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Personal Reflections...
The Infomercial

My Adventures In Winsor Wonderland, when I was invited to California to share my story in an upcoming Winsor Pilates Infomercial...

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What I Did This Summer by Lauren Sue

 

Monday, June 25, 2005~

 

On the morning I was scheduled to fly out to California, I’m not even sure why I set my alarm, as there was no need. I was far too excited to sleep; I was even dressed and ready to go by the time the alarm finally went off. My flight left from National Airport as scheduled, bringing me to Phoenix, Arizona a few hours later for my layover, which lasted longer than expected since the flight to my final destination in Burbank was delayed by over an hour. It didn’t matter; it gave me extra time to read the book I brought along (Must Love Dogs). I can’t believe I was even able to sit still long enough to read, let alone concentrate on the story, as my own life was becoming a page turner in and of itself; after all, I was about to have the chance to thank in person the woman who changed my life and there was the possibility that moment was going to be airing on televisions around the globe.

 

I didn’t have a chance to finish my book during the last leg of the flight to Burbank, but I enjoyed that flight the most thanks to a really nice guy I was seated next to in the back of the plane. We struck up a conversation about how turbulent our flights were heading in to Phoenix, despite crystal clear skies. That eventually lead to a long conversation about children (he has two sons the same age as my youngest daughter) and he was telling me how he met his wife and all of the various jobs his wife has had over the years. It was heartwarming to see how much he obviously loved his wife and how proud he was of her and their children and their life together. It almost sounded like a story out of a novel; coincidentally, it turns out his sons once attended the same private school as the children of Nicholas Sparks, one of my favorite writers and his former neighbor. I guess love stories with happy endings really do exist. I could imagine my own father talking about my Mom in the very same way and I’m sure that this guy will one day celebrate over 50 years of marriage with his wife just as my parents have; the love was very evident.

 

When the conversation turned to why I was traveling to California I’m sure the entire plane could hear my seatmate begin giggling in the back of the plane. “I’m off to share my weight loss success story on an infomercial” was not the answer he expected to hear out of my mouth. He said that he’d always wondered if those before and after pictures in infomercials were for real. When I pulled out my driver’s license to show him my picture he realized I wasn’t kidding. He said he couldn’t wait to see it on TV this fall so he could say “hey, I sat next to her on a plane”. Of course, at this point I turned in to my typical Walking billboard for Winsor Pilates, telling him all about my success with the product and how it gave me my life, and figure, back. He said he was going to look at infomercials in a completely different way now that he’d actually met a “real” person who has participated on one. I hear that a lot these days…

 

It was interesting landing in Burbank this time, having a chance to see a smaller airport and a different part of the LA area. I had a car waiting for me with Hertz Rental, a little gold Toyota Corolla, which I drove up the I-5 North toward Magic Mountain. It was a quick easy drive. Thankfully, I have yet to experience the historical gridlock the LA area is so famous for, having experienced far worse in the Washington Metropolitan area where I’ve lived all of my life. In less than thirty minutes, I was pulling in to the parking garage of the Hyatt in Valencia, California, just a few blocks from the world’s first amusement park. Unlike the beachfront hotel I stayed in on my previous trip, which was equally as fancy I might add, this Hyatt was nestled in the valley directly in the midst of a town center surrounded by boutiques and fun restaurants.

 

As the doorman helped me in to the entrance, I made my way across the polished marble floor of the lobby and found myself standing in line at the reservation desk directly behind Kristy Paige from Guthy Renker.  She had been my direct contact for this trip and she had also made all of my arrangements. Now, we were checking in at the exact same time. I recognized her immediately, not only remembering her from my previous trip, but also because she has the most gorgeous naturally curly hair that women would pay a stylist a small fortune to duplicate. She’s also incredibly toned, which is appropriate since her title is Creative Services Manager of Fitness for the Guthy-Renker Corporation.

 

A quick hello and hug followed and then I was off to my room, 346, with instructions to meet Kristy in her room, 403, at 6:00 pm. That gave me 45 minutes to settle in, change and freshen up. Although the room wasn’t as fancy as the newly renovated room I had during the last trip to LA, it was still a very nice hotel. I had two double beds in my room, one where I put my suitcases and laid out my clothes and another were I pulled back the covers and crashed while I made quick phone calls to family and friends to let them know I had arrived safely. I have several LA area friends, including Wendy and Becky, that I was hoping to visit with during this trip, but not knowing my schedule (or my energy level) for the next few days would make it difficult for me to make plans; however, it was still wonderful to be able to hear their voices. I can only hope that I’ll be able to visit with them on my third trip to LA (a girl can dream, can’t she?!?).

 

At 6:00pm, after changing in to a sheer, pale pink top and black capris with my favorite black, cork-heeled summer wedges, I was off to room 403 to meet Kristy. As she opened the door to invite me in she introduced me to a tall, slender dark haired woman. She looked so familiar, but I couldn’t place where I’d seen her before. Earlier Kristy had mentioned something about joining Colleen from Guthy-Renker, whom I’d met before, and her guest who was a fitness instructor from Nassau, for dinner. I didn’t know if the fitness instructor from the Bahamas would be someone I might recognize upon seeing, but Kristy introduced this woman as another testimony instead. So, this was not the fitness instructor from Nassau. The tall, slender dark haired woman’s name even sounded familiar, but I still couldn’t place where I’d seen or met this Camille before. I hoped she didn’t think I was staring at her, but it was driving me crazy trying to figure out where I knew her. What I did know is that she wasn’t one of the fellow testimonies from my previous trip to LA. I was certain I hadn’t met her on that trip. I’m surprised they didn’t hear the wheels in my head churning and turning as I tried to place her face to a memory; meanwhile, Kristy handed us the required paper work we needed to sign and gave us our per diem to cover the cost of food and such during our travels. As I looked at her name on one of the papers above mine, even her last name looked familiar but my mind was still a fog.

 

After we gave her our signatures and initials, Kristy handed us our gift bags from Guthy Renker. The bags were filled with more Susan Lucci facial products (“Youthful Essence” that I’ve been using since I received some during my last trip), a new Winsor Pilates Workout Mat and the new Winsor Pilates Ball Workout, including a Pilates ball with its own pump. I was so excited about having yet another new Winsor Workout to add to my ever-growing collection (after returning back home to Maryland the Ball Workout would prove to be a new favorite; not to mention, a really excellent exercise). Camille and Kristy decided to follow me down to my room so I could drop off my gift bag before dinner (and pop a quick Parkinson’s pill I realized I had forgotten to take, so far unsuccessful at trying to adjust myself to West coast time).

 

It was at this moment that the fog finally lifted in my head and it dawned on me where I had seen Camille. “Aren’t you one of the success stories featured on the Winsor Pilates Website”. She couldn’t believe I recognized her. I then asked her if she had been on a previous infomercial and when she answered yes to that question, I realized that she was the young mother who was sitting with Mari and Daisy on that infomercial I saw in early March of 2004, the very infomercial that prompted me to buy Winsor Pilates in the first place. It still all seemed so surreal. A year and a half prior, I was at the highest weight of my life when I stumbled across Winsor Pilates on TV one sleepless night while channel surfing. Now I was about to go to dinner with a woman who confessed on that very infomercial that Winsor Pilates sculpted her body slim after having her child and in less than 12 hours I would be meeting the woman who created the workout that changed both of our lives.

 

Down in the lobby we found Colleen from Guthy-Renker waiting for us with a woman she introduced to us as Debra. She explained that Debra was a clinical exercise physiologist and a supervisor for the fitness center at NASA. As the conversation continued, I realized that earlier I had mistakenly thought they had said someone would be visiting from Nassau, as in the Bahamas, rather than NASA, as in the astronauts. Luckily all present were oblivious to my mental blonde moment.  They chose a restaurant within walking distance from the hotel and then we all left: myself, Kristy and Colleen from Guthy-Renker, Camille the infomercial icon and Debra from Nasa (not Nassau).

 

Once at the restaurant, the 5 of us slipped in to a booth and spent the next few hours eating great food, sharing yummy desserts, all while sharing personal stories, professional stories and, of course, singing the praises of Winsor Pilates. Debra’s stories were the most captivating of the evening, as she explained her job at NASA and different details on what the astronaut’s bodies experience in space. It was all truly fascinating. Somehow that transpired in to a long conversation about blind dates. Moral of those stories: Blind dates are bad. Meanwhile, I was still kind of in awe that Camille was even in my presence. I can’t even begin to say how many times I’d seen her face on my computer as I went to the Winsor website to see if there were any new products available. In 12 weeks she went from a size 14 to a size 8 and lost 19 ˝ inches…I remember thinking “if she could do it, I could do it”. Ultimately, I did and now here we were sharing some chocolate-cake-and-ice-cream-tower of carbs together. Just another perk of Winsor Pilates, you can still have your cake and eat it too as long as you stay committed to regular workouts!

 

Tuesday, June 26, 2005~

 

After dinner, we all walked back to the hotel and went our separate ways. My body was still on east coast time; feeling like it was well after midnight. Considering I barely had any sleep the night before, I was in desperate need of rest. In no time at all, I was sound asleep on the one bed that wasn’t covered with my clothes. A few hours later my alarm woke me; my moment with Mari had finally arrived. After showering, I made a futile attempt to dry my freshly washed hair to no avail thanks to the useless hairdryer the hotel provided. Why didn’t I pack my own hairdryer? I quickly called down to Kristy’s room, knowing I only had a few moments to be down in the lobby, just to insure that our hair would be done on the set. The last time I came out to LA, we were told to arrive on set sans makeup but with our hair the way we normally would wear it and they’d touch up from there. There was no way my hair would be dry before I left this morning. Kristy assured me that as long as it wasn’t soaking wet (no, it was only damp) then it should be fine and, yes, they’d be doing full hair and makeup. As it would turn out, the girls who did hair and makeup didn’t want to do anything to my hair beyond running a brush through it. They liked it long and straight.

 

Sergio, our driver, was waiting at the front entrance of the hotel to escort us to the studio for our big day on the set. Kristy was there with Laura, who was the third party for our trifecta of testimonies with Mari and Daisy. Laura wasn’t able to join us for dinner the night before, so we were all meeting her for the first time.  Debra was already on the set, having left earlier with Colleen, since she had an earlier call time than the 3 testimonies. Sergio loaded each of our suitcases in to the back of the van, which we were asked to bring just in case the clothes they had for us in wardrobe didn’t fit right. Kristy sat in front with Sergio, I sat with Laura in the middle while Camille piled in to the back with her trusty cell phone on hand. I would soon learn that her cell phone was a lifeline between herself and her best friend, allowing her friend to live vicariously through this entire adventure via text message and pictures throughout the coming days. Soon the familiar tone announcing she had a message would also insure that Camille was about to laugh or smile. I may just have to try out this text message addiction myself in the near future. It was a quick trip from the hotel to the studio; just enough time for the three testimonies to find out we were all Moms with husbands trying to fill our shoes in our absence.

 

The gates to the studio opened and the van stopped in front of an office building called Stage 2. This was our moment! Sergio helped us with our bags and we followed Kristy in to the building. The lobby was mostly empty, aside from some lumber, miscellaneous studio equipment and a few picnic tables in one corner. We dragged our suitcases up a flight of stairs to the second floor and walked down a long narrow hallway that had a row of brown doors, each with a piece of paper taped on the outside to designate each room. The first room was assigned to “Daisy Fuentes” and the door was opened. A quick peek as we passed revealed Daisy in a makeup chair with her back to the door. Her long brown hair was up in large curlers and her makeup was being applied by some guy in a blue shirt. The next door, which was closed, said “Lisa Rinna”. The third door had a sign that read “Models and Testimonies” and would be our “green room” for the next two days of work. A large window looked out over Santa Clarita. An old couch lined one wall, a few metal office chairs we scattered around the rest of the room; otherwise, the room was empty.

 

Kristy suggested we get a quick tour of the studio and grab something for breakfast from the Craft Service table before we had to begin getting ready in wardrobe and makeup. Heading down the other end of the hall, toward the second set of steps that led down to the studio on the first floor, we passed “hair and makeup”, “wardrobe” and the last brown door, which was designated to the infamous “Mari Winsor”. Once we were back down to the lobby, we were led into a small hallway across from the entrance to the building that had the bathrooms on either side. Straight ahead was a large red “quiet on the set” light outside of a big black door that led to the infamous sound stage.

 

The red light was off, so Kristy led us through the door. The studio was bustling with producers, directors, gaffers, grips, script supervisors, video engineers, audio engineers and many more all working together to create Winsor Pilate’s 5th Infomercial. Cables, Wires, Cameras, ladders, screens, lights and a lot more equipment surrounded the studio. The large stage was decorated to look like a bright, open, airy room with large windows looking out to a wooded yard lined with a large garden full of azaleas in full bloom. Tall metal stools with suede-padded seats, the only furniture on the middle of the stage, created a talk show atmosphere.

 

It was at this point we were introduced to the director for the day, Phil Scarpacci. He was holding a large coffee in one hand and he offered his free hand in a welcoming shake. He saw I had my camera with me and he offered to take a picture of me next to Camille on our first moment on the set. I handed him my camera, but as he tried to open the lens to get our picture he lost a grip on the large coffee in his other hand and, in what appeared to be super-slow-motion, the coffee tumbled out of his hands, down his pants and on to the beautiful clean floor of the newly decorated set. I felt awful. The director took the accident in stride and didn’t seem too bothered by the large stain on his once-clean khakis. Not the best way for me to make a first impression. I was hoping the rest of the day would go much better. He did take a quick picture of us, despite the spill, but it’s not quite what we were originally going for, as the photo captured Camille and I bent over in embarrassment following the spill. Afterward, we wisely figured it was time for us to make ourselves scarce.

 

At the back of the studio was the long table referred to as the Craft Service Table, which was filled with fresh goodies for the cast and crew that was replenished with new treats throughout the day. A woman named Anna Pereia made sure the table had a never-ending supply of yummy foods like muffins, mini quiches, chicken salad sandwiches, cookies, candies; basically, it was a carb coma café. She also made sure cold sodas and bottled water were always on hand. Kristy told us to grab some food to carry back up to the green room. Apparently wardrobe was waiting for me, so I grabbed a few muffins and cookies, a diet coke, a straw for my drink and I was off to wardrobe.

 

Julie Engelsman and her assistant Sarah Ybarra were waiting for me in wardrobe as I dragged my suitcase, muffins and diet coke in to their room. Several racks of clothes lines the walls, a rainbow of color represented. Although Julie loved the shirt I was already wearing, my own Victoria Secret wrap top that had been a favorite of mine all summer, the color didn’t quite match the skirt she already had in mind for me, so she said she’d go with the Banana Republic top she’d originally chosen.

 

I’ll be completely honest; I was not thrilled with my outfit at first. It was totally not anything I would ever choose for myself, especially the skirt. Don’t get me wrong, it was very pretty, but completely not my style and I also felt I was a bit too old to pull it off. I know they have their reasons and Julie is the professional, so I completely trust her judgement, but it took me a while to feel comfortable in the outfit. Although I do recall it was Julie who, during my last trip to California, encouraged me to add a two-piece bathing suit to my summer wardrobe. She assured me that I really did have a body for a two-piece even though I didn’t feel as if I did. Thanks to her, I did purchase one and wore it proudly all summer. She was also the one who advised all who participated in this infomercial what the best lingerie was to wear; the only lingerie I’ve worn since! We even gave her the nickname “our boob lady” because she not only advised us on what to wear, but she also provided us with the best bras (and inserts) to enhance the figures of those of us who were not blessed with a good rack.

 

Ultimately, she chose this tiny little pink cotton halter-top from Banana Republic, which had a thin gold ring that attached the front of the top to the straps that tied around my neck. I think it’s funny that each time Julie has dressed me she’s chosen pink for my wardrobe. She said “you should always wear pink, it’s a good color for you”. Ironic, because my husband said just the opposite, “pink is so not your color”, not too long ago. I’ve been buying a lot of pink lately, moving on from my usual dark and dreary colors in my wardrobe and, just as Julie expected, I get a lot of compliments when I wear pink. The skirt she had paired with the shirt was from the top designer Ya-Ya; it was 100% silk, low-waisted micro-mini skirt with an asymmetrical hemline. She said they wanted me to look fun and flirty, easy to look that way in this ensemble. She had asked me to bring my Enzo Angiolini summer cork-heeled 4 ˝ inch wedges that she loved so much during my last visit. In fact, she liked them so much she bought a pair in black to have in wardrobe for others to wear. I brought both my black and white pairs, the latter she chose for me to wear with the fun and flirty outfit.

 

With wardrobe finished, I was off to hair and makeup. With my diet coke in hand, I climbed up in to Aimee’s make up chair and let her do her magic. It’s amazing how flawless they can make my complexion appear. If only I had them on hand to do my makeup every day. I had no reason to be concerned earlier about arriving with damp hair, since Aimee and her assistant Brandy both decided that my hair looked great and they didn’t want to do anything with it aside from brush down some flyaways. Once again, I would be the long, straight haired girl on the set. No flat ironing, no curling, barely any brushing. Just, as is! That kind of amazed me.

 

It was during my time in the makeup chair that Mari first arrived in the hallway outside to return to her dressing room next door. I couldn’t believe it was Mari Winsor just a few feet away from me. Debra, who was already finished with hair and makeup, grabbed her camera and got a few pictures of Mari in the hallway, which she would later forward to me. Mari was dressed in layers of purple, including a purple wrap sweater and a purple tweed or wool skirt. Once again, I’m thinking my outfit isn’t appropriate. I mean, Mari is dressed for Fall and I look like I just stumbled out of a beach party with the cast of The OC, but once again everyone assured me that my outfit was fine. Mari waved a quick hello to us as she spoke with her personal hairstylist in the hallway and to Julie from wardrobe, in preparation to film the interview with Debra and Daisy that was about to begin.

 

Lisa Rinna arrived at the studio at this time. I grew up watching CBS soaps with my mother, so I’m not too familiar with her work on Days Of Our Lives; however, I did recognize her from decades of Soap Opera Digests I’ve poured over. I’d also seen her talk show on the Soap Network on occasion. She had a duffle bag over her shoulder and was wearing what appeared to be yoga pants, a tank top and matching zip up jacket. She was very tiny and much shorter than I expected, maybe appearing even shorter because I was wearing 4 1/2 inch heels. She didn’t have on any makeup, but her hair was all cute and spiky the way I’ve seen it in recent pictures. She smiled, said a quick Hi, nodded her head and passed quickly, heading toward her designated dressing room with her own makeup artist on hand. Her dressing room door remained closed most of the day and I didn’t see her much more during the rest of the shoot, aside from when she came down to film her workout with Mari near the end of the day. Neither Debra or myself got a picture of Lisa on the set; I guess we both figured it wasn’t nice to stalk all of the celebrities on set.

 

My first one-on-one encounter with Mari is one I’ll remember for the rest of my life. As I walked through the doors in to the studio of Stage 2, Mari Winsor was on the other side standing right there next to the food table. I had played this moment out in my head a million times: what I would say if I ever got to meet Mari in person. I imagined I would try not to fall to my knees and bow to her, paying homage to the woman who sculpted my body slim. I figured I would attempt to appear calm, cool and collected while offering my hand and thanking her graciously, yet politely, for creating her Winsor Workout. Never mind, Mari threw any and all of my forethought out the window. I was completely not prepared for the way she would approach me! At first glance, her eyes got real wide, she reached out for both of my hands to hold them out and then turn me in a twirl so she could see all sides of me, all the while saying things like “girl, look at your body. You are so hot. Oh my good, look how toned you are. You have the perfect body”. What?!?! I can NOT believe the woman who helped me achieve my new look was standing here telling me how good I looked. This was not happening. “This is all thanks to you, Mari, you gave me this body”. She said, “no girlfriend, you did all of the work”. To which I rebutted, “not without you coming in to my bedroom everyone morning, through my VCR, encouraging me every step of the way.” She may have been initially shocked when she heard I did my workouts on my bed, but she was even more shocked when she learned I was also a 38-year-old mother to four children. She said I didn’t look much older than a teenager myself. God, I love this woman! Later on, unbeknownst to her, I overheard her talking to someone on the set and saying nice things about my figure. I think I’ll forever have scars up and down my arms just from pinching myself over and over that this wasn’t all just a dream.

 

Finally, it was our moment in the spotlight, literally. Camille was dressed in black slacks and a dressy, fitted green halter top with her long black naturally curly hair flat ironed and curled under at the bottom. Laura was dressed in form fitted bright blue t-shirt coupled with a short a-framed skirt that had a modern pattern of greens, blues, grey and black, while her long strawberry blonde hair draped over her shoulder in long spiral curls. Audio put each of our body mics on and then we were led to the stage and given our place to sit. Laura would be on the end, I would be next, and Camille would be on my other side with Mari to her left, while Daisy sat on the other end. Daisy looked even more beautiful in person, if that could be possible. She was wearing this gorgeous form fitted orange dress that had gold beads on the straps that went over only her left shoulder. She had the perfect heels to match and a silver toe ring on the middle toe of both feet. A giant bright orange ring on her finger was a perfect match to her dress.

 

As we waited for the cue to begin, all sitting in our places so the production crew could make sure they had our lightening and such correct, we passed that time talking amongst ourselves. Mari kept us giggling with silly comments. She kept saying she was really wired because of the sausages on the Craft Service Table she had sampled. Daisy kept teasing her about the sausages and then they were pretending that Mari was basically on a high from the protein in the sausages. You could tell they were very good friends. Daisy also talked about how she was now an entrepreneur, since her clothing line at Kohl’s was expanding to home décor, as well, and Mari kept telling her how proud she was. I recall at one point telling Daisy that I’m used to seeing her while I fix dinner for my family, since her old show AFV is an old favorite that my kids like to watch in reruns in the late afternoon. She tossed her hair and said that she didn’t even realize they were still running those shows on the air. Her personal hairdresser would then run over and put her tossed hair back in its proper place. He was so funny and would, on a moments notice, break out in to an impressive tap dance routine.

 

As for conversations with Mari, most of all we discussed cold things to keep our mind off the sweltering hot (penguins, ice cubes, the ice age, snow storms, etc). At one point I mentioned, “walking in a winsorwonderland”, an expression we’ve posted on the Pilates board before, and she said, “I’ve said something like that before”. We also discussed how pretty she looked in her purple outfit (she said she wears black more than anything) and in her purple Jimmy Choo shoes; plus, we marveled at how short she actually is (just under 5 feet tall), even requiring an apple crate to get on and off the stools on stage. We commented on the tatoo above her right ankle, two tiny dolphins in play. I also asked her what she suggested for people, like myself, with broken tailbones and the best exercise for that type of problem. She said the same thing Hector, one of her other trainers, had told me during my previous trip; only she demonstrated it more clearly. She said to work on the roll up, keeping the spine as close to the ground as possible and the head tucked and looking down towards the stomach as you roll over, which would help on sit ups and the teaser. Since returning I’ve tried it and she’s right, it does help.

 

Once the production crew was done adjusting the lights and sound, the director explained that Daisy would say an intro, which she would be reading off of one of several Teleprompters placed around the stage. That intro, plus each intro for us and several scripted questions would be the only things directly read; everything else would be spoken ad lib by all of us. They would do the intro followed by questions directed first only to Camille. This would be followed by questions directed only to Laura and they would end with my segment. It would all be edited later to appear as if we were talking in conversation together. As we waited for the filming to begin, while the stylists did last minute adjustments, Laura whispered to me that she wasn’t sure what to say. She knew that both Camille and I had done interviews for Winsor Pilates on camera before and this would be her first time. I told her to simply speak from her heart, as if she was telling a dear friend about how Winsor Pilates has touched her life.

 

They had Daisy repeat the intro several times, as well as the lead in where Mari and Daisy introduce Camille. A large alarm would sound for quiet on the set, the camera would roll, the bright stage lights were lit overhead, the red lights were turned on and the AC in the studio was shut off to insure the the best sound quality. To say it was hot under those lights would be an understatement. It was truly oppressive each time they shut down that air conditioning. Granted, they would only film short segments at any one time, taking brief breaks so the lights could be killed and the AC activated for a quick cool down before resuming the shoot; however, it didn’t matter how long or short those lights were on, it was like a pizza oven in that studio. It was at this point I was eternally grateful to Julie for barely dressing me for the shoot; a lack of clothing was certainly a plus under those lights. The only bad thing was that my bare bottom (thanks to the micro mini and the required thong underwear) left nothing between myself and the padded blue suede on those bar stools that we had to sit on. Let’s just say, I left my mark in more ways than one on that set. They kept teasing me that it wasn’t sweat on the chair and I needed one of those nudist towels to carry around with me. I swear it was sweat.

 

During Camille’s interview, Daisy pulled out a before picture of Camille from behind her back. It was picture I had seen on many occasions when checking out the Winsor Pilates Website’s success stories. Camille’s picture had always been the first one to appear on the top of the page. There she was filling an oversized tropical shirt with Hawaiian lays around her neck. She looked so happy in the photo, leaning against her husband’s shoulder. She didn’t look happy as she looked at the picture during the shoot, remembering what it was like to be unhealthy and heavier. Her story was so much like mine: Winsor Pilates changed not only her figure, but also her life.

 

They moved on to Laura’s story, how rediscovering Winsor Pilates after a big injury helped her recover and regain her strength, stamina and figure, something very difficult to endure as a young mother of two small children. It reminded me of many of my online friends from the Pilates website we started a year ago, other young mother’s who have been able to achieve great results despite various injuries or ailments, including my own story of achieving success despite Parkinson’s. As the interviews rolled on, a river of sweat began to flow from all of us on the stage. So much sweat that they had to take longer breaks to give the stylists and wardrobe time to wring out wet shirts, hand us tiny individual fans to hold on our faces, blot melting makeup and even apply (I kid you not) maxi pads under arms and in cleavage to absorb the sea of sweat some were dripping. Thankfully, I was a little cooler than the rest, thanks to my minimal coverage. They also had us run over to one of the large yellow AC vents that hung down from the ceilings like a large yellow snake blowing cold air to the ground. It was “a little piece of heaven” feeling that cool air rush all over us during those sweat-reprieves.

 

At last it was my turn to share my story with Mari. I remember taking a long deep breath and thinking to myself “there’s no turning back…this is the moment I’d been waiting for…just speak from my heart”. I was a little surprised when the scripted introduction Daisy had to say for me implied that I’d always had a weight problem, at least that’s the way I heard it. Perhaps it was just the way it was worded, but I haven’t “always” had a weight problem. I’ve yo-yoed with my weight, but have been thin in the past, just never as toned and fit as I’ve been since discovering Winsor Pilates. I hoped my testimony reiterated that fact. I started off by saying something along the lines like “I’d struggled with my weight on and off over the years, but never more so than after I had my fourth child” to which Mari would stop me and exclaim with an air of astonishment, “you have 4 children…4 children?” as if she were hearing it for the first time. Then Daisy and Mari would give me a look as if to say it was impossible I could be old enough to have 4 children, let alone teenagers. I wondered if the camera would then zoom in on my wrinkled face with the laugh lines of nearly forty years across my weathered face.

 

Yes, I have 4 children”, I would continue. I don’t remember word for word exactly what I said, but it was something like this: That I was “so grateful to have discovered Winsor Pilates late one night while channel surfing on a sleepless night. After seeing Camille and hearing her story on that infomercial with both Mari and Daisy, I was certain that I too could lose the weight I’d gain during my pregnancies.” To this day, Camille and I don’t know if our being on this infomercial together was orchestrated or accidental, but she truly was one of my inspirations for believing in the product. I went on to say “it was during my last pregnancy that I gained my most weight, putting on 60 pounds during the course of the pregnancy. My son didn’t weigh even close to the 50 pounds I expected him to weigh, only a little over 6, so there was no excuse for my excessive weight gain, but I just couldn’t seem to lose the weight after his birth. Then I put on 10 more, packing a total of 70 unwanted pounds on to my 5 foot 3 inch frame. To make matters worse, when my son was only 6 months old I was diagnosed with Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease, the symptoms making me not only sick, but making it even more difficult to find an exercise I felt I could handle”.

 

This time the surprise on Mari’s face was genuine, her mouth dropped open in a moment of speechless surprise. She appeared to have tears in her eyes, as did Daisy. The executive produce, Cort Howell, called “Cut” for yet another sweat reprieve, only this time no one ran to the yellow vents. Mari said “I can’t believe you are the one with Parkinson’s disease. I never would have guessed that. I had heard that there was someone with Parkinson’s disease that would be sharing their story on this infomercial, but I never would’ve guessed that was you”. Had she seen me during my previous trip to film for this infomercial, she would’ve seen my tremor and other symptoms of Parkinson’s, but thanks to a recent increased dose by my neurologist (and Kristy’s constant help to insure I took my pills on time while on this second trip), my symptoms were masked and I was a picture of perfect health. Mari then told me she had a very good friend who was now dedicating all of her free time and money to Stem Cell research and to getting the message out. She was certain a cure was around the corner and I couldn’t agree with her more. She said she was already impressed by my great Pilates body and now, knowing I achieved this while living with Parkinson’s, she was even more impressed. Did I mention I love this woman?

 

After that brief break for Mari to regain her composure, we resumed the retelling of my testimony. This time, there was no stopping my story and I was able to go from start to finish, trying to remember as much as I had hoped to share. I was shocked that when I came to the end of my story they didn’t ask for me to repeat my tale, since they felt they had captured everything they hoped to. In retrospect, there were a few things I wish I had mentioned, like how discovering Pilates had returned me to my singing, but that was only one of a few things I think I forgot to mention. Nevertheless, they seemed very pleased with my work. They told us we’d be breaking for lunch and that was a wrap for scenes 33, 47 and 58. As she stepped off her stool and on to the apple crate, Mari turned to me to say that in all of her years of doing infomercials, my story was the most amazing she had ever heard. I don’t care if this is something she’s said to anyone else before, it just meant so much to hear her say those words to me at that very moment. It truly was a little piece of heaven…I gave her a hug and thanked her for giving me my life back. As I had just said during my testimony, I don't even want to imagine where my life would be at this moment had I not discovered her Winsor Pilates.

 

As I made my way out of the studio I was stopped by one of my favorite people I’d met so far from the Guthy-Renker corporation, Elliott Segal, the vice president of production and creative services. He was the one who so generously organized the luncheon held for me, Jess and our California friends during our first trip to Santa Monica back in April. He always had such nice things to say and once again he was all-compliments regarding my testimony with Mari and Daisy. He said he’s worked on countless infomercials for many products and I was one of the most articulate he’d ever heard. Where was this man’s tip jar?! They really know how to make someone feel special and it felt wonderful to have such positive feedback. I didn’t think I had done anything special, I just spoke from my heart.

 

Elliott introduced me to a gentleman that he explained was the attorney on the set. I regret that as much as I can remember in minute detail from my trip, his name and exact title escape me now. They said I was a dream in the legal regard to any attorney involved in the making of infomercial. He said usually they have to add a disclaimer across the bottom in small print about “results not typical” but that I had even said those words during my testimony. He was right; I had said those words to Mari and Daisy during my interview that “although I know my results aren’t typical and everyone will lose at their own rate, everyone I know who’s tried Winsor Pilates has had some benefit to their body or health in one way or another, when they stay committed”. Return of the Walking Billboard, as my friends would say.

 

At this point, we all headed across the parking lot behind the studio to the next building where they had set up the catered lunch. An amazing spread of hot foods filled a buffet table where they had even more long tables lined with chairs for the cast and crew to eat. Elliott and the attorney invited me to sit in the empty seats at their table and we spent the next thirty minutes talking about everything from my testimony to my home, where it turns out the attorney lives just a quick sail away. We discussed the areas where we lived and he had really interesting stories about historical artifacts from the state that his family once had and other local lore, plus they looked through my black binder of pictures I brought from home of my family and recent trip to California. They seemed to enjoy both and I gave the attorney my last remaining business card I had in my purse that included the web address for the site I dedicated to my historical home in our state. I don’t even remember what I ate, but I’ll never forget the kind things they said and the fact that Mari was right behind me while I was eating. Mari Winsor!! It was all still so unbelievable.

 

After lunch, I headed back upstairs to get ready for the workout scenes scheduled for filming later that afternoon. There was a lot of down time at this point, since they were now filming Lisa Rinna’s scenes in the studio. Meanwhile, the three testimonies, Debra, the hair and make up stylists and Kristy were joined by one of stars in Mari’s tapes, Brendali. We all killed the time by reading aloud Cosmo, Glamour, People and other magazines, taking polls, answering questionnaires, commenting on articles, dishing the dirt and much, much more. It was also interesting to hear them comment on the stars they’ve actually worked with or know personally. It gave such a different perspective to the celebrity rags we were reading. If only those walls could talk!

 

As our workout shoot time grew closer, we were taken back in to wardrobe one at a time. For this scene, Julie chose a really pretty blue workout tank with a halter-type neckline coupled with a pair of long grey yoga pants for me to wear. Again, it was a combination I never would’ve chosen for myself but it really did look good together. Camille was put in a purple tank top with a dark purplish-blue short yoga pant while Laura was put in a combination of greens with longer, looser pants; Debra, on the other hand, would be paired in different shades of blue. They touched up all of our makeup and decided that both Camille and I would wear our hair off of our shoulders, mine in a single braid down my back and hers in a high ponytail.

 

Once we were all ready, Brendali, who was wearing the most adorable pink couture workout clothes, joined us in the studio. She would be leading us from off-stage while off camera during the workout.  The stage was set with four Winsor workout mats arranged in a diamond shape on the floor, each containing a new type of sculpting circle. The director explained that they would film the workout in four segments, each time we would take turns in what they referred to as “the hero” spot, or the spot at the front of the diamond shape. Camille went there first, and later it would be my turn. Brendali took us through a series of Winsor workouts with the circle, including “the hundred”, the side series and many other you fellow Pilates addicts would all be familiar with. While they weren’t the most difficult moves, they seemed much more difficult under the heat of the harsh lights, especially at the end of a very eventful and exciting day. As a result, it was the perfect recipe for my once dormant Parkinson's tremor to make a reappearance. While it wasn’t as strong as what the crew witnessed in California, those who had just met me for the first time this trip were now seeing my tremor for the very first time. It wasn’t bothering me; it was just my body reacting to the stress of the exercise and excitement. I assured and reassured everyone that I was fine. All in all, despite the heat, it was really fun doing the workout with the girls on camera. It’ll be interesting to see what, if any of it, makes the final cut.

 

After our workout was completed, Mari and Daisy were in the studio to film their next scene together. They were both in workout clothes, Mari in purple again and Daisy in a white tank with bright pink pants. Both of them had their hair up and off their shoulders. Before they shot their scene, they gave us a quick photo opportunity together and individually with Mari and Daisy, using only Debra’s camera so we wouldn’t take up too much of their time; after all, they were already running very behind schedule.

 

Once we finished taking pictures, we were ushered back to the dressing room to change for our trip back to the hotel with our driver, Sergio. Laura said she was too tired, but Debra, Camille and I decided we were going to go out to dinner after we dropped our bags off at our rooms. I’m so glad we decided to go to dinner together because it would turn out to be one of the best nights I’ve had all summer. I haven’t laughed so hard in such a long time, even suffering a near-terminal laugh attack caused by Debra’s dead-pan delivery of a joke incorporating our Waiter into one of the articles we had read earlier in the green room. I’m sure it wouldn’t be as funny repeated here, but at the moment, fueled by the fatigue from the time change and the adrenaline rush from all of the day’s excitement, I just couldn’t stop laughing. I’m sure our poor waiter will never forget us either and in a few months our images will be haunting him as he channel surfs late one night through a Winsor Pilates infomercial.

 

Wednesday, June 27, 2005~

 

The next day we all met for breakfast in the hotel restaurant. We told Kristy and Laura about our crazy dinner the night before and filled up on great food before heading back to our rooms to retrieve our bags and load them in to Sergio’s van. It was at this time, as we were loading ourselves in for the trip back to the studio, that Kristy got a call from the production staff that they needed to scratch my scheduled shoot for the day because they were so far behind schedule from yesterday’s delays. Since they already had film of me from not only yesterday but also from the trip in April and the filming they did at my home and while I was singing the National Anthem, they figured they had more than enough of Lauren Sue. While I was disappointed that I wouldn’t have a chance to mention some of the things I may have forgotten to say in my previous interviews, not to mention how bummed I was I wouldn’t get to have a flawless complexion painted on my face or my hair coiffed and combed, I could completely understand their decision. Kristy said I could stay at the hotel for the day, go shopping at the mall or simply stay in the van to come to the studio. I figured I could swim in a pool or shop at a mall anytime back home (and I was hopeful I’d have another trip to California where I could visit with my local friends there like Wendy and Becky among many others), but I couldn’t guarantee I’d have another opportunity to witness a filming, so I opted to stay in the van and head to the studio for the day.

 

A majority of Wednesday’s work was dedicated to filming the models on the set. John Farrell (who looked like an underwear model), Misty Atkinson (the human Barbie doll) and Brendali, worked out on camera with Hector as their trainer for the day. They also completed some general product shots. Neither Debra nor I got pictures of the models or Hector on that second day. Meanwhile, the rest of us waited in the green room and resumed reading the celebrity rags, dishing the dirt, sharing personal stories, getting to know each other better and, of course, taking pictures of everything. Later in the afternoon, as we headed through the studio to get to the door that led to the lot to the building where the lunchroom was located, Debra, Camille and I found ourselves alone, absolutely alone, in the sound stage. Actually, we weren’t completely alone…I had my camera on hand. This turned out to be the perfect opportunity for more silly pictures, so we all pretended to be looking for Mari outside her home, using the faux forest behind the set as our own backdrop for our photos. I almost laughed as much doing this as I did during dinner the night before.

 

The rest of the afternoon was very busy watching Debra, Camille and Laura do their individual interviews on camera. It was fascinating to be on the other side of the camera witnessing how the production crew worked the moment. I was able to see the girls not only while they stood on the stage being filmed but also via the two cameras’ monitors; it was amazing how the girls looked even more beautiful under the soft focus lens. It was also interesting to see how quickly the crew could change the set from a workout studio, to an office at NASA, to a suburban living room setting. And almost as quickly as they redid those sets, our Hollywood moment was over. We had one final photo opportunity with various members of the production crew and the Guthy-Renker staff, people who had quickly become our friends over the past several days. I only wish I had been able to get a photo with Elliott Segal the day before or with Cort Howell, the executive producer, or even Cort’s wife who was visiting the set with their beautiful new born son.

 

That final evening Melanie, from Guthy-Renker, took Laura, Camille, Debra and me to dinner. Perhaps, after hearing about our antics in the restaurant the night before and behind the sets in the faux garden, the company thought it would be best if we had a chaperone. But in all seriousness, we had a great dinner and enjoyed more photo opportunities with our cameras. I was so glad Laura decided to join us for this dinner and I also enjoyed getting to know Melanie. I was sad to see the moment over, as the next day we were all headed home.

 

The day before, during our lunch, Elliott was telling us how they already have over 30 hours of film for this particular infomercial so far, including scenes taped earlier in the week featuring Melanie Griffith, Danny Glover, Patrick Duffy, Elle McPherson, Rachel Hunter, among others. All of this combined footage has to be cut down to only 23 minutes for the final product. It’ll be interesting to see how much of my footage actually ends up in the infomercial when they send me my complimentary copy after the final wrap September 30th prior to it’s scheduled airtime in October or November. I wonder if I’ll even have 15 seconds of fame…

 

Keep some souvenirs from your past or how else will you ever prove it wasn’t all just a dream and for that very reason I am so glad I captured this whole experience on these pages and in all of the photos. Yet, I know I will forever remember having the opportunity to meet Mari Winsor and receiving compliments about my figure from the very woman who helped me achieve it. I will forever remember how surreal it felt to be on that stage, under those hot lights, talking to Mari and Daisy Fuentes about my weight loss success; having the chance to thank her in person. I may have lost a lot of weight and several dress sizes thanks to Winsor Pilates, but I gained far more than I ever imagined. I gained friendships that will last a lifetime and memories I'll cherish forever. I will forever remember the fun I had in Winsorwonderland.

 

I still can't believe that an infomercial I saw one sleepless night in March of 2004 would change my life forever. I still can't believe that Camille, the young mother I saw on that infomercial nearly two years ago, not only would share the stage with me for this infomercial but would also share much more, including our crazy sense of humor. Add to the mix the special Winsor Pilates guest from Nasa, Debra, and suddenly we had a true cocktail for craziness stirring up behind the scenes. Those two girls literally had me laughing until I cried. I honestly think that our week together in California was only the beginning for us. And then there was sweet Laura, that other young mother and Winsor Success story who wasn't able to spend as much time with the 3 of us, but I'm so glad I got to meet her and know that we will also stay in touch, especially since she's moving to the east coast. The people at Guthy Renker and Cort Howell Productions are all so generous and I am so grateful to them for the amazing opportunity they gave me to share my passion for Winsor Pilates. I hope that I have the chance to work with them again in the future. In the meantime, remember to PYBO (Pilates Your Butt Off)!

 

A PICTURE IS WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS...so just CLICK HERE to see this entire story in photos. Once you click this link, scroll down the page to the 3 albums near the bottom titled "The Highlands Returns To Hollywood..." Part I, II and III

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