My social worker and I were to fly back home. The other suckers in the family had to drive the five hours. While we waited for our flight at one of the obscure gates, I met a girl who used to go to my primary school. She was a model. She was starting to go international.

Tione Hawkins.

My family lived about 40 minutes from town, in a country community called Millbank. The hub of the community was the primary school, and the hall next to it where we held Choko festivals and roses and chocolates festivals, and the monthly bingo.

Tione was in Year Six when I was in Year One. I didn’t have much to do with her and then she moved on to high school where I never saw her. But then she was “discovered” after a model search contest. Her name was in the local newspapers. She traveled and worked in Milan. She was the cool girl all from Millbank bragged about.

No cool high schooler came from Millbank before.

She must have been 16 when she waited alone at the airport – returning home from Milan. And I think she wanted the company of friends. Quickly though, my social worker worked out there were some issues here because he was interested in what she was saying, as she vented frustration at the modelling industry and how frequently she had to travel and how she had to keep thin.

I got bored, bummed money from the social worker and went to pick out the best snack from the vending machine. I got the gist of what she said.

Recently I recalled her name, and Googled Tione. I found her in a 2010 article in she spoke against the industry. Sex, drugs, and lack of parental support.

And I remember how she sat slumped, just a girl it seemed, but she had experienced a much bigger world than anyone in Millbank could understand.

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