of Woody, for eight or nine years and I felt tired. Once I put those things down, I asked myself, ‘Can Woody be nice? Can he be really friendly?’, and I realized — I can. ‘Do I feel happier?’ – I do. Before, when I walked into a mall, I would just walk straight. I wouldn’t look left or right. I wouldn’t care who I looked at. And I missed out on so many opportinities to connect with people. Now I can look at people in the eyes, everywhere I go. And once I look, they just come to me. They start hugging and talking to me and I feel so blessed.
I think the turning point for me was a year and a half ago. It was the realization that I could die at any minute. You might say, ‘how does that affect you as a person?’ It affects you because you ask yourself, ‘Have I lived a happy life?’ ‘Are you happy with the person that you’ve become?’ After realizing that I started making calls to everybody in my life. Even people I had fired. I called one of my ex-employees, saying that, ‘I fired you not because you sucked, but because I was afraid of you. I was so afraid that you were going to be better than me. So I’m really sorry for that.’ And once I did that I felt brand new. I can be anybody now. It’s a metamorphosis, and I’ll be able to say that I experienced it all. I would not turn back time to change anything. I’m happy with where this road has led me and where I am going next. For the first time, I am happy in my own skin. Giving an interview, I can be honest and not, like, making things up. I used to bullshit a lot. I would just say things to make you like me, or make people who are reading this like me. But now, once you hit that spot, that point in life when you realize that you don’t have to try anymore.
‘2015 and 2016 were a metamosphosis for me. It was probaby the biggest change that's happened to me since I was born’
Do you mean that the old Woody wasn’t you yourself? It was, according to that Woody.
So that Woody no longer exists? I don’t know. People have asked me — ‘Are you going to go back to that Woody?’, I said — ‘I don’t know. If I say I’m not, what happens next?’ I think life, for me, can be compared to four seaons: spring, summer, winter, fall. It comes and goes. But if you’re able to see when winter is coming, you can be warm in wintertime. Once you get cold, you warm yourself up. Before, I wasn’t mindful enough to know that winter was there, or that I was cold.
Once you reach a certain age, you go to a few funerals. People in your life will die. Once you sit there in the funeral and you stop talking to your friend and pray or listen to the monks, you realize: death is something that comes from birth, right? We always think that we saw birth, and then life. We forget that life comes wth death. The minute you’re born you get a chance to die. One plus one. We see only birth and life, we don’t see death. But I looked death in the eyes, constantly during those times, realizing I could die any minute and that has molded me. It really changed me.
Today, once I feel that emotion coming up, I think, “What if I die? Am I going to die this way? In sadness? Or am I going to be happy with my life?’ It changes the way you live life. You don’t need to be negative about life, but death has to be there. For me, it’s really important. From a young age, we see death as darkness. But it can be white and beautiful. It can be any color you want it to be. It’s because we were taught one way and we believe that. But who has seen death to tell you what color it is? There are a few things that your parents and society tell you about life and you believe them. First, that death is dark. It might even be the most beautiful thing that we experience after birth. Second, you’ve got to work to get money. But money’s only paper. You believe that it means something but it’s a piece of paper. We’ve been told of its importance since we were young and we live our lives worshipping money. These are two things that are always in our heads, and we believe they’re true. But are they? Can we live life without money? Sure, if you think about it, you can.
But the only people who can say that are the people who have a lot of money already. No. I don’t have money.
You do. I have paper. You know, If I were poor, if I didn’t have money at all, I would still be able to say that. I think I would be the happiest bum on the street. I would be the most creative homeless person. And I’m not scare of that. I’m not scared of becoming homeless. Once you reach that point in your life that you’re not scared of anything, you can accomplish anything you want because you’re not afraid to fail. I don’t fear death, and I don’t fear not having money. If you’re able to see those two things, you can do anything you want.
Why do you need to fear? Because you’ve started to compare yourself with other people. Or you’re afraid how other people are gonna think about you. I’m past that. I don’t care what anybody thinks about what I do.
Are you really living life, or being led by that voice inside of you. You only have one life to live, don’t you want to reinvent something new for this world? Or do you just wanna live and die? If everybody was born thinking they have to transform and create something for this earth, can you imagine how great it would be right now? Imagine billions of people thinking positively, and saying that everything is possible. What would happen? Just imagine Thailand if everybody woke up feeling confident about themselves.
I mentioned this to my audience. I said, ‘in 2018, Thailand is going to be the healthiest country in ASEAN. For the past year and a half, I told myself that this change in my body really impacted the way I live my life. I was able to create more projects and possibilities to really do something. Wouldn’t it be great if everyone in Thailand thought the way I did when they woke up, without having to wait for 12 years of educational reform.
I feel like you can wake up and do something to your body. Get that six-pack, clean that perfect body. You look in the mirror and say, ‘Wow! You’ve done something, you have an accomplishment. I could convert my body into something healthy and then I’m ready to do anything.’ My goal is that, in two years’ time, I want this country to say that they’re happy with their bodies and now they’re gonna do something great for their country. I bet you, every man and woman wanna see their six-pack before they die. And once the’re done, they are going to create a 6 billion baht project. Imagine this country out of poverty; people would stop killing other and there would be no income disparity, less income gap. That’s what I see.
So, are you ready to die tomorrow? No. I’m not scared to die, but I’m also not ready to die. There are many things I want to do.
I think this year is about being content and happy every single day. That’s what I’m practicing this year. Happy now talking to you. Happy in the meeting that’s coming up. Happy in the dinner that’s this evening. With each present moment, I wanna be happy. I’m practicing that.
Here I am taking to you, really talking to you, not thinking about what’s gonna happen tonight, what will happen tomorrow, or what just happened, or looking at my phone. You know I really wanna be here with you. And I’m practicing that. And once you practice that you’re gonna be able to brush your teeth and look in the mirror and be happy brushing your teeth. When was the last time you walked just to walk and didn’t think about anything in particular? Try that, it will be life-changing for you. When was the last time you heard your breath. You need to ask yourself these things and once you hear your breath, you’ll be like – this is nice.
‘You know why people are unhappy? Because they think about what just happened’
This sounds like meditation in a way. Sort of, it’s all about the same concept. Now you are happy and you don’t think about making money, finding how to be number one, having a great article. Because that’s not gonna happen today.
You know why people are unhappy? Because they think about what just happened. People are usually upset because of something that happened, let’s say, five minutes ago. For example, imagine someone comes up to me and says ‘fuck you!’ I’m like, whoa! What just happened! Someone said fuck you and now I’m here with you but still thinking about the conversation five minutes ago: I’m living in the past. Nobody said fuck you to me right now. And sitting here with you, I’m thinking about what’s happening in the next hour; I have a big meeting after this, and I’m in that future thinking about that project. I wouldn’t be here with you and I would be so unhappy.
People are in their past and their future and are not in the present. Once they bring themselves to the present, they’re free from unhappiness and suffering. That’s the concept of Buddhism, by the way.
I’ve discovered this: once you are unhappy, you just breathe. You breathe, you listen to your voice, and you become present.
Is that something you learned from your monkhood? Of course, I learned that people are always piloting a time machine, and you’re never gonna land because in the past or the future, there’s no landing path in existence. The only landing path is in the present. So you land that time machine here and you get out of that time machine and you live in the moment. That’s what I discovered while I was being a monk. That really moved me. It’s so life-changing. You realize the answer is always there. The key to happiness is being in the present, being in the moment, listening to yourself, and practicing that every day.
It’s starting to feel like you’re a spiritual leader, like Osho No! I’ve never read Osho’s works. Actually, I’ve never read a lot of people’s works, even the Dalai Lama’s. I’ve only read a few of his quotes. I don’t really read a lot of books about spiritual leaders. I just don’t have time. I don’t read. Period. I only read Time Out. I can tell you a few magazines and print that I read. I read the Financial Times, Bangkok Post, Thairath, Condé Nast Traveler, Business Traveller, and Time Out. That’s all the print that I read. I don’t read any books. Next year, I’m gonna reinvent myself as a reader. I haven’t been in touch with my vocabulary. I have been reading on my phone, but I get a bit tired.
When I was a monk, my phone was off for a month and a half. People asked me what it was like being a monk with my phone off. I felt like I was living on airplane mode because there’s data in your body. You see pictures, you remember things. But once you are on airplane mode, there’s no more data actually coming into your head. When you are a monk you just sit there and meditate and live in the present so you block off that data. Once you block the data you really enjoy, you really free yourself. But when you turn off that airplane mode, the data is coming in all the time. How are you going to have time to process or evaluate yourself if you still have all this info coming in?
So what is Budhist monkhood like for me? It’s like turning on an airplane mode. And that’s when you hear yourself. You’re gonna go back and look at your pictures so you can’t recall anything new. You look at what you have. You evaluate. And you start to delete bad things in your life. Keep the good things. So that’s what meditating in Buddhism is about, if I were to define it from my own perspective.
You just enlightened me I did? What I just mentioned is something that everyone can understand. I wanna tell everybody out there: ‘Turn on your airplane mode, stop spending all your time taking photos, wake up!’ If I’m able to help just one person to feel happy with him—or herself, I’m happy with that.
It seems like you publicize many things in life, but on the other hand, we don’t really know much about your private life. So how do you find that balance? It’s very difficult with social media. Do I need to go live and have sex? Seriously. I mean do you need to publicize everything in your life? For myself, I don’t have any answer. Sometimes, I do bring people into my life. I want them to see. Or even Facebook Live, you really don’t have time to censor so you become more authentic with your audience. You don’t need to make up things or be whoever you think they want to see. For me, it’s like it’s half way there. I think I’ll be there one day, when I’m able to look at my audience in the eye, and be really straightforward with them, just telling them everything, even my life problems.
So who is the real Woody? I don’t know. This is the real Woody and I think the Woody you see on TV is the real Woody but you know, you’re not with me 24/7. I have many angles in my life, it depends on the weather. It’s like now it’s cold so I’m one way, but if it’s hot I’m going to talk fast. People ask, why am I talking about positive things or always sharing my thoughts with people? I think publicizing is good. Why? Because if you are doing something that is meaningful and you want people to do it too, you gotta tell them, right? It’s like when I went to the monkhood and I filmed myself, actually I was thinking, do I film myself? Or do I not?’ People were like, you’re gonna become a monk. Why do you have to show other people? And I was like, ‘but if I do show them that, and it will enlighten a lot of people and have them go into the monkhood, wouldn’t that be a good thing?’ People would think, ‘even Woody became a monk. What about me?’
You know, I thought at that time, I felt so selfish. Thinking about like, I just want it all for myself. And then a week into the monkhood, I told my people. They wanted to film me. I said ‘no no no no no, it’s private.’ After seven days of becoming a monk I realized I was so selfish thinking that. Yes, there would be people criticizing me about filming my monkhood but, hey, life is empty and meaningless. You just create the meaning, right? It’s like, why? What’s wrong with that, what’s wrong with publicizing, what’s wrong with sharing content? That’s like Time Out magazine finding a good restaurant and not telling anybody! If it’s so good, why don’t you share!? Why do you keep it all to yourself? Just because people say that you don’t wanna share? It’s a sharing economy. And for me, sharing is caring. It’s not about me wanting to be famous. I don’t need to be famous. I don’t… I’m done with that. It’s about if I find something interesting, I think I should share because I think as a person in the media, that’s my duty — to share what I’ve learned and what I feel is right.
Since there is no Sorayut any more, people have been saying to me, ‘maybe Woody is the new Sorayut?’ What do you think about that? I don’t believe that. I think Sorayut is Sorayut and I think he is the king of media and he will always be. For me, I think we’re totally different. Two different people. He is the best at his game and I’m not playing his game. Totally different feeling. Why do people keep comparing me to him—we’re both on TV, I guess. But I can never be Sorayut and I don’t want to be Sorayut.
You said you once were going to be the host of a show for the rest of your life. That’s when I go. I might go and I die. I never told you I was gonna go tomorrow, right? I will go one day, right? But it depends how I go. I still enjoy hosting my shows. I still enjoy TV, I enjoy talking to the audience, and I think P Yuth, once he stepped out of the field, I think the format of reading the news for Thailand or even explaining the news or even telling the story out of the news, those days are just, it’s the end of an era. And nobody can do that like Sorayut. I’m not a news person you see, I do talk shows, I am a talk show person, he is a news person, different. That’s like saying if P Ta Panya is not working anymore, oh I’m gonna take over. I think people are just comparing me to him because we’re on the same timeslot. I think that’s it, but for me I thank you for comparing me to him, but no thank you.
With Facebook Live and the rise of social media do you think people still believe in TV? Yes, they do and I think people still watch TV. There’s this thing about TV that’s very magical. You know, you sit there infront of this big square, rectangular thingy and you watch on the screen and you pick up this thing called your remote control. I’d say, the media is always there. I would call them VDOs. VDO is like the new television. VDOs and Live VDOs are the new TVs. What you watch, you are looking at moving images. The platform has been transferred from this rectangular thing to your phone. You’re still staring at something, aren’t you? It’s like taking a big TV out of the wall and just making it small and looking at it. It’s still there. We’re still creating content.
How do you love Bangkok? You know, I love Bangkok. I love Bangkok to the point that sometimes I wanna run for office and change this frickin’ city. You know I think there are so many things that feel like, what the fuck? You know? Like get out of that! Bangkok needs to be like the fun capital of the world. Our country and our city is sanook right? And we need to be like that all the time. ‘Sanook and Safe.’
You know, some people tell me you don’t need to be the Bangkok Governor, you can be Woody and you can do something great for the city. So I tell myself that from now on, I want to reshape Bangkok into something new and I want us to shine compared to other cities in the world. We are up there but we need to retain the spot forever you see, and that requires a lot of innovation, investment, time and effort from lots of creative and energetic souls. Like yourself, for example.
You said that you don’t read that much. No and you’re the first person that I’m admitting it to in the past year or two. I haven’t been reading. I haven’t finished a book. I’ve read a few pages but I haven’t really got through a book from cover to cover. I don’t remember the last book that I read.
And you don’t watch TV so how do you consume media? Oh, all the time, all the time. I look around and there is media all the time. The worst thing to do if you are in the media is to lock yourself up in a room and not talk to anyone. Don’t forget that I am always in the media because I’m always there in the middle of the news so I know what’s happening around the world every day. Not one hour goes by without me knowing what goes on in the world.
You said once or twice that you don’t believe in marriage. Is that because…? I myself? When did I say that?
Like, three years ago in a magazine interview Three years ago? Yeah, but that was three years ago, you see.
Did you change your mind already? I got married, I think a year and a half ago, on Valentine’s Day.
Wait, we didn’t know that story. Yeah, I didn’t tell everybody.
Congratulations! Thank you. It was a small event with a few friends and I didn’t want to make a big deal out of it. We didn’t invite any press and we didn’t have any photos. I got married to my boyfriend, who I’ve been going out for nine years now, and it was a private thing.
What made you change your mind? I wanted to know what it’s like to get married. Where we went together, we saw everybody else getting married, and we were like, ‘OK, we don’t need to’. We don’t need to bind ourselves with the law. It’s just a ritual, that’s all. It’s only a ceremony, so for me, marriage is just a ceremony that people come to and enjoy talking about, taking photos and just enjoying that moment. We were celebrating love, that’s what we were doing at the wedding. So it was all about celebration and now I can say that I got married. So, before I die, I want to be able to say that I’ve done all these things. But on a greater level I think we can say that I really seriously took into consideration the love and affection that another person has given to me.
‘If people wanna push you to come out, that's their problem, but you have a choice. You have a choice’
How do you feel about people forcing gays to come out of the closet? I think it’s very normal. I think people are just insecure. That’s why they are pushing towards other people. You know whoever is pushing for other people to come out of the closet, they are just not secure themselves. A person who’s gay is gay and I think being whoever you are and whatever you are is just beautiful in itself. But when I was younger I didn’t think that because people all around me were always like, oh, you know it’s not something appropriate to say or talk about. But now, as I mentioned, all of this comes from the fact that I looked at death in the eye and told myself, if I’m gonna die tomorrow, I’m not gonna be like, ‘gay is bad, gay is not good’.
For me I’ve reached that point where I really wanna tell people, ‘be who you are.’ Because at the end of the day it’s worth the suffering [at the beginning]. It’s all worth it. You have to be true to yourself or you waste time not being able to confront your true self. If people wanna push you to come out, that’s their problem, but you have a choice. You have a choice, so why do you have to care what other people are trying to do. It’s about how are you going to react to that and I think that defines strength in a person. What’s wrong with people who want to push people out of their closets? There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s just them. They want that. What we can do is ask them, how do you want to feel about it? We can address that. Because we’re the ones who affect our feelings. We can control how we feel. At the end of the day, you have got to smile: it’s OK, it’s all beautiful.
I could never say this when I was younger. But I’m able to say this now because of everything that I went through. So, to tell everybody out there, you know, it will pass like everything in the world. This too shall pass, this will pass so you don’t have to be upset and you don’t have to think too much.
See, you’re so inspiring right now. I’m not trying to inspire anybody. I’m just trying to be honest to you and I really hope the readers reading this get something out of it. Because for the past ten years, I read all my interviews, they’re just crap and I don’t know what the hell I was saying. I was just trying to look good and now it’s like I don’t want to waste a single minute in this conversation to talk about shit that’s not going to help anyone else. To me, I just really want to be able to say that whoever reads this, at least they feel more confident about the decisions that they have to make.
Imagine you are doing your last show and you have to interview one person, who would that person be and what would be your last question? This is a very fun one to answer. I don’t know how old I will be so I imagine that I would be 90 years old, that’s a bit far- fetched, but I’ll go with 90 years old. And I think I would be interviewing 75-year-old Justin Bieber. The questions would be like: ‘you got any drugs? What kind of drugs are you using? Let’s share!’ That would be a fun interview.