Excerpt: 'Wise Girl' by 'Sopranos' Star

Not all of the drama in the life of actress Jamie-Lynn Sigler occurs on The Sopranos, where she plays Meadow, the daughter of mobster Tony Soprano. In her new book, Wise Girl: What I Learned About Life, Love and Loss, the young actress describes her struggle with an eating disorder, and the highs and lows of fame.

Here is an excerpt from Wise Girl, which Sigler wrote with Sheryl Berk.

Introduction :

So there I was on top of the world: starring on The Sopranos, appearing on magazine covers and talk shows, making my Broadway debut, releasing a record, rubbing elbows with the rich and famous on the red carpet. "Jamie, you are so lucky," people would tell me. And you know what? I felt pretty lucky. I remember thinking, "This can't be real. This can't be happening to me, Jamie-Lynn Sigler from Long Island. It must be a dream."

Well, I guess I spoke too soon, because the dream became a nightmare. Just as my career was soaring, my personal life came crashing down around me and I had to pick up the pieces. At twenty-one years old, I've probably seen and experienced more than most people twice my age. Why me? I've asked myself that a lot. Why did I almost starve and exercise myself to death? Why did I let other people's opinions shatter my self-esteem? Why was I suddenly left paralyzed by a disease that no doctors could diagnose?

But I also asked that question during the good times: Why was I chosen — out of dozens of girls — to play Meadow on The Sopranos? Why have I been so fortunate in my acting and singing career? Why am I blessed with friends and family who stick by me, no matter what?

Now I'm asking "Why me?" when it comes to writing this book (and maybe you're asking, "So why her?). That's a little easier to answer (all of the above I'll tackle in the upcoming chapters, I promise). Everybody knows me as Meadow Soprano, but there's a real girl behind that character. And trust me, at times, my real life has been just as dramatic (if not more so) than any TV show. I have stories and advice you might want or even need to hear. Which doesn't mean I'm going to lecture you like a teacher or a parent, because that's just not me. But I do enjoy sharing my life and I always have a lot to say. My best friends will vouch for me on this — I never shut up.

I'm going to tell you the way I see things now, having survived high school, heartache (and you thought Meadow had problems with Jackie, Jr.?), even life-threatening illness. I've made mistakes, and that's okay. Mistakes are only a bad thing if you fail to learn something about yourself and the world in the process.

As I write this book and relive my experiences, I can see that I'm not the same person I was three years ago. When I watch the first-season episodes of The Sopranos, I think, "Who is that girl?" I was so wide-eyed and naive back then. Now, I'm a stronger person, and I'd like to think I'm smarter, too. I'm not talking 1600s-on-the-SATs smart, I'm talking life-smart. I was thrust into an adult world at a very young age — I've been performing since I was eight. Maybe all I've been through has taught me to appreciate things more — simple things, like sharing quesadillas on the set with my "mom" Edie Falco, or hanging out on Christmas break with my best buddies and laughing at each other's dumb jokes. There isn't a day that goes by that I'm not grateful for all that I have and all that I'm doing. But beyond the success, I've also been given this great gift: As an entertainer, I get to reach people and maybe, just maybe, make a difference in their lives.

So why me? Well, why not me? I'm not all that different from you, except that I now know some pretty important things that they don't teach you in school. I hope you'll laugh, learn, and maybe even cry a little when you read my book. Or at the very least, say, "Wow! I never knew that about Meadow!" I'll do my best to tell it like it is and it was.

Excerpted from Wise Girl: What I Learned About Life, Love and Loss. Used with permission from Pocket Books, Copyright 2002 by Jamie-Lynn Sigler.