"How could you be so incredibly thoughtless?"

"I..." AJ starts to say before she's cut off by the brusque voice on the other end of the line.

"Jieun, you are not some silly 23 year old anymore. You are a grown, mature woman. You can't just dye your hair pink and think there are no consequences. I expected more of you."

"That's not..." She tries again, but they bludgeon their way into silencing her.

"People don't want to see an old washed up actress losing it and dying her hair pink, trying to reclaim her youth. Is this about My Sassy Girl? This isn't the way, Jieun. This is not the way."

The sentences come, word after word, delivering merciless slap after merciless slap. She knows inherently that she should've anticipated this, and they're right. She should've been more thoughtful. She should've thought more about how her management would react, how her fans might react.

"Adette," the other voice slides in with a little more patience and a little more kindly though not too much more. "Look, we're just trying to keep things realistic with you. If you want to work and you want to continue to get work, you need to show versatility but we have to rein that in. You already have to fight three times as hard for any role in the US. Why do you want to make it harder on yourself? You know how picky the casting directors are. You know better than anyone that they can be extremely literal. They have to see exactly what they want or they need to know exactly who you are."

"But I'm me," she says feebly, convincing approximately no one on the conference call - herself included. Her fingers start to feel numb and there's a familiar coldness that settles within her. This is no longer about AJ Weiman. This is entirely about the celebrity she sometimes pretends to be.

"They don't know you and they certainly don't know this pink haired you. I'm trying to present the best version of yourself, Adette. I need you to meet me halfway here. Get rid of the pink before the end of the month. I can't book anything for you until then."

"The month?!" She echoes the words, because she has nothing left to say, because she feels like an echo herself. She's been here before. It wasn't pink hair then, but she's heard this before. She's lost this battle again, and again, and again. After seventeen years, she knows exactly how to protect herself. She begins to retreat, to fall back into safety. She begins to empty everything honest about herself into a void.

"End of the month. They want you promoting by the end of April, so you have a month to secure another project before you go. And Adette? The next time you make a rash decision that affects your public image, I'd appreciate the heads up so that we can keep you on the right track. That's what you pay us for, don't you?"

Not a second goes by where she doesn't feel fucking ridiculous. It's just hair, AJ, she consoles herself. Why the fuck are you crying over hair? But it isn't just hair. As she stares at her reflection, at the distinctively not pink hair that has replaced any shred of individuality and ownership, she sees nothing but a product, a dressed up living, breathing doll that someone else controls. She sees Song Jieun. She sees Adette Weiman. Two sides of a very carefully managed coin. Two sides of a complete illusion.

She wonders, not for the first time or the second or the third in a single week, whether or not anything about her is genuine. How much at this point is manufactured? Repeated over and over until the rewritten truth has no choice but to become true. How much was left of her? Was there ever anything at all?

Was there really once a young girl who wanted to see, to live everything? Was there ever a girl who thought she could conquer the whole damn world with just a smile? She vaguely remembers being fifteen, naive and hopeful. She recalls there was a human being once before the corporate suits surgically removed all the less desirable pieces and replaced them with something artificial. When she sees the woman in the mirror, that little girl is more shadow than memory.

But she's thirty-two now and she is that woman in the mirror, pink hair or not. No, definitely not with pink hair. Because at the end of the day, even after seventeen years, she's responsible and she listens to management even at the cost of self. Because whether or not she wants to be, she's both Song Jieun and Adette Weiman, and she has an illusion to uphold. So she does nothing, she doesn't put up a fight. She hides her anger and she cries with the door closed because resignation and sadness, they aren't part of her brand.