Most Likely To Succeed (September 10 1996)

by Bart Mills

Check out magazine clippings from this article: #1, #2, #3, #4

Tiffani-Amber Thiessen is living proof of the power of positive thinking

Tiffani-Amber Thiessen could have blown off lunch. She woke up this morning with her neck mysteriously ablaze with pain, and she's on her way to the chiropractor.

She can hardly move her head, but here she is, ready to smile. "Everything happens for a reason," she says, quoting her grandmother. "A winner never quits" — Grandma, again.

Tiffani, 22, keeps her appointments, does her duty, works hard, doesn't complain and, as a reward, gets to star in one series after another and as many TV movies as she can squeeze in. "I'm a firm believer in karma," she says. "Think positively and positive things will happen. I'm young — I can take the hours. As long as [the work] keeps coming in, I'll keep going."

Don't look to Tiffani for startling pronouncements or dirt on her co-stars, for she lives by her list of upbeat maxims. They've worked for her so far, so you can't knock them.

Her sunglasses chicly positioned high up on her head, Tiffani scans the menu and orders mineral water and a salad. "Ouch!" she says, forgetting her neck for a minute when she turns to smile at the waitress.

She plays one of the rottenest characters on TV, Valerie Malone on Beverly Hills, 90210. She's a "pot-smoking, lying, deceitful, lovesmen kind of girl," as Tiffani describes her. "Though who knows?" she adds. "They could turn her into a nun this season." Whatever sins her character commits, Tiffani's fans kknow this actress as a sweetie who couldn't be more different from Valerie — or from Shannen Doherty, whose shoes she stepped into two years ago.

Even when asked what happened between her and Brian Austin Green, her co-star and boyfriend for three years, Tiffani remains unruffled. "It was difficult to work together while we were dating and having problems," she says carefully, hurting nobody's feelings. "We tried to work things out and decided to move on. It wasn't a manner of one of us dumping the other. Now we work together and we're close friends, too."

The boyfriend slot is the one unfilled area of her life. She has the two upcoming TV movies (including Sweet Dreams on NBC Sept. 16), the two houses, the two cars, the two dogs and the two cats. She'd like to be married "someday," she says. "Who knows when. Of course, I need a man first, and a man I don't have. I'm not really looking, though. It's probably better this way, in fact. Everything happens for a reason."

Tiffani grew up in Long Beach, Calif., in a household run by a stay-home-mother and filled with pets and kids and strong values. As a kid, her chubby-cheeked smile and light-blue eyes led her into modeling and then commercials. "I loved it, and my parents let me as long as working didn't interfere with what was important: school. They put all my money away for me and ever now and then gave me a little to spend on Barbie dolls."

Instead of high school, Tiffani worked on Saved by the Bell for five years, studying with tutors alongside her co-stars, some of whom remain among her best friends. She remembers the day she got the part of cheerleader Kelly as "the most thrilling thing that ever happened to me. I was the only brunette among all those blondes, and they chose me!"

It didn't hurt that Tiffani was by then a beauty-contest winner. She recalls being a princess in the Rose Bowl Parade when she was 15. "I was sick with the flu the night before, but I got up at 4 a.m. and put on my cute little outfit and climbed aboard. I was waving and smiling and suddenly felt this big blob come ubbling up from my stomach. I threw up in front of millions! It took lots of people ages to arrange all those flowers, and I ruined everything in seconds!"

Those are the times when her grandmother's advice comes automatically to mind: "Be thankful for what you have, sweetheart." In Tiffani's view, "It may sound stupid and sappy, but I don't look at anything in a bad way. You can learn from everything that happens to you. I may think at first, "Why did that happen?" Then later, I understand.

"This crick in my neck, I have no idea why I got it. Why should I let it bug me — because maybe a month from now, I'll know."