Pop Culture

Tori Spelling: My life is a show

Tori Spelling finally has everything she thought she wanted — a loving family and a successful career — but it wasn’t always easy. In her new book, “Uncharted TerriTori,” the star opens up about her struggle to balance work, marriage, motherhood and reality TV cameras all while learning to find her happy ending. An excerpt.

A few weeks ago my friend Jacob was flying Virgin American from New York to L.A. As the plane began its final descent into LAX, the cute and obviously gay lead flight attendant made an announcement to the cabin. He said, “Welcome to Los Angeles, birthplace and residence of Tori Spelling.” When my friend reported this story to me via email, I thought it was hilarious, but I also didn’t know exactly what to make of it. I was born in L.A. Fact. I still live here. Fact. But on what grounds is that of common interest to an airplane full of diverse travelers? Is it a compliment? Is it a joke? A little of both? Of all the famous people, of all the actors, of all the tabloid darlings, of all the gay icons (if I can call myself that), why me?

But as someone who produces and stars in a show that follows my daily life for the entertainment of millions of people (holy crap!), I can’t spend too long on questions like that. After “90210” and so many TV movies, my career had slowed, and recently, in my reality show, it has found new life. The name Tori Spelling draws viewers, and it sells magazines, books, a jewelry line, a children’s clothing line. And my name also, apparently, occasionally welcomes certain unsuspecting travelers as they arrive in Los Angeles. So it goes. I’ve come to accept that the small moments of my life, my relationship, my family, my business ventures — usually in edited, broadcast form — are a spectacle. My life is a show. My self is my business. My name is my brand. It’s a weird way to live, and maybe I’ll never get used to it, but at the same time business is booming. My life has changed dramatically in the past several years. I married Dean; we moved several times; we had two children; we created a show that has gone into its fifth season on the air. I have love. I have a family. I have a home. I have work. It’s all I ever wished for. But trying to be a perfect wife, mother, and mini mogul has its challenges, especially if, like me, you want to be perfect at all of them at the same time. Turns out I’m officially a workaholic. I think I’ve always been a bit more driven than anybody realized, myself included. I have ideas. I want to try new things. I see business opportunities. The difference is that before “Tori & Dean” was a success, nobody ever cared what harebrained scheme I was dreaming up. Nobody expected anything of me. Nobody took me seriously. Nobody would have wanted to partner with me. I didn’t have the means to make any of it come to pass. Now I have the power. Now there’s no excuse not to act on a big idea. Now I can back it up. I have a show. I have two successful lines. I have two bestselling books. I own a well-known brand. (You know, Tori Spelling. Who’d a thunk it?)

I was poised to be a workaholic. In the seven years between “90210” and “Tori & Dean,” my acting work came and went. Being an underemployed actor as I was puts the fear in you. I am nobody. I’ll never work again. If I can just get a break I’ll make the most of it, I swear. I developed a strike-while-the-iron’s-hot mentality. I don’t want to miss a single opportunity.

I’m finally in a position where ideas that I have can actually blossom into businesses. When I shop for new bedding, I can’t help thinking, Maybe I could do a line of Hollywood Regency-inspired shams. I spend a day doing crafts with the kids and start fantasizing about developing a kids’ crafts show or magazine sharing the joys of homemade play dough and pipe cleaner animals. I cook dinner and envision a recipe book with my nanny’s special shepherd’s pie. I hobble out of an event, barefoot, with four-inch heels in hand, and fantasize about Tori Spelling–branded disposable micro flip-flops. (Somebody please run with that.)

  • Slideshow Photos

    David Livingston / Getty Images North America

    Image: Disney On Ice, Children's Hospital LA And AEG's Season Of Giving Create Holiday Magic On LA Kings Holiday Ice At L.A. LIVE

    Tori Spelling

    Tori Spelling’s career and personal life come full circle.

  • Image: Disney On Ice, Children's Hospital LA And AEG's Season Of Giving Create Holiday Magic On LA Kings Holiday Ice At L.A. LIVE

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    Family night out -

    Tori Spelling and Dean McDermott pose with two of their children, Stella McDermott, left, and Liam McDermott, at the L.A. Kings Holiday Ice at L.A. LIVE in Los Angeles on Dec. 14, 2011.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Image: Disney On Ice, Children's Hospital LA And AEG's Season Of Giving Create Holiday Magic On LA Kings Holiday Ice At L.A. LIVE

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    Here's Hattie Margaret! -

    Spelling and daughter Hattie attend the L.A. Kings Holiday Ice at L.A. LIVE in Los Angeles on Dec. 14, 2011. The actress gave birth to her third child on Oct. 10, 2011.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Image: Yo Gabba Gabba Live! - Los Angeles, CA

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    Yo! -

    Spelling and McDermott, with Stella and Liam, attend Yo Gabba Gabba Live! at Nokia Theatre L.A. Live in Los Angeles on Nov. 26, 2011.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Tori Spelling Book Signing For "Presenting... Tallulah"

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    Meet the author -

    Spelling attends a book signing for her children's book "Presenting ... Tallulah" in Los Angeles on Sept. 27, 2010.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Image: 22nd Annual GLAAD Media Awards - Show

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    Pups in tow -

    Spelling, left, and Lisa Vanderpump speak onstage at the 22nd Annual GLAAD Media Awards at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel in Los Angeles on April 10, 2011.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Image: Oxygen's Spring Party For "Tori & Dean: Home Sweet Hollywood" New Season

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    All in the family -

    Spelling and McDermott pose with their children, Liam and Stella at Oxygen's Spring Party for "Tori & Dean: Home Sweet Hollywood" on March 28, 2010. Thier reality-sitcom series, which is returning for a fifth season, gives viewers a close look into their family life and at their own relationship.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Tori Spelling, Jennie Garth, Diablo Cody

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    Donna's back -

    In this production still released by The CW Network, Spelling, left, Jennie Garth, center, and Diablo Cody, playing herself, are shown in a scene from the new incarnation of "90210." After much fanfare, Spelling came back as her old character, Donna Martin.

    AP / AP
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    Hollywood to 'Mommywood' -

    Spelling arrives at the party celebrating the release of her new book "Mommywood" in Beverly Hills, Calif. In the book, Spelling shares humorous stories about being a parent in the limelight.

    AP / AP
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    Diva style -

    Spelling models a Betsey Johnson design from The Heart Truth Red Dress collection during Fashion Week in New York. Spelling made headlines when she reportedly threw a fit during Fashion Week after initially being denied access to the Christian Siriano show.

    AP / AP
  • Tori Spelling

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    Posh potty-training -

    Spelling and her 22-month-old son Liam are pictured on the dance floor at the Pull-Ups Potty Dance, celebrating Liam's farewell to diapers, in New York, Thursday, Feb. 12, 2009. Spelling was at the event to teach other potty training moms and kids how to do the Potty Dance, a fun way to kick off kids' potty training journeys.

    AP / AP
  • "Stori Telling" Book Launch Cocktail Party - Arrivals

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    Branching out -

    McDermott and Spelling, with their son Liam and pug Mimi La Rue, attended a cocktail party for the launch of Spelling's new book "sTori Telling" in Los Angeles in March of 2008.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Tori Spelling Promotes "So Notorious" At XL Lounge

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    'So NoTorious' -

    In 2006 Spelling produced and starred in a VH1-scripted comedy "So Notorious," a fictional, satiric depiction of her own life. The show was well-received bu critics and nominated for Outstanding Comedy Series at the 2007 GLAAD Media Awards

    Getty Images / Getty Images
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    Gay icon -

    Spelling starred in the romantic comedy "Kiss the Bride," released in the spring of 2008. In the film, she played a woman marrying a man whose best friend decides to convince the groom that he is really gay, based on an intimate "moment" the two men shared in high school. Though the film got a thumbs-down from critics, Spelling says she wanted to please the gay community. "I'm a huge fan of gays," Spelling told Reuters. "They love me; I love them. They consider me kind of a gay icon, which they've labeled me as."

    Regent Releasing / Regent Releasing
  • VH1 Big In '05 Awards - Arrivals

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    Second chance -

    McDermott's affair with Spelling began while he was still married to Mary Jo Eustice. After their divorce, Eustice wrote about her ex-husband's affair as part of an anthology, "The Other Woman." Spelling and McDermott married on a private island in Fiji, sans guests, in 2006.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • 'CA BOOM' FESTIVAL OF CONTEMPORARY DESIGN, SANTA MONICA CIVIC AUDITORIUM, CALIFORNIA, AMERICA - 12 AUG 2004

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    Unhappily ever after -

    Spelling married Charlie Shanian in a $1 million ceremony in July 2004. The couple separated a year later, after Spelling had an affair with Dean McDermott, who co-starred with her in a TV movie called "Mind over Murder," Four months later, Spelling and McDermott were engaged.

    Rex Features via Everett Collection / Rex Features via Everett Collection
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    'The Alibi' -

    In 1997's "The Alibi," another TV movie, Spelling played a ski champ who has a phone relationship with a software tycoon, until his wife is murdered and she realizes that she may be his only alibi.

    Everett Collection / Everett Collection
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    'Co-ed Call Girl' -

    In the Lifetime movie "Co-ed Call Girl" (1996), Spelling starred as a college student who decides to become a high-priced prostitute to pay her way through school.

    Everett Collection / Everett Collection
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    Small-screen queen -

    In "A Friend to Die For" (1994). Spelling played a popular high school cheerleader who is murdered after rejecting the friendship of her jealous classmate, played by Kellie Martin. This was one of six made-for-TV movies Spelling did in a span of two years. "I've been stalked, raped, murdered, eveything," Spelling told Playboy in 1998.

    Everett Collection / Everett Collection
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    A star is born -

    By 1992, "Beverly HIlls, 90210" was a hit and Spelling was a bona fide star. "I think I've finally stopped being Aaron Spelling's daughter," she told People magazine. Later that year she co-hosted New Year's Rockin' Eve - - an American staple for ringing in the New Year - - with Dick Clark and Mark Curry.

    Everett Collection / Everett Collection
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    'Beverly Hills, 90210' -

    In the role that put her on the map, Spelling played innocent, virginal Donna Martin in the original "Beverly HIlls, 90210" from 1990 to 2000. Brian Austin Green played Donna's love interest, David Silver. And 18 years after the show first aired, Spelling reprises her role as Donna in the show's spinoff, "90210."

    Everett Collection / Everett Collection
  • AARON SPELLING and FAMILY circa 1988

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    The family name -

    She was born Victoia Davey Spelling, but we know her as Tori. On screen, she's the actress who played a pious bleached blonde from the most famous zip code in America, and in real life, she's the daughter of TV mogul Aaron Spelling. Her father made a fortune of almost $300 million from producing hit shows "Charlie's Angels," "Dynasty," and the show his daughter would later star in, "Beverly Hills, 90210." He gave Tori, who had shown interest in acting at a young age, bit parts on several of his shows, including "Vega$," "T.J.Hooker," and "The Love Boat."

    Everett Collection / Everett Collection

I want to do a show with Dean where we put together dream weddings on a budget: it’s on! There’s an opportunity for me to do the talk show I’ve always dreamed of? So what if it’s all day, every day, forty-four weeks a year, I want to do it! My agent’s worried I’m going to drop dead. Can we clone me? I wonder. Nah, the clone wouldn’t do it right. Yeah, I got the whole workaholic package, which means I’m so completely incapable of delegating that I couldn’t even delegate to my own clone. People talk all the time about leaving work behind at the end of the day, about how important it is to draw a dividing line between your job and your life. But my job is to be Tori Spelling. I can’t exactly take a break. In some ways I feel like I’m turning into my father. Dad was a workaholic. He was productive, work was lucrative, but it never stopped. When I was little I hardly noticed. I thought every father came home long after dinner and baths were over, just in time to kiss his children good night.

Even late in his career, my father never stopped caring about every detail of every show. On weekends he would come home with a briefcase full of scripts. We’d go out to the pool together, I’d click open the briefcase, and we’d sit next to each other reading. He dog-eared the pages where he had notes, just as I now do with scripts. By the time he was finished with a script, every single page would be folded over and every line of the script would be rewritten. When we first started “90210” he even brought home Polaroids of the wardrobe options for Brenda and Brandon. He couldn’t delegate either. Ultimately I feel like my father died because he could no longer work. When he stopped working he went quickly downhill. There was no adjusting to a new focus and pace at that age. He didn’t know how to just be. Twitter — the way I use Twitter, is a perfect example of how it never stops, how I never stop. Sometimes Dean is sleeping next to me in bed while I tweet until one a.m. I tweet what I’ve prepared for the kids’ holiday parties at school. I post what movie I watched that night. I check to see how many followers I have. I check to see how many followers Brooke Burke and Denise Richards have (they’re in the big leagues, each with over a million followers). I’m obsessed with how many followers I have and what makes them decide to follow me or to stop following me. If I talk about cute things the kids are doing, my followers drop off. If I retweet news items, people sign on. If I don’t tweet for a day, I gain a hundred followers. When I posted that I watched “Paranormal Activity,” I gained fifty-six followers. Why, why, why?

I tell myself I’m doing it for the fans and for my business; I’m building my brand. And I do use Twitter that way. For Little Maven, my kids’ clothing line, I went on Twitter to do a model search. People posted photos of their children to Twitter, and I selected models for our look book — a catalogue for retail buyers — and website. My “followers” know that it’s me looking at the pictures. I’m the one who’s picking their kids. They know that I’m not doing a celebrity endorsement, that I’m actually at the helm of my business. And they also know that I’m the one who’s dropping my kids off at school. Because I tweet about it afterwards. It’s kind of like I’m stalking myself, but it doesn’t feel creepy. It makes me feel connected to people. If I’m going to be a brand, it’s nice to feel like people really know me. But I also see how my obsessive twittering can be unhealthy. Nothing is private, nothing is sacred. Dean is asleep next to me, and I should be sleeping too. I’m more stressed than I’ve ever been in my life.

I haven’t found a good balance, and (when he’s awake) it doesn’t sit well with Dean. A couple of nights ago Dean came into the kitchen and told me he’d run a bubble bath for me — an overt effort to get me to relax. Liam and Stella were running around the kitchen, waiting for me to make them dinner. Dean said, “Don’t worry, I’ve got it.” Dean is perfectly capable of making dinner for the kids. Nonetheless, I started pulling out the broccoli, rice, and hot dogs. Just to get him started. Dean stood there staring at me. “What are you doing?” he said, “I just said I’ve got it.” But I couldn’t stop myself.

I’m not just controlling when it comes to the kids. I came into the kitchen the other night to find Dean, who is self-sufficient in all things, eating a dinner he’d made for himself. When I saw him sitting there, alone at the table, I felt deflated. “I was going to do that for you,” I told him. I wanted to make dinner for him. I wanted us to eat together even if I got home too late. I want to be able to do everything. Then I’m resentful of having to do everything.

And that’s how it all implodes. Maybe this is what happens when you finally find success in a career that you love. Maybe it’s a side effect of having children. Maybe it’s my childhood coming back to haunt me. Whatever it is, it’s taking a toll on me, on my health, and on my family. I’m exhausted, if not sick, half the time. The rest of the time my marriage, my family, and my job together are my dream come true. But those two sides of my life — exhausted and elated — are constantly vying for Tori dominance (not quite as critical as world dominance but try telling that to my immune system). The struggle plays out in Malibu and Maui, on a tour of local L.A. hospitals and across the country in an RV. Somehow in realizing my dreams I’ve lost my ability to just be. My reality is my job, and that means that my work and my life are completely woven together. It all happened so quickly that I haven’t begun to establish any boundaries. My life is all out of balance, which has turned out to be a biggie. I got everything I thought I wanted ... and it practically destroyed me. I need to make a change. I don’t know how and when I’ll do it, but that search is the challenge and the journey.

Excerpted from "uncharted terriTORI" by Tori Spelling. Copyright (c) 2010, reprinted with permission from Simon and Schuster.

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