The actress Alyssa Milano has been a household name since her teenage years – and as a long-time philanthropist, she’s always been determined to use her fame for good causes.
While starring in Melrose Place, Charmed and My Name Is Earl, Milano also found time to become a sports writer, create a successful comic book series and collect an impressive array of rescue animals.
Here are 20 things you probably didn’t know about the Insatiable star.
20. She was the inspiration for Ariel in Disney’s Little Mermaid
When the ten-year-old Alyssa Milano joined the cast of Who’s The Boss?, she swiftly rose to fame in the role of Samantha Micelli.
As a teenager, she caught the eye of Disney animators who were looking to design a new princess.
They decided to model Ariel of The Little Mermaid on the young actress – but Milano was never told about it.
It wasn’t until she was asked to host the documentary The Making of the Little Mermaid that Milano finally found out she had inspired the beloved character.
This long-running rumour was confirmed when Milano was quizzed on the Wendy Williams show in 2013.
In an interview with Wendy Williams, Milano said that during the documentary’s creation, “it came out that the drawing and likeness of the Little Mermaid were based on pictures of me from when I was younger.”
19. She kissed an AIDs patient on TV to educate people
In the late 80s, Milano got in touch with Ryan White, a teenager who was bullied and isolated after being diagnosed with AIDS.
A haemophiliac who contracted the disease through a blood transfusion, White was temporarily forced out of his own school following his diagnosis, with parents and teachers petitioning to ban him from the grounds.
He was a big fan of Milano, and the star got in touch with him so they could throw a party together.
At the party, Milano and White sat together making friendship bracelets and chatting for six hours straight.
In an appearance on The Phil Donahue Show, Milano kissed White to prove to the general public that casual contact couldn’t spread the disease.
White lived five years longer than his doctors were expecting, but he passed away in April 1990.
18. She made a comic book series about cyber-warfare
In 2013, Milano wrote Hacktivist – a comic book series about hacking and cybersecurity amid a raging war.
Working with Jackson Lanzing, Collin Kelly and Marcus To, Milano won critical acclaim for the four-part series.
It follows the adventure of two entrepreneurs who use a social networking site as a cover for their top-secret hacking collective.
To promote the series, Milano staged a viral marketing campaign that made it seem as if her Twitter account had been hacked.
In a 2013 interview with Forbes, Milano said of her dystopian tale about abuses of power, “If you can dream it, it’s probably happening somewhere.”
“If anyone reads Hacktivist and gets inspiration or motivation to use social media as a tool to create change, then I think that’s awesome,” she added.
17. She got Charmed’s Book of Shadows artist to paint her house
Milano spent eight years starring in the fantasy show Charmed and became very familiar with the recurring set and props.
In particular, she loved the intricately illustrated Book of Shadows – a hefty green volume that appears throughout the series.
This book stores secrets of witchcraft, as well as a compendium of dangerous magical forces that the heroines might encounter.
It contains diagrams and drawings of demon-like creatures, accompanied by instructions about how to defeat them.
When it came to decorating her own home, Milano hired one of the artists who made the Book of Shadows to fill her rooms with murals in the same style.
When the series ended, executive producer Brad Kern – who wrote most pages of the Book of Shadows – kept the prop for himself.
16. A babysitter escorted Milano to her first audition
It was a babysitter, herself an aspiring actress, who kickstarted Milano’s career in show business.
Without Milano’s parents’ permission, the babysitter (an aspiring actress herself) took Milano along to open auditions for the musical Annie.
“There were kids there on the stage singing ‘Happy Birthday’ and dancing, and [my babysitter] asked me if I wanted to audition,” Milano later recalled.
“I had no idea what that word meant,” she remembered. “I was seven…I knew 1,500 kids were there. Only four got picked, and I was one of the four.”
When her parents agreed, Milano embarked on an 18-month tour with the Annie production company, playing one of the singing and dancing orphans.
Afterwards, Milano started building a career in TV commercials, and she also starred in an off-Broadway musical production of Jane Eyre.
15. She once rocked a dress made entirely of vegetables on the red carpet
For a 2007 advertisement, Milano swapped her typical red-carpet outfits for a gown made from lettuce and asparagus.
Her nutritious outfit was designed as part of a PETA campaign to promote plant-based diets, entitled Let Vegetarianism Grow On You.
She became a vegetarian in 2001, shortly after the 9/11 attacks in New York City.
“The world has so much suffering in it already,” she has commented on her decision.
“Choosing to be vegan/vegetarian is one thing you can do to reduce the suffering on a daily basis,” she noted.
She’s a big fan of growing vegetables at home, and she has said she adds mint to almost all her cookery.
14. Despite playing sworn enemies on Melrose Place, Milano and Heather Locklear were the best of friends
Milano and Heather Locklear play two glamorous romantic rivals on the soap opera Melrose Place.
But behind the scenes, the pair formed a close friendship while sharing a backstage trailer.
Speaking to Entertainment Weekly in 2013, Milano recalled her favourite moment from her time on the show.
“I have a great visual memory of Heather Locklear being pregnant and adorable [backstage],” Milano said.
“She was in denim overalls, with a black lace bra, nothing else, eating a tub of chocolate frosting,” she remembered.
Locklear’s next full TV series was the sitcom Spin City, playing Caitlyn Moore, a New York political campaign manager, for 72 episodes.
13. She has a baseball-based jewellery line
Milano’s love of baseball dates back to when she first moved to Los Angeles, aged 12.
She became a dedicated fan of the Los Angeles Dodgers, and she is still a season-ticket holder for her favourite team.
This project was an extension of Milano’s baseball-themed fashion line for women, which is called Touch.
In the press release, she was quoted as saying: “It was only natural that the line should grow to include a line of jewellery for women who are baseball fans and are looking for a fashionable way to accessorize at the games, as well as outside the ballpark.”
Her book about the world of baseball fans, entitled Safe At Home: Confessions of a Baseball Fanatic, was published in 2009.
12. She’s dyslexic
Milano’s dyslexia has occasionally interfered with her acting, as she struggles to read steadily from teleprompters.
Her Canterville Ghost co-star Sir John Gielgud gave her some advice about how to learn lines with ease.
“When I asked how he memorised his monologues, he said, ‘I write them down,'” she noted in 2004.
“I use that method to this day,” she said. “It not only familiarises me with the words, it makes them my own.”
— Alyssa Milano (@Alyssa_Milano) February 29, 2012
Milano has used her audience on Twitter to spread solutions for some of the challenges of dyslexia.
She’s shared advice for parents about detecting dyslexia before their children reach school age.
11. She keeps rescue horses
According to People Magazine, Milano currently owns ten rescue horses in Bell Canyon, California.
She’s also owned rabbits, chickens and many different breeds of dog, including Australian Shepherds, a Jindo-mix, a German Shepherd and Chihuahuas.
She spoke of her love for animals in a 2013 interview with Parade, noting that she particularly cherishes her acting work alongside them.
“My first job was the play Annie,” Milano said. “There was a big beautiful shelter dog that was in our production.”
“We had a cat on Charmed for a while,” she continued. “I love working with animals. It makes being on the set feel more homey.”
Milano has written a children’s book series dealing with different areas of activism – one of which is entitled Project Animal Rescue.
10. As a singer, she’s had four platinum albums in Japan
While Alyssa’s music career is less well known in the States or UK, she was a hugely successful pop artist in Japan in the late 80s and early 90s.
She developed a huge fanbase in Japan after she starred as Arnold Schwarzenegger’s daughter in Commando.
One Japanese record label soon offered her a four-album deal. Totalling five to date, her albums released in Japan are called Alyssa, Look in My Heart, Best In The World, Locked Inside a Dream and Do You See Me?
She’s described her style as “bubblegum pop”, and she has performed in concerts in Japan. Four of her albums went platinum in the country.
However, she told the LA Times in 1998 that she had no intention of extending her music career to a US audience.
“A lot of actors who release albums here [in the USA] are laughed at [when they make music],” she commented. “I’m not interested in crossing over. I’d much rather have it released where it’s appreciated than laughed at.”
9. She won a Twitter award for her online fundraising efforts
A birthday appeal for charity donations helped Milano to win a major award for philanthropy on Twitter.
To celebrate her birthday, Milano asked her fans and followers online to donate to a charity of her choice, named Charity: Water, rather than sending her any gifts.
She raised over $90,000 for this clean water non-profit group thanks to her digital campaign.
In 2010, she won the Twitter category for the charitable “Do Something” Awards, hosted by the actress Jane Lynch.
She was up for this award against her fellow Hollywood stars Ashton Kutcher, Hugh Jackman and Edward Norton.
Milano is also known for her online activism in relaunching the #MeToo movement in 2017.
8. She was one of four Hall Pass stars who became first-time parents in the year the movie reached cinemas
In 2011, Milano appeared in the comedy Hall Pass, which was a modest box office success.
In the same year, she gave birth to her first child – her son Milo, whom she had with her husband, the Hollywood agent David Bugliari.
The couple later welcomed their daughter Elizabella in 2014, when Milano was 41, around the time her comic book series debuted.
In a strange coincidence, three of Milano’s Hall Pass co-stars also became parents for the first time in 2011.
Owen Wilson, who stars as the male lead in Hall Pass, had his first son with his then-girlfriend Jade Duell in January 2011.
Similarly, his co-star Christina Applegate had her daughter, Sadie Grace, with the Dutch musician Martyn LeNoble in January that year.
Jenna Fischer, best known for playing Pam in the US version of The Office, gave birth to her first son in September.
7. Milano’s played five different characters named Amy
Though it’s a popular name for girls, the number of characters called Amy that Milano has played is still somewhat surprising. Her first Amy part dates back to 1993, just after she finished Who’s the Boss?
She stars as Amy Fischer in the made-for-television movie Casualties of Love: The “Long Island Lolita” Story.
Milano portrays the real-life Fischer, who shot and wounded the wife of her lover in 1992, and who has since become a writer and pornographic actress.
Two years later, Milano starred as Amy Winslow in the film The Surrogate, in which she plays a young art major who offers to be a surrogate mother for a childless couple.
Milano’s other Amy character on TV was a dentist named Amy on the sitcom Breaking In. She joined the cast for two episodes.
She also played Amys in two movies in the year 2002 alone: she plays Amy Kane in Kiss the Bride, and Amy in the comedy Buying the Cow.
6. She almost turned down Mistresses just because of the show’s title
Milano has said that she was almost put off starring in Mistresses because she expected it to focus heavily on infidelity.
Speaking to ABC in 2013, Milano said she was won over by her character’s warm personality despite her shortcomings.
She’s described her character Savi, who is a lawyer, as a “very real” persona and “a nice person that’s really flawed.”
“The pilot script was so dark, and interesting, and edgy,” she said. “…I thought it was unique for television to push the envelope like that.”
She’s also compared it to Charmed, as the shows share themes of female friendship and the idea of sisterhood.
Milano left the show after two seasons after her daughter was born, as she wanted to spend more time with her family.
5. She almost joined the cast of Beverly Hills, 90210
In 1990, Milano reportedly auditioned for a new role on Beverly Hills, 90210. The part of Valerie Malone was created because the show’s star, Shannen Doherty, was leaving her role.
However, it was Tiffani Thiessen who ultimately won this role, playing the show’s antagonist between seasons five and nine.
Funnily enough, Milano did end up joining this fictional universe through Melrose Place, which was a spin-off series from Beverly Hills 90210.
She also ended up working with Shannen Doherty for three years on Charmed. Charmed, Melrose Place and Beverly Hills, 90210 all had the same executive producer: Aaron Spelling.
Doherty and Milano star as two of the Halliwell sisters in Charmed, with the third sibling played by Holly Marie Combs.
Reportedly Doherty left the show after a feud developed between her and Milano, with Milano later describing their relationship as a personality clash.
4. As a teen on Who’s the Boss?, she changed Samantha’s outfits and haircuts while growing frustrated with her character
Milano practically grew up on TV as she was starring in Who’s The Boss?, a show that ran for eight years.
While she loved the experience of playing Samantha, daughter of the show’s hero Tony Micelli, Milano has noted that it was difficult to be taken seriously as an adult actor once the show ended.
Speaking to Cosmopolitan in 1998, Milano admitted, “After Who’s the Boss? there was a period when I could not get meetings with producers. That was hard.”
On the other hand, she was keen to try out new roles, and had grown somewhat tired of the part of Samantha. “I want to showcase what I’m capable of doing,” she said in an LA Times interview when she was 19.
“Creatively, [playing Samantha has] been very frustrating,” she said. “I gave her more of a personality. I changed her wardrobe, cut her hair, anything to give her new life.”
Towards the end of Who’s The Boss?, Milano produced and starred in an LA stage production of Butterflies Are Free, based on a 70s comedy-drama. She also starred in Candles in the Dark, Confessions of a Sorority Girl and Hugo Pool as well as several erotic films ( including the direct-to-video sequel to Poison Ivy) before joining the cast of Melrose Place in 1997.
3. She has eight tattoos, including one of a fairy
Alyssa Milano has a total of eight tattoos, including a kneeling fairy, an angel, rosary beads and a garland of flowers.
Makeup artists concealed Milano’s tattoos for series one to three of Charmed, but by season four, her tattoos become more visible.
In a 1998 interview with Cosmopolitan, she mentioned her tattoo “S.R.W.”, the initials of her former boyfriend, the actor Scott Richard Wolf.
The pair were engaged in 1993, but they separated a year and a half later.
Speaking of Wolf’s ongoing fame after their separation, she said, “”It was definitely weird. I can watch Party of Five now [Wolf’s most famous TV show] because it’s been four-and-a-half years, but there was a time when I was like ‘Ugh, it’s bad enough that I have his initials tattooed to my calf, but do I have to see his friggin’ face everywhere?'”
Since the breakup, Milano has jokingly reattributed the tattooed initials, saying that they stand for “Some Rad Woman.”
2. She made a best-selling workout video called Teen Steam
In 1988, Milano created a VHS workout tape named Teen Steam, aimed at her female peers.
The video featured Milano and two actresses dancing along to 80s pop hits – which Milano now looks back on and cringes.
In an interview with Yahoo, Milano was asked whether any of it embarrassed her, and she laughed: “All of it. All of it, are you kidding? But in a good way.”
“And you have to realize that a lot of my ’80s is on camera in some way, right?” she added. “I went through puberty on television in the ’80s. There could not be a more ugly era for fashion, and there I was for everyone to see. So, yeah, that whole time.”
But Milano is happy that the video inspired plenty of girls to start exercising through dance: “To hear stories about how kids would do it and it helped them to feel good about themselves, it’s great.”
She also sang the video’s theme song, which was written and produced by her father, Thomas Milano.
1. She’s the daughter of a fashion designer
Milano was born in Brooklyn and raised in Staten Island. She has Italian ancestry, and she was brought up in a Roman Catholic household.
Her mother, Lin Milano, started working as a fashion designer in the late 70s, around the same time that Alyssa started acting.
Meanwhile her father, Thomas Milano, worked in editing music and soundtracks for the big screen.
Raised with her younger brother Cory, Alyssa has praised her parents for giving her a relatively normal home life while she was a child star.
“I love my family very much – they’ve really backed my career,” she said to Teen Beat in 1988. “I consider myself to be normal: I’ve got to clean my room, and help in the kitchen.”
Milano also kept her education on track while filming Who’s The Boss? with the help of an on-set tutor, spending three hours a day in lessons.