The Tragic Real-Life Story Of Tori Spelling

Tori Spelling is a successful actor, author, reality TV star, and mother of five. She's the daughter of prolific TV producer Aaron Spelling, who helmed the show that put Tori on the map, "Beverly Hills, 90210." But Tori's not your typical nepo baby, as she was willing to pay her dues to get the respect of her peers in Hollywood. "She's a workaholic," her father told Entertainment Weekly. "She did four movies and 30 episodes of '90210' in 14 months. She's more determined than people realize."

Her strong work ethic only took her so far, however, as Spelling experienced a series of obstacles beginning in childhood and carrying through her adult life. From her strained relationship with her mother, to being picked on for her looks, to several stormy relationships, Spelling has gone through more turmoil than many would assume. Luckily, Spelling seems to have a survivor's spirit, and continues to thrive despite financial setbacks, health scares, and other difficult experiences.

Tori Spelling's complicated relationship with her mother began in childhood

It's easy to assume Tori Spelling had a charmed life growing up as the daughter of Aaron Spelling. But while Tori and her father shared a close relationship, there was tension between the actor and her mother, Candy Spelling.

In her 2008 memoir, "sTORI Telling," Tori revealed a troubling conversation she had with her mother when she was just 12 years old. "Am I pretty?" Tori recalled (via the Independent) asking her mother, to which she replied, "You will be when we get your nose fixed." For Candy's part, she admitted in her own memoir, "Candy at Last," that she had "poor communication skills" and was often "passive-aggressive." "I am by no means saying that I am the perfect mother now or I didn't make mistakes when my children were growing up," Candy wrote (via E! News).

Tori — who was much closer with her father — conceded that he played a part in driving a wedge between her and her mother. "As an adult, I can go back and look at the relationship and see that he kind of always positioned her, as, like, he was good cop, and she was bad cop," she shared with Access Hollywood (via Us Weekly). Tori and Candy's relationship didn't improve much as Tori grew up, with the two actively feuding on and off throughout Tori's adult life. As of 2024, however, it appears the pair has come to a point of peace.

Spelling was bullied for her looks as a teenager

Sadly, it was not just Tori Spelling's own mother who criticized her appearance. In a 2020 Instagram post, the actor opened up about the aspects of her face that made her self-conscious growing up and revealed that she had been bullied for her looks.

Spelling said that she once didn't like her large eyes, and that she was called "frog" and "bug eyed" when she was a teenager starring on "Beverly Hills, 90210." These insults stayed with her and took a toll on her confidence. "I spent years begging makeup artists on my shows and movies to please try to make my eyes look smaller. I would cry over my looks in the makeup trailer chair," she wrote.

This insecurity also infiltrated her photo shoots and red carpet appearances, with her only feeling comfortable showing one side of her face in pictures. "A vulnerable innocent excited girl showed all of her face at 16 and was eaten alive," she explained. Spelling went on to describe cyberbullying and comments that cut her to her core. "Years of hurtful comments that I don't even want to share to give them energy. Way worse than bug or frog eyes," she shared.

She was dating an abusive boyfriend while starring on 90210

Tori Spelling's acting credits go all the way back to 1981, but she was really thrust into the spotlight when she began starring on "Beverly Hills, 90210" in 1990. Spelling was 16 when she started playing the role of Donna Martin on the hit series. With her star on the rise, it would seem as though the actor had it all. But behind the scenes, Spelling's life was far from glamorous as she struggled with her self-confidence, an issue made worse by an abusive relationship.

Spelling dated actor Nick Savalas (son of actor Telly Savalas) for two years, an experience she called "a nightmare" during an interview with Entertainment Weekly. She clarified that Savalas never physically abused her, but his constant hurtful remarks seriously damaged her already low self-esteem. "He was verbally abusive, telling me 10 times a day how ugly I was. I cried all the time," Spelling recalled. She also acknowledged her fear of standing up to Savalas, which only caused more pain. "I'm not very confrontational," she said. "I'm afraid to fight. My parents cried for months because they knew how unhappy I was."

Savalas admitted he gave Spelling a hard time, telling Entertainment Weekly, "I wasn't pleasant to be around — for anyone. It was after my dad died, and she was the closest to me, so she got the worst of it."

Spelling regretted how she treated her first husband, Charlie Shahnaian

In July 2004, Tori Spelling married actor Charlie Shahnaian. While the wedding itself was a lavish affair — held on the grounds of Aaron Spelling's estate with Wolfgang Puck catering the event — the marriage itself lasted a mere 15 months.

Spelling infamously cheated on Shahnaian with actor Dean McDermott, whom she would later go on to marry. Shahnaian spoke about his short-lived marriage to Spelling in an interview with Esquire (via People), saying, "She picked a fight with me at a party, told me she needed 'time and space,' and was gone before I could comprehend what had happened." He and Spelling sought couples therapy soon after that incident, which was how Shahnaian found out Spelling had been having an affair and that their marriage was over.

Spelling's treatment of her first husband was unkind, to say the least, something she came to terms with while filming her reality show, "True Tori" in 2014. After visiting Shahnaian, Spelling was visibly upset, telling McDermott (via Radar Online), "I regret the way I handled things obviously," adding, "He's a good man."

Her relationship with Dean McDermott was rocky from the start

Tori Spelling and Dean McDermott met in 2005 while filming the Lifetime TV movie, "Mind Over Murder." Sparks flew immediately, which led to the pair cheating on and subsequently leaving their respective spouses, Charlie Shahnaian and Mary Jo Eustace. While the passion was intense enough for the couple to launch a new life together and get married in 2006, the relationship showed signs of trouble right from the start.

Spelling admitted on her podcast, "MisSPELLING" (via People), that just a few months into the relationship, she saw "red flags" in McDermott's behavior. "He had anger issues and that started while we were dating, like, four months in," Spelling revealed, adding that McDermott's anger was often the result of his alcohol use. "When he would drink, it was hard because I knew that at some point, it would turn." She explained that McDermott's temper caused her to feel like she had to "dance on eggshells."

It was an unstable dynamic that caused Spelling to revert to defense mode. "No matter what I said it wasn't right," she relayed. "It was like a fight. A mental fight. 'I think he might aim here and if he aims here with what he says, I'm going to respond this way and it'll take him down.'"

Spelling's father passed away in 2006

In June 2006, Tori Spelling's father, Aaron Spelling, died at the age of 83. Tori clearly loved her dad very much, and she penned a touching tribute to him alongside a sweet throwback pic on Instagram for his birthday in 2020. "I was such a Daddy's girl and just adored this man beyond words," Tori wrote. "It makes me sad daily that my 5 kiddos will never know the kindest most gentle soul in the world, their Grandpa Aaron."

But there were issues that arose when Aaron Spelling died, namely the inheritance he left Tori. Despite having amassed a fortune to the tune of $600 million, Tori was left with a mere $800,000 when her father passed. According to Tori, she and her father spoke about money before his death, and it was a difficult conversation. The actor shared with "Good Morning America" that her father told her, "You're gonna be okay. I made sure. You're getting just under a million."

Tori admitted that she had hoped for another outcome, but felt guilty about it. "I hated myself for hoping it would be different, because I didn't want to take advantage," she said. "I didn't want to be that girl who needed, or wanted, my dad's money."

McDermott cheated on her seven years into their marriage

Although there was some difficulty in Tori Spelling and Dean McDermott's relationship from the beginning, the couple appeared to be happy and started a large family, welcoming five children together, Liam, Stella, Hattie, Finn, and Beau. But seven years into the marriage, it was revealed that McDermott cheated on Spelling.

McDermott, who was 47 at the time, was in Toronto promoting his hosting job on "Chopped Canada" when he met 28-year-old Emily Goodhand through friends. According to Goodhand, she and McDermott spent two nights together at his hotel. "He told me he and Tori had a sexless marriage," she recounted to Us Weekly. "I believed him." The ensuing drama played out during the second season of "True Tori," with Spelling seeing what Goodhand looked like for the first time in the aforementioned magazine article.

McDermott subsequently checked himself into a treatment facility for "health and personal issues," issuing a statement (via CNN) that read in part, "I am truly sorry for the mistakes I have made and for the pain I've caused my family." Spelling decided not to leave McDermott because of their children, telling Us Weekly, "For their sakes, I need to try to figure this out."

She was in a car accident caused by paparazzi

In 2011, Tori Spelling was pregnant with her daughter, Hattie, when she was involved in a scary car accident. Spelling claimed the paparazzi were chasing her while she was driving her two children, Liam and Stella, to school, which ultimately caused her to crash.

The actor tweeted about the incident afterward, writing, "I was trying to get away from him and had a pretty big accident. Took down whole wall of school. He thn STILL got out to try to get pics. 10 school moms chased him away. Wht will it take? Someone dying for paparazzi to stop?" She added, "Going to dr now to check on baby. I think its just shock."

Spelling's children, Liam and Stella, thankfully, weren't hurt, but it was a frightening experience nonetheless. "Tori is really shaken up but she and the kids are doing fine," a rep shared with People (via ABC News). "She's going to the doctor for a checkup."

Spelling was hospitalized several times in 2014

Tori Spelling was hospitalized in October 2014 at Cedars Sinai in Los Angeles for bronchitis and a sinus infection. A source explained to E! News that Spelling's symptoms included a fever, having trouble breathing, and an "uncontrollable" cough, for which she was undergoing tests. The source also shared that the actor was seeing a lung specialist, and she was even quarantined for a short time while doctors examined her.

But that wasn't Spelling's first hospital visit that year. In April 2014, the actor was admitted to the hospital for six days for an undisclosed condition. Sources said that Spelling's husband, Dean McDermott, was with her the whole time and appeared very concerned. "He would arrive by 10 a.m. and didn't leave until 8 most nights. He seemed very stressed out and worried," an insider recounted to E! News. "He would bring food and often only left Tori to go outside to catch some air or make a phone call."

She has experienced serious financial trouble

Despite having grown up ultra-rich, Tori Spelling has found herself in financial trouble many times throughout her adult life. In the actor's 2013 book, "Spelling It Like It Is" (via USA Today), she admitted to having "a little shopping problem" and blamed her spending habits on her childhood. "I grew up rich beyond anyone's dreams. Even when I try to embrace a simpler lifestyle, I can't seem to let go of my expensive tastes," she wrote.

Spelling's expensive taste landed her in hot water in 2016 when American Express sued her for failure to pay her debts. The actor was ordered to pay over $38,000. That same year, a tax lien was placed on the California property she shared with husband Dean McDermott that amounted to almost $260,000. "I had a business manager since I was 18 years old, so I never handled any of my money," Spelling explained on a 2019 episode of the Kin web series "Tori Tried and True." "Unfortunately I never quite learned about money."

McDermott called the police on Spelling

Tori Spelling appeared to be going through a particularly difficult time in 2018, as a source told People she was "in a tough place." The stress of raising five children paired with her tumultuous relationship with husband Dean McDermott seemed to have caught up with her. "She internalizes a lot of her anxiety and she knows it's not healthy for her. Of course, she's going to get to a breaking point eventually," the source claimed. It looked as though the actor had reached her breaking point when the police were called to her home several times within a span of a few weeks.

According to TMZ, McDermott was the one who called the police on Spelling, alerting them that she was behaving aggressively and concerned she was having a mental health crisis. While nothing was deemed to be amiss, McDermott once again called the cops the following week, apparently to check up on Spelling after she had left the house. Police found the actor at her doctor's office, where she and her children appeared to be fine. It was unclear what motivated McDermott to get law enforcement involved, but suffice it to say, there must have been trouble brewing in the family's household.

Her children have been bullied at school

Tori Spelling has been candid about her own experiences with bullying, and in 2021, she was open about the bullying her then 13-year-old daughter Stella had endured. In a lengthy Instagram post, featuring a picture from Stella's first modeling shoot, Spelling went into detail about how the teen began getting bullied in the fifth grade.

According to Spelling, her daughter was picked on by her peers, and the school's principal did nothing to stop it. She also explained that Stella experienced physical symptoms as a result of the turmoil. "With Stella's bullying came health issues," Spelling wrote. "She developed headaches, stomachaches, panic attacks & her asthma increased. Emotions can be pretty powerful & manifest into physical ailments."

In 2022, Spelling revealed that another one of her children was dealing with bullying as well. "My kids just went back to school and just when you think one got through it, one of my other children was bullied on the first day of school," she told People. While the mother of five didn't specify which of her other children was being targeted, she did say she would be using different tools to handle the situation than she had with Stella. "Different kids need different things and different confidence boosters. So, we've got to take it one day at a time to get through it," she shared.

She and McDermott split in 2023

In June 2023, Tori Spelling and Dean McDermott decided to separate after 18 years of marriage. McDermott was the one to make the announcement in a since-deleted Instagram post. "It's with great sadness and a very very heavy heart that after 18 years together and 5 amazing children, that @torispelling and I have decided to go our separate ways and start a new journey of our own," he wrote (via Today).

In an interview with Daily Mail, McDermott took responsibility for his part in the breakup. "All Tori's ever done to this day is want me to be happy and healthy and I inflicted a lot of damage and pain on that woman," he admitted. He also cited his issues with substance misuse as part of the problem.

Spelling officially filed for divorce in March 2024, and she spoke about it on her podcast, "misSPELLING" (via the Los Angeles Times). According to Spelling, it was a long time coming as she revealed, "So, I just filed for divorce ... Whoa, I said the words that I've said in my head for like 16, 15 years." The actor also expressed her grief and sense of loneliness. "I don't feel worth loving. That's the truth. And that's something that's just in you, it's not something I wanted or created," she shared.