I don't remember much about that day. Not the weather or which particular TV show was on. But I do remember those five minutes of that meeting.
I remember how I felt, that nervousness in my stomach when I saw that antique door.
How I knocked on it lightly at first, and then knocked on it again, worried they might not have heard the first time.
How my shoulders pulled back and my chin went up thinking about who I was going to become. I was going to be someone special.
A petite woman opened the door, giving me a warm smile. She took my hand and led me through the seemingly endless hallways.
There wasn't a splash of white on the walls, each inch covered in multi-coloured murals that looked like they were created in moments of genius. I felt like I was in a wonderland.
Everyone we passed by was gorgeous, their clothes cohered to their bodies as if it were a part of them, not mere accessories.
Was this how all modeling agencies were? One might expect that I would have felt intimidated being so close to these Adonises and Venuses, but the more people I saw, the more I knew I belonged.
We reached the steel door at the end of the building. As I opened the door, a new world was slowly exposed to me. A world of black and white.
At the center of the office was a large wooden table, so tall it almost hid the person sitting behind it - a stout man with an even stouter expression, about as full of emotion as my left toe.
He took a look at me, appraising me like a test subject. He shook his head before a word could escape my lips. "No." And with that it was over, the woman leading me to the exit.
My chance was gone. Natalie Nguyen, the college dropout, would never be a star.
That was a week ago, and I'm still confused why he said no before I said anything. I went to a few more agencies, but the results were the same, they all rejected me.
I just don't get it! What's wrong with me? Was my nose too big? Was my hip too wide? Am I just too fat? I can't even eat food without feeling like a pig now.
Maybe if I was skinnier, I would be more beautiful. That's it, I need to lose weight fast before it's too late.
"Your mother did the right thing in taking you to see me, Natalie," said the doctor.
I shrug. "I think I'm fine."
"You can't keep on doing this, you're going to get yourself injured or really sick."
He's wrong, but I don't say anything. As long as I keep nodding, he'll eventually stop talking.
"You're human. You need to eat more than once a day."
"I can't. I need to lose weight to become a model."
"You need to remember that your well-being always comes first. Even at the cost of giving up your dreams."
It ain't as easy as that, Doctor, I thought.
It's been two months, and I still don't know what the doctor is talking about. I'm healthier than I've ever been in months.
I feel great! Sure, I have less energy, and I can see my ribs, but that's not important. What's important is that I got an opportunity for another audition tomorrow.
It's a second chance, and I can't wait to nail it this time.
I'm standing in the same white and black room, like last time. The man walks toward me and stands in front of me.
Over the course of the last few months, he's become a fixture in my nightmares, being the cause of my extreme diet.
I struggle to meet his beady eyes and blank expression, which I now associate with hell. I firmly shake his hands.
He looks me up and down, a moment that brings back painful memories, scraping their way in like worms. I started talking quickly before he could do anything.
"Hello, I'm Natalie. You might remember me from two months ago. I know you rejected me because I was too heavy, but I'm here for a second chance.
I've been on a diet since then and I'm currently twenty kilograms lighter..."
"I'm sorry, I have to cut you off there." He frowns. "I may be strict, but I will not accept people that risk their own lives just to get a job. Losing twenty kilograms in two months is crazy.
You're lucky that you're still alive."
"But what about the weight requirements? I'm not overweight anymore!"
"I don't give a damn about the rules right now. The health of my models is my priority and you don't seem to take good care of your health. You would jeopardize my business."
"But I feel healthy!"
"The audition is over. Leave."
I was left jobless and hopeless once again. I cried for a whole week. Tears of anger and sadness constantly covered my face. Eventually, I stopped and began reflecting on what the man said.
For once in my life, I see everything clearly. I've been pursuing my dream so hard, ever since I graduated high school. Everyone says to follow your dreams, after all.
However, I never realized how blindly I have been doing it until now. The man has helped me see that nothing is more valuable than my life and body. If I lose them, I am literally nothing.
My health trumps everything else, even my dreams. I can't believe I'm saying this, but the doctor was right all along. I lost so much weight at once, it's not safe for my health at all.
I need to take things slowly. Modeling can wait.