Image: The Business Times


It has only been two days since the world learnt about the passing of celebrity hairstylist Shunji Matsuo and his battle with pancreatic cancer. Although we’ve lost one of the biggest legends in the hair industry, his name continues to live on. Read on to find out more about the man himself, and how he has made a difference.


1. Matsuo was born in Kobe, Japan

His hometown of Kobe was also where he passed away peacefully at the age of 67.


2. Although he was Japanese, he built his career in the United States (US)

Inspired by the famous Sino-Japanese hairstylist Yusuke Suga, who was based in New York, Matsuo left for Los Angeles at the young age of 23 to practise hairstyling at Yamano Beauty School.


3. He began his hairstyling career proper in New York

After graduating, Matsuo was interviewed and chosen to work for Suga Salon on East 57th Street, the salon of the hairstylist who served as his inspiration in the first place.


READ MORE: 5 legendary hairstylists in Singapore and their humble beginnings



Image: Shin Min Daily News


4. He built up a reputable base of clientele in US

This included celebrity models like Cindy Crawford and Naomi Campbell, and huge names like Elizabeth Arden, Vogue and The New York Times.


5. The man decided to move to Asia in 1996

After collaborating with a few other hairstylists to set up a salon on Madison Avenue in New York, and working in the US for 22 years, Matsuo relocated to Asia as he viewed it as a more lucrative place for business. He opened the first Shunji Matsuo salon in Jakarta, and moved to Singapore in the same year.


6. He had previously overcome liver cancer

More than a decade ago, Matsuo had fought off liver cancer. Unfortunately, earlier this year, tumours had formed again on his liver, and were discovered to have spread to his pancreas.


READ MORE: These top Asian celebrities beat breast cancer



Image: The Straits Times


7. The annual Makeover Magic show was created to inspire older men and women and cancer patients to experiment with style

Noticing how the elderly native Japanese did not have the self-confidence to play around with fashion and style, Matsuo started the Makeover Magic show in 2010 in his home country, giving the older generation free hair makeovers to encourage them to view beauty in a different way. As a cancer survivor himself, he found it important to help other cancer patients look and feel good, and in turn, boost their willpower to live.


8. He was constantly very supportive and kind towards his various clients

“I met him in 2013 before my radio career began – when I was known (only) as Joakim from Singapore Idol,” says 98.7FM DJ Joakim Gomez. “He was very kind to say, ‘If you need good hair for gigs or stage appearances, I’d be happy to support you.’ I felt really touched.”

Celebrity host Jade Seah also remembers him as a very genuine personality, stating that he was the first to offer her a hair sponsorship when she first started out in the media industry.

“He has made waves in the hair industry in Singapore, but he is not showy. He’s really a beautiful person, inside and out – a people person, always making sure everyone is happy,” says local host, actress and film-maker Michelle Chong.


READ MORE: 7 amazing hair makeovers of everyday women



Image: The Straits Times


9. He was always celebrating life

Mr Tay Tat Sin, Matsuo’s right-hand man and also his successor as Shunji Matsuo’s director, says that the veteran hairstylist does not want his funeral to be a sad occasion. “He wants to spread the message for people to be happy for him because he enjoyed life to its fullest, and that his business will continue,” says Mr Tay.


10. There are 15 Shunji Matsuo salons to date

10 of them are in Singapore, while the other five can be found in our neighbouring countries Malaysia, Vietnam, the Philippines and Indonesia. Shunji Matsuo has certainly left a legacy that will continue in his name.