Let me try this. Doualy Xaykaothao. How did I do?
That’s very good. Growing up in Texas, a lot of people couldn’t pronounce my name [dwah-hlee sigh-kow-tao]. They would call me Doily.
NPR has reporters with some great names: Sylvia Poggioli, Ofeibea Quist-Arcton. When you told them you were abandoning your Asia post to return to Dallas, someone at NPR must have freaked out. Because you can’t just hire a Jane Smith. I picture a panicked executive saying, “Has Mariska Hargitay ever done radio?”
We all come from very diverse places. The world is just so much smaller. And because it is so much smaller, we want to be able to represent as many different voices as we can. NPR allowed me to find stories and, through my reporting, represent where I came from.
You’ve covered some of the world’s biggest stories. You were the first NPR reporter at Fukushima. The last piece I heard you do for KERA was about the remodeling of a Mexican restaurant called J. Pepe’s. That’s quite an adjustment.
Funny you should say that. The last actual story that I filed was about the earthquakes in Azle. So Fukushima. Azle. [laughs] I think there’s a lot in common there. [laughs] Many people are surprised about my choice to come back to North Texas rather than stay overseas. But part of it is that Texas has been very special to me. I think when you grow up in it, you don’t realize that until you leave. I’ve come back to a different place. The stories here are just as rich as the ones in Fukushima or Bangkok or Kathmandu. The personalities here, the characters here, the voices here—we could create all kinds of Broadway shows. I’m proud to come back here and look at all that.
“Texas has been very special to me. I think when you grow up in it, you don’t realize that until you leave.”Doualy Xaykaothao
How did you get to Duncanville High from Laos? Did your parents flee the chaos after the Vietnam War?
Yes and no. My father was a village kid in Laos. He was selected to go and study in Paris. France was the colonizer at the time. He was in Paris during the war. Long story short, when the war happened, my mom took us out, with my grandparents, to France and then eventually to the United States. My grandparents felt that Texas was this wide-open space where they could start again and be reborn in a different culture. They selected Grand Prairie.
You just joined Twitter with the handle @DoualyX. What motivated you to join?
When I was overseas, I tried to be discreet about my travels. A lot of government officials in countries like Burma or North Korea monitor social media. Somebody is looking at you. And I’ve been denied visas, even as a tourist. So I was very careful to stay under the radar. And when you have a name like mine, it’s not like Joe Smith. Joe Smith could easily enter Burma, but Doualy Xaykaothao, in fact, is still blacklisted from Burma.
You’ll have to do pledge drives now. Have you thought about how you’re going to put Jeff Whittington in his place? Because that guy is an endless font of braggadocio about how much money he raises during pledge drives.
[laughs] The thing is, I am one of the finest raffle-ticket sellers. If you give me something, I can sell it. I don’t think the pledge drive is going to be a problem at all. I challenge Jeff Whittington.
I’m sure you are aware of the Tumblr site Babes of NPR and your inclusion thereon. Is that flattering or silly?
I find it surprising. What is sexy to one person is a complete turnoff to another. I can only laugh and appreciate that people like what we do and that they appreciate how we look at the same time.
I thought of starting a Babes of KERA site. Of course you’d make it. Obviously Krys Boyd would be on it. But then I get to, like, what, Bill Zeeble? So I gave up on that project.
No, no. There’s a lot of sexiness at KERA. Though you can’t quote me on that one.
You said it. And then you said I couldn’t quote you.
But that’s how it works. We have the right to say, “You can’t quote me on that one.” You’ll be kind not to do that, or I might not have a job next week.
Something tells me it would be hard for you to lose your job.