A Teen Success Story

Teen Magazine, May 1993 v37 n5 p92(2)

Tiffani-Amber Thiessen doesn't have a whole lot of time to talk. It's Monday afternoon, and on Wednesday the movers are coming to take all her belongings to a new suburban L.A. house that she bought with her own money. She's 19 years old, and you could say she's definitely made it. In fact, by the time she landed the part of Kelly Kapowski in the Saturday morning TV hit "Saved by the Bell" in 1989, she was already a total 'TEEN success story!

Her career has its roots in dance classes. Tiffani-Amber's mom enrolled her at 5 "for fun," and the girl stuck with it for 10 years. She might have made professional dancer status, except for some serious knee problems that finally turned her in a different direction—modeling.

Good thing for 'TEEN too! After entering many pageants and doing a lot of catalog modeling, Tiffani-Amber took a chance and signed up for 'TEEN's GREAT MODEL SEARCH in 1987. She was 13 at the time, and though she didn't win that year, she did make the top 12 finalists.

Determined to try again, Tiffani-Amber entered again the next year. "'TEEN Magazine, of course, was like my favorite magazine in the whole world," she remembers. "I was definitely surprised when I won, 'cause that year those girls were absolutely gorgeous." From there, she became a 'TEEN cover girl and quickly moved into TV roles, including a series regular on "Saved by the Bell."

Animal House

A call comes in for her. It's a good friend on the other line--namely Brian Austin Green of "Beverly Hills, 90210"—who's rung up to tell her he just got off work, and he'll be over shortly. When she comes back to talk to 'TEEN, the conversation veers in other directions—like about the Vietnamese potbellied pig Brian bought her, a black female named Betty. He also gave Luke Perry his pig Violet from the same litter.

"Brian and I have been friends for a long time, and he knew I lived by myself. He was always like, 'You need a pet around here,' and I'd say, 'I know,'" Tiffani-Amber explains. "So I was on my way to go get a dog when he drops by with this pig. I've collected pigs since I was really little, miniature pigs and stuff like that, so it was pretty funny.

"Brian has a white male named Morrison," Tiffani-Amber continues. "And my Betty is just the sweetest thing. She's really, really cute. They're actually very smart animals. They're a lot like dogs; they really are."

She should know. In addition to Betty, Tiffani-Amber also owns two golden retriever puppies named Bonnie and Clyde!

Totally '90s Girl

As she speaks, it becomes clear that here's a girl of the '90s, no doubt about it. Tiffani-Amber Thiessen is strong, thoughtful and totally independent. And that's a big part of what makes her appealing—and what's made her a success, both personally and professionally.

"I'm a very spiritual person," she confesses, "and to know that now women are able to do just as much as men is really great...Working for myself and being young and being a woman, I can finally get respect from people...I mean, here I'm 19 years old, I've got my own house, I've got my career set—nobody can tell me I can't do it."

So where did Tiffani-Amber get her drive to succeed? "In this business, you've got to take a lot of rejection—and you can't take it personally," she says. "If you're not chosen, you're either not ready or not right for it. My mom used to tell me that a quitter never wins, and a winner never quits. And that's something I've always gone by."

What's Up Next

In Son-in-Law, a comedy/romance to be released in July and also starring funny guy Pauly Shore, Tiffani-Amber plays Tracy, "the town flirt. She knows she can turn men's heads. She's having a secret relationship with the main character's boyfriend, but a lot happens at the end, and I don't want to say 'cause it'll give it away. It's actually a very cute movie.

Just the Facts

Birthday: January 23, 1974
Native of: Modesto, Calif.
Siblings: Two brothers—Todd, 24; Schyler, 16

Best friend:

Candace. "I've known her since 8th grade, and she was the only one who didn't care who I was. It didn't matter. We had a lot in common, and she liked me for me. She's a sweetheart."

If she wasn't acting, she'd be:

"In college studying psychology. Someday I'm definitely going to go to school and become a child psychologist. I really love children."

Personal inspirations:

"My brother Todd's been a really big inspiration to me. He's had a lot of problems, and how he's come out of it is just amazing. Knowing someone who's been at the bottom and completely restructured themselves...makes me think I could do anything. I have total respect for him."

Important lessons:

"Since I'm into modeling, I know young girls always try to watch their weight and what they look like. And it is important to some extent but...I've known girls who've gone through a lot of problems with dieting, and it's not worth it. It's terrible to think that our society has to be tall, skinny and beautiful. It's really horrible that we have to look like that—and it's not worth it. It really isn't. I've met a lot of beautiful people who don't have anything inside."

School days:

Since success found Tiffani-Amber so early, she's never actually been a high school student in the usual sense. Throughout her high school years, she was tutored. From that experience, she says, "I've gotten to meet and work with a lot of wonderful people, and I've traveled to a lot of different places. I don't think I would've been able to do that if I'd gone to normal school. But also I didn't get to go to the prom or be in the high school clubs and hang around with my friends a lot either, so there are negatives and positives."