The US's first on-screen love has—and likely always will be—Melissa Joan Hart. Now, with a family of her own and a very successful acting history, we can look back on the days when Hart was a preteen and stealing fans' hearts for the very first time. From shows like Clarissa Explains It All and Sabrina the Teenage Witch to movies like Drive Me Crazy and My Fake Fiance, she has seemingly done it all in the way of romantic comedies. What fans don't see much of, though, is who Hart was when she wasn't starring in major TV shows or landing roles in feel-good movies.
The bubbly teen has always been great in front of the camera and has never seemed to shy away from it. This was true for her even as a child, as her bright personality and humorous outlook on life shines through in nearly every shot. Melissa is one of those people everyone loves and is also one of the only celebs who has managed to stay true to herself and the roles she brings life to. We decided to dig a little deeper into the background of everyone's favorite '90s girl to see what her life was like behind the scenes in pictures!
20 That Classic High School Photo
For the most part, Melissa Joan Hart was just a normal kid who attended a normal high school — Sayville High School in New York, in fact. Anyone who has been to Sayville knows what a small town it is and, for the most part, very normal. It's just like any other small town, meaning Hart didn't grow up in a lavish L.A. home or get handed fame like some others. Her first chance to be on-screen was when she was only four years old and she landed the part in a commercial for Splashy's. To say she had talent at a young age would be an understatement.
19 She Really Was Just A Normal Teen, Decorated Locker, And Everything
Until she was well into her primary school days, Hart managed to maintain her schoolwork and keep up with the days in the Sayville School District. When she landed her role as Clarissa Darling on Clarissa Explains It All, she needed to attend school on-set and moved to New York City to continue her passion for film. Despite all this, she still managed to crush it and would go on to attend New York University via correspondence classes while she worked on being an actress. Interestingly enough, the classes she chose to take weren't in film, but rather literature and art.
18 The Childhood Bedroom That Made Sense At The Time
The great thing about Clarissa Explains It All was that it was so simply human. Hart brought to life a character who was innocent yet attempting to understand the world as seen through the eyes of a teen. This was something she carried through each of her roles and it's easy to see in still-life photos of her as well. Her contagious smile and expressive face send a clear message about who it is she's portraying, and the best part? It's actually believable. Everything down to her crazily decorated, slightly bizarre room decor, was exactly as all her fans expected it to be.
17 High School Take Two: This Time With A Classic '90s Sundress
Although she was born in 1976, Hart will always be viewed as a '90s star. She made her debut in the mid to late '80s but captured that hearts of many in the early and mid-'90s. This school photo of her portrays that classic '90s look that all of us rocked at least once. Your wardrobe simply wasn't complete without at least one daisy floral dress and it was even chicer if it had spaghetti straps. While Hart certainly had style in school, she didn't have the most normal of graduations when it came to high school. The crew of Clarissa Explains It All had a personal graduation for her, complete with the title of a Nickelodeon High School graduate.
16 She Knew Ryan Reynolds Before He Was Famous!
In case you needed further proof that Hart is one of those people who gets along with everyone, she's friends with Ryan Reynold's current wife, Blake Lively, despite the history that he and Hart had back in the '90s. She's nothing but a sweetheart and she admits that there was some off-screen chemistry between her and Reynolds and, while they did nothing more than kiss, she never gave him the chance that she probably should have. It all worked out for the best, though, as Hart is now married to long-time boyfriend Mark Wilkerson with three children and Reynolds is married to Lively with two children of their own.
15 Surprises Are One Thing She's Always Been Good At; Check Out The Two-Toned Jacket
One thing we all love about Melissa Joan Hart is her ability to act surprised at a moment's notice. The star did get much of her start in an off-Broadway play, Beside Herself, starring alongside William Hurt, so there's no denying that she had acting down pat by the time she made it to big-name TV shows. Along with being superbly overdramatic, Hart's talents include wicked sarcasm, humor, and, well, generally acting surprised no matter what the scenario. Her expressive face allows her the versatility to experience everything her character is experiencing, something many don't have the same talent for.
14 We Totally Forgot She Was Friends With Britney Spears!
As if Hart couldn't get any more fabulous, she's also (very) long-time friends with pop singer Britney Spears. The two met while Spears was filming the music video for "Crazy" which would later appear in the movie Drive Me Crazy, which Hart took center stage in.
The two were fast friends despite their age difference and are still good friends to this day. Hart even shared a story of how she snuck Spears into her first club even though she was underage, one that they both look back on and laugh about today. In the days where it's hard to find one good friend, these two give us life.
13 Melissa And Britney Even Had Matching Jackets, Now That's True Friendship
We were pretty serious when we said that Hart and Spears had the friendship that we all aim to have with our own friends. While they don't see each other all the time, when they do, it seems that no time has really passed at all. It's common knowledge that Hart made an appearance in Spears' Crazy music video but not everyone knows that she actually returned the favor. The same year the music video was filmed, Spears also appeared on Sabrina the Teenage Witch. The episode was a hit and fans loved the back and forth which was good news for the two gal pals.
12 Is That Sarcasm Or Just Amusement? Her Role As Clarissa, The Know-It-All
Hart is an actress we'd describe as being mature beyond her years. While watching her on Clarissa Explains It All, you'd think that she was born for the part. In fact, it seems that most of her roles have been practically created for her personality, which shines through effortlessly in her acting much of the time. Starring as Clarissa, Hart was honest, funny, and, well, a typical preteen. That role, filled by many a '90s childhood star, was one that kids and teens craved on TV at the time. This is where she grew a large part of her fan base and it's easy to see how.
11 She's Got That Jungle Fever!
And here we see a wild Melissa, complete with an uber '90s crop top and low-rise jeans... Just kidding! While it's definitely rare to find photos of Hart outside of her films or public appearances, we were able to find some that surfaced on the Internet unnoticed. This photo is so perfect simply because it portrays Hart in such a natural way — she seems to always be smiling and upbeat, something that her fans love about her as well. The carefree, simplistic attitude is how she chooses to live her life as well — with positive vibes and belief that things will work out.
10 A Track Star In The Making, No Less
Surprise! This is a photo still from the making of the Sabrina movie, which was a hit and a thrill for fans of the long-time TV series. While she likely didn't have much time for sports outside of her acting life, she portrayed a spritely teenage witch in the movie (the same one from the show) and, as you may have guessed, she did it well. This photo is so believable, in fact, that if fans didn't know who Melissa Joan Hart was, you might guess that she was some kind of talented track star. Hats off to the girl in the throwback kicks, complete with a school uniform that looks like it was made for her.
9 'Drive Me Crazy' Earned Her Some Pretty Big Acting Points
Not surprisingly, Hart said in an interview with Today that she and co-star Adrian Grenier are still very good friends to this day. The two came from vastly different acting backgrounds but something must have clicked between them because their on-screen presence in Drive Me Crazy was pretty undeniable. The photo above seems pretty genuine according to what Hart said in the 2018 interview, stating that they had a great experience together and tons of fun while filming on-set. Additionally, they both starred in the Britney Spears music video for "Crazy," during which they were instructed to 'just dance' and do their thing.
8 Cute And Cuddly, A Perfect Movie Romance
While we know that Hart and Reynolds never actually ended up in a relationship together, we do know that they undoubtedly had some off-screen chemistry. They're still good friends to this day, even though they've both gone their separate ways and have gone on to be incredibly successful on their own paths. That's not to say that Hart doesn't look back fondly on their time together, however, as is obvious in this photo that we found. According to her, she and Reynolds were cute and 'smitten' with each other, and that chemistry made for an excellent on-screen match, shaggy hair and all.
7 The '90s Grunge Scene
It was the '90s, man! Hart already admits to sneaking close friend, Britney Spears, into a club when she was underage, so obviously she was no stranger to the nightlife. This photo is such a blast because not only is it candid and completely catching Hart off guard, but it's fun and in the moment, too. We can only surmise that she was laughing or joking about something which would not be unusual for her nature. Additionally, it just shows how fun-loving and naturally vibrant the star is, even at such a young age in the prime of her acting profession.
6 We Get It, Brushing Your Teeth Can Definitely Be Life-Changing
There's that classic 'surprised' face that preteen Melissa Joan Hart was so well-known for! These classic looks of hers were always what seemed to put her acting over the edge. It happened a lot on the set of Clarissa Explains It All but really, the key to selling her role in most romantic comedies was pulling off genuine emotion. Her ability to express herself so well and adapt to whichever character she's playing is something that we just have to applaud, and the famous look of awe is one of our favorites. It's a classic 'Melissa face' if you will, and we love it.
5 Remember When Everyone Wore Chain Necklaces?
Melissa Joan Hart's style was nothing short of iconic '90s and this photo says it all. Not only is she sporting a classic thermal knit which everyone seemed to have, but she's also wearing the same ball-link necklaces that were all the rage in the early '90s. Not only were they used as keychains but yes, teens used to wear them as a fashion statement, too! The layered chokers were something that everyone seemed to have and this is once again reminding us that Hart was, in fact, just an average teen. Despite her early fame, she loved the same trends that everyone else did.
4 A Bit Of A Midnight Ritual, Or Playing The Part For 'Sabrina'?
When we watched Sabrina the Teenage Witch, it was tough for us to figure out where Melissa Joan Hart stopped and Sabrina Spellman began. She sold the role so well and played the part in such a way that she was a true natural. The teenage witch did some pretty rad still-shots as Sabrina as well, one of which we were able to find. Not only does it give us classic October vibes but it has us reminiscing over the days when we'd run home from school just so we didn't miss out on any episodes. Huge fans of Melissa Joan Hart, part of 10,000 coming through!
3 This Red Carpet Appearance Screams The '90s
We all went through some crazy trends when we were teens and hey, celebrities are no different. All it takes is a quick Google search through the 90s and early 2000s to figure out which celebs were totally on top of them and which ones did their own thing. Melissa Joan Hart was somewhere in the middle, hopping on some pretty popular chic looks while also doing her own thing, such as pictured above. The teeny tiny braids were classic of the '90s, but the short, choppy baby bangs were something that few people could pull off well. For Hart, they suited her perfectly... but then again, what didn't?
2 That computer Definitely Did Not Have Internet Or Anything Close To It
Clarissa knew it all, right? Well, that was definitely without the help of a computer. Back in 1991, you were lucky if you even had a computer in your household and if you did, it was likely only for the simplest of programs and maybe a game or two. The days of DOS are long gone but we're sure that Hart remembers taking a round or two on this bad boy. This photo is classic and we're sure that she'd be making the same one if she were to be reminded of the days when using this thing was the most advanced thing you could be doing in 1991. Talk about a throwback.
1 Cornrows Marked The Beginning Of A New Era, Goodbye '90s
It's true, Melissa Joan Hart was still very popular well into the early 2000s. She's still acting to this day along with doing several other projects but even in the good old days, she was as trendy as could be. The star had a style that was ever-changing but was always interesting and unique, and her hairstyles seemed to echo that in pop-culture trends. Her cornrows, for example, were something that began in the late and early 2000s but she totally rocked them. It was fitting for her outgoing personality and something fans have always loved about her, regardless of the decade.