Known to no one other than family and friends just a few years ago, Nathamon Kongjak, or Nutty as she prefers to be called, today has almost three million followers on Socialcam and earns more than Bt500,000 (S$20,700) a month in business networking. One of the most popular net idols on the social networks, Nutty is now setting out to conquer South Korea.
The 22-year-old is the first artist to be signed by the newly set-up music division of Dream Cinema International Film, a Bangkok-based production house that coordinates and provides filming locations, stage equipment and actors for drama, film and music video in South Korea. Nutty's debut mini album, "Power of Nutty", features two Korean-language singles "So What" and "I'm Gonna Catch Ya" along with a Thai version of "So What".
"I was impressed with her abilities after watching her videos," says James HK, the director of the production house. "The Korean craze is as strong as ever among Thais youngsters and that give me the idea of producing a Thai singer with a Korean look. Think of her as a female version of 2PM's Nichkhun. My plan is to combine Nutty with a Korean hip-hip trio called Lip Service and turn them into a new girl group. If the group did well in Thailand, it would almost certainly also be popular in other countries in Asia such as Indonesia.
"Nutty is more or less ready but still needs a little more practice. Her problem now is mastering the Korean language. She's working on it so that she has a chance to appear on a TV show in Korea without a translator just like Nichkhun," he adds.
"It took me six months to record this mini album in South Korea and I worked 10 hours a day on my singing and dancing," says Nutty, who was born into a musical family and is now pursuing a performing arts major at the Faculty of Communication Arts, Rangsit University.
"'So What' involves sexy dancing while 'I'm Gonna Catch Ya' is hip hop with rap. It is very hard for me to rap in Korean. I wrote the lyrics of 'So What' in Thai but stuck to the same story as the original."
Nutty opened her Facebook account a few years ago and quickly picked up 5,000 followers. She closed it down when she entered a "Teen Superstar" contest, apologising to her network friends for no longer having time.
She then downloaded the free video app, Socialcam, which she describes as the easiest way to share video with friends and the social networks, and started uploading her reviews of food and travel. She later recorded her karaoke versions of songs for YouTube.
"The first song I covered was 'Thi Khid Thueng Proh Rak Ther Chai Mai', which is sung by Manida 'Bowling' Ruangsri in the TV series 'Sapai Lukthung'. That got 170 likes. The cover of Sistar's 'Ma Boy' made me better known. Everywhere I go, I'm called 'Ma Boy'. The most viewed video is 'Just the Way You Are' - nearly 30,000 views and 69,000 likes in Socialcam - for which I used the PicPlayPost app to separate the main vocals from the harmony, and improvised," says Nutty. "I was very surprised when the video of my singing went viral and earned more views that my pieces on food and travel."
The popularity of the video gave Nutty confidence and soon she was posting videos of her singing Thai pop numbers as well as luk thung, English and Korean songs and playing guitar and ukulele. "I really admire Kim Taeyeon of Girls' Generation," she says.
Nutty has also produced beauty videos, explaining makeup techniques and how to use whitening products for maximum benefit.
"It's more than just how to wear makeup; I always include the backstory. For example, for the video about doing my makeup for class, I set up my camera in my bedroom and pretended to get up late and having to do my face in a rush. Viewers can identify with that. I'm also open to suggestions and often go along with requests," she says.
Several cosmetic brands quickly latched on to her online popularity and invited her to become a presenter. A video clip for a product earns her Bt80,000 for two minutes on the air.
"I do try each of the cosmetics first before reviewing them on my video blog," says Nutty, who admits to finding her label of "Net Idol" amusing.
"I hadn't really thought about it before. To me, being called a Net Idol is neither positive nor negative though I guess the positive side would be setting an example to youngsters to show their abilities. On the other hand, I don't like the 'Idol' label being awarded on the number of followers only. Net Idols are people and they have their own characters. Previously, Net Idols were very beautiful and wealthy. That's crazy. I reflect who I am, without makeup or pretension," she says.