Since you were a little girl you loved to entertain. Or at least you think you did. Your mom always made you do little song and dance numbers for the relatives during the holidays, or for any stranger that came to the house selling vacuum cleaners and knives, and she insisted that you loved it. At any rate you loved the attention and decided that you were destined for a life on stage.

Your mom had been an actress. You never saw her in anything but she was definitely on the verge of her big break when she had to give it all up to raise you, the love child of a future Best Actress and a guy with a business card that said “Producer.” Because of her experience you had a constant source of helpful tips and advice and motivation. You were in every school play, every community Nativity pageant, and even a handful of local commercials. Your social life was restricted to dreamily reenacting your favorite Hepburn roles with your drama club friends. By the time you became fully aware that your mother was just living vicariously through you it didn’t matter. You felt that you were born to act, to entertain, to enthrall an audience. You would go out and succeed where she failed.

After high school you made a half-hearted run at college but you were unable to keep a high enough GPA to allow you to participate in the dramatic extracurriculars that were the only redeeming qualities of the whole post-secondary education system. The college thing was never really in the plans anyway, you just needed to stall while you worked up the courage to leave home for good. The only question that remained was which way to go. East was New York and the Great White Way; west was Hollywood. It was a hard decision, but ultimately New York called out to you. You sought the thrill of the live performance and Broadway seemed like your kind of place. Your mom chose Hollywood in her day, and you didn’t want to end up like her, or untold thousands of other would-be starlets who end up waiting tables in Los Angeles hoping for their big breaks. New York is New York; you can make it anywhere if you can make it there.

Your first goal was to find employment so you could live indoors. Your burning desire to not become a cliché led you to make up arbitrary rules for yourself about the kind of work you could do. You wouldn’t take a job that wasn’t going to help you practice your craft as you worked, or where the money would be good enough that you would lose motivation. Waitress and bar tender were out. Times Square Flyer Hand-out Girl and Phone Sex Worker were in. You convinced yourself that you could harness the soul-crushing experience of helping lonely nerds get off over the phone into a powerful well of painful emotion from which you could draw while on stage. The money was just good enough that it kept you in relatively rat-free accommodations and professional headshots.

You weren’t quite prepared for just how difficult actually landing parts would be. Open auditions were few and far between, and your agent seemed content to keep submitting you for parts that were completely wrong for you. That he required a monthly cash payment to keep you on as a client should probably have been a red flag, but you hadn’t been in New York long enough and still trusted people. You spent what little extra money you made on dance lessons to broaden your prospects, and it briefly worked. You started to get more auditions with your improved skill set, but they were all short-lived. The “THANK YOU” of death would come no more than a few clumsy steps into your routine. Those who were willing to overlook your complete inability to sissone or pas de bourée would cringe at your singing auditions. One producer actually screamed at you for wasting everyone’s time and hurled insults at you until you fled the stage in tears. Simon Cowell would have been less of a dick about it.

You began to think that live theater may not be your milieu after all and that Hollywood was a better choice. Television pilot season was coming up and nobody has had to sing on TV since the Partridge Family so you liked your odds out there a lot better. You had wasted too many years in New York spinning your wheels and dirty-talking perverts, and you needed to take another shot before you were past your prime. You still felt confident in your acting talent, but you also knew that you needed to get established in show business before your beauty started to wane.

The upside of your fruitless time in the Big Apple was that it was easy to pack up and leave. Once you made the decision to go west you bought a plane ticket, packed your suitcase, and were landing at LAX later that evening. New coast, new opportunities, new you. You unbound yourself from prior self-inflicted rules and decided that you were going to do whatever it takes to make it this time.

You got a legitimate agent that was recommended by a friend of a friend, and he actually seemed interested in seeing you get work. He submitted you for more auditions in a month than you had in any year in New York. You didn’t get any roles, but you did get a few callbacks. That was encouraging. You could feel your luck changing and you just knew your big break was coming.

Pilot season ended without any offers, but this was Hollywood and things were in production all the time so you weren’t worried. As the year went on you actually landed a few minor parts on small movies. Girl with Latte and Brunette #2 weren’t going to win you any SAG awards but they were paying gigs that provided much-needed filler for a largely barren resume.

Opportunity knocked in late August when your agent told you about a new reality TV show that was being cast. It was called America’s Next Starlet, and the winner was guaranteed a three picture deal with Fox Studios. Rather than a simple audition, the executive producer was spending a whole day with each hopeful to see if they had the right mix of charisma and personality for the show. You knew you could win it all if you could make the first cut, so you did your best to charm his pants off, treating the whole experience like a date. It turned out that his pants weren’t especially difficult to charm off, and you just managed to get out of his Bel Air mansion moments before the next day’s candidate arrived. You had no regrets as you headed back to your apartment in yesterday’s clothes convinced that your walk of shame would ultimately lead to the Walk of Fame. When the phone rang later that afternoon they congratulated you and told you that filming would begin the next month.

The weeks flew by and you showed up on set early the first day, eager to get started. Aside from throwing up every morning for the first few days you were having a blast. You figured a case of the nerves was perfectly normal—the show was stressful. You made the first couple of cuts easily but as the competition started to heat up your body started to give out. You felt weak and drained of energy and each day was easier than the next. You were rushed to the hospital after collapsing during one of the challenges, and when you woke up the producer was standing at your bedside with a checkbook and a copy of your contract. It turns out that undisclosed medical conditions, like pregnancy, were a breach of the terms, and you were not going to become America’s Next Starlet after all. In order to avoid any ugliness on TMZ he was willing to give you a fair settlement in exchange for a non-disclosure agreement. You reluctantly signed away your dreams and right to file future paternity suits and called your mom from the hospital bed. She couldn’t have been happier that you were coming back home.