Born in Michigan in 1974, actress Elizabeth Berkley is best known for playing Jessie Spano on the hit 1990s teen sitcom Saved by the Bell. She went on to star in such films as Showgirls, The First Wives Club and Any Given Sunday, and on television shows like NYPD Blue and Titus. More recently, Berkley appeared as a 2013 cast member on Dancing with the Stars.
Early Career: 'Saved by the Bell'
American actress Elizabeth Berkley was born on July 28, 1974, in Farmington Hills, Michigan. Berkley was driven for success at a young age, excelling in dance and dreaming of becoming a performer. She appeared in a number of ballets and musicals in the Detroit area in her youth, and by the age of 11, Berkley had joined the Actors' Equity Association, the professional labor union representing actors.
By age 13, Berkley had landed a contract as a model in New York City with the Elite Modeling Agency. Two years later, in the spring of 1989, she landed the role of Jessie Spano on a new teen sitcom, Saved by the Bell. The show became wildly popular and Berkley showed an exemplary work ethic for a teenager, balancing her rise to teen superstardom with her regular studies and extracurricular activities, including dance and acting classes.
Mid-Career: 'Showgirls' and Other Roles
Berkley's success on Saved by the Bell continued after the series ended in 1993, and included offers in film. In 1995, at age 21, the actress portrayed the controversial role of Nomi Malone, an attractive, Las Vegas showgirl, in Showgirls. The film bombed at the box office, though, with Berkley catching backlash for the film's risqué nature and poor taste, according to critics. In a time when many in the acting world might have given up, Berkley was determined to reclaim her reputation as a hard-working professional. She attended the University of California, Los Angeles, earning a degree in English literature.
Berkley went on to gain acting work, landing roles in such films as The First Wives Club (1996) and Any Given Sunday (1999), and on television series like NYPD Blue and Titus. In 2004, Berkley realized a lifelong dream when she made her Broadway debut in Larry Gelbart's Sly Fox. She received rave reviews for her role in the stage production, and job offers continued to roll in.
Berkley's later credits include recurring roles on The L Word and CSI Miami in 2008 and 2008-09, respectively. More recently, in 2013, Berkley was cast as a competitor on Dancing with the Stars.
Saved by the Bell began showing worldwide in syndication in 2002.
In 2003, Berkley married artist Greg Lauren, the nephew of designer Ralph Lauren. She and Lauren had met at a dance class. The couple welcomed their first child together, a son named Sky Cole Lauren, on July 20, 2012.
Berkley gained a new fanbase of young girls when her husband took note of the positive influence that Berkley's character, Jessie Spano, has had on fans over the years as well as the actress's ability to connect with her supporters, and suggested she put her influence to good use. Ask-Elizabeth, a blog/website dedicated to empowering adolescent girls, was born. In 2011, the website materialized into book form. Ask-Elizabeth has been Berkley's passion project, with the actress saying that, in compiling messages/information for the site, she draws from her past and uses her public/bad experiences to guide girls toward a path of positive self-image and confidence.
In addition to acting and maintaining her website, Berkley is an active animal-rights activist and philanthropist.
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