He struggled to secure modelling jobs in Singapore and was rejected by clients up to 20 times.
But local model Andee Chua, 25, who joined the industry last year, hit the jackpot last week when he was cast by Italian fashion house Armani to walk for the Emporio Armani Menswear Spring Summer 2016 show at Milan Fashion Week in Italy.
Chua, who started modelling last April, told The New Paper in an e-mail interview: "I was over the moon when I found out that I was booked for the Armani show. I was screaming and jumping around."
He described how during the open casting, as the only Singaporean there, he had to compete with thousands of male models from all over the world, including Russia, Slovakia, France, Korea and Japan.
In the first round, Chua was asked to walk wearing a blazer for the show directors.
The 1.88m-tall Singaporean was then shortlisted alongside about 400 guys for the second round, where he had to walk down a runway in front of fashion designer Giorgio Armani.
Chua recalled: "It was very nerve-racking to be watched by Mr Armani, the man himself. I still remember that there were about 400 guys in the queue during the callback.
"When the gate was opened, everyone pushed forward and started running. I could tell that everyone wanted the job so badly. It was a chaotic sight, something I have never seen in Singapore."
From there, he made the final cut, modelled one outfit and was paid 800 euros (S$1,200).
Chua is currently in Paris attending castings, hoping to secure a gig for Paris Fashion Week. He will return to Singapore next Tuesday.
Chua, who graduated with an Arts Management degree from Lasalle College of the Arts two months ago, is signed with UK-based modelling agency JEM-International Scouts.
He was scouted on Instagram and Facebook by the agency earlier this year and has been based with it since February.
Before the Armani gig, he had done only local runway shows like Audi Fashion Week 2014, Digital Fashion Week 2014 and Singapore Fashion Week 2015. He also works as a freelance street dance instructor.
After his graduation, Chua decided to visit Milan and Paris to "try his luck". He forked out more than $1,000 for the Europe trip, money he feels was well-spent.
He said: "I didn't expect to get the job. I just went with the mindset that I had nothing to lose anyway. When I knew I was picked for the show, I was really happy and excited.
"As a new face, you won't get much advances from the agencies, but still, my heart told me to do it. Life is short and I don't want to live a life full of 'what ifs'.
"I want to live my life to the fullest. Even if I failed on this trip, I still know that at least I tried. Never try, never know, right?"
Of the failures he faced while he was modelling in Singapore, Chua lamented that the market here "wasn't very local-friendly".
"In this industry, rejections are very common. You can go for 10 castings and get 10 rejections," he said.
"But the Singapore market doesn't use many locals in the fashion shows. Sometimes, they don't cast us the moment they know we are local. It's a sad thing to know."
He had also received feedback that he was "too skinny" and "too tanned for an Asian", which made him insecure and stressed - to the point where he considered bleaching.