For every celebrity that walks the red carpet, or gives a TV interview, there is a glam squad who work tirelessly behind the scenes, helping him or her to look their best for the spotlight.
And it’s not an easy feat for these glam workers, keeping their composure and professionalism in front of some of today’s biggest stars. Celebrity hairstylist Den Ng has experienced this for himself in recent years, having worked with some of the biggest names names around.
Ng is the Hair Director of Prep Luxe Salon at Capitol Piazza. Among the celebs he has styled: Star Wars: The Last Jedi star Kelly Marie Tran, Lord of the Rings star Andy Serkis and Narcos: Mexico actor Michael Pena.
And on Thursday (14 February), he will be styling the tresses of Captain Marvel co-director Anna Boden, ahead of the Marvel Studios event at Marina Bay Sands with fellow co-director Ryan Fleck stars Samuel L. Jackson, Brie Larson and Gemma Chan.
“I’ll be working with their first female director Anna Boden. Most of the actresses will have their own glam team, but this is a great opportunity,” says Den.
But Den’s rise to stylist to the stars was paved with lots of hard work and discipline, albeit a few disappointments along the way. At the age of 16, Den was fuelled by his passion for the trade – he comes from a family of hairdressers based in Johor and was inspired by them.
“I started working at their hair salon and I made a promise to my dad,” says Den over coffee, pausing shortly before he resumes his story.
“He actually rejected me. He said the industry was very tough, and he said I can continue on if I become a recognised hairstylist or an international award-winning hairstylist. If I don’t succeed, then he said I should become a lawyer.”
My response to that was, I said I will make him proud one day and I will work very, very hard and improve my skills.”
So Den trained hard, and took part in a hair competition at the age of 21. And though he came in second, he was disappointed. “I thought to myself, ‘Oh my gosh, maybe it was rigged’…From then on, I actually thought I was not good enough, so I continued to work harder on my skills and improve myself by learning from others,” he shares.
For the next six years or so, Den worked hard and met many mentors who took him under their wing. “After that phase, I felt better about myself and I had the opportunity to meet a lot of media who gave me opportunities to style for a few magazine titles. I realised I loved styling for magazines! I felt so relaxed and seeing my works published in the magazines gave me a sense of recognition,” Den says, flashing a smile.
In 2017, he won the L’Oréal Singapore Style & Colour Trophy competition. “I felt that this is now my time; I knew this competition was huge! Amazingly, I was also a winner of the L’Oréal International Cut & Style Award which was held at Seville, Spain. I could say that, the promise I had made to my dad years ago, has now been fulfilled at the age of 27,” he says.
Den adds, beaming with pride, “When I took part in these competitions, I never told my family members. I didn’t want to shout about it, but my dad wished me ‘congrats’ when I told him I won,”
Den’s focus is now on grooming new talents in the industry, as he feels that younger stylists lack a platform. He also wants to branch out internationally, given he has worked with A-list celebrities.
“For the past three or four years, I’ve been working closely with homegrown artistes and a few A-list stars. I’ve had a wonderful experience styling the likes of Kelly Marie Tran, WTA Women’s Single Champion Elina Svitolina and WTA Finals Women’s Tennis Champion, Simona Halep.
“I also styled Diego Luna and Michael Pena, from the cast of Narcos, when they were in Singapore last year. Another highlight is when I styled fitness influencer Kayla Itsines’ hair into a braided high ponytail when she was in town. For the red carpet of Crazy Rich Asians, I also styled Tan Kheng Hua’s hair,” he shares.
We can’t imagine how nerve-racking it must be to style the celebs, but Den says he remains calm and professional. The key, he says, is to have a vision to bring out their natural beauty.
His most memorable experience? Working with international stars for the “Avengers: Infinity War” event in Singapore last year.
“When I was seated across from Robert Downey Jr. at dinner, I felt like I still maintained my professionalism even though we engaged in small talk. He has such a manly face.”
Benedict Cumberbatch was also there, and I remembered outside, fans were waiting for their favourite idols and it was a frenzy!”
Prep Luxe is located at 15 Stamford Rd, #01-62 Capitol Piazza, Singapore 178906. For more info, or to make an appointment: prepyourhair.com