Siri was born in Lao’s and spent her early years in a refugee camp. Her father was a well-educated man who opposed the communist government prompting a need to leave the country. One moonlit night Siri and her family jumped on a boat to mainland Thailand.
Siri’s mother already had a bother living in Australia, which lead to sponsorship and a new beginning. Funnily enough Siri was to young to remember all of this and didn’t even find out she had lived in a refugee camp until she was in her teens! Talk about one hell of a family secret.
Four other siblings came over with her; little did she know they also had their secrets. Her two brothers are half siblings and one sister is a half sibling too. She would find this out later in life as well. In Lao there is no name for half siblings. So sister and brother it was.
Besides having quite an unusual start to life if you met Siri today you would not guess it. A Sydney Gal who has made her self into a kick arse Personal Trainer. I sat down with her to talk about her PT career and what its like to not look like that dainty shy girl next door.
L: Before you were a PT you worked in the fashion industry. What made you move into personal training?
S: My first focus was to get healthy and then I became really passionate about fitness. I thought to myself if I can change my life and my body, then I can help someone else do the same thing. There is such a strong sense of community in the fitness industry, a community of people trying to make themselves better. I love that aspect. Training someone can really help to change their mindset around fitness. And so I thought, you know what, I would rather do this, then my current job. My old job wasn't fulfilling me. It wasn't making me happy. Even though being a PT is hard work, I feel really accomplished. I feel like I'm doing something to help people.
L: Do you think this role has changed you as a person?
S: It's changed how I interact with people. It's taught me how to be more patient. You have to deal with so many different personalities as a trainer. When I first started to now I feel like I've matured. I probably have a bit more patience and know how to deal with different types of people. It’s a challenge every day.
L: You are physically super strong and you look strong as well. With a society that tells us as women we need to be small and dainty do you ever struggle with that push back against society or from people in general?
S: When I first started training and starting looking different I did notice people looking at me when I went out. But I don't know if it affected me, it's almost a compliment. But also, why does it have to be so weird that someone can be strong? I get either compliments or I can hear people going “oh my god, look at her” So it's kind of two sides for me, I try not to take anything too personally. I've done it for myself. I haven't done it for anyone else.
L: Have you ever had backlash from men?
S: I haven't heard it directly. But I don't get asked out anymore. There's only a certain type of guy that will be confident enough to come and ask me out. My structure is quite big and before I started training, I was this tall, broad shouldered Asian girl, at my heaviest I was 84 kilos. Now I'm just leaner. And I remember one of my Aunts saying to me. “If you were just a little bit skinnier, you would be really pretty.”
L: Wow, Ouch!! That’s got to hurt?
S: I think for me growing up, I wasn't upset by that comment. I think if I were any other person, I would be. But because of the way I've been brought up, I’m able to sit back and realise, that's there opinion of me, not mine, and I won't be able to change that. It's more a reflection of them.
L: Yeah, I remember when Gabby was bigger her family told her your too big lose weight. And now she's lost a lot of weight they say you're too skinny.
S: My mom said to me once “your muscles are a little too much”. I was like, you're the person who told me to go to the gym when I came home from the UK and put on 10 kilos! I think I’ve had to have thick skin because my parents have no filter. Which in a way has prepared me so I don't feel as upset when someone's says “oh my god look how big she is”. I brush it off and think yeah, I've worked hard for this.
L: Completely, which is how you should feel! I could have guessed that a lot of men would find you too strong. Which I think is ridiculous.
S: That's the thing I've said this to some of the guys at the gym. We do workshops about how to brand your business. One thing they say is make your self available on the gym floor when you don't have clients, which I do, always with a smile. I’ve been at the gym for three years know, and in that time I've only been asked twice by a male member any gym question or even to spot them. Either I intimidate them or they don't feel I'm knowledgeable enough. Well, that's their loss, because I’m just not going to sit and worry about what people think of me. What's the point?
L: I think it is ridiculous that as a strong female, you are intimidating.
S: I try not to think about it too much. I don't get upset about it. But also, it's still there. I will always try to be as approachable as possible. But at the end of the day that’s all I can do.
L: I don't think it's worth changing anything about you.
S: Yeah, if they get to know me, they usually say I’m pretty cool and not as scary as I look. I remember I went to dinner with a few PT’s and a client and she said to me “Siri, the first time I saw you, I was like, you better not fuck with her.” And I was like, Okay… Cool…
You just never know how people will perceive you. You have to take it with a grain of salt. I've always said to everyone, I’m going to have so many people cheering for me but there's always going to be a bunch of people that don't get me or understand me which is also fine. That's just how life is.
L: I think it's just crazy that we are so judged by how we look. Regardless of what look we have.
S: If people don't take the time to get to know you then they are going to judge you on what they see. A lot of senior trainers will say that's just how this industry is. Some people are going to take it to heart and some people won’t. I think we just have to learn to be really thick skinned. I’m definitely not going to change myself just so someone will like me. If they like me, that's great. But there's always going to be that one or two people out of 100 people that don't love you.
L: Where do you think you've got that mental strength from? There are a lot of people out there that don't have that strength. Do you think you got that strength from your dad? Or was it always in you?
S: I think it would have to be from how I was raised because dad was really tough on us. He always taught us you have to stand on your own two feet, to be independent. It was nurturing. It was loving, but he was more strict on us than anything. At the end of the day, he taught us to work hard, keep to your self, and not make trouble. To the point where I feel like I'm kind of boring, I feel like I need to be more wild.
L: I don’t think so!
S: I'm just really good at filtering out anything that doesn't give me what I need. I go to a yoga teacher and he said, if something doesn't serve you, let it go. If it's not going to do something positive for you why hold on to it? That really resonates with me.
Life's going to be tough, but you have got to see the upside.
Interview with Sirikoon
Find her on Instagram @siri.t
Photos by Lila Marvell.