Today Show: ‘Saved by the Bell’ actress helps teens with self-esteem

March 22nd, 2011

MSNBC Today Show
3/22/2011 7:15:04 AM ET
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Elizabeth Berkley is best known for her role as Jessie Spano, the blond, straight-A, feminist on “Saved by the Bell.” Berkley is now all grown up and she has a new book, “Ask Elizabeth,” based on a seminar she developed aimed at helping teens discuss self-esteem, love, friendship and body image. Read an excerpt.


Welcome to the world of Ask Elizabeth. I’m so happy you’re here!

Sometimes in life it can feel like we’re lost … like we don’t even know where to turn for answers, right? I understand, believe me — I’ve been there, and so have so many other girls. That’s why I created Ask Elizabeth, so you can have a safe space to get the answers you need to find your way. Why should any of us have to figure it all out by ourselves?

It all started in 2006, when I began doing workshops all across the country with teen girls so we could talk about what’s on our minds and in our hearts. I wanted you guys to have a place to get real — to be able to feel heard, ask your questions, laugh, cry, vent, and most important, know that no matter what you’re experiencing, you’re not alone. From Los Angeles to New York City, Colorado to Kentucky, Detroit to Salt Lake City, you’d be blown away by how many of you have the same questions. Our lives and circumstances might all be different, but girls are still girls!

Since then, thousands of us have gathered in so many different places: schools, gyms, parks, dance studios, and even coffee shops. At each workshop, we get into a cozy circle. My favorite part of every workshop is when each girl writes on a piece of paper whatever question she’s been wanting to ask someone but was afraid to, then puts it into a box in the middle of our circle. One by one, I read the questions out loud so we can all join in to help our “anonymous friend” get the peace she needs. Within minutes, the slumber-party vibe sparks the magic, and all those hidden secrets, questions, longings, and secrets, questions, longings, and everything else come spilling out as we talk, laugh, cry, and find relief in discovering that we’re not the only ones looking for answers.

It’s never just me answering the questions — please, I don’t pretend to have all the answers! The part I love most is seeing you guys supporting and guiding one another from your own experience and wisdom. It’s been so incredible to watch girls share secrets and open their hearts to one another. That’s how the Ask Elizabeth sisterhood came to be — a sisterhood that I’m thrilled you’re now a part of.

I’ve taken the most-asked questions from workshops and created this book so that whether or not you’ve experienced a workshop, you can have your own personal, private Ask Elizabeth experience. If you’ve had questions about anything — body image, dating, relationships, family or friendship issues, or goals and dreams — this book is here to help guide you on your path. What you fear, love, stress about, are challenged by, dream of, or want to know matters to me. This book is made with love, for you.

Throughout the book you’ll hear from girls from all across the country who are here to share with you their innermost thoughts and experiences. It’ll be kind of like sneaking a peek into someone else’s diary — with permission, of course! You’ll read girls’ private stories that I’m sure you’ll relate to…. You’ll also discover sections called “Just Between Us,” where girls reveal the secrets they wouldn’t normally admit to anyone.

I think a lot of girls we know keep their tips and advice to themselves, like we’re in some sort of competition. Well, forget that! “Girls to the Rescue” — another section I love — is where you’ll get to hear ideas and advice from girls, based on their own experiences. I know in my life I’ve felt comforted and inspired when I hear how other girls I know have dealt with a situation I’m personally going through, and I wanted to pass that feeling along to you. Think of the girls in this book as your new Ask Elizabeth sisters, ready to support you with whatever you need on any given day.

I also invited a few experts to share their professional advice in sections called “Ask the Experts.” And of course you’ll also find stories and advice from me…. You didn’t think I was going to hold out on you, did you? Don’t worry, I’m here to spill stories from my own life that will hopefully help you — and of course I’ll share all the secrets I know so far about being a girl. I want to help you break through any doubt or insecurity you might be feeling and replace it with confidence and fearlessness. I want to give you that gift so that you know that no matter what you’re going through, or whatever comes your way down the road, you can handle it.

You are in this world to let your brilliant light shine! So let’s jump in and get you what you need so you can look, feel, and be your best you on the inside and out. May everything you find here inspire and empower you to live the life you dream of, now and always. Remember, you might feel alone, but not anymore — we’re all in this together.

Excerpt from “Ask Elizabeth” by Elizabeth Berkley. Copyright (c) 2011. Reprinted by permission of Putnam Juvenile.