It’s been nearly 14 years since Elizabeth Berkley played brainy Jessie Spano on NBC’s Saved by the Bell, but, thanks to reruns, she still gets recognized by teens – and asked for advice.
“A new generation of girls started coming up to me,” the New York City-based actress, 34, tells PEOPLE. “Not just wanting an autograph but wanting to talk.”
She was stopped and asked for guidance on boys and body image so often that her husband, painter Greg Lauren, 37 (nephew of designer Ralph), jokingly suggested she write an advice column called “Ask Elizabeth.”
But Berkley did him one better. Last year, she launched Ask-Elizabeth, a self-esteem-building workshop she leads with groups of middle and high school girls nationwide.
“I don’t have all the answers,” says Berkley. “But I share my personal stories [and] struggles.”
During her two-hour workshops, girls submit anonymous questions for Berkley to read. Then she and those in the group offer advice. (Example: “I like a ‘bad boy.’ My mom doesn’t. What do I do?”) Says Berkley, “We get into the juicy girly stuff.”
So far, her reviews have been raves. “She felt like one of us,” says Beatriz Montilla, 12, who attended a session at Manhattan’s East Harlem School. Adds Berkley’s pal, actress Jennifer Beals: “Elizabeth was born to do this – she saw girls needed to be heard.”
And they’re inspired by Berkley’s own misadventures in Hollywood. Still acting in film and theater, Berkley candidly tells the girls how she struggled to save her career after starring in the notorious ’95 bomb Showgirls.
“They love hearing I didn’t let somebody stop me,” she says. “This is one of the most fulfilling things I’ve ever done.”
To find out more about Elizabeth’s program, visit ask-elizabeth.com.