Melissa Joan Hart was almost fired from Sabrina for posing for Maxim

It’s a bit surreal to me that it’s been 32 years since Clarissa Explains It All premiered and Melissa Joan Hart became a staple of my childhood thanks to Clarissa, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, and Drive Me Crazy. She fell off my radar after I went to college, though, and I had no idea that Sabrina ended in 2003. In my mind, it had ended around the time of Drive Me Crazy coming out. Turns out, Sabrina almost did end around the time the movie came out because Melissa was almost fired for posing in her underwear for Maxim at age 23.

While appearing on a recent episode of Pod Meets World, a Boy Meets World rewatch podcast with Rider Strong, Danielle Fishel and Will Friedle, Melissa shares the story of the worst day of her life, which happened to also be the same day as the New York premiere of Drive Me Crazy. To quickly set the story up, it begins when Hart is asked about the famous picture of her posing with Britney Spears, and she reveals that she had been crying (which you can now totally tell when you relook at the picture). According to Melissa, she had been up since 4 a.m. doing press, broke up with her boyfriend that night, and found out as she was on her way to the airport to film a part in Scary Movie that she had been fired from it. She changed course and headed to the afterparty instead, which is where she got more bad news.

“That picture was taken,” Melissa said in reference to the photo of her and Britney. “And my lawyer shows up and goes: ‘You did a photoshoot for Maxim magazine?’ I’m like: ‘Yes, I did.’ They’re like: ‘Well, you’re being sued and fired from your show, so don’t take to the press, don’t do anything.’”

Melissa then received a call from her mom asking her what she’d done. “I’m like: ‘I don’t know, whatever my publicist told me to do on the red carpet or at the photoshoot!’” Melissa recalled. “I did a photoshoot for Maxim, it’s Maxim, of course you’re going to be in your underwear.”

“They’re like: ‘We’re being fired from the show,’ I’m like, oh my god, so I’m crying, then the movie gets out and everyone shows up,” Melissa went on.

The podcast hosts were left speechless by Melissa’s story, but when Will asked if that was the end of Sabrina, Melissa said that thankfully nothing came of the drama because the people who wanted to sue her “had no ground to stand on.”

Explaining exactly what had gone down, she shared: “What happened was the magazine wrote ‘Sabrina, your favorite witch without [a stitch]…’ I’d never heard of someone being on the cover of a magazine and not using their name, they used Sabrina.”

“In my Archie Comics contract, it said I would never play the character [of Sabrina] naked,” Melissa then revealed. “So here they were thinking I’m in breach because I’m playing the character. No, that was supposed to be me promoting my movie, it wasn’t supposed to be a character. I had no control over what they wrote on the cover.”

“So I wrote an apology letter and it was all gone,” Melissa concluded, before admitting that the scandal around her cover ended up being huge publicity for Drive Me Crazy as the situation was widely discussed on TV.

Breaking down the discourse, she summarized: “Can Melissa be sexy? She’s 23, is she allowed to be sexy? What’s going on here? Is it allowed? Is it OK? Why is she being fired from her show? And all the drama. It made for Drive Me Crazy to come out and be a huge success.”

[From Buzzfeed]

There is so much to unpack here. I’m sure I’m missing something, but off the top of my head, first, it really sounds like the magazine did her dirty with the headline. I can’t believe that no one on her team knew about it ahead of time to get it changed. Second, she was 23-years-old. This wasn’t the same situation as when Jessica Biel posed for Gear as a 17-year-old minor. Third, the pictures are pretty tame, even by 1999 standards. What allegedly happened behind-the-scenes is way juicer than the pictures (and, *if* true, probably explains why her answer was “I did what my publicist said to do” and that’s a whole other thing). Finally, the double standard! I know I’m probably preaching to the choir here, but it’s wild that women are both sexualized and held to higher standards than men are when they lean into their sexuality. I’m glad it all blew over for Melissa and what happened is just a footnote in her career, but yikes, that definitely sounds like it was a terrible day. You can listen to Melissa’s full episode of Pod Meets World here.

“Sabrina, your favorite witch without a stitch!”

— Pop Base (@PopBase) August 22, 2023

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