When “Beverly Hills, 90210” debuted in 1990, Donna Martin seemed to have it all. The West Beverly High student was a wildly popular, beautiful trendsetter living in the country’s most affluent zip code.
But, of course, she was also fictional.
Actress Tori Spelling brought the character to life onscreen, and though she and Donna had a lot in common — from their Southern California roots to the very same face — the then-teens didn’t have much in common when it came to confidence.
Spelling opened up on that dichotomy in an Instagram post that packs a powerful message for teens today.
“Fake it till you make it,” she wrote alongside a photo of her 17-year-old self. “I was a young really insecure teenager that never thought I was good enough. Yet, I was on a hugely successful tv show playing a beautiful popular teen that had it all together. A character that girls everywhere looked up too and boys adored. Off camera I didn’t feel at all beautiful or good about myself.”
The photo that accompanied the message — which showed Spelling striking a model-worthy pose in short-shorts, a black lace top, a leather jacket and cowboy boots — appeared to contradict that.
But that's the point she intended to make. Appearances are deceiving.
“In this pic I was ALL IN for the camera!” she continued. “‘Playing’ Donna Martin would-be model. Goes to show that perception is not always reality.”
Now, the 46-year-old actress, who recently revisited the old days for the short-lived spinoff series “BH90210,” looks back at that time without the lens of self-doubt, and she likes what she sees.
“I look back at that young insecure girl and I give her HUGE props,” she wrote. “She stepped up and went for it. I wish I could have off camera hugged her and told her she was good enough and was beautiful just the way she was. Life is hard enough for teens living up to the expectations the world, society, and peers put on us... let alone being on camera weekly in front of millions.”
While she insisted that filming the show that her late father, Aaron Spelling, produced was “one of the best times” of her life, she added that in retrospect, “I just wish I wouldn’t have been so hard on myself. Let my ‘off camera’ be the girl I felt I was ‘on camera.’”
So now she hopes to pass on that perspective to other girls, including her and husband Dean McDermott’s two daughters, Stella, 11, and Hattie, 8.
“(Because) of Donna Martin, I tell my girls everyday they are good enough, smart, beautiful, and can be anyone they want to be," she explained. “But never be who everyone expects you to be.”
McDermott was quick to respond to his wife’s post with a message her younger self would have appreciated.
“I would watch Beverly Hills 90210 because I had such a crush on this lady,” he wrote. “Can’t believe she’s my wife now.”