Weekly Local Biography

 Addy Maneepong

 

The beautician behind the faces of many of the beauty queens in the north is Addy Maneepong, an incredibly youthful looking 52 year old, who wanted to be a cosmetic surgeon in his youth, but instead, now peels off the years from his clients faces by skilful use of cosmetics.

Addy was born near the Burmese border in a small town called Mae Aie. His father was the local school teacher and his mother ran a tiny grocery store, in between having seven children, of whom Addy is number five. He was also the only boy, but after school would dutifully go home with his sisters to help their mother in the shop, rather than kick footballs.

He had been good at school, top of his class, and his dream of becoming a doctor looked to be attainable - other than the fact that his father died and there was finally not enough money to send the only boy in the family to university.

However, Addy had another calling. For many years he had been interested in dress design and hairstyling. As early as 11 years old he had begun to assist his sisters with their hair and make-up, and indeed showed such a natural flair for it, that he became the resident beautician for his sisters. So it seemed natural for Addy to take himself to Bangkok to study dress design at the Khon Siam Institute and hair styling. These ‘apprenticeships’ took up the next eight years of his life.

Following graduation he was employed in Bangkok at the well known Daisy Beauty Salon for the next five years, but eventually he wanted to return to the north and came to Chiang Mai to open Addy Beaute, at last working in a salon under his own name. In what is often thought of as a very insecure and transient occupation, Addy has run his own salon for the last 21 years, which now employs five people and covers Thai massage, aromatherapy, reflexology and facial massage, as well as make up and hair styling. In that time he has made up scores of beauty queens, some of whom have gone on to win larger tiaras on the beauty contest circuit. He was very proud to show me some of the photos of girls whom he had started on the road to success. In fact, he was the stylist and make-up artist for Daisy Vogt, the daughter of the Chiangmai Mail’s managing director, who won two awards herself last month.

In some ways, Addy could appear as an enigma. He came to the interview in a tailored white linen pant suit, with just a hint of blue eye liner, and some understated gold bracelets and a fine gold chain. There was nothing in his appearance which was ‘over the top’ nor were there any ‘lady boy’ theatrical performances. However, there was no getting away from the fact that Addy was not your everyday, run of the mill, bloke next door!

Addy admitted that with so many girls in the household when he was young, it was difficult not to be ‘one of the girls’ and after his father died, there was no real male role model for him to be influenced by. There is often debate as to whether the way one turns out in life is the result of nature or nurture, and in Addy’s case, the nurture theory would have to be given a fair amount of credence.

He did at one stage, while a teenager, consider having the requisite surgery carried out to enable a reassessment of his gender, but probably this was out of reach financially at that time. "I thought about it then - but not any longer." In fact Addy seems quite at ease with his own sexuality and does not need to ‘make a statement’ to justify his position in life. He has neither girlfriend or boyfriend, and in some ways would seem to be more androgynous, coming across as no threat to either gender. In fact, this could be an essential reason for some of his business success as well.

So what does your non-average stylist do when not at the salon? For Addy this includes overseas trips and he has been to France where he studied Aromatherapy and London where he did further study in hair dressing. The dress designing side took him to Hong Kong and other centres in Asia, so he has been busy improving that side of his business as well. "I really do enjoy dress designing and hairdressing," Addy assured me - but I needed no reassurance, it was obvious in the way he became animated while talking about the two subjects.

And what about away from the salon and work? Well, Addy is into exercise and plays badminton at the CMU Sports Centre. Other hobbies include reading books and - you guessed it - shopping! Even just window shopping at times.

Having come from a poor background, Addy has a long range ambition which encompasses assisting some poor, but talented, up-country children who could not afford training in hair styling. This could be in the form of a beauty school, or even just supervised training in the Addy Beaute salon. "I want to do something for society and would like to pass on my knowledge to others."

So that is the story of Addy, probably best summed up in his closing remarks at the end of our interview. "I have changed. I wanted to become a plastic surgeon so that I could enhance beauty, but these days, if nothing else, I can make up the person to make them more beautiful."

It would be easy to make light of someone like Addy, someone not in the mainstream, but we are all on this earth and must live together, despite the fact that we are all so very different in so many ways. I just hope that I, and you, gentle reader, can be as ‘complete’ a person as Addy Maneepong.