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 itâ€™s not an easy feat for these glam workers, keeping their composure and professionalism in front of some of todayâ€™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 MarvelÂ co-director Anna Boden, ahead of theÂ Marvel Studios event at Marina Bay Sands with fellow co-director Ryan Fleck stars Samuel L. Jackson, Brie Larson and Gemma Chan.Â
â€œIâ€™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,â€ says Den.Â Â
But Denâ€™s rise to stylist to the stars was paved with lots of hard work and discipline, albeit a few disappointments along the way. AtÂ the age of 16, Den was fuelled by his passion for the trade â€“ he comes from a family of hairdressers based in Johor and was inspired by them.
â€œI started working at their hair salon and I made a promise to my dad,â€ says Den over coffee, pausing shortly before he resumes his story.Â Â
â€œHe 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.Â If I donâ€™t succeed, then he said I should become a lawyer.â€
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.â€Â Â
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.Â â€œI thought to myself, â€˜Oh my gosh, maybe it was riggedâ€™â€¦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,â€ he shares.
For the next six years or so, Den worked hard and met manyÂ mentors who took him under their wing. â€œAfter 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,â€ Den says, flashing a smile.
In 2017, he won the Lâ€™OrÃ©al Singapore Style & Colour Trophy competition. â€œI felt that this is now my time; I knew this competition was huge! Amazingly, I was also a winner of the Lâ€™OrÃ©al 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,â€Â he says.
Den adds, beaming with pride, â€œWhen I took part in these competitions, I never told my family members. I didnâ€™t want to shout about it, but my dad wished me â€˜congratsâ€™ when I told him I won,â€
Denâ€™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.
â€œFor the past three or four years, Iâ€™ve been working closely with homegrown artistes and a few A-list stars. Iâ€™ve had a wonderful experience styling the likes of Kelly Marie Tran, WTA Womenâ€™s Single Champion Elina Svitolina and WTA Finals Womenâ€™s Tennis Champion, Simona Halep.
â€œI 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 Itsinesâ€™ hair into a braided high ponytail when she was in town. For the red carpet of Crazy Rich Asians, I also styled Tan Kheng Huaâ€™s hair,â€ he shares.
We canâ€™t imagine how nerve-racking it must be to style the celebs, but Den says he remains calm and professional. The key, he says, isÂ to have a vision to bring out their natural beauty.
His most memorable experience? Working with international stars for the â€œAvengers: Infinity Warâ€ event in Singapore last year.Â
â€œWhen 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.â€
Benedict Cumberbatch was also there, and I remembered outside, fans were waiting for their favourite idols and it was a frenzy!â€
Prep Luxe is located atÂ 15 Stamford Rd, #01-62 Capitol Piazza, Singapore 178906. For more info, or to make an appointment: prepyourhair.com