Tiffani Thiessen (born Tiffani-Amber Thiessen; January 23, 1974) is an American actress best known for her roles as Kelly Kapowski in Saved by the Bell and as Valerie Malone in Beverly Hills, 90210. She is also known for her role on Fastlane as Wilhelmina 'Billie' Chambers. As of 2009, she plays the role of Elizabeth Burke, in White Collar. After many years of going by her full name, Tiffani-Amber Thiessen, she is now credited as simply Tiffani Thiessen.
Thiessen was born in Long Beach, California, the daughter of Robyn, a homemaker, and Frank Thiessen, a park designer and landscape architect. She has two siblings; an older brother named Todd, an actor and avid professional cyclist, and a younger brother named Schuyler. Her father is of German descent and her mother is of Greek, Turkish and Welsh descent. Thiessen told InStyle magazine: "I'm a mutt. I have so much of everything in me, and half of it I don't even know. German on one side, Greek, Turkish and Welsh on the other. My mom is very olive-skinned; I get my blue eyes from my dad." She credits her brother, Todd, as one of her most important sources of inspiration, and her mother and grandmother as role models. She attended Cubberley Elementary and Marshall Junior High School in Long Beach. In 1992, Thiessen graduated as valedictorian at Valley Professional High School in Studio City, Los Angeles, California. Her uncle, Roger Ernest, attended college with Steven Spielberg and co-wrote one of his student films called Slipstream. Her uncle also appeared in Close Encounters of the Third Kind and The Sugarland Express, playing a police officer in both films. Ernest was the first person to suggest that Thiessen enter show business.
After a childhood of beauty pageants, Thiessen was crowned Miss Junior America in 1987 and a year later won Teen magazine's "Great Model Search" in 1988, by gracing the cover of that issue. At the age of 15, she auditioned for the role of Kelly Kapowski on the television show Saved by the Bell, which was highly publicized and received a great deal of fanfare from the same magazine that discovered her. In the end, Thiessen's publicity from that magazine had landed her the role. She was nominated for, but did not win, the Young Artist Award for Outstanding Young Ensemble Cast. She was also nominated in 1989, 1991, and 1992. She continued to play the role of Kelly in the short-lived spin-off Saved by the Bell: The College Years. To broaden her visibility on television, Thiessen began making television appearances with guest starring roles on several television shows and television movies, as well as in film. Including Saved by the Bell: Hawaiian Style (1992), A Killer Among Friends (1992), Son in Law (1993), and Saved by the Bell: Wedding in Las Vegas (1994). During her years while on Saved by the Bell, Thiessen was seen in guest roles on Charles in Charge (1990), Married... with Children (1990), The Hogan Family (1990), Step by Step (1992), and The Powers That Be (1992).