Coined as one of the 8 Dukes of Caldecott Hill, Desmond Tan is easily one of the most recognisable Singaporean male actors at the moment. Desmond Tan debuted in 2007 and has since grown to hold multiple Star Awards’ Top 10 Most Popular Male Artistes awards under his belt, alongside Best Actor nominations and a win in 2018 for When Duty Calls.
In light of his fame, find out how well you know Desmond Tan by scrolling through the following 12 facts about him.
In 2007, Desmond Tan participated in the 9th instalment of the talent search competition Star Search. Though he didn’t take home the crown and finished as a runner-up, this invariably paved his way into the local entertainment industry.
So much so that Desmond Tan admits that he is “addicted to acting”. In a 2021 interview with Harper’s Bazaar Singapore, Desmond Tan eluded that the deep love didn’t come from the start. Initially, his “priority wasn’t so much about the performance – it was about getting onto national TV; chasing fame. But over the years, I developed a little more interest and that grew into a love for my work, which then turned into a passion.”
Now, Desmond Tan admits that it is an addiction, “especially this past year when we’ve been staying home more and working less. I actually had withdrawal symptoms. I felt so happy when I could go back to work, I feel alive when I’m on set.”
Fun fact: Desmond Tan actually struggled with acting when he was a rookie. He shared this with Quan Yi Fong on her show Hear U Out that the cameraman “walked away” and the production crew started losing their patience.
Fortunately, Desmond Tan’s acting improved leaps and bounds so much so that he was recently cast in a Hong Kong zombie film titled Chungking Mansion. He joins fellow cast members Rebecca Tan, Japanese action star Rina Takeda and Thai actress Davika Hoorne, among many others.
This isn’t Desmond Tan’s first rodeo, however. He starred opposite Taiwanese actress Amber An the film The Big Day (2018), worked in a Singapore-Hong Kong drama Blue Tick (2018) and starred in Singapore-Taiwan dramas All Is Well (2019) as well as Taiwanese production Falling Into You (2020).
Beyond acting, Desmond Tan is also interested in singing. He shared with Augustman that he had formed a boyband when he was in Scouts in secondary school and had “sang a lot during camps”. He also joined the singing competition Project Superstar, but unfortunately had to enlist in the army after getting into the second round.
In fact, Desmond Tan has released multiple songs throughout the years. Most of them are television drama OSTs, the most recent of which is for the show Home Again (2022).
Desmond Tan is known for his dashing good looks and chiselled body. If you want to have a glimpse of what’s underneath his clothing, you might get an occasional glimpse on his Instagram. Oh, and if you want to see if butt, watch the series Derek.
Before 2021 ended, Desmond Tan made headlines when he shared wedding photos with his now-wife on social media. He added that the two met during orientation camp when they were at the National University of Singapore and he proposed in 2015 during a vacation at a national park in the United States.
The couple had a small, intimate wedding in Singapore before having a destination wedding in a French chateau. They then embarked on their honeymoon in France.
On keeping the relationship down-low, Desmond Tan explains, “it’s been a mutual choice to keep our relationship private to protect her privacy for her daily life and work. We prefer to keep our love story away from the spotlight because we feel it works best for us.”
Desmond Tan has more than once admitted that is a vain person. While he considers his vanity level to be an 8 out of 10, Desmond Tan revealed that he was vainer when he was younger. “I used to look at every reflection of myself — on the mirror, windows along the corridor of the school, water, pond, anything that has reflection. I was very vain when I was very young. Then over the years, as I played more characters, I realised that some characters need to have some flaws to be more accepted by people, so I lost a bit of vanity. I just do the due diligence to maintain my skin, have good health, and that’s it.” However, Desmond Tan acknowledges that his vanity is still higher than most.
Desmond Tan added that his vanity streak came from his parents who would take him to facials when he was in primary school and would still take good care of their body today.
Covid-19 was nothing less than a shock for the world, much less for Desmond Tan. In a 2020 interview with CNA Lifestyle, Desmond Tan stated that “2020 has not been the best year. There have been crazy, freak incidents we never expected we would see during our lifetime, whether COVID-19 related or not.”
Despite the gloom and doom, Desmond Tan remains positive. “I feel I’m looking at things through a different pair of glasses. I’ve become more empathetic, more patient. I feel I care for people more on set now. The circuit breaker allowed me to reflect on life in general, and what kind of better version of myself I would want to be. I want to remember to make simple gestures that make people’s day, and also to share happiness. I always believe life turns into a fairytale eventually.”
You would never expect a masculine hunk like Desmond Tan to have a phobia. But for the actor, needles are his Achilles’ heel. On this fear, Desmond Tan says, “I’m a very visual person, so whenever I get an injection or have blood drawn, I can imagine a close-up of the needle going through my skin, muscles and into the vein, which is too overwhelming for me.”
In another incident when he was learning about traditional Chinese medicine for a role, Desmond Tan joked that he is “not afraid of fire, only needles” in relation to the use of cupping and acupuncture. He also shared an instance where he chickened out of donating blood when he was in junior college.
In 2020, a trip to Bali for a friend’s wedding went awry when Desmond Tan was robbed of his mobile phone. He was on a motorcycle with a friend heading back to their villa when four men on bikes ambushed them.
After the ordeal, Desmond Tan reflected back in an Instagram post stating, “I’m blessed to walk out of this whole robbery without any injuries. It could be worse. Whatever it is, I choose to forgive the robbers and pray that they will one day turn over a new leaf and lead better lives.”
Desmond Tan was once the proud co-founder of a local menswear label Atzu. Atzu also showcased its Autumn/Winter collection at the inaugural Men’s Fashion Week back in 2011. The brand is likely defunct now, with its last Facebook posting in 2014.
Speaking on Atzu, Desmond Tan said that they “felt like the fashion scene in Singapore lacked something distinctive, and we believed we could bring that to the table. Catering to different styles and individuals, we split the label into two categories: White Label and Black Label. The latter focuses on avant-garde pieces and silhouettes, while the former sees daily wear and ready-to-wear pieces.”
In 2015, Desmond Tan was called out for being racially insensitive when he shared a selfie on his Instagram depicting him in a turban and dark skin makeup along with a Deepavali greeting. The post has since been deleted but the controversy was delineated in a Popspoken article.