To fans of a certain age, Jamie-Lynn Sigler will forever be Meadow Soprano — the sweet, smart, scrappy apple-of-his-eye daughter to Tony Soprano on The Sopranos, who grew up before our eyes. Still, that role ended a decade ago, and since then, Sigler, 36, has done quite a job of reinventing herself — through more roles in TV and film (she’s just started shooting a new one, In the Absence of Good Men, directed by Timothy Woodward Jr.), and, since revealing that she has multiple sclerosis in 2016, as an empowering MS activist and role model.
Yahoo Beauty grabbed some time with the Long-Island-native-turned-Californian while she was in New York City recently to kick off her new “Declare Peace” campaign with Serta, talking health and wellness, self-image, parenting her 3-year-old son Beau, and, with a little help from her 27-year-old baseball-playing husband Cutter Dykstra, love and marriage.
What are the challenges of having a serious disease that is largely invisible to others?
I don’t want to say it frustrates me when people say, “You don’t look sick,” because I agree, and I understand — and I don’t feel sick, sitting here in front of you. But one of the bigger issues for me was when I went to Israel [in early May, with best friend Lance Bass], I had to get walking sticks … for the long distances and the terrain and the cobblestones and the heat. I think you can wind up feeling, like, that’s not beautiful. It’s not cute to walk with these sticks.
But you wound up doing it anyway.
I talked a lot about it with my husband before I left and he was, like, “But Jamie, this is what’s going to allow you to go and do what you want to do, so it’s either sit it out and be resentful or take these freaking sticks and do it.” And so I did. It felt weird, because I could feel people looking at me and thinking I don’t look like somebody that needs these. But I do, so it made me think a lot about erasing that stigma for people, and not being ashamed. I posted a picture of me on Instagram with the walking sticks and a lot of people with MS were, like, “Thank you for doing that.” Because we will fight as hard as we can and hold walls and people before we will get a device, because then it feels like you’re losing your battle. It’s a process, still, for me.
You were diagnosed with MS at 20, but kept it a secret. Can you describe how hypnotherapy helped you decide to come forward?
I wanted to go in the hopes of learning how to manage it better emotionally, because I was dealing with feeling embarrassed and ashamed. I was always trying to hide it, and it was just really detrimental to my health and well-being and my emotional health. Other than doing stuff for my son, I didn’t really leave the house … And after three sessions I was like, “I’m harming myself. I didn’t choose this.”
How do you practice self-care?
I meditate. I try every day — sometimes it’s 10 minutes, sometimes it’s 30, whatever my day allows me. Acupuncture, meditation, kundalini yoga … My diet fluctuates, but I really feel like I’m more health-conscious than I ever have been, especially since having my son, because I want to instill good eating habits in him. I had horrible habits growing up — a lot of soda, a lot of candy, a lot of carbs, like no grain, no fruit — so I’m really trying to instill that with him and I want him to mirror what I’m eating and enjoy it.
What about beauty routines?
I don’t wash my hair a lot — like, twice a week, unless I know I have an event or something, then I’ll wash it because I know it’s looking funky. There are a couple of days of just buns for me. I’m into exfoliating my body and I love lotions, body butters — I put lotion all over my feet before I go to bed and then put on socks. I’m big into feeling moisturized.
You had an eating disorder when you were younger, but have said you’re no longer a slave to those thoughts. Why do you think that is?
I’ve found that a lot of people with MS are perfectionists and control freaks. That was the whole thing of my eating disorder, control, and we’ve all been given this disease that takes away control. So I feel that there’s a great lesson in that, to just surrender sometimes — the power to just trust and relax. So I don’t stress about things about my weight or my health.
You’ve just started working on a new film, about Al Capone’s right-hand man. How’s it going?
I’m playing a 1920s mob wife, and she’s a flapper and a dancer, and I said to the director, “I’m real limited. Are you sure I’m your girl?” And he said, “We will work around it. We will come in close, we will get a body double …” So I’m grateful that people are allowing me to find a way to still fit in and do what I love. Even career aside, everyday motherhood, there are things I have to sit out with my son. But at the end of the day, I feel like if you could ask him, and he could articulate it, he’d say, “Mommy doesn’t miss anything, she’s always there,” and that’s how I always want him to feel.
Do you suffer from ‘mommy guilt’ anyway?
Every day, all the time. I don’t think I’m ever going to get away from it. I just this past year got a babysitter who comes every day after preschool until bedtime. For a while when I wasn’t working, I was being really stubborn — I wanted to do everything for him — but it was killing me, and I wasn’t being the best mom I could be. I was exhausted. So it’s been a wonderful balance, and also for him, knowing he can have love and trust and safety with somebody else other than mommy.
How much are you and your Sopranos cast members in each other’s lives?
Robert Iler is one of my closest friends — we talk multiple times a week, and I love him like family. I still talk to Aida [Turturro], and Edie Falco was the first person to text me on Mother’s Day.
Dykstra joins the interview.
YB: So how did you two meet?
Sigler: Through mutual friends. My friend JoAnna [Garcia] is married to a baseball player [Nick Swisher]. It was very organic, it wasn’t a setup or anything.
Dykstra: I didn’t think she would be interested in me, but it happened.
YB: Cutter, how have you dealt with Jamie’s MS, as her partner?
Dykstra: I’m not going to say it’s easy to see her go through it. I see her deal with it every day, and it’s hard. Being there is the most important thing for me — making sure she’s always happy and comfortable, and just kind of becoming a team in the whole process.
Sigler: And I think, for me, I sometimes want us to not talk about it at all. I don’t want him to always see me as someone who needs to help. I want to be Jamie-without-MS, too, sometimes.
YB: You have a nearly 10-year age difference. How has that affected your relationship?
Sigler: The only time I notice it is when I make [pop-culture] references like “Saved by the Bell,” and he’s, like, “I don’t know it,” and I’m, like, “Oh my God!” Or “90210,” and he’s, like, “The new one?” And I’m, like, “No, Brenda and Dylan!”
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