Jennie Garth’s Girls Taking School Days in Stride

10/08/2010 at 08:00 AM ET

Jennie Garth always amazes us: she balances her career with three growing girls, and happens to be married to a Twilight star, too! And she’s never been afraid to speak up about what she believes in, whether it be body image, making marriage work or taking extra-special care of your kids. Throughout October, she’s serving as the face of Walk to School Month, encouraging families to walk their kids to class each morning.

We recently had the chance to chat with the actress about daughters Luca Bella, 13, Lola Ray, 7½, and Fiona Eve, 4, plus her involvement with the Green Works Walk to School Challenge.

Amanda Schwab/Startraks


Why did you get involved with the Green Works Walk to School Challenge?

I take on things that I feel have meaning to me or other parents out there. This was an opportunity to help families have some more quality time together, get some exercise and live a more natural, healthy lifestyle. It fits in with the things I do.

This Green Works Walk to School Challenge enables kids and families to experience shared walks to school, but they can also sign up for the actual challenge, which enables them to win grants for their schools — and those are desperately needed. So this is a great opportunity, a win-win situation all around. I definitely encourage parents to go onto the Green Works Facebook page, sign up, log their footsteps to school and keep track of their bicycling to school — that’s eligible, too!

Did you walk to school as a child?

I lived really far out in the country, so walking wasn’t really an option, but I did walk a good way to the school bus every day. Now, I’ve just moved to a place near our school, so I can walk my girls, and it’s been great. If you’re able to walk your kids, or even drive a few blocks away and park, it’s fun! It gets people out and active. I think it’s really important for our children.

Speaking of school, how are your girls?

They’re great! They’re 13, 7 and 4, and just in all their glory, in each of those age categories. Thirteen hasn’t been hard, actually. I think that I was fortunate to work with Amanda Bynes when she was 16 and I was in my thirties, and I got to see what it’s like to be around a teenager a lot.

That was sort of my ‘training’ for being the mom of a teen, so now I can roll with it a little easier — I know what’s typical teen behavior, and instead of it bugging me quite so much and being an obstacle, I can embrace it and think, ‘That’s how she’s supposed to be behaving.’ We have a really good 13-year-old daughter — she’s a great girl — so we’ve been fortunate so far.

Is Fiona in school now, too?

She goes to pre-school three days a week, and she just loves it. And I love having the empty house! I love when she’s at school, and it helps that I know how much she loves it, and how happy she is. I get a lot accomplished at home when there’s no one there.

With three school-aged daughters, what’s the getting ready process like in your house each morning?

It’s crazy! I try to keep it quiet, but the girls are starting to get old enough where they handle some things themselves. So I focus on breakfast and lunch while they get ready. But it’s not too, too bad.

Is Luca still into sports? Are the other girls showing interest?

Yes she is, she’s a point-scorer for her soccer team. She’s doing a play at school this week, too. Our 7-year-old is in tennis now, and the 4-year-old is taking dance and gymnastics, so we’re keeping the kids active. It can be a hardship for me to schlep them everywhere — drive the ‘mommy bus’ — but it’s so important that they get off to a good start through activities like these.

We require our girls to do one physical activity outside of school each week, and one musical thing, too. They get to pick, and whatever they pick is what we support. At first we thought, Luca plays soccer, why wouldn’t Lola play soccer, too? She’s really good at it, she has a natural athletic ability, but she wanted to do her own thing, and so we let her pick her own sport.

Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic

Have any of them been bitten by the acting bug?

We’ll see how Luca’s school play goes. The 7-year-old is desperately nervous and shy, and Fiona is just a ham, so I’m sure she’ll be doing something someday!

Have you started planning for Halloween yet?

We’re starting to talk about it. We’re having a party for the eighth graders, and we’re talking about what we’re all going to be. The girls are going to the costume box!

We’ll have a haunted-house type thing, too. We have a lot of Halloween decorations, so we have to put them to use!

Last time we spoke, Peter was away on location. Is he back now?

He’s away again, now in New York doing Nurse Jackie, then he goes straight into the next Twilight movie in November, so he’ll be tied up until spring of next year. We cope with weekend visits, here and there visits, so it’s a tough, busy time, but it won’t last forever.

With the girls, he does a lot of texting, a lot of Skyping. That’s the best way to do it! Phone calls are different because there always seems to be chaos and we don’t get to focus. But with Skype, the girls can carry the computer around the house to wherever they’d like to chat.

Are the girls allowed to watch dad in Twilight?

The older ones have watched it, and they’re not scared — they know it’s just acting! I’m sure it’s a little weird, especially for Luca, to have your dad be in this huge series, but she doesn’t really have too much to do with it. They get it a little bit from the kids in school but for the most part, kids just do their own thing. They’re so wrapped up in their own worlds.

What’s next for you?

I have a movie for the Hallmark Channel coming out in January, one that Peter wrote called Mulligan, so that’s very exciting!

— Kate Hogan

FILED UNDER: Exclusive , News , Parenting

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Showing 42 comments

tink1217 on

I absolutely LOVE this family!

Dina on

It is so refreshing to hear a story of a wholesome, loving Hollywood family! There is no drama, only love and support! Kudos to Peter and Jennie for teaching their children what is really important in life…family.

sara on

Everytime I read “daughter Luca” I cringe. Luca is a MALE name! If she lived in Italy she would’ve never been allowed to name her daughter Luca…it’s masculine, it would be like naming a daughter Luke in America…it’s just wrong

Kimber Christian on

What’s wrong with giving girls (typically) male names? These days there are TONS of females named Jordan, Ryan, Taylor, Elliott, Dylan Peyton and more! I personally love the unisex names and there are no “rules” when it comes to naming your child. Everyone gets a choice and we should not judge what name they choose for their baby. If you don’t have something nice to say…don’t say anything at all!!!!

stacey on

Sara, how can you say that naming her daughter Luca is just wrong? That’s ridiculous! Both of my kids have names that are suited for a male or female, that was the decision of my husband and I. Although a lot of people have opinions on others name choices, it is never “wrong”, it’s just their choice.

jessicad on

Aw, I LOVE boy names for girls, and really think Luca sounds more feminine anyway!

Love love love Jennie Garth, she has the life I want, 3 girls and a gorgeous husband:) She really seems down to earth, along with Sarah Jessica Parker and Katherine Hiegl, Jennie is one of those actresses I’d love to have coffee with!

Allie-Rose on

@ Sara – Maybe you’re over-reacting a bit, aren’t you? Maybe it’s a male name in Italy (in many other countries, it’s spelt Lucas, with an S), but I think they just went for a different spelling for Luce or Lucy and didn’t think of the male name at all.

In France and in Greece, the name Alexis is a male name, and Paris is a Greek male name too. It always strikes me funny when I hear about girls wearing those names, but “cringing” is a bit too much, I think.

Sophie on

I don’t consider it “wrong” to give a girl a boys’ name, but I would never do it myself. I can imagine that on the first day of school when the teacher asks ‘which one of you boys is Luca?’ it might be annoying for the girl to have to say: ‘it’s me’. I believe that in Italy people are still very traditional about giving boys a boys’ name and girls a girls’ name, but in other European countries, such as the UK, Belgium, the Netherlands,…unisex names (such as Sam and Luca) are starting to become more popular.

Extra note: I think it’s also a major difference between the US and Europe. In the US there are far less (emotional/personal choice) restrictions as in most European countries. E.g. giving your child a last name as a first name would be considered completely ridiculous in most European countries, whereas in the US everyone seems to be doing it these days (e.g. recent celeb kids like McCoy and McGreggor).

So what I’m trying to say is that it probably depends on personal opinions based on the culture you grew up with.


Ellea on

Yeah when I saw Luca i thought it was a typo. Luca Bella is just so juvenile and I took dislike when mens names are taken and given to girls. Anyway, i have really fond memories of walking to and from school with my mom or grandmother.

Allie-Rose on

Sophie – I also think it’s easier in the US to give your child a last name as a first name because the language allows it, while it’s not the case in most European languages

fiona on

For all of you naysayers out there, it’s a good thing we live in the United States then, isn’t it? We all have choices and can name our kids whatever we want. Deal with it.

kai on

could you explain what you mean? please:)

CB on

Sara—My mother named me Colby which is more profoundly known as a boys name. Surprise, I’m a girl! People are quite surprised when they realize I am a girl…mostly in job interviews which is the main reason my mother named me the way she did. I personally love unisex names and unique names and I am proud of the name my mother has chosen for me…I get compliments on it all the time as well as surprised faces when they realize I am a girl. I would prefer a ‘males’ name over a common name such as Sara anyday…Luca is a beautiful name 🙂

CB on

Kudos Fiona!

sam on


Most European languages last names have meaning so last names can not be used as first names. Like Harley for example can be a first name for a girl a boy or a last name, and it’s mostly found in USA and Canada. But my last name for example means big boobies so it can not be used as a first name. Thankfully I was born in Canada so I have a normal first name and no one know the meaning of my last name. Hope that helps answer your question.

As for this family I love them. They are just a happy healthy family that cares about each other. What more could you ask for in the world today, regardless of their names.

h on

@ allie rose, you are french right? well i am and i don’t understand what you meant by the fact that the english language “allows” people to give their kids a last name as a first name… i think it’s just a cultural thing. They started it first…
but what’s truly different from naming your kid MacGregor or Lincoln, than naming him Dupont or Lebon…

As for Luca’s name, it’s spelled LUCA for a reason: it’s not Lucas, not Luka..they wanted it to be different. Plus Luca comes from the latin Luce with means “light”, i thnk it suits girls better.

dreaB on

I’m surprised no one has commented on the fact that, in the top picture, her blouse makes it appear like she’s pregnant. I know they’ve said in multiple interviews that their family of 5 is perfect for them, but she would be super cute pregnant and they’re obviously very loving parents.

Caitie on

H – you are correct. Jennie has said that her name is Luca Bella because together it means “beautiful light” and she filled her parents’ lives with a beautiful light when she was born. She did a television show on Lifetime many, many years ago (Before Lola was born!) where she spoke of it.

JPod on

Dreab – I thought the same thing! But everyone else is just going on about the name for their daughter.
I love hearing about this family. They are so freshingly non-hollywood with their kids. You rarely see their kids in pics or even themselves because they want to raise their kids to be just regular kids who have fun, get dirty, etc. And her & her husband are just too cute together!

Alice on

Thanks Caitie, I didn’t know that. It’s a beautiful meaning! She can answer that to the naysayers who mock her “boy’s name”.

tilly on

I hated walking over a mile to school in the snow in NYS!! I guess it wouldn’t be that bad if you live in CA

Madison on

I agree that her flowing top makes it looks like she has a baby bump. How old is Jenny? She probably near 40?

sara on

um, h: Luca is the Italian equivalent of Luke/Lucas. It’s actually one of the most common names for boys/men in Italy.

I guess it’s a cultural thing…as I said the name Luca on a girl sounds ridiculous and “wrong” to an Italian…hopefully this girl will never move to Italy lol

sgv on

ITA with Sara!

jessicad on

They kind of hint around that they might have another right? It’s probably just the shirt or the wind, but it would be awesome if she was pregnant!

Louise on

Lol, i also expeted all the comments to be speculating on another pregnancy! (for the record, i LOVE the name Luca Bella, to the point its on my shortlist of future possible baby names lol)

They have definately hinted around on having another, and i really hope they do! they have such gorgeous family and i’d love to see it grow, especially as they seem so in love still and both speak to lovingly and happily about their kids and eachother!

Go Facinelli/Garth’s! xx

Mary on

For a so-called non-Hollywood family they sure like to go to a lot of Hollywood press events that even much bigger stars would not take their children to, yet this family gets no criticism about it.

Maddie Maloon on

Okay, I usually don’t post here, but this is ridiculous! You women are supposed to be adults, and you are acting like teenagers. It is crazy to be caught up with something so petty as Jennie and Peter naming their daughter a “boy’s name.” It is not your decision, not your kid. I don’t know if you all are so desperate for attention that you feel the need to spread your negativity all over the internet, but it’s very annoying. And, by the way, Luca Bella is named after Peter’s uncle.

HeatherR on

She definitely looks pregnant in that picture! Her boobs seem bigger and it looks like her belly button is popping out a little bit. Maybe my eyes are deceiving me or maybe it is just wishful thinking 😉 I would love to see her have another baby!

amandamay on

i actually like the name luca bella. normally i hate when people use “boy names” on girls – but not for the reasons others have mentioned here. there are so many fewer boy names out there to begin with and most are being jumped on by the parents of little girls – leave some for the boys! and before you all shout “they are unisex!!” that’s not really true. once a name starts being used by females, it tends to become a female name over time (ashley, lindsay etc and now with riley, evan, jordan etc). i really get annoyed by the whole “it’s unisex!” thing also because it doesn’t work both ways – when all you moms start naming your SONS olivia, ava and sophie, then you can get back to me. in the meantime, stop taking all of the boy names 🙂

Anonymous on

Sara I’m Italian and I think that Luca is a beautiful girls name!!! You should be ashamed of yourself for saying it’s ‘wrong’. We are lucky that we can name our children whatever we want and it doesn’t matter what other people with small minds, like you, think. I’m glad that I don’t have family members or friends like you.

I love Jennie and her family seems very down to earth which is very refreshing with the way some children are being raised these days. Keep up the good work, Jennie and Peter!!!

Donna (and yes Sara, it’s an Italian name meaning ‘Lady’)

CelebBabyLover on

Let me add on a bit to what Allie-Rose said about how some languages don’t really allow for last names to be first names. In some countries, you also really can’t get away with giving a girl a “boys'” name, or vice-versa. For example, most slavic female names end with the letter a. Not only that, but in slavic languages, the letter a on the end of a word generally means it’s feminine (slavic words have “classes”, of which there are three: masculine, feminine, and neutral).

So, for the most part, in slavic countries, giving a boy a name ending in A simply isn’t done (I say for the most part because there ARE a few slavic male names that end in A, too)…..because names that end with A are considered feminine!

Bottomline, I think whether or not it’s “okay” to give a child a name traditionally used for the opposite sex is very much a cultural/language thing.

Anyway, does anyone know how Luca’s name is pronouced? Is it “Luke-uh” or “Lou-shuh”?

sara on

Lol, anonymous, you must be an “Italian” born and raised in America, right? cause if you were an Italian born and raised in Italy you would totally see where I’m coming from

Emmy on

I love the name Luca bella, its a beautiful girls name!

Allie-Rose on

@ Kai and H – yes, I am French (maybe I should also mention that I live in France and talking about how things are over here) and what I mean by the English language allows for last names to be used as first names is simply that. For example, I have a cousin in Utah. She is half American and her maiden name is Blake and she’d always said that if she had a son, she’d call him Blake. And that works just fine.

Most French last names, however, are too complicated to be used as first names. For example, the names H mentioned, Dupont or Lebon, are common French last names. But they just don’t work as first names, and neither would most most French last names. At least in France. That doesn’t mean other languages can’t use them as first names.

So of course, it’s ALSO a cultural thing, but I think English names (and therefore English language) are more “flexible” and allow for greater imagination when it comes to naming your child.

Jane on

I absolutely hate male names on girls. Names don’t become unisex or females just because people use them for girls. I love how people say they love names like Luca and Ryan on a girl but they wouldn’t name a boy Sarah or Elisabeth.

CelebBabyLover on

Jane- If names don’t become unisex or female just because people use them for girls, how do you explain the fact that Ashley and Emma were once “boy” names….but are now considered “girl” names?

ZaraB on

I have a son named Luca, and agree that it sounds very strange on a girl…

Karen on

CelebBabyLover, Ashley yes, but Emma comes from Old German and has always been used as feminine name. I do see what you mean, Marion (like John Wayne) and Leslie (like Bob Hope) were acceptable male names up until the 50s and now would be laughed at.

I always felt bad for my male classmates Ashley and Shannon in high school. Both were Southern with long standing family names, and both got so much grief!

paula on

The name “Andrea” is another one that is strictly a boy’s name in Italy (Andrew) and definitely a girl’s name in the States. My daughter has a friend in the States named “Amara”, which sounds very pretty in English, but means “bitter” in Italian. My Italian-born MIL always thinks it’s so strange that she has that name.
In other words, it’s all cultural.

Mediwiz on

It´s not just cultural, it´s also the law….over here (Germany, and in variations also in many other European countries) you are not allowed to give a girl a boys´ name, because you have to be able to tell the gender by the name of a person. This leads to confusion with foreign names, which simply weren´t known over here… when I hear Luca, I think male. (Ever since Luca Toni, quite a lot of German boys got that name as well, instead of the more common Lucas (or Lukas). It´s the opposite with Andrea, though. In Germany, it´s a common name for girls as the female version of Andreas. When I hear about Italian men named Andrea, I get confused…I have no idea if by now, you could get away with naming a boy Andrea over here. I do know a German couple living in Italy was not allowed to give that name to their daughter.
Last names, by the way, are not allowed either….
Do you have any restrictions at all on what to name your children in the US? Or can you name your child whatever you like, even if it´s entirely made up?

caroline on

Wow, do you people really have nothing better to do than comment on these articles? I mean the paragraphs of arguments and disagreements, seriously do you not have a day job? Well to my put my two cents in, did you think the pronunciation of her name could be feminine? Regardless who cares what they name their kids, its their decision, get over it.