Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Long n Winding Road International Hair Stylist Ah Kim P 1

Part One:

Laurence Lim, a former teacher and a member of the 60's band The Trebles writes about his primary school student who has achieved stardom in the international arena of fashion hairstyling. 

As music lovers we are familiar with the tune and lyrics of this Beatles classic, The Long and Winding Road. But today on this blog we will portray a little known celebrity named Ah Kim Anthony Tan  whose Long and Winding Road to stardom and world acclamation will bring some to tears.

Ah Kim is a four time winner in the internationally recognized Avant Garde Hair Fashion Show held annually in Australia and Europe. His latest win being at an Avant Garde Hair Fashion Competition held in Australia in October, 2016.
                                     Ah Kim (left) and Laurence Lim

After having won so many awards in such highly prestigious events, little wonder why Ah Kim is still relatively unknown in this part of the world, especially Singapore? 

He came from a humble home. He lived in a crowded house with his parents and siblings in Havelock Road, a rather undeveloped part of Singapore in the early 60's and 70's. He studied at Park Road School, right in the heart of Chinatown. 

It was in this school that I had the privilege to be his form teacher. Our education system during the 60's and 70's was such that besides the class having its own form teacher there were others who would teach different subjects.

Ah Kim was not an outstanding student academically. He was polite and well mannered. But he had a fair share of scoldings too. But boys are boys as we adults always perceive. As mentioned he was not academically inclined and he had to repeat his Primary 6 PSLE examination.

He made it on his second try and got promoted to secondary level. But due to some financial setbacks and not being able to buy school text books, he was disadvantaged academically. He had to wait weeks to borrow text books, which at that time was a feature in our education system.

All these setbacks contributed to Ah Kim's perception that education was not the only avenue for someone to survive and to succeed in life. So he took the easier way out and quit school after completing Secondary Three.

The wild and windy night
That the rain washed away
Has left a pool of tears
Crying for the day
Why leave me standing here
Let me know the way...

Having no direction in life, with no money and any form of financial assistance from anyone, he took up a job in a hotel with a meager salary of S$90 per month.

"That was good enough," Ah Kim said. While working at the then Mandarin Hotel he met many guests who were  mainly foreigners. It was at this hotel that he befriended a kind Indonesian soul who asked him what he really wanted to do in life after noticing  that he was not  enjoying his work. He  told this gentleman named Mr Yap, an Indonesian, that he actually would like to pursue a course in hairstyling.

As luck had it, Mr Yap agreed to sponsor and also provide him with a monthly allowance to take up a hair styling course at the well known Vidal Sassoon in London.

Vidal Sassoon, London, England.

Ah Kim spent a year in London and returned to Singapore in 1979. Upon his return he worked in four different saloons to gain  working experience as well as some pocket money. Upon his return he personally he felt that he was still not good enough and graded himself 5 out of 10. 

After managing to save some money Ah Kim decided to venture further to achieve his lifelong dream of becoming, The Best Among The Best. But there was no way that he could  fulfill his dream if he had  continued to live and work in Singapore.

In 1983 with a return air ticket and with only $50/ in his wallet Ah Kim flew off to Australia. There he met a Lebanese by the name of Victor who had a small saloon in Sydney.  Upon knowing that Ah Kim is a hair stylist he offered Ah Kim a job in his saloon. 

Their friendship remains intact  to this day. Ah Kim stayed and worked in Australia from 1983 and became an  Australian PR in 1986 which was a prerequisite, according to Australian immigration laws for anyone wanting to live and set up businesses. 

Part 2 continues when he meets Andy and reveals his invitingly glamorous publication, a book of his creations and people who honour him. 

The circle is complete when he talks to Andy about his love for Singapore 60's music.

Click to watch:

Images from Book, Google and A Private Collection.
Article by Laurence Lim - Copyrights Reserved.



The Long And Winding Road lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC


LL said...

Does Ah Kim do privates?


Hi Andy what a revelation! Kudos to Ah Kim for his passion and perseverance to be the best of the best in the fashion hair industry. Can't wait for Part 2.

Thank you for posting this story.


Hi Andy,
I must personally congratulate Mr Laurence when I meet him again. He has taken the initiative to do a write-up for one of his former students, a good example of good relation between teacher and student even after so many good years.

The story provides the inspiration for the younger generation to challenge themselves to make good, that as long as one has a passion for something, go for it and make an achievement like this man did.

Thanks for putting it on your blog, you are as helpful in a way.

Keep it up Andy.

anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing Ah Kim's story. Interesting.

LJK said...

Andy thanks! Happy and Healthy New Year, 2017 !

Unknown said...

Hi Andy and Laurence. Such stories about the local boy who made good on the world stage against all odds are always, always inspiring. To me 2 local guys spring to my mind immediately as I was typing the previous line. They are Matthew Tan and Rex Goh. For a local Chinese guy to arrive and to perform in the real world of Country Music in the USA in the 70s is just about as improbable as a white American succeeding in Chinese Opera in Beijing. And then there is Rex Goh, another unassuming local musician who had successfully won recognition in one of the toughest facets of the entertainment industry in Australia, music.

I do not have much hair so kindly excuse me for not knowing anything about hair stylists. However anyone with no money, no exceptional education but who has the courage to pack up and leave home to pursue a dream in a foreign land is made of tougher fibre than most Singaporeans of that era. Salute to Ah Kim!

And by the way $90 per month is really not unusual. I was working in a legal firm while waiting for my National Service and my salary was a pricely $80 per month. Still managed to buy one new shirt a month with the wages!

All the best guys and looking forward to Part 2!


John Cher


Things are moving. Congrats to Andy Young.

anonymous said...

Wah you getting in the limelight nowadays hor? U can forget about your professional job soon.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Thanks Laurence, moving because of you and all the supporters. From zero to #2 a few hours is a feat in itself.

Thanks to others too. And John's parallels: Ah Kim's achievements with Matthew Tan of The Mandarins and Rex Goh (Air Supply) are perfect examples of a never-die attitude.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

"The Long and Winding Road" is a ballad written by Paul McCartney (credited to Lennon–McCartney) from the Beatles' album "Let It Be". It became the group's 20th and last number-one song in the United States in June 1970, and was the last single released by the quartet.

When Laurence Lim chose to use the title it is obvious he was referring to Ah Kim's long, winding and arduous road on his journey of life, where he had to struggle through the years without savings or a humble abode.

Again, many thanks to Laurence for his contribution.