From Bedok to Hollywood: S’porean stylist, 43, works on celebs like Kendall Jenner, Margot Robbie – Mothership.SG

43-year-old Singaporean Alvin Goh lives what most would call a glamorous life.

Besides being a creative director, styling Asian superstars and Hollywood celebrities are all part of his schedule.

But as one would expect, it has been an arduous and eventful journey for Goh.

Lived alone since 19

Speaking with Mothership, Goh revealed that he was once an “introverted and insecure” 19-year-old boy who was bullied in school.

To make matters worse, Goh also did not get along with his family members, who had apparently called him names.

At 19, the then-student left his home in Bedok and starting living in a rented room.

However, that was only the first bump on the road.

Although he was a creative youth who loved to draw, he did not believe that he would be good enough to become a fashion designer.

Thus, he spent a “torturous” three years studying hospitality in a local polytechnic after deciding to follow the crowd, instead of his heart.

After graduating, Goh decided to work as a freelance Fashion Stylist and Makeup Artist in Singapore.

Unfortunately, with no formal training, Goh struggled to break into the industry as a newcomer.

Leaving Singapore

Goh left Singapore for Hong Kong in 2005 at 27 years old, as he felt that there would be more opportunities for career developments overseas.

According to Goh, the decision to leave Singapore was not an easy one:

“It was one of the most painful decision I had to make in my life, and till now I sometimes carry the guilt that I abandoned my family to pursue my own life.”

He soon realised that starting from scratch in a foreign country was no walk in the park.

Goh recalls being bullied by industry veterans and feeling “unworthy” while working with a fellow Singaporean photographer in Hong Kong.

He also made so little that he lived in a shoebox apartment with a “tiny bedroom where [the] toilet was just three steps away from [the] bed.”

Describing it as “the worst nine months” of his work life, Goh soon fell into depression.

But things did eventually pick up for him, and in an almost movie-like way.

The stylist got his big break in 2008, after working on a solo exhibition and crossover project titled DIOR x Alvin Goh.

According to Goh, the brand had approached him as his work was “creative and distinctive.” His perseverance and perfectionist nature also attracted clients, he added.

Perhaps most importantly, Goh revealed that he also had “connections,” but did not elaborate much on that (granted, email isn’t the most conducive medium for conducting interviews).

Soon, more luxury brands began collaborating with Goh.

Wearing multiple hats

Alvin Goh | Photo via Alvin Goh

Today, Goh takes on a variety of different roles as he believes that “we should not limit ourselves”.

He labels himself as a creative director, image director, celebrity stylist, and makeup artist.

As a creative director, he conceptualises art installations, leads projects, and works with teams to make creative decisions, as well as improve branding in the industries of fashion, beauty, art and entertainment.

As an image director, he works with celebrities to design their looks for events and concerts.

Goh is also known for his work as a celebrity stylist and makeup artist in both the Asian and Hollywood film industries.

Alvin Goh and Kendall Jenner | Photo via Alvin Goh

Screengrab via Alvin Goh/Instagram

He is also the first Asian to style an Oscar winner—Korean actress Youn Yuh-Jung.

Working with Oscar Winner Youn Yuh-Jung

Oscar winner Youn Yuh-Jung (Image direction by Goh) | Photo via Alvin Goh

Goh was approached by Youn’s team to style her and naturally, he accepted.

Unbeknownst to him, Youn would be making history as the first Korean to win an acting award at the Oscars.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Goh had to meet with Youn through Zoom meetings.

The different time zones also meant that most of the fittings were conducted at around 3am.

“Before I design an image for my client, I need to meet them and talk to them because I am so into feeling the energy from my client,” the stylist explains.

After looking through “at least 250 dresses,” Goh finally found the perfect gown for Youn in Egyptian designer Marmar Halim.

He recalls the moment the Oscar results were announced: “We all cried when she got the Oscars, it was such a beautiful feeling even though I was not physically there.”

The icing on the cake was when Youn’s outfit drew many positive critiques from international media.

When asked how it was like working with Youn, Goh revealed that she was “the grandmother that every kid wants to have”.

“She is one of the coolest and authentic celebrities [he has ever] worked with. She does not need big fancy diamonds or expensive haute coutures, she just wants to look like herself and doesn’t need to stand out from the crowd,” the stylist gushed.

Memorable moments and challenges

One of the most memorable moments Goh has had during his career was when he received a call from Uma Thurman’s security guard at 2am.

The guard had apparently “demanded” that Goh give him a list of products he had used for Thurman’s make-up, as the American actress could not believe that it had stayed intact the entire day.

Goh found the request “hilarious” and promptly acceded to it.

However, despite the memorable moments, Goh admitted that working in this industry has its own set of challenges such as “gossip, power play, and jealousy.”

To overcome this, Goh stresses the importance of learning to stay focused and to “just do your work.”

He added:

“There were so many instances that I wanted to leave this industry because I met many manipulative people. The glitz and glamour are very seductive but just do you, and let your work speak for itself.

You can’t please everyone, and do not let fame get into your head. Our self worth should not be associated with our titles as nothing is permanent in life.”

Goh’s advice to fellow Singaporeans

Goh’s advice to fellow Singaporeans who wish to pursue their dreams is to “persevere, work damn hard and be passionate.”

He also admitted that he “never imagined [himself] styling an Oscar winner or working with top Hollywood celebrities.”

He continued:

“I was just a low-self esteem boy from Bedok who wanted to make myself look more attractive by experimenting with fashion and beauty products. Had I not felt inferior about my appearance, I would not have even gotten started on this journey.

My purpose in this lifetime is to share my gift of beauty, to make people feel and look good!”

Top photos via Alvin Goh

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