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Skinny in the City

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As Kristin Davis' stand-in on Sex and the City, I was required to be the same height and have the same color hair as the star. I knew I'd never to be seen like a body double, but I was still excited to work on the set. When I arrived, the costumers lent me color cover (an oversized man's dress shirt) the same shade as the characters outfit. Next the cinematographer positioned the lights and inspected my face for shadows. Then the stars entered, took their seats, and the glamor began. Sometimes I watched from the sidelines, marveling at their outfits, glossy lips, and perfect hair, and other times I snuck off to the craft service table and filled my plate with junk food.

As a child growing up on welfare in Hell's Kitchen I was used to picking up a free block of government cheese from the local church and stretching it for weeks. In comparison, my new set-up was like winning a trip on a cruise ship with ten foot long buffet tables. I remember thinking my new job could end at any moment and how I had to take advantage of the free food. I piled my plate with Nutter Butters, Oreos, Famous Amos, Combos, and Snickers. When the catering guy came around with mini hot dogs, fried chicken, and make your own sundaes, I binged on all of it.

Months later, a crew guy leered and said I was becoming extra curvy. When I got home, I slipped out of my Osh Kosh B'gosh overalls and stood in front of the mirror -- naked. I was a lot rounder in places. Then I stepped on the scale. I had gained fifteen pounds.

Fearful I might lose my job by morphing into 130 pounds, I made a promise to myself to stop binging when the show went on hiatus and bought a Nordic track knock off. I lived in a 12x12 studio apartment and wedged the contraption between my mattress and fridge. I put my headphones on, rotated my hips back and forth, and the machine went pound, pound, pound on the creaky wooden floor. I worked-out every day inside my studio apartment and my home became cluttered with diet books and exercise charts. Within the walls of my ever incredible shrinking living space and expanding body, I felt like Alice in Wonderland after she swallowed the Drink Me potion.

Two months later my thighs were rock solid and I had not lost a single pound.

In the fall, I went back to work and noticed Kristin Davis' pencil skirt seemed extra tight. She even asked me if her butt looked big. After that night of filming, I didn't feel so alone. She too was struggling with her weight. But being a competitive actress, I wanted to be the skinny one. I fantasized about quitting my job to get away from the craft table. Then I thought about my rent bill, how expensive food was in my neighborhood, and walked over to the trough and stuffed a couple candy bars in my overalls.

On the days we filmed outside the smells of exhaust, garbage, and expensive perfume overwhelmed my food desires and I reflected on my binges. I watched the fans scream at Sarah Jessica Parker, their cell phones saluting, and was invisible. No one cared that I had gained weight. I realized my job allowed me to do more than just stand around, I had an opportunity to observe, write in my diary, and to discover what brought me happiness.

Looking back, my stand-in job made me feel like a mannequin, frozen, waiting for the director of photography to scan my face for light. Except I wasn't made out of plaster and my lips weren't drawn with permanent paint. I was a woman growing into my own. I just didn't know how to satisfy the emptiness I felt from childhood so I turned to food to fill the void.

Since then, I've added a dozen self-help books, diet books and cook books to my library. Occasionally, when I pass a film set and see bags of junk food, I long to binge again. Then I remind myself how hard it was to give it all up and I keep walking.