SINGAPORE - When you're surrounded by beautiful people and your job is to make them look even more gorgeous, the pressure to look good yourself can be immense.
Just ask freelance make-up artist Sng Hock Guan, 40, who is better known as Yuan Sng.
To Mr Sng, who has been in the industry for 17 years, beauty is more than just a line of work.
And the man whose clients include socialites and celebrities such as China-born movie star Gong Li, Italian actress Isabella Rossellini and Chinese actress Zhao Wei, has the looks to prove it.
He has had work done on various parts of his face many times over the past 20 years.
His nose alone has gone under the knife eight times. One such operation, in February 2008, went awry.
He sued Dr Amaldass N. Dass, who treated him, for medical negligence and breach of duty of care.
Yesterday, Mr Sng was awarded $250,000 and costs after the High Court entered judgment in his favour.
But the road to his legal victory was paved with pain and suffering, much of it to do with the physical after-effects of the botched nose job.
Friends and associates sometimes noticed the deformities, such as a depression on the tip of his nose, that resulted from the operation and before they were corrected.
"But there were never any nasty things said," Mr Sng told The New Paper yesterday.
During those nine months, he became a recluse. When he did venture out, he used special effects make-up usually used in the movies to conceal the depression on his nose.
"Before I went out, I would have to mould it (the make-up) before putting it on," he said. "Thank god, I'm a make-up artist. Can you imagine if I were a layman? I wouldn't know how to do it."
But there was only so much even someone with his skills could do.
"When people came up close, they would ask, 'What's that?' and I'd look away," he said.
The hot, humid weather, too, would cause the make-up to melt.
He said: "I couldn't take up any jobs. Seeing my nose, nobody would believe my credibility. Who would hire me?"
Why pay such a high price for beauty?
There's little choice in an industry like his, where a premium is placed on looking good, Mr Sng said.
His quest for beauty started even before he completed his national service at the age of 20.
Within a year, he had work done on his eyes, nose and chin on three occasions.
This, he felt, would be his stepping stone to enter the industry.
"At that time, plastic surgery was taboo. People didn't talk about it because of the stigma," he said.
But that didn't deter the young man who was determined to succeed in the beauty industry.
"I know what I want in life. Everyone has the skills, so looking good gives you the edge," he said.
He paid $3,000 for the three operations from money he had saved up since he was 13years old, working part-time during school holidays at McDonald's and as a hotel waiter.
"I didn't take any money from my parents. I've always believed that if you want something, you must work for it," he said.
In the past two decades, he has spent about $100,000 on plastic surgery.
He told his parents about his plastic surgery only after he had done it the first time.
His mother, a retired nurse, now 68, who lives with him in a four-room HDB flat in Hougang, was "cool with it".
He said: "My mum has always been very supportive."
He has never asked his doctors to make him resemble any celebrity.
"It's not like I'm trying to look like someone else. I'm just enhancing my looks."
Did he ever get work done on his face because of hurtful or snide comments from others?
"No, nobody influenced me. It's all based on my own aesthetic point of view," he said.
"I'm a Virgo, a perfectionist in the way I work and a perfectionist when it comes to myself."
It is his high expectations of himself that keeps him striving for that perfect look.
"Being in this industry, you have to look good. Besides your skills, you have to look presentable."
His constant desire to keep things fresh also drives him to change his looks every now and then.
"I was happy with the results after every op, but it's like a trend. It's just like you wouldn't always have this same hairstyle."
The compliments he received also encouraged him.
"When my friends saw me after each operation, they would say, 'Oh you're looking better.' It was always positive," he said.
Each time, he would go to a different doctor.
"I did my research and I went to different doctors because every doctor has his own technique, his own style," he said.
Often, it would be a doctor recommended by a friend or a client.
"It's just like when your friend has a different haircut and if it's nice, wouldn't you want to share it with your friend, too?" he asked.
His work contact of eight years, well-known model Junita Simon, had recommended Dr Dass, her husband, to him.
"We've always had a very good working relationship because she's so polite, so nice to everybody.
She's well liked by everybody in the industry," he said of her.
They met once at a fashion event in May 2008 after her husband had operated on him.
"I had to be professional about it," he said. "I believe that work is work and the personal is personal and you don't mix the two."
But they have not met or spoken since then.
Mr Sng has also not given up on plastic surgery. Since the botched operation, he has had the fold on his double eyelids corrected to "make it look more natural".
The double-eyelid surgery he did years ago led to a fold that was "too high", but that was "the trend then", he said.
Although he says that looking good is important to him, he also insists that true beauty is more than skin-deep.
Asked which celebrity he has worked with is the most gorgeous, he said: "It's about the heart, not just about the looks."
His 7th nose job led to infection
His six previous nose jobs went without a hitch, he said. But his seventh operation to raise the bridge of his nose and make it look sharper didn't go as well.
The rhinoplasty - plastic surgery to reconstruct the nose - on Feb 5, 2008, went so badly that Mr Sng Hock Guan sued the doctor who operated on him, Dr Amaldass N. Dass, and his clinic, Advanced Aesthetics & Surgery.
In court papers filed through his lawyer, MrWendell Wong of Drew & Napier, he sued Dr Dass for negligence and breach of duty.
Yesterday, the first of what would have been five days of hearings, the doctor threw in the towel.
His lawyers, led by Mr Edwin Tong and Ms Mak Wei Munn of Allen & Gledhill, held closed-door discussions with the judge and Mr Sng's lawyers. By late afternoon, judgment was entered by the High Court.
In it, Dr Dass admitted to all but Mr Sng's claim that he and his staff were not qualified to perform plastic surgery on him and that he had fraudulently misrepresented himself and his clinic as having such qualifications.
In defence papers filed, Dr Dass said he had never represented himself as being registered as a plastic surgeon on the SMC's Register of Specialists. He also stated he was qualified, skilled and competent to perform the rhinoplasty and had complied with all relevant laws in place at the time of the operations on Mr Sng.
In his statement of claim, Mr Sng said Dr Dass advised him to have rhinoplasty done to change his nose implant as it was too big for his face.
During the surgery, he was strapped down for more than six hours and experienced "excruciating pain" as he was "not properly sedated", he said.
After the operation, he had a nose infection. His cheek swelled, blood and pus oozed from his nose, and he found a blood-soaked gauze left in it.
He needed treatment over several weeks, including another operation to clear the infection in his nose. When further complications arose, Dr Dass told him that they were the effects of previous operations.
Mr Sng flew to Seoul to see two South Korean plastic surgeons, who removed the infected implant.
In August 2008, they attempted to rebuild his nose with a new implant. This was followed by several more operations until March last year.
He said after judgment was entered yesterday that he felt relieved and vindicated.
This article was first published in The New Paper.