Shannen Doherty has been called a lot of things: wild child, bad girl, and seemingly most often, bitch. It's a label she's carried around for decades, mostly stemming from the antics of what she calls her "Terrible 20s." As far as what she's best known for, it's a toss-up. On one hand she's a celebrated actress, most recognized for playing Brenda Walsh on Beverly Hills, 90210, and on the other she's a tabloid drama queen, having made headlines for relationship foul-ups, public fights and even a DUI.
But these days Shannen has a new moniker for herself: badass. And she's written a book, aptly titled Badass: A Hard-Earned Guide to Living Life with Style and (The Right) Attitude, that's part autobiography, part self-help guide for the hopelessly thin-skinned.
We caught up with Shannen to discuss her book, what exactly makes a badass, whether or not J. Crew can be badass attire, the evolution of the TV minx, and of course, Donna Martin's graduation.
Plus, take Shannen's Badass "Pop Quiz: Are You a Bitch or a Badass?"
What is a badass, and how does a badass differ from a bitch?
I think a bitch is somebody who's malicious, who will walk over others to get ahead, selfish, has no compassion, has no consideration for not only others but the world in general. And makes mistakes and couldn't care less, and doesn't really learn from her mistakes.
And a badass is obviously the opposite of that. A badass is somebody who will still, on occasion, fall down and make mistakes, but they get up, brush themselves off and they learn from it, and they don't make that same mistake ever again. They have compassion, integrity, strength, and it's not a boisterous strength they have to put out there, it's an inner strength that shines through.
Your book is mostly geared towards women, but can men be badasses too?
Definitely men can be badasses. I think there are always honorary badasses that are men. My dad was a badass.
We recently heard of his passing and are very sorry for your loss. Your book reveals how close to him you were.
Yeah, he was my best friend. I learned everything from him. With being a badass, and my dad being a badass - that person you can go to who's always the voice of reason, who sort of sits you down and keeps you on your path and on your journey to being a better you - he was definitely that man. So it's devastating at the moment.
What was your motivation for writing an autobiographical book as more of an instruction manual as opposed to a straight narrative?
It was basically because I gave so much advice to my friends, girlfriends and boyfriends, about business, relationships, about everything, that at some point one of my friends looked at me and said, 'Uh! You should write a book. We could really use that.' And I stopped and I thought, 'you know, she's kind of right,' because I think to write a book that's sort of more realistic and touches on problems that everybody has and everybody feels - relationship problems, insecurities, job insecurities, whatever it is - but to tell it in such an honest way and to be able to say, 'hey, this happened to me, also,' and 'here's what I did,' and to use yourself and your own life experiences as examples. It's easier to relate to that kind of a book. Plenty of people can pick up an advice book, but they don't seem as realistic, and heartfelt and relatable to me.
So my goal with this book is to be really brutally honest about myself. We all know that I've made gigantic mistakes, and that I've fallen down many, many, many times, but it's not about how many times you fall down, it's about how you pick yourself up afterwards and conduct your life from that point on. That's what makes a badass.
The image of a badass is someone with tattoos who rides motorcycles. What if a woman out there loves the J. Crew catalogue and is a huge Celine Dion fan, but she embraces it. Can she be a badass too?
Oh yeah! I mean my grandmother - I call her in the book 'the original badass' - my grandmother sure as hell doesn't have tattoos and ride motorcycles. My grandmother is a proper Southern lady.
I don't ride a motorcycle, you know, being a badass has nothing to do with how you dress. Most of the time I'm in blue jeans and a sweatshirt, having no style, with my hair in a ponytail.
It's a feeling, it's an attitude, it's looking at the world as a place you're privileged to live in. It's how you make the world a better place while making yourself better at the same time.
I'll tell you the funniest story. My grandmother was in church, and one of the parishioners came up to her and said, 'So, you're a badass!' and she turns around and goes, 'Well, yes I am!' And he said, 'Well, I think I'm a badass too!' And everybody in the church started talking about if they were badasses or not! And this is a dirty, you know, Mississippi, down home, Southern church where you've got the heart of America there - these amazing, amazing, amazing people in the South. And they were just all chuckling and so tickled to be talking about badasses. And that's what the book is meant for. It's meant for people like that or people who want to aspire to have that sort of energy.
You mention God a few times in the book. Do you consider yourself religious or spiritual? And how can spirituality play into being a badass?
I'm spiritual. I believe in God, and when I was much younger, I went to church. For me, just for me, it's my personal belief. I do think that some form of spirituality is important. Whatever your own particular brand of spirituality is - for me, it's about believing in a higher spirit, or just believing in karma. What comes around, goes around. It's so true. And karma is a spiritual thing to begin with, and a badass will always believe in karma.
You list Angelina Jolie, Drew Barrymore, Oprah and Tina Fey as some of your modern badass idols. How did you pick them?
I can look at Drew Barrymore and say she was a girl who went through her own trials and tribulations, who made mistakes, and probably still does, but she learned from them and she grew as a human being, and you can see within her kind of a goodness. She's just a nice person while out there and conquering her world. Conquering the things she wants to do in her life, whether it be producing movies, she does it with integrity, with a smile on her face, and with this positive energy that exudes from her.
The same with Angelina Jolie. As I say in the book, there was that run where we were all like, 'Huh, wow, what a beautiful, stunning talented girl. Where's she doing with that vial of blood around her neck? What's going on?' But what was going on was she was doing her own thing, and living her life, and look at where she's at now. She's one of our biggest philanthropists. She's a humanitarian. The things that she does for this world are unbelievable, while raising a brood of children! And working. Just utter class and integrity.
It's the same with Oprah. Everything that she does. I think they're inspirations.
In talking about celebrity in general, do you feel lucky that when you were going through what you call your 'Terrible 20s' in the book that there was less media scrutiny at the time? And do you think we'll be as forgiving with those girls today making mistakes in the public eye, such as Lindsay Lohan?
I don't necessarily feel lucky because even though the media is so much more intense currently, for back then, it was still intense. They still had their fun at my expense, and perpetuated a reputation that was not entirely accurate and not entirely fair. But there was nothing I could do about that.
As far as us being less forgiving, I hope we're not less forgiving, because I don't feel it's anybody's right to judge somebody else. I think that people are thrust into the public eye - they're thrust into that position either by themselves wanting to be in the public eye, or you know, you have so many reality stars today that want to be famous or maybe it's just what they want to do - you certainly don't need to get famous by not really doing anything.
But with that being said, I don't know. You mentioned Linsday Lohan and I've had those moments going, 'Oh, come on. What are you doing?' But at the end of the day, this is her journey to go through, and if she comes out the other side and actually does make a change for the better and sticks to it, then who are we to not forgive that? Who are we to not give her a second, third or fourth chance?
I guess this is where my belief in God plays in. There's only one being who's allowed to judge, and that's God.
In thinking about 'bad girls,' you played one of the legendary bad girls on the original Beverly Hills, 90210. Do you think Brenda Walsh was a badass, and in addition, do you think the image of the TV bad girl has changed, possibly for the worse?
I do not think that Brenda was a badass. I think Brenda was...wrapped up in teenage drama. I think that when Brenda came back on the new 90210, she was actually a badass. She was done with all the drama, she had gone off, she had been in London, she had been all throughout Europe, she was an established theater actress, she was successful, and she had separated herself from that drama. She's worked hard and persevered to follow her dreams.
It's so funny I'm talking about Brenda Walsh. [Laughs].
But when she did come back there was no drama. All the drama had been from Kelly at the time, and they finally sort of buried it and formed a friendship. But she was evolved and really happy and secure with herself at that time, and that's when Brenda became a badass.
When we think about some of the issues you dealt with back then, such as whether Brenda would lose her virginity to Dylan, it seems tame in comparison to the mini-adult relationships teens seem to have on TV today.
We did do virginity and teenage drinking and date rape, and we tackled so many amazing issues, but yeah, I kind of look at some TV, not all TV but some TV, and go, 'Ok, basically this show is about who's sleeping with who.' If I had a kid, I wouldn't be letting my kid watch those shows because I think that all they're saying is it's ok to sleep around at age 15 and 16-years-old, and have a lot of notches on your bedpost. That's certainly not the message I would want my kid to walk away with.
Then again, it's not TV's responsibility, it's the parent's responsibility. It starts at home.
So going back to the book, a lot of being a badass seems based on independence and self-reliance, so how is a badass supposed to have a successful relationship?
I think one of the most important things about being in a relationship is maintaining your own identity. I don't mean keeping your last name, that's a personal decision, it means not getting buried behind somebody else. And maintaining a bit of independence is important. I know women who are my very good friends who don't work - their job is to raise their kids - but they still exert independence, and they still have opinions and they still read and educate themselves every single day. They are simply inspirations to me of how they do it. They work harder than anybody.
I've watched my mom take care of my dad, and it is the most inspiring....[tears up]...I'm going to take a minute.
It's inspiring because she was there everyday. She never gave up on him, and she never gave up on herself. Although it consumed her day - taking care of my dad - she still kept herself in there. She still had a smile on her face. She still engaged my father. They would have these amazing debates, and there wasn't much they disagreed on - they had the same political standpoints - but they would have these in-depth political conversations and she would have her own opinions. To watch the two of them, she was engaging his mind and his spirit day in and day out.
And my dad was, again, the most amazing man to ever walk this earth, and he lifted my mom up too, and made her feel like she could do anything. Absolutely anything that she wanted to do, that she was that special and that loved.
I'm a 39-year-old single woman, and I look at my parents as the ultimate relationship.
My dad looked at my mom with so much love and so much respect, it made relationships very hard for me, [laughs] because I'd end up looking at my boyfriends and going, 'You don't look at me like that!' [Laughs] 'You're not this sort of really incredibly respectful person who lifts me up.' And I think the minute a man starts trying to tear you down is the minute you know that relationship is the wrong relationship.
Not that I didn't date amazing men. I did. I dated some fantastic men. My longest relationship was with Rob Weiss who is still a friend and an awesome guy.
And then I had some real duds. [Laughs] My mom's actually sitting here and my mom started shaking her head yes.
What is a badass day for you?
A badass day in my life. Wow, let's see. I think it's spending time with my family, and going to see some friends. And maybe sitting down and feeling creative and writing or reading a good book. My badass days are very, very, very laid back at this point. It does not entail going out - to me that makes a day horrific, having to go out or go to an event or anything.
It's really going and seeing my horses and dreaming. I think for me a badass day is sitting there dreaming, which usually for me means writing a treatment or writing a short story or writing a book. It's coming up with new and inventive ways to be creative and have something to say.
Final question: as the authority on badasses, should Donna Martin have, in fact, graduated?
Shannen Doherty: [Laughs] Ok, refresh my memory. Why was it even a question that she couldn't graduate? Did she get drunk or something?
[Brief discussion of the episode.]
In this day and age - it's so funny that that's what made her possibly not graduate. Drinking at a school dance? Considering what kids her age do nowadays? So in this day and age, I would say yes, of course, she should be able to graduate. [Laughs.]
Shannen Doherty will be signing her book on Tuesday, Dec. 14th at Barnes & Noble at the Grove, 189 The Grove Dr. 7 p.m. Free and open to the public.
Take Shannen's Badass or Bitch quiz after the jump!
Pop Quiz: Are You a Bitch or a Badass?
1. You consider yourself cool.
2. You dress for yourself, not for others.
3. You do as you please.
4. You love a great revenge story.
5. You speak up for what you believe in.
6. You often act first and apologize later.
7. You're a great judge of character.
1. Toss-up. You could be either - bitch or badass.
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7. Trick question! A badass never passes judgment on anyone, but is a great judge of character!