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By Emily Martin

Meet the Crew – Monny the Make-up Artist

Every night before Phare show the artists are here early to rehearse and then get themselves ready for the performance. 30-year-old Monny is the talented make-up artist behind the bold faces you see on the stage.

I sat down with him as he went about his work, braiding a performer’s hair before the show.


How did you start at Phare?
Dara Hout, the CEO of Phare, said he needed someone to do the artists make up for these night performances and private events at the hotels.

I enjoy working with Phare and all the artists. I want to share my knowledge on how they can do the make up by themselves. I think it’s important to do that so that if they are going somewhere like overseas or a private event somewhere without me then they can do it by themselves.

What do you think of Phare?
I enjoy watching the show and the artists. When I was younger I use to go to Phare in Battambang and I wanted to perform like the circus students … I went to Phare and studied fine arts but I only stayed for 5 months because our house was far from the school and it was difficult for me to get to. Sometimes if I really, really wanted to go to school I would work from my home to the school – about 1 hour.

Tell me about your family…
My parents are farmers. They plant the flowers and grow them. After, they cut the flowers to sell at the markets.

When I was young my family was very poor and even though the school I went to was close to my house I didn’t often go. The morning classes I could go to because they didn’t cost that much – but you had to pay more for anything more and because I had no money I couldn’t.

Sometimes I had to work after school. But often I didn’t even go to school because I was so busy helping my family. I had to work, and cook and clean, and take the food to the fields for my parents.

One more problem is if there are celebrations in town we had to sell our flowers. So we had to take and prepare the flowers the day before. I had to prepare them till late at night, till maybe 1 or 2am and then I had to get up in the early morning, sometimes at 4am or similar – so I couldn’t go to school.

How did you fund going to the make-up school?
It was only 3 months of study so it didn’t cost as much. My family supported me for the money to pay for the school and after I finished the school I got a job so I was earning my own money.

How long have you been doing hair and make-up?
It’s almost ten years now. I started working for another person in 2004 but I started my own business in 2006. I learnt how to do the make-up at a school in Phnom Penh. I just love make up, putting on make-up, I like to look beautiful.

I do hair and make-up full time. I have my own shop during the day and then I work at the circus at night time. Every night after the circus I help with small shows in old market for the lady-boys like me.

What are the lady-boy shows?
It’s a show of dancing, singing and role playing and all the performers are lady-boys. So men that dress as women who enjoy dancing and singing.

Are there many challenges or discrimination being a lady-boy in Cambodia?
Before, since around 2000, there were many people who didn’t like gays; the lady-boys – they used to grab them, physically abuse them but now it’s more open.

Because there are many more lady-boys now, the people, they can open their minds, their eyes and accept us more.

I used to meet people who would be horrible to me. In my family they always encouraged me, never said anything bad to me. I don’t care about the other people outside anymore though – this is me.

When did you become a part of the community?
I was about 20 I started to dress as a woman. I could not study anymore because my family was poor and so when I stopped studying I decided to have long hair.