The Stunning Transformation Of Valerie Bertinelli

It's not surprising to hear that Valerie Bertinelli means a lot of things to everyone. That's just the kind of celebrity that she has always been. The Wilmington, Delaware native boasts of a career that spans over five decades, a feat that some celebrities could only hope to achieve. And while many dabble in different genres, Bertinelli pursued just about anything that felt right.

Over the years, she has successfully reinvented herself time and time again as she ventured into television and film, resulting in Daytime Emmy and Golden Globe wins, along with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Bertinelli did all these while dealing with heartbreak, divorce, and loss in the public eye. And she faced all these head-on while also raising a son. A powerful speech on a video Bertinelli once posted on Instagram says it all: "You can't take down a woman who uses the worst things that ever happened to her as fuel for her greatest victories..."

Valerie Bertinelli was born under tragic circumstances

When Valerie Bertinelli came into this world, her parents were still reeling from unfathomable loss. Just before she was born, her older brother, Mark, died when he was just 17 months old. The circumstances that led to his death were also shocking. During an interview with People in 2020, Bertinelli revealed that her parents were visiting a friend's farm when Mark wandered off and drank from a soda pop bottle. Instead of soda, however, the bottle contained poison.

According to the child's death certificate, he died at St. Joseph's Hospital in Lackawanna County in Carbondale, Pennsylvania. His death was ruled accidental, caused by the "ingestion of D.D.T. solution." In the 1940s, DDT began being used as an insecticide to reduce the spread of insect-borne diseases. In 1972, the EPA issued a cancellation order against its use as it poses many serious health and environmental risks. Since then, DDT has also been classified as a "probable human carcinogen."

As for Bertinelli, she didn't know about her late brother's tragic story until she was already in her teens. "The subject was too painful. My parents kept the tragedy locked inside," she told People.

She caught her acting bug when she moved to California

As a child, Valerie Bertinelli was used to moving around a lot with her father working as an executive at General Motors. At one point, the family settled down in Van Nuys, California. The closer she got to Hollywood, the more Bertinelli realized that she could be a star one day. It all began when she met a girl whose father was a television producer. And while Bertinelli wasn't sure about becoming an actor, she knew right there that she wanted to appear on television. When she got home, she spoke with her parents about acting school. Coincidentally, Bertinelli's mom also chanced upon an ad for the Tami Lynn Academy of Artists. Just like that, she already felt closer.

Soon, Bertinelli started attending acting school with Tami Lynn herself as her teacher. And while she enjoyed being taught by Lynn, Bertinelli wasn't prepared for everything else that the school put its aspiring actors through. "I struggled through the exercises and recitations, the tongue twisters, and the routines we learned for auditioning properly," the star once wrote in her book "Losing It: And Gaining My Life Back One Pound at a Time." Despite this, however, it seems that Bertinelli still managed to win Lynn over as she soon became Bertinelli's manager.

Valerie booked her first acting role at 12

Having secured a manager, Valerie Bertinelli was ready for her first acting gig, even if she was just 12. At that time, she had only been attending acting school for six months. Just like that, Bertinelli found herself doing an Easter commercial for department store chain JCPenney. In the commercial, she had to eat a chocolate Easter bunny, but the experience wasn't as fun as it may sound. It was still work after all. "The director barked at me for not eating a chocolate bunny with enough enthusiasm, and, when I overheard one of the lighting guys say that I looked "flat," I assumed that he meant my face," Bertinelli recalled in her book, "Losing It."

And while some may have thought that Bertinelli was on a roll after her JCPenney gig, it wasn't the case. Instead, she struggled to book other roles soon after. Her family also had to move to Oklahoma for her father's job, allowing Bertinelli some time to get her mind off acting briefly. However, it was still all she could think about. "I was more serious about acting than I'd previously thought," she wrote in her book later on. Fortunately for Bertinelli, her father's stint in Oklahoma would soon end and the family headed back to California.

She made her television debut two years later

Upon returning to L.A., Valerie Bertinelli didn't waste her time going out for roles once more. And while she didn't land anything right way, she eventually started booking more commercials. These include one for Wyler's lemonade, StarKist tuna, and a brand of corn chips. Then, it happened: Bertinelli booked her first proper TV job. It was a small guest spot in the series "Apple's Way," a drama about a family adjusting to small-town life in Iowa. In one episode, Bertinelli appeared as a young girl named Peggy, although behind the scenes, there was some confusion about that initially.

During the audition, Bertinelli read for the part of Sally, which is why she had no idea that she was playing Peggy by the time they were filming. Because of this, she failed to deliver her line the first time that the director yelled, "Action." It was quite an embarrassing moment for Bertinelli, but she eventually managed to learn her actual lines and deliver them. It also led to an important realization. "Looking back, I know that experience gave me some important seasoning: I got stronger from knowing that I could survive such an embarrassing gaffe," the actress wrote in "Losing It."

Her breakout role came at 15

Sometimes, in Hollywood, it matters who you know. Now, a much younger Valerie Bertinelli may not have been well-connected yet back in the 70s, but Tami Lynn, her teacher turned manager, knew Norman Lear. At that time, Lear was one of the most successful showrunners in the business, having been behind popular series such as "All in the Family," "Maude," and "Good Times." Back then, Lear was developing his best show yet: a sitcom revolving around a single mother and her daughter. Originally titled "All About Us," the show already had Bonnie Franklin playing the mother and Mackenzie Phillips, the daughter. But then, Lear later made a few more changes to the show, giving Bonnie's character a boyfriend and another daughter.

As Lear looked for the perfect young actress to complete the cast, his casting director, Jane Murray, saw a photo of Bertinelli in an actor's directory. Murray thought that Bertinelli looked like Lear's youngest daughter and asked to have the actress audition. After going up against several girls her age, she eventually got the part of Barbara Cooper in what would be known as "One Day at a Time." Decades later, the show got a reboot but unfortunately, Bertinelli wasn't able to appear for a cameo. "We were almost able to work something out," the actress told Entertainment Weekly. "I had one day off and I was flying in the night before and I had to start my show the next day and I think it was just too much."

Valerie made her big screen debut soon after

"One Day at a Time" ran for nine seasons and kept Valerie Bertinelli quite busy. Nonetheless, she was determined to keep going. Bertinelli also wanted to venture onto the big screen. "When Valerie was 18, she wanted to make the move into feature films or TV movies," Jack Grossbart, Bertinelli's agent-turned-manager, told the Los Angeles Times in 1986. Bertinelli eventually landed a role in the TV movie "Young Love, First Love." Grossbart added, "The part was a young girl coming to terms with her sexuality. We said, 'This she should do, even if she's not paid a lot of money.' The point was to get something under her belt that was different." Around the same time, she also landed one of the lead roles in the sci-fi comedy "C.H.O.M.P.S." The film tells the story of a man who created a robot dog and a greedy man who wants to steal it from him. "C.H.O.M.P.S." would fail at the box office, but it wouldn't stop Bertinelli from scoring more roles, nonetheless.

In the years that followed, the actress went on to do more television movies. These include the romantic drama "The Promise of Love," the dramedy "The Princess and the Cabbie," and the rom-com "I Want a Mail Order Bride."

She met first love Eddie Van Halen in 1980

One might say that Valerie Bertinelli owes her first romance to an actors' strike. There had been one back in 1980, which was how the actress found herself in Shreveport, Louisiana, staying at her parents' home with backstage passes to a Van Halen concert. After seeing Eddie Van Halen's photo, she decided to go. When Bertinelli and Van Halen finally met backstage, sparks flew and the two soon started dating. Just a year later, they tied the knot.

For Bertinelli, life as a newlywed meant focusing on her career and supporting her husband's performances at the same time. The couple stayed with each other whenever possible, even when David Lee Roth, Van Halen's former bandmate wasn't particularly happy with Bertinelli. "I don't know why he didn't like me. I mean, I was always nice to him. I honestly don't know," she once said on the "Literally! With Rob Lowe" podcast (via Today).

Years after getting married, Bertinelli and Van Halen welcomed a son, Wolfgang, in 1991. He would prove to be an incredible musician, just like his father. Wolfgang later joined his dad's band and became their bassist. At that time, he was only 15. Wolfgang also later scored a Grammy nod for best rock song.

In 1993, Valerie scored her next major TV role

Years after starring in "One Day at a Time," Valerie Bertinelli decided to pursue episodic projects once again. It was a bit of a struggle at first. Back in 1990, she played the titular character in the short-lived comedy "Sydney" where she plays a private investigator solving cases with her younger cop brother (played by Matthew Perry) after she moves back home from New York. The show only lasted one season. The same thing also happened to "Café Americain," the comedy where Bertinelli plays an American woman working at a café in Paris.

In 2001, the actress was also tapped to join the cast of the family drama "Touched by an Angel," which includes Roma Downey and Della Reese. On the show, executive producer Martha Williamson wrote Bertinelli in as its latest angel, Gloria. "We never, ever seriously considered another person," she even told Entertainment Weekly. As for Bertinelli, "Touched by an Angel" turned out to be exactly the television project that she was looking for. "It's a nice reminder every day that God is around us," the actress said. "And sometimes I need that reminder when life gets a little too crazy and hectic, and there's just not enough time to sit still."

By 2001, her marriage was on the rocks

Van Halen and Valerie Bertinelli may have looked like the perfect couple to everyone, but they were dealing with some issues in their marriage privately. "He had his responsibilities of what he had to do, and I had my responsibilities," Bertinelli once confessed while on "The Oprah Winfrey Show." "And we thought if you just live in the same house there would be a connection, but no." As they drifted apart, Bertinelli also revealed that she once discovered Van Halen having an affair. She also overheard him confessing to his other woman that he wanted to end their marriage. Despite this, they stayed together, even as Bertinelli became unfaithful herself. Eventually, however, it all proved to be too much for the couple.

Bertinelli and Van Halen split up in 2001 before getting divorced in 2007. Bertinelli would later explain that they decided to split for the sake of their son, Wolfgang. "Ed and I weren't treating each other like two people that loved each other, and that's what Wolfie was seeing," she explained. And while they were no longer together, the former couple maintained an amicable relationship. Back in 2020, Bertinelli and Wolfgang were also by Van Halen's side just before he passed away from cancer.

In 2007, Valerie conquered her weight issues with Jenny Craig

In the same year that Valerie Bertinelli got divorced from Eddie Van Halen, her latest TV movie, "Claire," came out and the actress was horrified. Seeing herself onscreen made her realize how much weight she had already put on. "The sight of myself was too much for me to tolerate," Bertinelli recalled while on "The Oprah Winfrey Show." That said, she knew very well how she got there. When she was still working on "Touched by an Angel," Bertinelli would be by herself in Utah. And at that time, she looked to jalapeño and cheese poppers for comfort. "I was on a significant dosage: at least nine a night and sometimes more," the actress even recalled in an excerpt from her book "Losing It" (via Today). By 2007, she already weighed 172 pounds. That's when Bertinelli realized that she had to do something about it.

At the urging of her friend Kirstie Alley, she agreed to sign on a spokeswoman for Jenny Craig. "Valerie, it's not about the weight. What's going to happen is you're going to quit hiding and discover the real you," Bertinelli even recalled Alley telling her. Once she joined the Jenny Craig program, Bertinelli committed to it and in just a matter of months, she lost 40 pounds. To celebrate, the actress posed for the cover of People magazine, showing off her bikini body just before she celebrated her 49th birthday.

That same year, she started writing books

As busy as Valerie Bertinelli was with her career and family, she went ahead and pursued another career: becoming a book author. Back in July 2007, it was announced that the actress and Jenny Craig spokeswoman was going to write the memoir, "Losing It: And Gaining My Life Back One Pound at a Time," which chronicles her weight loss journey. Bertinelli also thought that after everything that she had gone through, it made perfect sense to put everything in writing. "I've grown up in and out of the public eye, survived some tough times, learned some important lessons, and come out — as has my entire family — in a great place. I think it's a recipe for a good book," she said in a statement to Associated Press (via CTV News).

Meanwhile, Bertinelli has also written several other books since then. In 2010, she followed up "Losing It" with "Finding It: And Finally Satisfying My Hunger for Life" and later on, "Enough Already: Learning to Love the Way I Am Today," which was published in 2023. Over the years, Bertinelli has also worked on several recipe books.

She did another hit TV sitcom in 2010

As she balanced life as an actress and book author, Valerie Bertinelli also found herself returning to episodic television again for the sitcom "Hot in Cleveland." The TV Land comedy tells the story of three middle-aged best friends who were supposed to be flying from L.A. to Paris when their plane made an emergency landing in Cleveland. Just like that, the women decided to stay in Cleveland. The show boasts of a cast that includes Bertinelli, Jane Leeves, Wendie Malick, and the late Betty White.

By the time creator Suzanne Martin had reached out to Bertinelli, White had already signed on. "Yes, she was the bait...," the actress said of White during an interview with Associated Press (via The Christian Science Monitor). And while some initially wondered if "Hot in Cleveland" would make a mockery of Cleveland, that was never the intention. "These women are discovering what people discover when they actually go to Cleveland — what a great place it is," Bertinelli told

"Hot in Cleveland" went on for six seasons. During its run, the show nabbed seven Emmy nominations and one win. Meanwhile, Bertinelli never got over TV Land canceling the show. "I think it was the stupidest thing they ever did," she even once remarked during a press tour, according to The Wrap.

Valerie gave marriage another shot in 2011, but it wouldn't last

After Valerie Bertinelli and Eddie Van Halen got divorced, it took a few years before Bertinelli found love again. In 2004, her brother, Patrick, introduced her to businessman Tom Vitale. Both were divorced and both had Italian roots. They were a perfect match. "We just understood each other completely," Vitale even told AARP. "My family is her family. It wasn't love at first sight; it was family at first sight."

And while Bertinelli struggled with weight issues for most of her life, being with Vitale made her feel good. "I've never felt more beautiful at any weight than when Tom looks at me," the actress said. "He loved me no matter what. In his way, he's teaching me to love myself just as I am." The couple later got engaged in March 2010 and tied the knot less than a year later during a New Year's Day ceremony in 2011.

After 10 years together, however, Bertinelli filed for legal separation in 2021 with the actress clarifying that the death of her first husband, Eddie Van Halen, didn't influence her decision to split. She also filed for divorce from Vitale in 2022, citing irreconcilable differences. Soon after, things got a little nasty between the former couple after Vitale challenged the validity of their prenuptial agreement and attempted to block Bertinelli from seeking spousal support. Bertinelli later settled, agreeing to pay her former husband $2.2 million. Since then, the actress has also said that she's done with romance.

She became a Food Network star in 2015

When TV Land decided to axe "Hot in Cleveland," Valerie Bertinelli was devastated. But she also had another job already waiting for her. In 2014, Food Network announced that the actress would be joining their family with her very own show called "Valerie's Home Cooking" with "Hot in Cleveland" co-stars Betty White, Jane Leeves, and Wendie Malick appearing in the premiere episode.

Unbeknownst to many, it was Bertinelli who had initiated the conversation with the Food Network, having tuned into the channel for as long as she could remember. "When the Food Network came on, I had it on all the time in my house," she once told The Denver Post. "Some people had CNN on, I had the Food Network going on all the time. To be on it now is really surreal." Since signing with them, Food Network also gradually introduced Bertinelli to its viewers, giving her appearances in its mainstay programs such as "Guilty Pleasures" and "Kids Baking Championship." Later on, Bertinelli also went on to become a host of "Kids Baking Championship" alongside Food Network star Duff Goldman.

And while Bertinelli had been one of the most recognizable stars on Food Network since, the actress/host shocked fans with the announcement that the network let her go without warning. "I got a text by a third party on Friday that told me I would not be back. LOL I was basically ghosted," she posted on X on January 21, 2024.

Valerie has been focused on living her best life

Despite everything that happened with the Food Network, Valerie Bertinelli has maintained that doesn't have any ill will toward the company or anyone who works there. "I enjoyed every single moment I worked for them, and they are all lovely, kind, hard-working people," she wrote in another post on X. Since her divorce from Tom Vitale, Bertinelli has also been more focused on taking care of herself.

Back in November 2023, the actress/author/host also revealed her latest book, "Indulge: Delicious and Decadent Dishes to Enjoy and Share." For Bertinelli, the project is a celebration of how far she's come following years of heartache, divorces, and weight loss struggles. Since then, she's also been happier with herself and her relationship with food. "I have stopped counting calories, and I stopped thinking of certain foods as good or bad. I quit saying no and began saying yes. And I let myself indulge," Bertinelli told People.