Story by Elite+ Editorial Team
Jakkaphong "Anne" Jakrajutatip, also known as Anne JKN, is today the third richest transgender person in the world with an estimated worth of 6.37 billion baht, according to Forbes magazine. Today, she has over 12 million followers on social media and owns the digital TV station JKN 18. As the CEO of JKN Global Media PCL, her empire and influence has been built through vision and hard work. Elite+ recently was invited to meet Anne at her headquarters, JKN Gallery Sallaya, in Phutthamonthon, Nakhon Pathom.
Anne is a graduate of Australia’s Bond University in International Relations. She earned a certificate in Real Estate Development from Chulalongkorn University and has completed the Thai Institute of Directors Association’s Director Accreditation Program (DAP). In 2019, Anne was presented with the Asia Media Woman of the Year award at the Content Asia Summit in Singapore. Even with all these accomplishments and accolades to her credit, Anne said that her greatest dream fulfilled was to become the mother of a son and daughter, Andrew and Angelica. Before completing her sex reassignment surgery, Anne had her sperm collected. Then, with the donation of eggs by a German woman, the two children were born through artificial insemination in the United States.
As Anne explained, “I was unhappy studying in Thailand as I was bullied by classmates for my gender orientation. So, I went to Australia where I earned my Bachelor degree. Upon my return to Bangkok, I decided to join the family video-rental business, ST VDO. I was still just 21 years of age.”
With the advance of technology leading to the decline in video-rentals, Anne had the foresight to become a leading distributor of licensed movies, television programs and video entertainment. “I saw how trends were rapidly changing and to get ahead, I understood we needed to make changes. This is why I decided to also become involved with documentary DVD production with my first film being ‘Walking with Dinosaurs’. With this venture, I earned my first 10 million baht, which led to us becoming the number one content trader in Thailand and ASEAN almost immediately. From then on, our business continued to grow and become even more profitable.”
At the same time, Anne’s interests began to expand. Seven years ago, Anne began to transform a 15 rai (6-acre) plot of rice paddy into the JKN Gallery Sallaya complex. Anne explained, “It was at this time I realized that I wanted and needed my own space, away from my family home where I had been living, and for the next three years, my mother and I did not speak. At that time, land prices here were not expensive and this plot is adjacent to a main road.”
While a student in Sydney, Anne worked as a service station attendant, and so she decided she wanted to have her own business of this type. She then actually opened two service stations along with a 7-11 and Amazon café. This took about two to three years to complete. So, at the age of just 38, Anne decided to go public and list her company on the Market for Alternative Investment (MAA). It was only after accomplishing all this that Anne went to the US to have her sperm collected and complete her gender transition and become a mother by the age of 41.
As Anne puts it, “During this time, my life changed drastically. I was now a mother, not just a woman with a business. I had built for myself and my children a home, a haven upon which to continue to build and grow, turn new dreams into realities.”
Since settling in and resuming her travels, Anne has been purchasing and collecting antiques and artwork to beautify her home and office.
“My purchases I also see as investments. I’ve bought items that have cost millions of baht. I’ve collected brooms and other handcraft woven goods that I’ve converted to decorate this building. But now, this structure could be left empty as I move the company to the JKN 18 studios on a 4 rai (1.6 acre) plot in Bearing where I am also moving eight homes. This will be the headquarters for my JKN empire.”
The cost for the purchase of channel New 18, which Anne now calls JKN 18, amounted to 1,200 million baht. As Anne says, “This is just another milestone in my life that I have lived by thinking quick, being persistent, never following or imitating others and never giving in or up.”
“I was quite fortunate when Mrs Daeng Hetrakul contacted me with her offer to sell the New 18 channel. She said with all the content I owned and my vast social media fans, I had an enormous advantage to succeed. She wanted much more than I finally paid as we negotiated directly with each other. Mrs Daeng had been operating the channel for about eight years and their expenses had been high. I told her honestly I couldn’t afford what she was originally asking for, and so we came to a satisfactory agreement to both of us, 1,200 baht in cash.”
Anne then explained that she has never been this open in an interview before. She next goes on to reveal her strategy for JKN 18 digital TV. “Our aim is to quickly become among the top ten channels. We have a large library of content. Since 2017, our company has had an agreement with CNBC. Still, we need to make many adjustments and changes. One of our first moves was to hire a team from Channel 8, who comes with a lot of experience and insight for our future development. At the same time, I will be working to expand my content commerce activities to raise the company to be one of Thailand’s top three.”
Anne is also a respected advocate for the transgender community. She founded the Life Inspired For Transsexuals Foundation (LIFT), which has been leading in campaigns to change laws to allow transgender men and women to use the gender and title on legal documents of their gender following sex reassignment surgery. Anne captioned a photograph she posted on Instagram with, “Don’t call me a rich girl. Call me a Thai trans woman Billionaire,” reflecting the pride in who she is. She has also been very open, sharing how difficult it was to decide to make the transition to become a woman and the terrible pain she experience during the transitioning surgeries and recuperation.
When asked what other dreams Anne might have, she answers, “I would like to participate in an international, global beauty pageant. There are some I could still possibly contest, maybe all but the Miss Universe Pageant. But who knows what the future holds?”
After this, we asked Anne what other aspirations she might have, and she immediately responded, saying, “I would like to become the prime minister and lead Thailand forward. I’ve actually had this dream for many years. I have done and accomplished many things in my life that I believe has prepared me for this position. Right now, my children are American and my husband British. So, I can move to live in either of these countries or somewhere else. However, I don’t want to go anywhere. I believe it is every Thai’s duty to contribute to our country’s development. There is much we can each do to help improve the lives for all Thai people.”
Even while she has political aspirations, Anne has already become an inspiration and role model for many.
“I believe strongly in what Oprah Winfrey has said, ‘Preparation brings opportunity,’ which to many means finding fortune, or good luck. Still, as she says, one has to be ready because if an opportunity does arise, but you don’t have the skills or knowledge to take advantage of it, it will pass you by. I have been working now for 22 years since I returned to Thailand from Australia. At that time, I was known as a Chinese boy, or Ar-Tee in Thai words, the son of the owners of a video-rental business, which I then transformed into a content trader, importing films and TV programs from many different countries. Over these years, I have gained in knowledge and experience upon which to grow and recognize an opportunity when it appears.
As the interview drew to a close, we asked Anne if she had any final thoughts she would like to share with our readers. Anne then said, “I want to begin by thanking everyone for the love and trust you have shown to me as a female transgender. Everyone faces obstacles and difficulties in their lives, and this is especially true for any transgender. No one is perfect, and so what each person must do is to use each obstruction and impediment as a force to be reckoned with and defeated. Through determination, you will ultimately be rewarded. Through continued perseverance, you will succeed in achieving your goals and become the person you aspire to. Rewards will then follow. So, I encourage all of you to never give up.”