As a 9-year-old, I wanted to be an actress. I envisioned myself a leading lady, glamorous and seductive. When my fourth-grade teacher announced that our class would be putting on a melodrama, I immediately set my sights on the role of the ingenue. I pored over the lines and threw my heart into the audition. Afterward, I skipped home, certain the role was mine.

The next day my teacher posted the parts. The female star role was split between two petite, giggly girls whom I had dismissed as flighty. I was the narrator, complete with a bow tie and beer mug, who was to take the stage acting drunk and then stand aside from the action like an elderly uncle. My face flamed, but I held back my tears until later.

That day I realized that the world did not see me as I saw myself. I did not fit into society's mold for a leading lady -- i.e. pretty and fragile-looking. It didn't matter how well I acted; no one would ever mistake me for a cheerleader -- or a movie star. I was big, awkward and just not right.

Surrendering my dreams of stardom, I concentrated on being quiet and studious. I folded myself up, becoming shy and self-conscious about my appearance. I'm now 35, and it's taken me this long to believe again in my star quality.

Amy Stuart Taylor, West Lafayette, Ind.

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