Federal law says it is illegal to refuse to hire a woman because she is pregnant. But how does the law work in Hollywood? Heather Kristin lost a job as an extra when she told the casting director she was a few weeks pregnant. She recounts the experience and her reaction to it below. Like many women, Heather made the best of a bad situation, taking the opportunity to revaluate her life choices. Should she have had to? You tell me.
"Would you be interested in extra work on Sex and the City 2 tomorrow?" the casting director said on the phone.
"I’d love to," I said, practically jumping out of the shoes I had been trying on inside the apartment I shared with my husband. Over the past 15 years, I had worked steadily with her casting agency and was excited to return to my favorite set.
"I’ll call you later with the call time and what outfit you should wear," she said.
"By the way, I’m pregnant. Only a couple of months. No belly yet."
"Wait a sec," she said, putting me on hold.
"I’m every woman ," sang Whitney Houston full blast on the other end. My heart quickened. Why was I on hold for so long? Was my first pregnancy an issue?
Minutes later, she returned to the phone, "Sorry, sweetie, I can’t risk it. My friend blew up at three months, and tomorrow’s filming is an office scene with three women. You’ll definitely be seen on camera. I’m gonna have to find someone else."
Seen on camera. At last, my dream come true.
"But," I pleaded. "I can still fit into my size 6 jeans from Forever 21!"
"No, no. I can’t risk it."
"Look, seriously, I’m 123 lbs," I said, adding an extra pound in case I gained one during the night.
"No. I’ll call you sometime."
And like a bad breakup over the phone, I hung up and felt numb.
Refusing to accept my expanding belly, I stripped off my clothes, shoes, and hopped on the scale-something I never do at noon, after eating.
The digital screen flashed 122 lbs.
I shifted my weight and the numbers stayed the same. I couldn’t believe I had lost a job because I was 5'6" and 122 lbs. Besides being discriminated against, I felt rejected. Only weeks ago, I was a photo double for Jennifer Lopez’s unpregnant co-star, wearing a designer dress, riding in a Rolls Royce, and on another set dined with Pierce Brosnan at the Plaza Hotel. I still remember at age 8 my first extra job on the set of Sophie’s Choice , eating cotton candy at Coney Island and waving to Meryl Streep.
Were those days of walking between the star’s shadows and pretending to be someone else really over?
Clearly seeking validation, I logged on to Facebook and scanned my photos of when I had worked as Kristin Davis’ stand-in on the HBO series Sex and the City . Back then, I wore overalls and weighed 130. For years, I filled up at the craft service table on set and worried about gaining more weight. But I didn’t fear losing my job, because Charlotte’s character wasn’t supposed to be the skinny one. That was left to Sarah Jessica Parker, and when she became pregnant in real life, the crew worked around her situation. Day after day, I watched her belly grow and wondered what it would be like to have one of my own.
Even though it felt like a lifetime ago, some part of me (maybe the growing part) wanted closure on my fantasy-filled career where brownstones were lit, streets shimmered, and crews powdered noses for close-ups. Again it was like a bad breakup. I needed one last goodbye.
But who was I? The career that had defined me was being threatened, and I wasn’t a mother yet.
I checked Facebook again. In a moment of sheer desperation and insanity, I vented about losing the job and posted my weight for everyone to see.
One friend wrote: "You had sex in the city and now you’re pregnant." End of story. End of episode. Yikes! Was I ready to accept the consequences?
Another friend wrote: "What would Carrie do?"
Carrie Bradshaw would put on her best outfit, go shopping, and grab a cosmo with the girls. So that’s what I set out to do, minus the alcohol. I headed for Herald Square, listened to Gershwin on my iPod, and tried on size 6 outfits at H&M, BCBG, and Forever 21. I looked fabulous, but also bloated like I'd had a few too many nights out. Then I reminded myself that the small bump on my belly nurtured a baby, not cocktails.
I entered a maternity store and tried on something Carrie would never wear: an oversized beige sweater. As I paraded back and forth in the mirror, I couldn’t imagine fitting into it anytime soon.
A pregnant lady with kind eyes walked over to me and said, "Here. Try this," And she handed me a pretend belly. "You strap it on and you can tell what you’ll look like in three months."
I blushed, thanked her, and wrapped it around me. I was huge, and it was fun to pretend again. Except this time, my make-believe belly was going to be a reality soon. It struck me; I wasn’t forever 21 and was being forced to grow, inside and out.
After dinner, I crawled into bed with my husband. But I couldn’t sleep. I felt my bump and climbed out of bed. 'Til sunrise, I re-read a few dozen scripts that I had collected from my days working on Sex and the City.
As I read, I realized the industry is never going to change, but I could. It was time for me to live a different kind of life. Instead of walking around in the background, behind some movie star, listening to them recite their lines-my own stories are worth telling. I was finally ready to move forward and reinvent myself, even with a baby wrapped around my expanding hips. The next morning, I enrolled in a memoir workshop and decided to follow Carrie’s footsteps-not in her Manolo Blahniks, but as a writer.
Heather Kristin is working on a memoir about performing at Studio 54, playing the violin on street corners, auditioning for Pee-Wee Herman, being home-schooled, and homeless-all before age 11. She hopes to write a follow-up memoir about love and the city in times of change.
Correction, September 27, 2009 : the original version of this article said that Heather Kristin was an extra for Charlotte in the Sex and the City sequel and that she was fired. She had previously been a stand-in for Charlotte, and she was not fired. She was not hired after she informed the casting director of her pregnancy.