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Pong and Banggo Niu: A mother and son’s passion for beauty and fashion |

Fashion and Beauty

Pong and Banggo Niu: A mother and son’s passion for beauty and fashion

LIVIN’ AND LOVIN’ - Tetta Ortiz Matera - The Philippine Star

I have had the pleasure of working with design teams in the past — friends, siblings and partners — but never a mother-and-son duo until this assignment. I did not know what to expect, but from the minute I saw how Pong Niu chiseled Jessica Yang’s cheekbones to supermodel perfection and how her son Banggo Niu twirled a hanger around to show me an exquisite short black sequined sack dress, I knew I was in for a double creative treat.

I met Pong and Banggo Niu for the first time only last week, but they instantly won me over with their warm, gracious demeanor, evident love for their craft and undeniable talent. Pong, with her infectious smile, was once a Saudia flight attendant who left the airline industry in 2007 to pursue makeup artistry. The 360-degree transformation, which came after much reflection, has since brought her fulfillment unparalleled by her previous occupation.

Pong Niu is a MAC Cosmetics sponsored artist who honed her talents in Cosmoprof, Singapore’s premier makeup academy. She interviewed with MAC in Singapore but was referred to the Manila office instead. After MAC Philippines brand manager Gay Lao saw her work during a fashion show held at the Manila penitentiary with Puey Quiñones, she was tapped to become one of only a handful of Filipino makeup artists to be backed by the US cosmetic giant in our country. Today, she is one of the most sought-after makeup artists in the Philippines who counts woman of style Ching Cruz as a loyal client. She has worked with countless famous Filipina beauties like Miss World 2013 Megan Young, Miss International 2013 Bea Rose Santiago, models-turned-TV personalities Valerie Weigmann, Kim Jones and Isabelle Daza, actresses Carmina Villaroel, Coleen Garcia and celebrity stylist Pam Quiñones, to name a few.

Pong has something of a colorful life; a single mother (to Banggo) at 17, she confessed she was once a teenage rebel who constantly plotted to undermine her parent’s authority. She smartened up after the birth of Banggo and with renewed faith, persevered to turn her life around and erase the stigma attached to being a teenage mom. She raised her son with the hard-earned support of her family until 2001, when she met the love of her life and married Frederick John Niu, with whom she has two other children.

During the interview and the photo shoot, it was evident that the mother and son were as tight as knitwear, bound by unconditional love and mutual admiration. Banggo is close to his stepdad and half-siblings and considers his five-year old half-sister the princess of the Niu brood.

Pong counts herself blessed to parlay her love for makeup into a serious, successful career. She established in 2008 to cater to the makeup needs of brides-to-be; while her client list has grown to include well-known people, she elicits the same amount of joy working with all of them, famous or otherwise. She takes these opportunities to share her faith, hoping that her own personal experiences can serve as a testament to God’s unfailing love.

Pong travels tirelessly to attend workshops and seminars to continue honing her makeup skills and keep up with makeup trends; she just returned from one such trip to the United States. She counts American makeup artists Val Garland, Pat McGrath and Gregory Arlt as her makeup artist icons, all of whom she met at previous MAC events in New York City. She looks back to grooming The Fast and the Furious villain Luke Evans and some of The Hobbit cast as a “pinch me” Hollywood moment in her career.

I took great pleasure in seeing Pong in action; watching her work her magic on model Jessica Yang and young actress Bela Padilla’s faces made me wish that I were sitting in her makeup chair as well. Her technique is slow and purposeful, her strokes delicate, the result flawless to the point of perfection. Pong believes that great makeup starts with beautiful skin and she recommends eating healthy, sleeping well, drinking lots of water and exercising to all her clients to achieve this. Her favorite MAC makeup products are Studio Sculpt foundation semi-matte finish (non-sticky and perfect for our climate),matte lipstick (they are super long-lasting and give great color), Black Track Gel liner, the soft and gentle Mineralize Skin Finish (for a dewy effect) and Fast Response Eye Cream.

I asked Pong how it feels to have a son become a fashion designer and she replied with the wide, proud grin of a mother. While she has not had many opportunities to collaborate with her son — although they share several clients like Sarah Geronimo — she relishes every chance she gets to work with her firstborn. And the feeling is mutual, according to Banggo. “I enjoy working with my mom because she really gets the look I want to achieve for my collections and she knows how particular I am with the hair and makeup,” he shares. They have great chemistry and are open to each other’s comments and suggestions, added Pong.

At 22 years old, Banggo with his youthful exuberance, is one very mature, determined breakout designer. He was hands-on during the shoot, dictating the “peg” for each layout and personally approving the shots for this feature and his next look book. “I knew I wanted to be a fashion designer since I was in third-year high school,” he declares. While the choice came as a surprise to his parents, they supported him from the get-go, encouraging him to enroll at Dela Salle St. Benilde, where he graduated cum laude in Fashion Design.

Wasting no time after finishing in 2012, he has designed very powerful collections that have been featured in local top fashion glossies Preview and Mega and other magazines such as Meg, Cosmopolitan and Illustrado-Dubai. His clothes have been worn by “it” girls like Paris Hilton, Solenn Heussaff, Isabel Daza, Heart Evangelista, Angel Locsin, Sarah Geronimo, and his muse/friend, actress Bela Padilla. He opened his atelier in March 2014.

Who is the Banggo Niu woman, I asked the young designer? “A B.Niu woman is sexy — a beauty with an edge who likes to wear clean, classic tailored lines with a modern luxe twist and a subtle dark, dramatic feel. Like myself, she does not like to compromise on design and comfort,” Banggo explains. He is his own biggest critic, always pushing to outdo himself with each new collection. He looks up to Rajo Laurel because “ he is a great designer and a business savant.” He professes admiration for our very own Ivarluski Aseron and would love to apprentice with French couturier Alexander Vauthier, his fashion icon, along with designers Stéphane Rolland and Anthony Vaccarello.

Banggo Niu does not conform to any design schedule and creates his collection based on his inspiration and temperament of the moment. “The Black collection featured in this article came to life following a period of anxiety and fatigue after our recent trip to the US. I was pressed for time, stressed, with my mind cluttered with random thoughts,” he shares. While the inspiration may sound foreboding, the resulting collection is deliciously dark and dramatic, effortlessly bohemian chic in all its flouncy, sheer, glittery and ultra-feminine glory. Currently obsessed with the soulful indie song Bang Bang by Nancy Sinatra, Banggo takes his design cues from music, fabric textures and his moods, and this latest collection is a certified bang! 

Banggo has his sights set on further studies at the Instituto Marangoni in Milan, but not just yet. He is aware of the difficulty of breaking into the fashion industry and the pressure to remain relevant for the long haul, considering the tremendous amount of young, talented Filipino designers. “I am very happy with the collections I have produced so far but at 22, I still have to develop a look, an identity that will set me apart from my contemporaries; I have quite a way to go,” he said.

Pong has definitely established her mark in the beauty industry with several years of impressive experience and her son Banggo is just starting his ascent to fashion domination but needless to say, both of them are already creative forces to be reckoned with now.

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For more information on Pong Niu, visit her website For Banggo Niu, call 0917-5014335, follow him on Twitter and Instagram @banggoniu.

Special thanks to photographer Rxandy Capinpin (@rxandycapinpin) for the photos, hairstylist Jay Aquino (@jayaquino) and MAC Cosmetics for Pong’s makeup products.

Follow me on Twitter and Instagram @tettaortiz.



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