Tales of Tiffani

TV Guide - April 20 1996 - Issue 1008

Beverly Hills, 90210 co-star Tiffani-Amber Thiessen talks about her looks, her life and her latest ridiculous diet

I was sitting in a trendy restaurant on Ventura Boulevard, waiting for one of TV's hottest stars. Noticing my intent concentration on the door, the maitre d' had finally come over to ask "who exactly" I was expecting. Then he put two of his waitresses on Star Alert so I could relax and review my research notes.

Tiffani-Amber Thiessen, 22, has been modelling, acting and winning beauty pageants since she was a kid in Long Beach, Calif. She played nice girl Kelly on Saved by the Bell, but joined Beverly Hills, 90210 two seasons ago as bad-girl Valerie. She'd recently ended a long-term, live-in relationship with co-star Brian Austin Green (but presumably retained the green heart tattoo on her tummy; she also has a daisy on her back and angel on her ankle). At a Fox party two months earlier, I'd seen her with Pauly Shore. I'd also heard rumors about a "tendency to roundness" and a constant battle of the bulge. Hmmm, it wasn't adding up to an easy interview. Well, if nothing else, I knew she'd be happy to talk about her golden retrievers (Bonnie and Clyde) and cats (Sadie and Savannah), who keep her company in a big house in Hollywood Hills, with pool, gym and huge yard.

Suddenly the two waitresses glided by and nodded towards the door. Thiessen had arrived. Good. But she'd brought a girlfriend with her. Maybe not so good. Oh well, I thought, we'll see...

"I don't eat meat," says Thiessen. "I'll have the shrimp cocktail. Is it normal? I mean, you call it Mazatlan, but is it just normal?" The waiter assures her it's normal. "And a side of grilled vegetables." At our table against the wall, Thiessen and her friend Patty have their backs to the room, so it's relatively private. But even if you didn't watch TV, you'd notice these women. Baby-faced on camera, Thiessen is classically beautiful in person, with satiny skin, Liz Taylor eyebrows and implishly pointed chin. A close-fitting white T-shirt, black pants and zip-up knee-high boots show off a trim figure, with no "roundness" whatsoever. Beside her, Patty, a petite, tousled blonde, is less dramatic but equally gorgeous. She's a friend from junior high who's about to graduate from the LAPD police academy and may soon be buying drugs undercover in L.A. high schools (which is why I've changed her name in this story). I ask to see her badge, which is hidden at the back of her wallet, she says, in case she's mugged, "they won't see right away I'm a cop."

As we start chatting about guns (Thiessen owns one) and makeup (not allowed at the police academy), I decide Patty's presence is a definite plus, even though it's thrown off my interview agenda. She obviously thinks being a cop is way more glamorous than being in television, which I believe Thiessen finds hugely relaxing. Patty's lack of awe for show biz also punctures the formality of this interview. Pretty soon, Thiessen is laughing out loud when I ask about her beauty secrets.

"I don't have any!" she guffaws. "Right now I'm wearing a quarter of what I wear on camera. It's not that we look horrible and have to wear tons of makeup. It has to do with the lighting being so harsh and our features disappearing. We need makeup for shading so it looks like we have eyes and noses." Personal upkeep involves washing her face twice a day, monthly facials, and subtle highlights. She also sticks with the same hair and makeup people whenever possible for magazine shoots, special appearances, and TV movies.

As for pressure to stay skinny on TV's most body-conscious show, Thiessen is disarmingly frank. "I only wear bare midriffs when I'm feeling thin," she says. "It's not so much how I look, it's how I feel, and the last few weeks I've been feeling great." The main reason is her personal trainer, who has her running five days a week, lifting weights four times a week, and has put her temporarily on a strict diet.

"It's ridiculous," says Thiessen, picking at a small roll from the bread basket, "but I'm only doing it for a little while, staying away from dairy, two slices of bread a week, one pasta, lots of fish. I've lost four pounds." She's been working with the trainer for six months and "I've never felt so great, like I could do anything in the world right now. She makes it really fun. I'm not just sitting in the gym, I'm out running four miles at the reservoir, cycling on the boardwalk, doing the stairs at the Santa Monica, going to the beach, and I'm appreciating what I'm eating." She waves her morsel of bread and laughs. "Of course, I'd love to eat this whole basket of brea- but I'm not going to."

One result of performing on such a fashion and fitness-conscious show, she says, is that she and the other girls tend to wear less makeup and dress down when they're off the set. But when I remind her that she was one of the better-dressed stars at the Fox party, she says, "My mother taught me well!" and admits that shopping is a definitive vice. "I love clothes! I make money, I'm a woman - of course I shop." She'll make less money if the show ends next year when everybody's contracts are up, but she brushes aside any suggestion that she's concerned. "I've done it before," she says. "I'll keep going as long as it keeps coming at me and if it stops, I'll do something else." In the meantime, her berth on the show seems secure. Unlike her predecessor (Shannen Doherty was notorious for run-ins with producers and-costars), Thiessen sounds like a consummate pro: "Where Valerie ends up, I have no idea. The writers write the show and I say what's in the script." In the meantime, she has two TV-movies lined up this summer, and if the acting jobs run out, she says, "I'm interested in producing. It's a way of being able to control my own projects. But I've never had any interest in directing."

Then I ask her about Pauly Shore. "We're just friend from a movie we did together." Later, while discussing our favorite TV shows, Thiessen says hers is The X-Files, on Friday night. "That's date night!" says Patty. "Yeah, I'm dating," admits Thiessen, "but I'm not seeing anyone specific." She has a great laugh, somewhere between a snort and a giggle and is supremely unself-conscious about it. At one point, Patty talks about getting hit on by a bunch of guys. "What were you wearing," deadpans Thiessen, "your rubber pants?" The two friends alternate between sarcasm and stout loyalty. "I think she's way better looking in person, don't you?" demands Patty. Thiessen, meanwhile, feigns disgust at how great Patty always looks.

As the interview ends, I ask Thiessen what it's like to be under constant scrutiny, by me, for example, and everyone she meets. "Sometimes I'm more annoyed than her," Patty interjects. "She's used to it, but I'm like, 'Hey, we're trying to eat here.'" Thiessen shrugs. "Yeah, everywhere you go, it's going to be like that. As long as they don't shoot me, I'm fine." One thing she has learned is, "you can't change yourself for each person that you meet. You can be yourself and if they like you, great. But you can't worry about that."


Tiffani-Amber Thiessen (Valerie) wears olive, beigy brown, and smokier colors, greyed out a little, with a lot of earth tones that the other women on the show would never wear. Her character wears a lot of suits, as well as little tops, which costume designer Molly Harris Cambell designs and has handknit specially. "Molly's so great," says Thiessen, "one of the most amazing wardrobe ladies I've ever worked with. And," she says adds with one significantly arched eyebrow, "I've worked with a lot!"


A pretty face helps, but makeup creates half the magic onscreen

Tiffani makes me look very good," says makeup artist David Waterman. "She really responds to color - the more you put on her face, the more it comes alive." After 30 years in the business ("I married a makeup man's daughter," he smiles), Waterman has worked on many beautiful stars, but he says attitude is what he appreciates most. "When you work with people this closely, you can get dumped on a lot. The worst mood I've ever seen Tiffani in is quiet. She doesn't take it out on people." Thiessen is loyal as well, requesting Waterman for all her guest appearances, magazine photo shoots and TV-movies.

"The largest concern is how much you can shade without overdoing it, so the more you work with someone, the better you know their face and how it photographs," says Waterman. A good makeup artist can take Thrifty's Drugstore makeup and make it work." - E.V.

(Pictured: David Waterman makes up Tiffani-Amber Thiessen on the set of Beverly Hills. 90210)