As we discussed yesterday, Valerie Bertinelli is on the cover of People. Valerie turned 60 on April 23. For anyone who doesn’t know, Valerie landed her breakout role of Barbara Cooper on One Day at a Time at the age of 15. It seemed that from that moment forward, all eyes were on her, scrutinizing her journey into adulthood and pinup and later a rock star’s girlfriend/wife. Only according to Valerie, that scrutiny started much earlier, and it was brutal. Valerie told People that when she was in 5th grade, her teacher fat-shamed her.
As Valerie Bertinelli approached her 60th birthday this April, she knew it was time for a change. But not one focused on her weight, something she had struggled with for decades. This time, she knew it was time to look inside.
“Gaining weight, losing weight, gaining weight, losing weight,” she tells PEOPLE. “I’d never dealt with the any of the emotions.”
It’s a topic the TV star and host of Valerie’s Home Cooking on the Food Network explores in this week’s PEOPLE, as she opens up about her search for self acceptance, one that comes from a new and kinder place.
“I was always trying to be better. Thinner. Nicer. Prettier,” she says.
“I remember my fifth grade teacher patted me on the belly and said, ‘You might want to keep an eye on that,’ ” she recalls. “That was the first time I became really aware of my body.”
“My mom had made me these green hot pants with a bib. I was wearing green tights and a turtleneck. I thought I was stylin,'” she adds with a laugh.
“Now I think: ‘how dare he?’ ” she says. “At that age we’re so full of joy and then to have someone slap you for nothing. For just standing there. Now I can be angry for that little girl. It feels like so much time wasted. I don’t want anyone else to waste any time.”
“At that age we’re so full of joy and then to have someone slap you for nothing.” Did anyone else’s stomach just clench? I can remember exactly where I was standing and what I was wearing when a relative told me I’d better start learning how to suck in my stomach. I, too, was in fifth grade. I’d had kids draw me as a blimp and tease me about my weight prior, and it hurt, but somehow I was able to process their actions as just mean. But when an adult, an authority figure, said something, it became truth and I became truly flawed. At least I was just a kid in public school, poor Valerie had to face the analysis of the whole country, not to mention all the Hollywood people who constantly suggested she lose a few pounds or drop a dress size. Then, at age 20, she meets and marries Eddie Van Halen. Eddie wasn’t just some guitarist in a band, he was a Rock. God. Not only insanely talented, we found him so flipping hot. Everyone wanted Eddie and they were sure as hell going to rip whomever he was with apart.
The People article on Valerie has a lot more depth than I expected. Valerie told a tragic story about an older brother who died before she was born. Her parents hid this fact from her because they didn’t know how to process it. Plus, Valerie was so young when she had to deal with the destruction her on-air sister and real-life mentor, Mackenzie Phillips, was causing with her drug issues (and her own tragic family life). Not to mention Valerie’s own struggle with drugs (she used cocaine to stay thin). The more I read, the more impressed I am that Valerie is not only delving so far into these issues but willing to share them with us. I hope Valerie finds the peace and joy she’s looking for. She’s earned it.
Photo credit: People, Getty Images and Backgrid