Article from Cox News Service
Thanks to Lisa of NYC and Dan for this information!

Updated: Tuesday, Apr. 17, 2001 at 10:25 CDT 

                    'Sopranos' Sigler fights, speaks about disorder 

                    By Kevin D. Thompson
                    Cox News Service 

                    WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Jamie-Lynn Sigler knew she was in
                    trouble when death started to look like an option. 

                    As a 17-year-old high school senior, Sigler couldn't handle the
                    mounting pressures. She broke up with her boyfriend. She was
                    cramming for the SATs. And she was getting ready to star as mob
                    daughter Meadow in what would become TV's hottest show -- "The

                    "I felt like things were out of control," says Sigler, 19, who stars in
                    a touring musical production of "Cinderella," which begins an 11-day
                    run Wednesday at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts. "I
                    felt the one thing I could control was how much I ate and
                    exercised. It became a little routine and it snowballed and became
                    this huge obsession."

                    The 120-pound Sigler hated how she looked. Couldn't stand to see
                    herself in a mirror. She exercised like a demon, monitored every
                    calorie and dropped to a ghastly 90 pounds.

                    Still, she wasn't happy. Neither were "The Sopranos"' producers,
                    who threatened to recast Sigler's part if she didn't get well. "She
                    didn't have that sparkle in her eye and she was lackadaisical," says
                    Ilene Landress, the show's co-executive producer. "And you
                    certainly didn't want to see her in a no-sleeve tank top."

                    Sigler didn't, either.

                    "Suicide crossed my mind and the fact that I even considered it
                    scared me," she says softly.

                    Thankfully, intense therapy sessions and the aid of family and
                    friends helped Sigler control her eating disorder.

                    "The past three years have been the best of my life because of
                    "The Sopranos," but also the worst," says Sigler, now a
                    spokeswoman for the American Anorexia Bulimia Association. "But I
                    think I'm finally at the point where I can move on."

                    Sigler has definitely been moving across the country since taking
                    over for Deborah Gibson in March in Rodgers and Hammerstein's
                    classic stage tale, which also stars Eartha Kitt as the Fairy
                    Godmother. But when you think "Cinderella," you don't picture the
                    moody Meadow Soprano in the role.

                    "That's one of the reasons I wanted to play this part, because I'm
                    actually nothing like Meadow," Sigler says during a telephone
                    interview. "It's refreshing for me to play a part like this and let
                    people see a different side of me because there's not the slightest
                    bit of Meadow in this character."

                    Paolo Montalban, who plays the dashing prince, says Sigler brings
                    an innocent voluptuousness to Cinderella.

                    "I feel like a schoolboy next to her," says the 27-year-old actor,
                    who also starred with Brandy in ABC's recent adaptation. "On stage
                    she elicits the feelings the prince has for Cinderella. He doesn't
                    know how to talk around her. And when you're around a pretty girl,
                    you're unsure of yourself, but at the same time, you're

                    Gabriel Barre, the show's director, praises Sigler as a wonderfully
                    authentic 19-year-old who boasts a delightful mixture of real
                    toughness and self-worth. And, yes, Barre has noticed Sigler's
                    pretty hot.

                    "I think that's a great thing for a contemporary play," says Barre,
                    who looked at more than 200 women for the role. "The mission of
                    this production is to not be totally subservient to the Disney revival.
                    It was actually quite important for us that "Cinderella" and the
                    prince be sexy and hot so the kids and teen-agers could identify
                    with their feelings. And we wanted to be sexy for the adults too,
                    quite frankly."

                    While Gibson may have opened in the starring role, Sigler was
                    always Barre's first choice. But she was too busy filming "The
                    Sopranos" and couldn't join until March.

                    Kitt remembers meeting her new co-star for the first time during
                    rehearsals in New York.

                    "She came into the studio, came over to me and said, `I'm taking
                    over the part of Cinderella,"' Kitt recalls. "I said, `Who is this crazy
                    girl? I've never seen her before. Who is this nut? She's interfering
                    with me paying attention to rehearsal."'

                    As far as working with the legendary Kitt, who is often heard
                    performing her famous Catwoman purr from her dressing room, Sigler
                    says, "She inspires me every day. To know that she's 74 and has
                    the energy to go on eight times a week is amazing."

                    What's amazing to Sigler, who majored in psychology for one
                    semester at New York University, is that she's starring in a famed
                    musical production. The Long Island native and Manhattan resident
                    has always loved musical theater. She started taking dance classes
                    at 3 and began her acting career at 9 in the role of Marta in a
                    regional theater Sigler performing in more than two dozen theatrical

                    "Cinderella," Sigler says, is special because she identifies so much
                    with the character.

                    "My favorite part of the show is when I come down the staircase for
                    the first time to the ball," she says. "She's just looking around, she's
                    so nervous and I know that feeling. It's kind of like growing up. I did
                    all of this musical theater and wanted this so bad and here I am."

                    The moment is especially poignant for Sigler because of her weight
                    battles and fleeting desire to end her life.

                    As an actress, Sigler says she always felt the pressure to be thin.
                    She would look through magazines and constantly compare herself
                    with the twiglike celebrities and models she saw. Sigler was even
                    reluctant to say how much she now weighs (120 pounds) because
                    she didn't want other young women to feel the kind of pressure she

                    "This is something that will always be with me," says Sigler, who
                    exercises only three times a week now and eats healthily. "Every
                    woman touches on it because of the way our society is.
                    Unfortunately all of this happened in the public eye, and I had to
                    deal with a lot of criticism, but you take the good with the bad. It
                    just made me a stronger person."

                    Now as a spokeswoman for the bulimia association, Sigler is in a
                    position to help troubled young girls. And nothing pleases her more.

                    "I get tons of letters, tons of opportunities to talk to girls and write
                    articles," she says. "I just felt like making something good out of
                    something bad."

                    At the moment, Sigler's career is advancing quickly. There's "The
                    Sopranos," "Cinderella" and her upcoming pop CD titled "Here to
                    Heaven." Sigler, who's part Cuban, part Jewish, says the CD will
                    have a lot of Latin and R&B influences on it. She's recording some of
                    it in Miami while doing "Cinderella" in Fort Lauderdale.

                    "It's young, I'm not trying to be sophisticated," she says.

                    Sigler is, however, hoping to follow in the footsteps of Jennifer

                    "She's definitely someone I look up to and admire," she says. "She's
                    made her mark in every aspect of this business and that's definitely
                    something I'd like to do."

                    Sigler certainly enjoys working on "The Sopranos." Meadow is a
                    Columbia University freshman now, and Sigler has been part of more
                    in-depth story lines this season. For instance, she's dated a
                    half-Jewish, half-black student, sampled the drug Ecstasy, crashed
                    a friend's car into a guardrail and lost her virginity. The love scene,
                    Sigler points out, wasn't easy.

                    "I was really nervous," she says. "Everyone still thinks of me as a
                    little girl so it was weird for them to see me (in a love scene). My
                    parents had a hard time watching it."

                    It's also hard for Sigler to comprehend "The Sopranos' " phenomenal

                    "We didn't even think people were going to watch it," she says. "It's
                    bizarre and surreal. (When I'm out in public) I always get, `Has
                    anybody ever told you that you look like that girl from "The
                    Sopranos?"' And I don't want to be, like, `Yeah, it's me,' but I get
                    that a lot. Then, of course, everybody I'm with goes, `Yeah, it's

                    So, what about Sigler's personal life? Anyone special in it?

                    "I don't have time for boys right now," she says matter-of-factly.
                    "I'm very shy when it comes to that. I wait to be set up with
                    somebody I know. I'm not into meeting random people. Besides, I've
                    had my share of boyfriends, and it's not a priority for me right now."


                    Story Filed By Cox Newspapers

                    For Use By Clients of the New York Times News Service

                    Distributed by The Associated Press (AP)