Back in the late 1970s, a baby girl named Oh was born into the family of a famous architect and respected professor and his wife. That spunky little thing managed to grow up unharmed despite running around with two older brothers and three cousins in a 3 custom-built townhome in the middle of Bangkok.
At 12, Oh was selected as a part of a delegation of 2 boys, 2 girls, and one 21-year-old chaperone to represent Thailand at Children International Summer Village (CISV) Hands Around the World in Melbourne, Australia. For one glorious month, she learned about peace and friendship with children from all over the world and formed a lifelong friendships with many of them. That was the beginning of the rest of her life as a “cultural ambassador” wherever she goes.
Oh’s parents continued to send her traveling on her own for English language immersion programs all over the world. Auckland, New Zealand, at 13 with a group for 4 weeks. Bournemouth, England, at 14 with younger cousin Nancy and a family friend for 6 weeks. And then Whittier, California, at 15, by herself for 2 months.
It was here in California where Oh was presented with the name Oakley and found where she truly belongs.
Coming to the USA
Oakley returned to Thailand determined to continue her education in the U.S. like her brothers before her. Her principal at Mater Dei School was not all that surprised when she and her mom turned up to request transfer papers.
“You’ve always been too westernized for your own good here,” the principal said. “It’s time for you to go to America and really shine.”
Considering all the times Oakley ended up in her office for being “too outspoken,” the principal was right. But you wouldn’t know that about her when she first got to Santa Margarita Catholic High School in Rancho Santa Margarita, California.
Oakley entered 11th grade a meek Asian girl transferred in from Thailand, the only international student there at the time who would eventually become the first ever to have graduated from the school. Naturally, she kept to herself and was seen as “shy.” She soon grew into her quirky self, participating in a handbell choir, intermediate women’s choir, drama performances, and even performing traditional Thai dance at the talent show.
Oakley entered USC Annenberg School for Communication, majoring in Communication with Cinema-Television minor aiming to come out an adman. Creative director was the destination, but the journey took her far, far away from that world. She tried out for the all-male Yell Leader team for the hell of it, ran the Thai Students Association, took up independent study in songwriting and performed original songs in front of God and everyone (urgh why did I do that?!?!), and became a Warner Bros. Studios promotions intern. Even with all of that, Oakley graduated one semester early and embarked on one year of real-life work experience in the U.S.
Dot Com: A Love Story
As fate would have it, Oakley landed a receptionist job at Hollywood Stock Exchange (HSX.com), where she worked with all of her passions every day–movies, pop culture, and the internet. When she decided to return to the USC Annenberg Communications Management graduate program, the company kept her on as their intern, doing research and interacting with their “traders”–what you now would call a community manager.
Somewhere between graduate school and work at HSX, Oakley found time to ask out the company’s IT guy, Brandon. A year and a half later, after both of them had left the company, Brandon asked her to marry him outside the old office in Santa Monica where they first met.
In January 2002, Oakley completed graduate school and got married in a hybrid of Thai and American traditions.
Oakley started her career with a stint at a political public relations firm in Long Beach before anchoring at a nonprofit organization in Downtown Los Angeles for the next 6 years. In 2011, she took a leap of professional faith to explore new career paths and opportunities. It took her two years, three ad agencies, and one advertising collaborative before she found a home in the produce industry creating content and developing recipes. As much fun as that was, Oakley’s passion for serving the community won out and she shifted to working marketing for a nonprofit organization in Carson.