Thailand takes its television celebrities seriously, endlessly obsessing over their every gesture and fashion statement. Newspaper gossip pages may seem tame, even respectful, compared to Hong Kong's muckraking tabloid press, but the result is the same: the personal quickly becomes public. The latest to find this out is model and actress Kathaleeya 'Mam' McIntosh, whose swelling stomach has lately prompted intense speculation over its contents. A baby? Surely not. But after repeated denials, McIntosh did an about-turn and told a press conference that, yes, she was four months' pregnant. What made the story irresistible was not just the deception but the moral outrage. McIntosh, who is known for playing squeaky-clean roles in sappy soaps, is an unmarried woman living with her boyfriend in Bangkok. To young fans who hold her up as a role model and hang on her every word - not to mention TV executives alert to any whiff of scandal - this was clearly a step too far. The shock waves are still reverberating on website forums and in reams of anguished newspaper commentary. One news website reported getting more visitors on the day of McIntosh's revelation than during last year's tsunami. Opinions ranged from anger and dismay to hand-wringing over the example set for impressionable Thai teens. 'I'm afraid that other girls will think it's normal because Mam thinks it's ok,' read one posting. Being pregnant does not appear to be a stumbling block for working women in Bangkok. My travel agent carried on dispensing tickets until the week before the delivery of her first child, and she is not alone in working through her pregnancy. But the same rules do not apply to doe-eyed TV stars. Channel 3 abruptly axed McIntosh's variety show after 10 years on air, saying it could not find a suitable replacement for her. The fact that McIntosh is probably perfectly capable of crooning and cooing into a microphone in front of a studio audience did not seem to cross their minds. Funnily enough, Channel 3 is replacing the show with a new programme - to be hosted by Willy McIntosh, her elder actor brother. As the family name suggests, Willy and Kathaleeya are half-Scottish, the products of a mixed marriage. They are not alone: several top models in Thailand are also Eurasians, with the kinds of stunning looks that sell luxury handbags and skin cream by the bucketload. Their rising popularity marks a quiet reversal of traditional ideas of beauty as being 100 per cent Thai. So, mixed parentage is accepted now. As long as you don't have sex before marriage, that is.