What You Never Knew About Tori Spelling

Tori Spelling became a household name when she was cast as Donna Martin in "Beverly Hills, 90210," the Fox teen drama that transcended mere television to become a full-fledged pop-culture phenomenon. For the aspiring young actor, the job was a dream come true, but there was a catch: The series was produced by her dad, legendary TV producer Aaron Spelling, leading to whispers of nepotism that dogged her for years. 

Despite being born with the proverbial silver spoon in her mouth, Spelling nonetheless made a name for herself in Hollywood independent of her famous father, appearing in numerous films and television series. Unfortunately, they never quite reached the peaks of success she experienced with "90210." In recent years, Spelling has dabbled in reality TV, a hugely hyped but short-lived "Beverly Hills, 90210" reunion series, and has even partnered with former costar and real-life BFF Jennie Garth. Through it all, she's also become a familiar fixture in the celebrity-driven tabloids thanks to her tumultuous personal life and occasionally volatile marriage to Canadian actor Dean McDermott.

Despite her being in the public eye for more than three decades, there's more to this popular and sometimes misunderstood star than meets the eye. Keep reading to discover what you never knew about Tori Spelling.

She grew up in a house so big she never saw all the rooms

To say that Tori Spelling's childhood was atypical is an understatement as large as her parents' famous mansion, nicknamed the Manor. Given that her dad Aaron Spelling produced some of television's hottest hits, his custom-built abode was far from modest. Boasting 123 rooms and more than 56,500 square feet of living space (bigger than the White House), the Manor holds the distinction of being the largest home in Los Angeles, with amenities ranging from a bowling alley to an ice rink.

By the time the home was finally complete, Spelling was 17. As a result, she only wound up living there for two years before moving out on her own. Chatting with cohost Jennie Garth on their "90210MG" podcast, as reported by People, Spelling admitted she "never saw every room" in the house while living there. "You know me, I get exhausted very easily," she explained. "Walking that house, just, phew. Just taking that elevator up to the second floor was like too much to handle." 

While Spelling conceded the home was "fancy," she said it "didn't feel homey." In fact, she recalled that she and her family spent most of their time in the kitchen, their bedrooms, or their mother's office. "I just remember feeling like ... 'This is crazy,'" she said of living in the enormous mansion.

Tori once played Screech's girlfriend on Saved by the Bell

After making her TV debut in a 1981 episode of "Vega$" (another series produced by her dad), Tori Spelling had amassed several screen credits by the time she was hired as a recurring guest star on "Saved by the Bell." All told, Spelling appeared in four episodes as Violet Bickerstaff, girlfriend of Screech (played by Dustin Diamond), and would likely have appeared in more had she not been cast in her star-making role in "Beverly Hills, 90210." As E! News pointed out, Spelling's role on the show led to Screech's first kiss — which was also Diamond's first kiss in real life. 

When Diamond died in 2021, Spelling shared a touching tribute via Instagram, looking back at her "first on-screen kiss" ever. "He welcomed me with open arms onto the set of 'Saved By the Bell,'" she wrote, pointing out how "being the newbie on a hit show was overwhelming for a 14-year-old girl." Remembering Diamond as "a young gentleman," she described him as "kind, smart, and always making everyone laugh ... He's an icon to me professionally and personally."

She alleged being abused while in a relationship with the son of an iconic TV cop

From 1992 until 1995, Tori Spelling dated actor Nick Savalas, son of Telly Savalas, one of TV's top stars during the 1970s (he played a tough-talking, lollipop-sucking New York City cop in "Kojak"). Spelling subsequently alleged that Savalas was abusive, writing in a 2012 blog post (via Us Weekly) about how her "bad boyfriend" exploited her own lack of "self-confidence." She offered more detail in a 2021 Instagram post, offering a birthday tribute to the late "Beverly Hills, 90210" co-star Luke Perry. "Went to brawl literally for me when I was in a verbally abusive relationship," she wrote, apparently alluding to Savalas. 

Not long after they'd broken up, Spelling opened up about the kind of alleged treatment she received from her ex. "It was a nightmare," she said of the relationship in a 1996 interview with Entertainment Weekly. She pointed out that the kind of abuse she received didn't leave bruises, but was nonetheless damaging. "He was never physically abusive, but he was verbally abusive, telling me 10 times a day how ugly I was," she said. "I cried all the time."

If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support at their website.

Tori Spelling had a massive doll collection she didn't want

When she was a child, Tori Spelling collected dolls — or, to be more precise, her mother purchased dolls for her to collect. These weren't any garden-variety dolls, noted the Los Angeles Times, but collectible Madame Alexander dolls. As Spelling detailed in her memoir "sTORI Telling" (excerpted by CNBC), each Christmas and birthday she was given a Madam Alexander doll — whether she wanted one or not.

It's not as if she was able to form any kind of emotional attachment to the dolls; as Spelling wrote, immediately upon unwrapping her gifts, the dolls "were whisked away, tags still attached, to a special display case in my room that had a spotlight for each doll. No way in hell was I allowed to dress and undress them or (God forbid!) cut their hair ... all I had was a new, untouchable doll to add to my expensive collection."

Her mother, however, had been in love with those dolls since her own childhood and assumed her daughter would appreciate them as much as she did. "I didn't want to hurt her feelings, so I always thanked her and acted excited," Spelling wrote.

She's had a difficult relationship with her mom

Tori Spelling's parents, Aaron and Candy Spelling, spared no expense when it came to their children. As Spelling wrote in her book "sTORI Telling," as excerpted by CNBC, that was evident when her dad rented a snow-making machine to create a snowstorm in their Beverly Hills backyard at Christmas. In fact, she explained, extravagant displays of wealth were substituted for actual affection — the greater the amount spent, the greater the love. Yet lurking within this opulence was a constant striving for perfection, characterized by the time 12-year-old Spelling asked her mom if she was pretty. "You will be when we get your nose done," her mother replied.

That mother-daughter relationship eventually came to be so strained, noted ABC News, that they didn't even speak to each other on the day her father died. Spelling found out about her father's death via an email from a friend, she wrote.

At the time the book was published, in 2008, Spelling described the current state of her relationship with her mom. "I love my mom. My mom loves me. We don't have an easy relationship. I don't think we ever will, but I'd rather have a complicated, misunderstood relationship than have no relationship at all," she explained.

Tori Spelling's marriage began in scandal

When Tori Spelling signed on to star in the 2005 Lifetime movie "Mind Over Murder," she had no idea that her costar Dean McDermott would one day become her husband and the father of her five children. During filming, she and McDermott began a torrid affair that was particularly problematic due to the fact that both were married to other people at the time: Spelling to actor Charlie Shahnaian, and McDermott to Canadian television personality Mary Jo Eustace.   

Due to their affair, both of those marriages ended messily (Shahnaian told GQ, via Heavy, that he learned of the affair in the National Enquirer). Ultimately, though, Spelling and McDermott enjoyed a happy ending when they eventually wed in Fiji in May 2006 (per People).

Spelling revealed that she and McDermott's relationship was even more scandalous than anyone realized. "We had sex the first night we met," she divulged in an episode of her reality show "True Tori," as reported by Entertainment Tonight. However, she explained, their attraction wasn't just carnal. "It wasn't like, 'oh, just get your rocks off, have sex with someone just to have sex,' you know?" she said. "It was a conscious decision, like, fell head over heels for you."

Her husband's infidelity formed the basis of a reality show

Despite their controversial beginnings, Tori Spelling and Dean McDermott quickly settled into domesticity. A year after their wedding, they started a family, welcoming their first child in 2007. By 2017, the couple had five children.

Their marriage was rocked in 2013 when McDermott, then 47, was in Toronto filming a Canadian TV show when he had an affair with 28-year-old Emily Goodhand, as Us Weekly reported. Spelling, who had ended her first marriage due to her own infidelity with McDermott, now found herself on the other side of that particular equation. Publicly humiliated and at a crossroads with her marriage, the mother of five decided not to divorce but to try to repair her marriage. She honed in on a particularly unique way to do it: undergo marriage counseling with her unfaithful husband while filming the sessions for a reality show titled "True Tori." 

Years later, during an episode of her "90210MG" podcast, Spelling was asked if she regretted doing the show. "I don't regret the first season. I regret the second season," she said, noting that "True Tori" — the first season, at least — "was about me expressing myself at a moment in time where I felt like I wanted to have a voice and a voice for women everywhere who were going through what I was going through at the time."

Tori was born into wealth, but isn't great with money

Growing up, money was never something that Tori Spelling ever worried about; Celebrity Net Worth estimated that her father, Aaron Spelling, was worth $600 million at the time of his death. However, as ABC News reported, she only inherited a paltry fraction of that fortune, a little less than $1 million. As she'd never had to worry about things like budgeting or balancing a checkbook, Spelling continued to spend as she always had. This brought her to the brink of financial disaster in 2016, when American Express sued her over her $87,000 unpaid credit card bill, and the state of California placed a lien of nearly $260,000 on her home due to unpaid taxes. 

"It's no mystery why I have money problems," Spelling told ABC News. "I grew up beyond anyone's dreams. I never knew anything else."

Interviewed by omg! Insider (via Yahoo! Entertainment), Spelling admitted the financial decisions she's made over the years were not the best. "They were really bad ones," she conceded. "I am not great with money," she confirmed while answering viewer questions in her web series "Tori Tried and True," noting that she'd had a "business manager" handling her finances since she was 18 years old. "Everything, everything, went to them, so, unfortunately, I never quite learned about money," she said.

She's been in many TV shows beyond Beverly Hills, 90210

While it's no secret that Tori Spelling will always be best known for playing Donna Martin on "Beverly Hills, 90210," her television résumé goes far deeper than that. As an actor, she's appeared in numerous movies and television series, including the Lifetime camp classic "Mother, May I Sleep with Danger," both "Scream 2" and "Scary Movie 2," the television whodunit "Mystery Girls," and the 2019 reboot/takeoff "BH90210." 

In parallel with her acting work, Spelling has also carved out a niche in reality TV, thanks to such reality shows as "So Notorious," "Tori & Dean: Storibook Weddings" (and its spinoffs "Tori & Dean: Inn Love," "Tori & Dean: Cabin Fever," and "Tori & Dean: Sweet Home Hollywood"), "True Tori," and, most recently, "@Home with Tori." 

Speaking with Us Weekly, Spelling explained her longstanding attraction to reality television. "I like being able to be myself and be authentic," she said. "I feel like [being on reality TV] ties me closer to people and to the public. So I like having fun with [it]."

Tori Spelling is a bestselling author

In the midst of her acting roles and reality TV projects, Tori Spelling has also established herself as a bestselling author. In fact, she's written six books, starting with her 2008 memoir "sTORI Telling," which launched her literary career auspiciously when it hit No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list (via People). She followed that up with "Mommywood" (detailing her adventures in motherhood) in 2009, "Uncharted TerriTORI" and the children's book "Presenting ... Tallulah" (both published in 2010), her Martha Stewart-esque entertaining guide "celebraTORI" in 2012, and "Spelling It Like It Is" in 2013.

Back in 2010, when she was in the process of writing her third book, Spelling shared some insight into her writing process with People (via MTV). "With two kids, it's hard to find down time to write, so I often write during their nap time," she divulged. "Whenever something happens that makes me laugh or if I remember something in the middle of the night that I want to share, I jot the experience down."

One of her reality shows was hit with a $60M lawsuit

One of Tori Spelling's many reality shows wound up delivering not just viewers, but also legal trouble. As The Hollywood Reporter reported, her 2011 series "Tori & Dean: sTORIbook Weddings" led to her being sued for a whopping $60 million by three men who alleged that she and husband Dean McDermott ripped off an idea that they'd come up with.

The three men — Denny O'Neil Jr., Jake P. Hall, and Charles W. Malcolm ― included a laundry list of allegations, ranging from false advertising to unfair business practices, in their claim that the couple stole an idea for a TV show. That show, which they claimed to come up with in 2007, was called "Wedding Rescue," and was actually intended to star Spelling and McDermott. According to the lawsuit, the idea was filed with the Writers Guild and was even pitched to the Oxygen network, which declined to pick up the show but then produced the "uncannily similar" series "sTORIbook Weddings" several years later.

According to court documents obtained by RadarOnline, shortly before the case was set to go to trial, Spelling and the other defendants settled the case for an undisclosed sum.

Tori has costumed up for The Masked Singer — twice!

Since its debut in 2019, Fox's wacky singing competition "The Masked Singer" has welcomed a diverse array of celebrities to showcase their vocal chops while hidden beneath elaborate costumes, ranging from formers Sex Pistols frontman Johnny Rotten to rapper Wiz Khalifa to ex-NYC mayor Rudy Giuliani

Tori Spelling was among the celebs to appear in the show's first season, when she was unmasked and revealed to be the person concealed in the unicorn costume. For Spelling, who admitted she'd been teased about her lack of singing ability all her life, appearing on the show was something of a redemptive mission to prove she actually can sing. "I'm sad it took me this long in life to feel confident and feel like I could do something like this, but I'm glad 'The Masked Singer' brought it out in me," she said on the show, via Today.

Spelling apparently enjoyed the experience so much that she took to the stage a second time, competing in 2022 as "the Poodle" in the Australian version of "The Masked Singer."