Whether you know her from her many years on television, her well-known presence in the weight loss world, or simply her years married to a rock star, Valerie Bertinelli seems to be that young girl-turned-woman who Hollywood has comfortably come to know. However, Bertinelli is now speaking up and out about her inner-struggles and the pressures she has felt for much of her life surrounding body image and self-worth in her new book Enough Already: Learning to Love the Way I Am Today.
“I think I’m just so old right now that I just don’t give a flying f***,” Bertinelli, 61, reveals to me with a laugh about why she decided to write this book. “I don’t care so much what people think of me anymore. I care more about what I think about myself. Why do I go into self-loathing and why do I do this? I have a blessed life that I’m incredibly grateful for – why would I feel this way? So it’s trying to dig through all of that crap and the lies. From a very young age, I learned that weight gain makes you unlovable, which is a lie, but I’m still at this age trying to dig it all out. I bought into all the diet industry and all of it. I was on the cover of a magazine in a bikini and it still didn’t make me happy.”
In the late 2000s and early 2010s, Bertinelli dedicated a significant amount of her time as an upbeat spokesperson for Jenny Craig, where she consistently documented her weight loss journey for all the world to see. Over the years, the expectations from the public and self-loathing moments on Bertinelli’s part has taken a painful toll on her mental and physical health, so much so that she decided to share an emotional video post on Instagram back on December 23, 2021. The video has gone viral since and Bertinelli’s heartfelt words and feelings continue to receive mostly positive comments from her supportive friends & fans, many expressing gratitude to Bertinelli for speaking her truth – similar confessions that Bertinelli candidly shares within her new book.
“I’m still uncomfortable sometimes when I see a photo of myself because I don’t picture myself looking like that – but yet, I’m doing the work and I’m hoping one day the work that I’m doing, my body will follow. If it doesn’t, I can’t hold onto that. I have to just really, truly love who I am today. Who am I being kind to? Am I being kind to myself? Am I treating people the way that I want to be treated? Are we doing the things that make us really good, solid human beings? Who gives a flying fig what the number is on the scale? It never made me happy anyway. No matter how low it was, it wasn’t low enough. If it was too high, it was Oh my god, I might as well kill myself. I can’t let anybody see me. I can’t live like that anymore. I just can’t. I won’t!”
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Being a Hollywood star since she was a young teenager on the set of her hit television series One Day at a Time (1975-1984), I wondered in what ways has Bertinelli noticed the Hollywood industry change over the years and in what ways has it remained the same since her impressionable and insecure start in what can often be a demanding business.
“Well there’s still a lot of old white men running a lot of this and they still have that old, patriarchal, misogynistic attitude, so there’s a lot of that to cut through. Women are making strides, we definitely are. And honestly, I can’t even say it’s only men. There’s some women out there doing the same thing. I don’t know when or if we’ll ever stop judging people by the way that they look. I do have hope, though, because I see so many young people coming up and saying No, I’m more than that. So, I have hope that the younger generation is not going to take the bullshit anymore.”
As much as Bertinelli recalls rough times in her career, she also holds onto the happy times, especially when she played Melanie Moretti on the critically-acclaimed comedy series Hot In Cleveland (2010-2015).
“Those were the most five magical years being able to work with Betty [White], Jane [Leeves], and Wendie [Malick]. They’re all such pros – just so good. There were no divas on the set. We had the best time! Oh, I’d give anything to have those five years over again and I knew it at the time. I remember saying to myself Remember this. This doesn’t happen. Just enjoy every second of this. And I was able to live in the moment a little bit more than I usually do.”
Arguably the biggest news coming out of Hollywood over the past few weeks was the passing of Bertinelli’s dear friend and Hot In Cleveland co-star Betty White at the age of 99, just three weeks shy of turning 100. As the world undoubtedly celebrates the extravagant life & career of White on what have been her milestone birthday on January 17, I asked Bertinelli what her plans are on that special day to honor the Hollywood legend and life-long animal advocate.
“I plan to have a vodka on the rocks with a twist of lemon, a hot dog, and to give money to Rock And Roll Rescue which is a beautiful rescue group here in California that takes care of pets that need helping – animals that need our help and they’re a great rescue, so that’s what I plan to do.”
Over the past couple of years, Bertinelli has faced the loss of multiple loved ones including her ex-husband and songwriter/guitarist of the rock band Van Halen, Eddie Van Halen. Even after their divorce was finalized in 2007, Bertinelli and Van Halen remained close up to his fatal stroke in 2020, following his long battle with cancer. Now more than a year since his death, what does Bertinelli remember most about the man she simply refers to as “Ed”?
“His heart,” Bertinelli says with a sense of ease. “He struggled so much during his life with his pain and not knowing how to deal with it. I could relate to it because I dealt with my pain in a separate way with abusing food and he abused drugs & alcohol. I know that it killed him to cause pain and it was just nice to say in the last five or six years of his life that he was making up for all of that. Not that he needed to make amends but I wanted to see his heart calm. I wanted to see his soul calm, so that he wasn’t feeling such grief and regret over the things he had done through his life. I think he got there – I hope he did.”
“Ugh, well it’s impossible to be even more proud of him than I am,” Bertinelli gushes about her son. “Only Ed could like surpass me in that. When I found out that [’Wolfie’] was nominated for a Grammy after I talked to him, I really so badly wanted to call Ed. It was driving me crazy. I’m so amazed at his work ethic. I love being around him. ‘Wolfie’ is the best version of me and Ed. He’s so far (laughs) a better human being than me or Ed ever will be or were.”
As she looks to the future in 2022, Bertinelli says that she keeps thinking of retiring but remembers that she has so much more that she looks to say and do moving forward. She goes on to say that she plans on hosting another season of her Emmy-winning Food Network series Valerie’s Home Cooking. She also says she plans to go to Italy this year to film a show for Discovery Food Network as she will look to uncover her roots there and the origin of the dishes she was raised upon in her Italian family.
Plans are also in the works for Bertinelli to return to her comedy sitcom roots. “I’m going to shoot a pilot for television, a multi-cam show that I’m super excited about with the same person who wrote and developed Hot In Cleveland, Suzanne Martin. I’m going to be doing that with Demi Lovato and they are amazing, so I’m really excited! I have a lot of work ahead of me but it’s all fun.”
Reflecting on a life & career filled with highs-and-lows, Bertinelli is fearlessly taking the reins on loving and embracing all that she is today, as she continues on her passionate path in Hollywood. “I think that I believe in myself a little bit more. I used to not think of myself in that way, that I am a businesswoman – and honestly, it’s my least favorite part of what I do, but I think I’m smarter than I give myself credit for. I do know when to hold for my worth and I’ve done that.”
As my incredibly open conversation with Bertinelli came to a close, I left this inspiring individual with one final question: If you could go back to the little Valerie Bertinelli in 1975 who was just getting her first big break in Hollywood with One Day at a Time and could give her some comforting words or a warning you wish you would have known or heard back then, what would you Valerie today like to tell that little Valerie?
Without hesitation, Bertinelli says, “You’re not fat. You’re beautiful, just as you are.”