Jakarta. Metal forks and spoons clang against porcelain plates, as big scoops of rice and tofu are devoured in seconds. Huge mouthfuls disappear into a mouth adept at all sorts of maneuvers to avoid lipstick stains.
No, this is not a scene from an eating contest. It's a lunch date with model and first runner-up of Asia's Next Top Model Season 4, Indonesian Patricia Gouw.
You won't see any sign of a horror diet regime when you lunch with 28-year-old Patricia, instead she animatedly gushes about her favorite foods.
"I eat everything. I can eat two portions of noodles and then another portion of rice right after," Patricia said.
Patricia’s modeling career started way back when she was 16, encouraged by her classmates and school principal who saw her natural talent for strutting in high heels.
She went to a high school specializing in hospitality training, where girls had to wear high-heels every day to train their postures.
"I used to be late to school almost everyday and for my punishment, I had to run around the school yard. I didn’t want to get my feet dirty so I ran in heels," Patricia laughed.
Although she has long limbs, Patricia is actually quite short for a model, standing at only 168 centimeters.
As we learn in the Next Top Model shows, there are actually different types of models, including catalogue, commercial, photoshoot, adult, bikini, endorsement and runway.
Each type has different preferences for weight, height and body shape.
"In the entertainment industry, it’s okay to have any body type as long as you have personality and talent. In modeling, you cannot be fat or short. However, a commercial model [like me] is in-between the spectrum of entertainment and [traditional] modeling," Patricia says.
Not All Glitz and Glamour
Contrary to the stereotype of models as spoiled brats (one that the Next Top Model shows are not exactly helping to dissipate), Patricia is no stranger to "adulting," having worked odd jobs since high school to earn her own money.
"I worked as a modern dancer for sweet-seventeen and wedding parties," Patricia said. "People mocked me at school, saying things like I cheapened myself."
When she started pursuing a modeling career, she found it hard going at first. The market was tough.
"In the modeling industry, you can’t predict which or how many jobs you're going to get, unless you get hired for a program. Sometimes I went a whole month without any gig," Patricia reminisces.
The modeling industry in Indonesia also needs a lot of work, according to Patricia. Many still underestimate the industry simply because they do not understand it.
"For every fashion show, you need to find a way to wear different high heels and clothes and still rock it. Sometimes we work overtime without getting paid extra," Patricia laments.
Growing a Thick Skin
Patricia's family weren't always supportive of her career path. Pressured by family friends, her parents have continuously urged her to quit modeling.
"That's why I'm pretty quiet at home. I like going out because I can't really express myself when I'm at home," Patricia said.
The vibrant personality that made her a fans' favorite in the Asia's Next Top Model show, turns out to be rooted in her insecurities.
"I always felt like I couldn't make my parents proud because I couldn't be what they wanted to be, like prim and proper. That just isn't me," Patricia said.
Patricia felt trapped by her parents' expectations for her to become the quintessential good Asian girl.
She remembers always being criticized for her often over-the-top reactions to everything.
"I thought my crazy personality was a weakness, but [in the show] it actually became a blessing," Patricia nods her head.
Bigger, Better Things
After working as a professional model for 10 years, Patricia decided it was time for her to step outside her comfort zone and try something new two years ago.
She became a professional emcee.
She still remembers the first time she emceed an event in 2014. It was an outdoors event and Patricia struggled to keep people's attention out in the stifling heat.
"If I don't do this [career change] now, then when. I don't want to waste my time. I'm getting old, I'm never going to be young again," Patricia laughs.
Now she is a regular presenter for Trans TV's Insert Program.
"Honestly speaking, now that I know what the entertainment world is like, I would rather be a presenter than a model, especially because of the salary," Patricia said.
As a model, the starting-out rate is Rp 250,000 ($17) to Rp 1.7 million per fashion show.
"Models' salaries are small, but we're considered a classier breed. Models are higher in the pecking order than celebrities. But in real life, surviving is more important," Patricia says.
As an emcee at a launch event, Patricia gets Rp 12 million to Rp 15 million. For a wedding, she gets Rp 25 million.
"I wasn't born with self-confidence. I just do what I have to do," Patricia says.