6 June 2024

While veteran TV personality Leena Jungjunja, aka “Leena Jung”, may see herself as a colorful figure, many others believe her famously provocative stunts have now gone too far.

Just before the Songkran holidays, Leena made another enemy – as well as sparking public outrage – when she snatched a wig from the head of monk-turned-LGBTQ star Prairie Praiwan.

Even though she was quick to issue public apologies, Prairie apparently finds it hard to just let go.

“Is a certain oldie really unable to differentiate acting from misbehaving?” Prairie asked online after Leena claimed the wig-grabbing accident was just a part of the show and that she would agree to let Prairie yank her hair as well.

Political ambition – and controversies

Now 64, Leena was born as Leena sae Jung. She studied law at Ramkhamhaeng University and launched a career as an entrepreneur. In 1997, she joined protests against then prime minister General Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, dressing up in outfits that were as loud as her criticism – which earned her plenty of media attention.

In 2002, she set up a foundation to provide legal counseling to underprivileged people, as well as promote legal knowledge, conduct training, and serve public causes.

In 2004, she changed her surname to Jungjanja and contested in the Bangkok governor election. But she was red-carded for hiring beauty pageant winner Miss Jumbo Queen for her election campaign. Authorities ruled she had turned her campaign events into entertainment – an activity prohibited under electoral laws.

In 2006, Leena tried but failed to obtain a seat in the Senate. A year later, she tried her luck in a general election but again missed out on winning political office.

In 2008, she registered for the second time as a candidate in the Bangkok governor election. Some of her antics during that campaign are still vivid in the memories of many Thais. One was her dramatic fall into the city’s Saen Saeb Canal. Another of her campaign stunts ended in tragedy when one of her aides drowned in a different Bangkok canal.

While Leena’s boisterous, bold and unique style has never failed to catch attention, the coverage and publicity have not always translated into success – especially in light of controversies.

Despite her best efforts, her political career never got off the ground. Worse still, she was slapped with a five-year ban from politics in 2014 for once again breaking election laws while campaigning for a Senate seat. She had pledged to peg fuel at gasoline at 20 baht a liter, the type of promises not allowed under electoral laws.

Social media drama over the pulling the wig off an LGBTQ celebrity

Limelight is lucrative

Leena may not have achieved any political position by courting the spotlight, but she certainly profited in other ways. In the social-media age, public attention can be easily turned into money. In interviews, Leena has openly boasted of being offered up to 150,000 baht from people who wanted to get abused by her, so they could use the clips on social media for self-promotion.

She also revealed that she was able to earn millions of baht each month by reviewing products or promoting certain brands online.

Crocodile tears?

Though outspoken and loud, Leena is also known for bursting into tears in front of the cameras. On several occasions she has appeared weeping on TV after her actions backfired, telling reporters how sad and stressed she felt.

In the latest such case, she talked tearfully about how Prairie had pushed her into a corner and taken away her ability to make a living after the wig-snatching incident. Last year, she also teared up live on screen after her comments in support of an online lottery vendor who lied about selling jackpot tickets returned to haunt her.

Juicy love life

Leena, who has remained friendly with her first husband since their divorce, said that she had showered him with luxury watches and even given him a Mercedes-Benz during their 16-year marriage. The couple has two sons together.

After the marriage split up, Leena was keen to drop juicy details about her affairs with several other men. She boasted that she had even bagged a toyboy 29 years her junior.

“I must have spent about 100 million baht on the guys I’ve been with,” she said.

By Thai PBS World