The ’21–’22 school year begins August 16. Read an update from the Head of School here.
In case you didn’t know, Cindy Sirinya Bishop was a high school senior at RIS when she was crowned Miss Thailand World in 1996. Since then, Cindy catapulted to fame and has enjoyed a prolific career in the entertainment industry as a model, actress, TV host (most notably Asia’s Next Top Model) and entrepreneur (maternal skincare line Mama’s Secret, among other ventures). She is also recognized for her philanthropic efforts as a supporter of the Camillian Home for Disabled Children and Fin Free Thailand, and that’s just to name a few causes.
In recent years, Cindy has been one of Thailand’s most powerful voices in addressing sexual assault issues and gender equality rights. In early 2018, she came across a pre-Songkran newspaper headline of local authorities discouraging women from looking sexy to curb sexual assault. Peeved at the narrow-mindedness of the sentiment and having been a past victim of sexual assault at a Songkran party herself, Cindy took to Instagram to share her grievances in a video hashtagged #DontTellMeHowtoDress. Why weren’t authorities talking to the men assaulting women? Why were perpetrators let off the hook so easily?
Justifiably, Cindy’s social media rant resonated with so many women online. Victims of sexual harassment and assault around the region found a kindred spirit in Cindy and shared their own experiences. Right before her eyes, her social media hashtag quickly evolved into a full-fledged movement championing gender equality rights. The #DontTellMeHowtoDress campaign has since then drawn extensive media coverage and acclaim from around the world. Last year, it became the basis of an exhibition (the Social Power Exhibition Against Sexual Assault) and has even garnered support from the likes of regional governments, the United Nations and Netflix, among others.
With all that Cindy accomplishes in the limelight, coupled with the fact that she is also a wife and mother of two, it’s astounding how she admirably manages to do it all. It’s no surprise then that Cindy has continually been cited by her fans—and even her peers—as an inspirational and influential woman. In all that she does, Cindy’s talent, passion and eloquence are apparent. So, here are 21 quotes from Cindy Sirinya Bishop on the things close to her heart from her various media appearances—from #DontTellMeHowtoDress to the importance of education and empowering women to finding balance and inspiring people to live their best lives:
1. On the viral reaction to #DontTellMeHowtoDress: “When my spur-of-the-moment online rant went viral with the support of women all over the country and in a few days began to make news globally, I realized this was a conversation long overdue. [Women] everywhere are sick of being told what to do, how to behave and what to wear. We are tired of being shamed and blamed for attacks against us. We will no longer accept the culture of silence around rape and the lack of accountability of perpetrators. We realize that together, our voices are loud, clear and powerful, and we are sending a message that our rights as women are the same as our rights as humans.”
Instagram, March 2019
2. On empowering other women to share their stories: “My campaign is a call for women to step and speak up, to express themselves. If more women do that, other women will get empowered and be more likely to come forward with their stories, or at least fight against something that’s wrong. The more we portray women as strong, powerful and confident, the more it will help their images in general.”
Lifestyle Asia, August 2018
3. On critics misunderstanding #DontTellMeHowtoDress: “Dressing respectfully for the occasion and galataesa [propriety]—which I’m a big promoter of, too—is another issue. It’s about how you present yourself to the world, which belongs in a different discussion. This discussion [regarding #DontTellMeHowtoDress] is about how, regardless of anything, you can’t use what a woman is wearing as an excuse. I don’t care if a woman was naked in the middle of the street; you still don’t touch her.”
Prestige Online, January 2020
4. On combating male and female stereotypes: “Essentially I’m trying to spread the word about gender equality to parents and students, combating stereotypes associated with boys and girls. [We] must encourage Thai parents to teach their children about respect, responsibility and consent. We have to break free of this idea of toxic masculinity, that boys have to be tough and not show emotion while girls have to be meek and modest in everything.”
Thailand Tatler, April 2019
5. On the dangers of toxic masculinity and victim shaming: “Male entitlement is definitely present [in Thailand]. The attitude of thinking that women are there to let out their frustration or anger is something that needs to be changed through education. Women are also part of the problem. I was born and raised in Thailand, so I understand the culture. Women themselves engage in victim blaming.”
Citylife Chiang Mai, September 2018
6. On the ultimate vision for #DontTellMeHowtoDress: “The #DontTellMeHowToDress vision is of a world in which gender equality is the norm, sexual assault and violence against women have no place, and all children have access to proper educational means, to inspire them to become balanced, respectful and responsible members of society.”
UN Women, November 2018
7. On how to talk to kids about gender, respect & relationships: “It’s never too early to start and there’s no better place than at home. Creating a safe space for your child to come to you with any questions or concerns he or she may have at any time is [so] important. I cannot stress it enough. We must reduce the stigma of talking to our kids about natural sexual development and gender issues.”
Instagram, Aug 2019
8. On what she’s shared with her own children, Leila and Aiden: “My daughter is eight and my son is five. I’m going to make sure they’re not going to learn about sex from their friends or the internet because this is going to stick with them for the rest of their lives. I already talked to my daughter about how a female body changes in terms of reproduction and how nobody has the rights to touch her. You don’t have to do a whole, full-on sex talk! It’s the whole idea of respecting others—you don’t have the right to force anyone to do anything.”
BK Magazine, March 2018
9. On what men can do to help gender equality: “My appeal to men: be more aware of what you are doing in your life, and see how you can support [women’s rights]. That might mean championing the women in your life or speaking up when you hear something that is not okay, because that is the most powerful way to push back against discrimination. It’s a strong man who stands up in a group of men and says, ‘Hey, that’s not okay. Let’s not do it.’”
UN Women, February 2020
10. On what makes a man: “For me, [what makes a man is] integrity, honesty and the belief that his word is more valuable than his wealth; [someone] who is not afraid to be sensitive or vulnerable but will fiercely defend for what he knows is right and just; who goes out of his way every single day to make sure his family is safe and cared for; who respects and uplifts the women in his life always; and who has so much love to give. Lucky for me, my man [husband Byron Bishop] is all those things.”
Instagram, October 2019
11. On representing Thailand for Because She Watched, a special Netflix collection of series, documentaries and films curated by influential women to celebrate International Women’s Day: “I was honored to be picked. Just being chosen one of 55 women around the world to pick something that has influenced me as a viewer is indeed an honor. I hope this will be an inspiration to others, not just women, but anyone watching.
“Movies, films and now television series are a wonderful medium to just tell someone’s story. However, we need to be telling more stories of women by women. Now that is where I am excited to see the changes that are happening presently, both in the media and films, and I am excited to see how this is going to continue.”
Bangkok Post, March 2020
12. On what her parents taught her about hard work: “My father always instilled in me how important it was to have a good work ethic and self-discipline. My parents always told me that I could be anything I wanted to be, but that I would have to work hard to achieve my dreams. And that’s the same thing I tell my children now.”
Hot Magazine, September 2017
13. On staying relevant over the years and the influence of social media: “It’s not so much changing but reinventing myself. Before, I used to be a model and now I’m a model maker [on Asia’s Next Top Model.] I’m the teacher. I’m the mentor. I can share my experiences and hopefully inspire some younger girls—not just models but women. I try to go further into that field—education on how to be more confident, how to navigate the dangerous area of social media, manage self-esteem and body image.
“If you are not on social media, you will not stay. Everything is based on it. The brands look not only to your followers—although it’s a big part—but at you. You are a brand; you have to create who you are and they will choose to work with you based on what you represent; what you stand for.”
Latitudes magazine, November 2018
14. On being an ‘extroverted’ introvert: “I’ve come to realize that beneath my confident, outgoing and sometimes ‘loud’ self, I’m actually much more of an introvert than most people think. I work on finding ways to learn more about myself, what makes me tick, how to navigate my emotions and moods and to become more balanced. I’ve reignited my daily meditation practice and also started journaling in order to stay grounded. And every now and then I take a break from social media to focus on the most important people in my life—my family.”
Instagram, July 2019
15. On finding balance in work, family and health: “Everyday is different. Sometimes I get to stay home all day with the kids and be a total stay-at-home mom which is amazing. I absolutely love it. Sometimes I’m gone for weeks at a time, especially when I’m shooting Asia’s Next Top Model, and that can be really hard but we make it work. At the end of the day, I think it all comes down to having balance. If you have balance, you’re able to enjoy all those things. You’re able to have a social life as well and have an amazing career and also have the time to take care of yourself and be healthy and happy.”
A Day in My Life by Cindy Bishop, YouTube, July 2017
16. On the secret to a happy marriage: “Communication! [My husband and I] talk about everything. Ultimately, he’s my best friend and he’s always had my back. We were together for seven years before getting married. We have the same goals in life—family and balance. Once that’s solid, we can handle anything else.”
The Star, April 2017
17. On the challenges of motherhood: “It was Thai Mother’s Day [and] everyone on [social media] was posting picture-perfect pictures with their kids and their moms, and all day I kept telling myself, ‘Okay, gotta get a shot!’ But then the day got crazy—as always—and then I got tired—as usual—and all my best-laid plans for that perfect-picture [moment] went out the door. But hey, if we’re gonna celebrate Mother’s Day then let’s get real… Motherhood ain’t perfect! And most of us are barely keeping it together, so be gentle on yourself, mama. You’re doing the hardest job in the world!”
Instagram, August 2019
18. On the importance of making health a priority: “Scheduling time to get really healthy and stay in a routine will do amazing things for you. It keeps your mind fresh. It keeps your body strong. It makes the stress a little more bearable. So, make sure you schedule your yoga class, or even if it’s a run, [do] something every single day to keep you healthy.”
Findng Balance by Cindy Bishop, YouTube, April 2018
19. On the importance of movement: “I’m learning [at Movement Playground] that parkour is all about discovering your own movement and seeing how you can push your own limits. It’s about reconnecting with the way our bodies were designed to do from birth—running, climbing, jumping, crawling and balancing… but, somewhere along the way, we grew up and forgot how to move—really move, like the way our kids move! We work out with weights in one direction only or do repetitive motions to build muscle but our movements are limited. Scaling a wall, balancing on a beam or swinging on monkey bars takes a different and much more holistic strength and agility. That’s what I’m focusing on this year. Although my moves are still far from pretty, I’m getting stronger and more confident with every session.”
Instagram, February 2020
20. On the importance of perseverance: “Please don’t let one failure stop you from following your dreams. Don’t let the one time you [make] a mistake or forget the words or trip and fall be the last time you ever try anything. The only way you’re gonna get good and get really good at what you wanna do is to fail and fail and fail again. And after every failure, you pick yourself back up and you go, ‘Okay, what did I learn from that? Mmm hmm, alright. Next time, I’ll do it differently.’ And you just get better and better every single time.”
Biggest Fail / Public Speaking by Cindy Bishop, YouTube, November 2017
21. And finally, a quote on RIS and being an alumna: “Although I was only at RIS for my last three years of high school, I remember them fondly as some of the most formative years of my life. The friendships formed there and the education I received marked the beginning of a successful and purpose-driven life. I will be forever proud to call myself an RIS alumna.”
RIS Alumni/Community Voices, May 2018