Cuban-American actress and singer Jamie-Lynn Sigler brought a message of encouragement and hope to students at the College as the keynote speaker for Latin Awareness Month, sponsored by Union Latina.
Sigler is best known for portraying “Meadow” on the hit HBO show “Sopranos.” In the last year she has also released an album and starred as Belle in the Broadway production of “Beauty and the Beast.”
According to Barbara Pereda, Latino Awareness Celebration coordinator for Union Latina, Sigler was chosen for many reasons, including the fact that she is of college age.
“We chose Jamie because she is someone who is in our age bracket and region who has had a lot of success,” Pereda said. “She’s someone who reaches out to everyone.”
Sigler spoke about her struggles and triumphs during her speech.
“I’m telling these stories about my life in hope that they give you some insight and advice,” Sigler said. “When you go through tough times, you should always look inside yourself and remain positive.” Sigler, who was born to a Cuban mother and a Greek and Romanian father, explained that she is proud of her Latino background and is glad to recognize it, along with her other heritages.
“The Latin community is very supportive,” she said. “I’m also Jewish. I have many sides and I’m happy to represent them all.”
Sigler began performing at an early age, but faced many obstacles when it came time to audition because she didn’t fit one specific category. Time after time she was told that she was “too dark, too tall, too ethnic.” Discouraged by the rejections, Sigler decided to give up acting for a while.
Soon after, however, Sigler received a call from her manager telling her about “The Sopranos,” a show that was looking for a young, Italian-looking girl. After many auditions and screen tests, Sigler was cast as Meadow.
According to Sigler, any actress who is told that she doesn’t look “normal” should keep her head up and keep auditioning.
“Stay true to yourself. If you don’t get the part, then it wasn’t meant to be,” she said.
Sigler also shared information about her personal struggle with an eating disorder.
Due to confusion caused by a break-up with her boyfriend and not knowing whether “The Sopranos” was going to be picked up by a TV station, Sigler felt she lost all control in her life. Dieting, however, was the one thing she felt she could control. She began to lose weight steadily by not eating and exercising for up to four hours a day.
Sigler suffered from exercise bulimia, but it wasn’t until she had lost 30 pounds that she finally admitted she needed help. Her own brother didn’t recognize her and the producers of “The Sopranos” were going to replace her unless she returned to a healthy weight.
Sigler did recuperate and decided to tell her fans and the public what she had been through.
“I went on TV for a few minutes and helped someone’s life,” she said.
“That made me think that maybe I went through everything because I would be in a position to help people after,” Sigler added.
Since then, Sigler, who also suffers from Lyme’s disease, has become a spokesperson for Women with Eating Disorders.
Bryan Boutin, junior computer science major, said he admires Sigler for speaking about her eating disorder.
“I think it shows a lot of courage that she talks about this and she will inspire lots of people,” Boutin said.
Despite all the obstacles she’s faced, Sigler keeps an optimistic attitude.
“All of my experiences have proved to me that we are put here for a reason,” Sigler said. “I got through my eating disorder, Lyme’s disease and I can get though whatever comes next.”
“She’s our age so it’s interesting to see how much she’s accomplished and the struggles she’s been through,” Maureen DeRobertis, freshman special education major, said. “She was also very down to earth.”
After her speech, Sigler signed autographs and took pictures with audience members for half an hour.
Pereda was also pleased with how the event turned out.
“I think we had a great turnout, even better than we had expected,” she said.