Valerie Bertinelli's Transformation Is Seriously Turning Heads

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Valerie Bertinelli has played many leading roles in her lifetime: award-winning television actress, teenage celebrity, rock star wife, and culinary host, to name just a few. Along the way, she's had plenty of highs (marriage, the birth of her child, a successful career change) and some notable lows (divorce and body image struggles amongst them). All told, Bertinelli has acquired enough stories to fill a book — or three, to be exact. Some of these stories are well known, but many are not and could be pretty surprising. 

Any way you choose to look at her story, the truth is that Valerie Bertinelli is a very different person today than who she was back in the 1970s. So how did she go from winning awards as a beloved teenage actress to whipping up trays of lasagna as host of her own Food Network show? Let's take a look at how Valerie Bertinelli's transformation is seriously turning heads.

Valerie Bertinelli's family moved often

Valerie Bertinelli was born in Wilmington, Delaware in 1960. According to People, she was the third of five children (and the only girl) born to Nancy and Andrew Bertinelli. Her father's job as an executive at General Motors required him to relocate often, meaning Valerie's family moved frequently as she was growing up. To this day, Bertinelli refers to herself as a "GM brat" (via MSN).

In the early 1970s, when she was in her early teens, Bertinelli's father was transferred to a General Motors plant in Detroit and the whole family packed up and moved to Michigan. Not long after, Andrew was reassigned again, this time to California. Although all the moving made it hard for Bertinelli to make friends, this move would prove to be particularly fortuitous. While living in California, Bertinelli befriended the daughter of a television producer. Unbeknownst to her at the time, this would prove to be the start to her ascension to stardom.

Her family suffered a tragic loss before her birth

Valerie Bertinelli's parents had four sons, but Valerie herself has only known three of them. According to People, when Bertinelli's mother was still pregnant with her, her brother Mark died suddenly. He was just 17 months old. "When I came into the world, my mom was grieving," she told People. "He died in the most horrible way. They were visiting a friends' farm and he wandered off unsupervised and drank poison out of a bottle that wasn't supposed to have poison in it. It was a soda pop bottle."

Bertinelli, however, didn't learn about her brother's death until she was a teenager. "The subject was too painful. My parents kept the tragedy locked inside," she recalled. While keeping it a secret may have been hard to understand at the time, Bertinelli learned to appreciate the way her parents handled the trauma years later when she became a mother herself. 

"I was holding [my son] Wolfie who was 17 months old and thinking how did my mom survive?" Bertinelli said. "She had to keep going and I learned that from her. She had to carry on. She had a very hard life. She always tried to make the best of everything."

Valerie Bertinelli's love of cooking started at a young age

Although she wouldn't come to be known for her culinary skills until later in life, Valerie Bertinelli's love of cooking started at a very early age, per Food Network. It was Bertinelli's family that introduced her to the culinary world. "I [remember] sitting on the stool watching my nonni roll out gnocchi, cappelletti and fry bread, and asking me what I wanted in the fry bread, whether I wanted it sweet or savory, jelly or cheese," Bertinelli said. "I still have her rolling pin, and it's probably one of my most-prized possessions." 

Her mother, who always cooked all three of the family's meals each day from scratch, was another big culinary influence. "My mom had a wonderful risotto that I still haven't perfected," she says. "She really makes a mean roast chicken. I mean, it was perfect every single time, and I still don't know how she did it."

After being surrounded by the wonders of Italian food throughout her childhood, when it came time for Bertinelli to cook her first dish, which she did while she was still just a tween, what meal did she choose? Lasagna, of course.

She became a television star as a teenager

After moving to southern California, Valerie Bertinelli befriended a neighborhood girl who just so happened to be the daughter of a television producer. She was quickly inspired to enroll in acting classes at the Tami Lynn School of Artists. The program helped Bertinelli land her first acting job, appearing in an episode of the television show "Apple's Way" in 1974. Although it was a small role, it was enough to catch the eye of famed television producer Norman Lear, who encouraged her to audition for a new show he was working on called "One Day at a Time." Bertinelli tried out, got the job, and her life was never the same.

"One Day at a Time" premiered in 1975, when Bertinelli was just 15 years old (via Good Housekeeping). The show, a comedy about a divorced mother raising her family, was an immediate hit. Bertinelli's role as witty Barbara Cooper earned her two Golden Globe awards and launched her to stardom. In 2001, more than a decade and a half after "One Day at a Time" ended its nine-season run in 1984, Bertinelli proved her staying power by landing another starring role on a hit show, this time on "Touched by an Angel." She would appear in nearly 50 episodes before the drama wrapped up in 2003.

Bertinelli married a rock star months after meeting him

When Valerie Bertinelli woke up on August 28, 1980, she had no idea she would be meeting her husband that day, says Page Six. She hardly thought that he would be a world-famous musician — but that's precisely what happened.

That night, Bertinelli's brothers invited her to a Van Halen concert, where they were hoping her celebrity status would get them backstage. As it turns out, Bertinelli was happy to oblige. "I took a look at the 8-track cassette that was in the back of my Corvette ... and I saw a picture of [Eddie Van Halen], and I went, 'Oh, yeah, I'll be going. He's a cutie,'" she said. 

The plan worked and the group got backstage, where Bertinelli came face to face with Eddie for the first time. She fell in love immediately. "You had to peel me off the floor," she recalled. A few days after the concert, Van Halen invited Bertinelli out and the two were inseparable from then on. And, in April 1981, a mere eight months after that initial meeting, the famous couple got married. Bertinelli was only 20 years old.

Her tumultuous marriage ended in divorce

Valerie Bertinelli's marriage to Eddie Van Halen was a match made in tabloid heaven, but things were not as picture-perfect as they may have seemed. Bertinelli had trouble keeping up with her husband's rocker lifestyle and the couple grew apart. "He had his responsibilities of what he had to do, and I had my responsibilities," she told Oprah. "And we thought if you just live in the same house there would be a connection, but no."

The distance led both Bertinelli and Van Halen to become unfaithful in their marriage. Still, the couple, who had a son together, remained married for 20 years. It was with their child in mind that they ultimately chose to divorce. "One of the many reasons that Ed and I split up is to give Wolfie a better vision of what two people who are supposedly in love treat each other like," Bertinelli said. "Ed and I weren't treating each other like two people that loved each other, and that's what Wolfie was seeing." After divorcing in 2007, the couple remained close until Van Halen's death in 2020.

Valerie Bertinelli battled with her weight

"I have obsessed about my weight in some sort of way all my life," Valerie Bertinelli once told Oprah. "I used to write in my journal what I weighed every day." If body image was an issue for Bertinelli before starring on "One Day at a Time," appearing on television next to co-star Mackenzie Phillips only made it significantly worse. "She's always been thin, and I called my hips 'childbearing hips,'" Bertinelli said. "I felt like a fat thing next to her. I look back and want to shake that little girl and say, 'Shut up. You're a beautiful young woman.' I thought I was ugly."

The actress started taking weight loss pills in order to shed some pounds. Although she stopped after just a few months, it would prove to be the start of a lifelong battle with her weight. It all came to a head when she used food to comfort her through her divorce. "Those were some of the darkest days of my life, and I was eating my way through them. I became a hermit," she recalled. 

Bertinelli was driven into action after seeing herself on television. "I felt the urge to run into my room and cry. The sight of myself was too much for me to tolerate," she said. Bertinelli signed on to become a Jenny Craig spokesperson and walked the walk by losing nearly 50 pounds following the diet program.

Valerie Bertinelli was once a Jenny Craig spokesperson

After making her weight battle public, Valerie Bertinelli got a call from diet company Jenny Craig. Not only did they want her to use their program, but they also offered Bertinelli a spokesperson job. So, in 2007, she went to work, both on her diet and for Jenny Craig (via TODAY). Over the next two years, the actress dropped roughly 50 pounds. She celebrated the accomplishment by posing in a bikini for the cover of People. Bertinelli hadn't worn a bikini since she was 20. "I thought, If I'm so afraid of a bikini, there's something wrong. And so I had to get back into one!" she said.

Bertinelli worked for Jenny Craig for six years, but she now admits it's not something she's particularly proud of. This past summer, Bertinelli shared a tearful response to being body-shamed. In return, one commentator brought the former spokesperson's past into question, writing, "You spent decades telling the rest of us to get thin, shilled weight loss shakes, potions & snake oil & NOW wanna be a body shaming warrior?" 

While pointing out she was simply venting and not claiming to be a victim, Bertinelli acknowledged the error of her ways (via Yahoo). "Yes, I spent 6 years 'shilling' for Jenny Craig... I have been buying into the diet industry my whole life and then I became part of the problem, so here I am today receiving the karma of my actions."

She got her own Food Network show in 2015

Valerie Bertinelli has been working in front of the camera since she was a teenager and she's been cooking for even longer. Those two qualities made the people at Food Network believe she would be a perfect culinary host. So, in 2015, Bertinelli was asked to co-host "Kids Baking Championship." 

Later that year, she was given her own cooking show, "Valerie's Home Cooking." The series, which brings viewers into the kitchen with Bertinelli as she shares her favorite family recipes, was never meant to be a full-time job. But things developed differently. "I was doing 'Hot in Cleveland,' and the cooking show was going to be a fun summer thing to do," she told The Philadelphia Inquirer. "Then 'Hot in Cleveland' was canceled, and I still had my cooking show and it did very well."

"Valerie's Home Cooking" now has 12 seasons under its belt. Bertinelli credits the show's success, in part, to her acting background. "Acting, now that I look back, was a setup for doing what I love," she said. "By cooking on camera, it's a whole different animal than cooking at home. Years of training on camera made me able to just cook on camera, and invite people into my kitchen."

Valerie Bertinelli has quite a few awards

Valerie Bertinelli has been working professionally for nearly half a century, plenty of time to accumulate a trophy case full of awards – precisely what she's done. It started in 1981 when she won the first of two consecutive Golden Globes for her work on "One Day at a Time." The show also earned Bertinelli a Young Artist Award nomination in 1981. More recently, the star's acting chops were recognized with a Screen Actors Guild nomination in 2011 for the show "Hot in Cleveland."

It's not just her acting work that's garnered her awards, however. Bertinelli's hosting skills have earned critical acclaim, too. In 2019, she won two Daytime Emmy awards, for Outstanding Culinary Host and Outstanding Culinary Program, for hosting and producing "Valerie's Home Cooking." The show earned her four other Daytime Emmy nominations.

Bertinelli scored another major honor in 2012 when she was immortalized with her own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. "Valerie is one of Hollywood's most popular and loved television actresses and we are proud to honor her with a star on the Walk of Fame," said Leron Gubler, President and CEO of the Hollywood Chamber. Bertinelli's "Hot in Cleveland" co-stars, including Betty White, spoke at the unveiling ceremony.

Valerie Bertinelli is a best-selling author

While most of Bertinelli's life has been spent in the public eye, there's been plenty going on behind the scenes. Fans got a better idea of her roller coaster journey in 2008 when Bertinelli published her memoir "Losing It." In the book, she pulled back the curtain on some hidden parts of her life, including the struggles of being a teenage celebrity and rock star wife. "Losing It" became a New York Times bestseller and led Bertinelli to pen a follow-up the very next year. In "Finding It" she dove deeper into her personal life, discussing everything from her maternal anxieties to her weight.

A few years later, Bertinelli turned back the clock even further and provided an inside look into her childhood, or more specifically, the food she ate as a kid, when she published her first cookbook. "One Dish at a Time" includes more than 100 Italian recipes. Her second cookbook "Valerie's Home Cooking," came out in 2017.

Fans of Bertinelli eager to devour more of her written words are in luck. The actress is set to publish her third memoir in 2022. "Enough Already" covers Bertinelli's life over the past few years, including her career as a television chef and relationship with her new husband (via People).

Her son is following in his father's footsteps

Valerie Bertinelli gave birth to her son, Wolfgang, in March of 1991. To say he was destined to be a musician would be an understatement. Not only was his father Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Eddie Van Halen, but he was also named after composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (via iHeart). According to iHeart, he learned how to play the drums by age nine. Not long after, he began playing guitar and bass. 

At the ripe old age of 15, according to NPR, he joined Van Halen on tour playing bass. "It was fun. I didn't have to go to 11th grade," he said. "It felt more like a family trip. You know, I was just there to support my father. And to be able to be on stage and play music with my uncle and my father every night, it was truly a blessing." Wolfgang has been playing music ever since and just released a solo album in 2021.

Wolfgang's biggest fan, of course, is his mother, whose Instagram handle is @wolfiesmom. As Bertinelli's only biological child (she has four stepchildren, according to AARP), the pair are incredibly close. When asked last year by TODAY what Wolfgang means to her, the television star tearfully responded, "That I know how to do something right."

Valerie Bertinelli is still acting

If you thought Valerie Bertinelli's career transition to professional television chef and host meant she left Hollywood behind, you can think again. The television star is continuing to add credits to her acting resume even now. Since wrapping up a three-year stint on "Touched by an Angel" in 2003, Bertinelli spent the rest of the decade starring in a few made-for-TV movies and some short-lived series. In 2010, she landed her most prominent acting role since she was a teenager, playing Melanie Moretti on "Hot in Cleveland." The hit show, which also starred Hollywood legend Betty White, put Bertinelli back in the limelight.

"Hot in Cleveland" ended its six-season run in 2015, just as Bertinelli's Food Network career was taking off. But the television icon hasn't put acting completely on the back burner since becoming a full-time professional foodie. Earlier this year, NBC announced that Bertinelli will star alongside Demi Lovato in an upcoming comedy pilot titled "Hungry" (via Variety). Bertinelli plays Lovato's mother on the show, which chronicles a band of friends who are members of a food issues group.