Why Everyone Calls Desmond Tan "The Vainpot"

It has something to do with how his hair has to “fall at a certain angle”. (This story first appeared in Issue 1180, May 30, 2013.)

It was all about Male Vanity when we featured Desmond Tan with Elvin Ng and Romeo Tan for a cover story in 2013. And of course Des stepped up to the challenge, entertaining us with anecdotes about how he earned the nickname “the vainpot” from his friends.

On vanity
“My friends all call me ‘the vainpot.’ I’m fine with that. I mean, it’s a fact! (Laughs) I think it’s basic courtesy to be well-groomed and look good. It’ll be unfair if girls were the only ones who had to put in effort. When I first entered showbiz in 2007, people caught me looking in the mirror a lot. I was so particular about my hair falling at a certain angle. I guess I was a little over the top! But over the years, I’ve toned down [on the vanity]. Maybe it’s a result of becoming more confident. Now, I think that as long as your basics are covered, you don’t have to keep looking in the mirror to know that you look good.”

On skincare
“I started looking after my skin early — you have to invest in it while you’re young, so that you can just do maintenance later. Otherwise, it’ll be like fire-fighting when you get older. I started doing facials and using skincare products such as moisturiser and toner when I was 13. Now, I have different face washes. In the day, I use something gentle, to avoid the tight-skin feeling. Then I slap on toner, moisturiser and sunblock. At night, I use a stronger face wash with a cleansing brush, to clean off oil and make-up, before toning and moisturising. Sometimes, I’d leave on a gel mask overnight. In the morning, I use the Bio-Essence firming cream, and I can actually feel my skin tighten.”

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On his workout regimen
“I run, swim or go to the gym three times a week, for one-and-a half hours each time. I don’t like the gym, but it’s the fastest way to maintain your body. I’d rather do outdoor sports. I love swimming and I used to cycle to work, but my managers tell me not to get too tanned. I like my tanned skin — I think it’s my signature look. They also tell me to use sunblock ’cos I’m getting freckles, but I think it adds character to my face!”

On hair
“I always do my hair before I go out. Even if I’m just walking my dog, I’d put on some hair wax and push my hair up to a certain angle. It takes less than two minutes, and it’s just to make sure my hair is not messy. As for facial hair, I quite like the look of a goatee. I once went to trim my eyebrows and they gave me the Japanese look, which was too sharp and girly.”

On method acting
“I’ve lost 8kg in the past month for my next role as a coolie. My aim is to look like Christian Bale in The Machinist. I did it by cutting out carbs almost completely and just eating vegetables and fish. I didn’t even eat chicken. I also stopped going to the gym. I want to lose muscle mass, which is more challenging than building muscle! I have problems losing my chest. I wanted to show my rib cage for this role. I have to go topless quite a bit, as my character works in the mines. I like that I don’t have to go topless for  no reason. I’ve wanted to try method acting, and I think this is my best chance, as it’s a period drama and I can live the character. It’s okay that I lose my muscles and look bad, ’cos it’s part of my job. Anyway, I can always put the weight back on. My friends and family have been telling me to watch out for my health, though.”


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