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Carmen Electra: Electrifying Appeal

Carmen Electra’s story begins as so many Hollywood tales do: A small-town girl with big-time dreams set her sights on fame and fortune, and was motivated enough to make it happen.

Electra, 30, grew up in White Oak, Ohio as Tara Leigh Patrick. By age 9, she was studying voice and as teen she discovered her love of dance. At age 15, Electra moved to Minneapolis with her sister and got her first paid modeling job. By her late teens, this driven dynamo had found her way to Los Angeles and christened herself Carmen Electra, the names of two favorite operas. Soon after, she was discovered by the artist formerly known as Prince and her career was off and running. Despite Prince’s support, her album flopped. As so many aspiring starlets do, Electra then posed for Playboy magazine, which got her noticed by MTV. The network offered her hosting jobs on Loveline and Singled Out, which led to an offer to replace Pamela Anderson on Baywatch. Small film roles followed, and she currently can be seen in the Baywatch reunion TV movie as well as Livin’ Large, a syndicated show she co-hosts with Kadeem Hardison.

Despite courtships with actors, musicians and even basketball star Dennis Rodman, Electra is happier than she has ever been, mostly thanks to fiancé Dave Navarro, a guitarist (Jane’s Addiction, The Red Hot Chili Peppers and a solo CD, Trust No One).

While the couple enjoys hanging out with pals Brittany Murphy and Marilyn Manson, Women’s Health & Fitness caught up with Electra as she and Navarro were relaxing at their contemporary home in Beverly Hills, where she dished about Dave, Dennis and dreams she hopes soon come true.

EA: You’re looking healthy and happy these days. What do you do to keep in shape?

CE: Just a lot of movement. I think with my workout, I like to mix it up. I get really bored doing the same thing so I change my workout a lot. Right now, I’ve actually cut back on working out. I was obsessed with going five to six times a week and I would actually be upset if I missed a workout and I was really hard on myself. I started dancing in a group with other girls. We performed at the Roxy and we had a lot of dance rehearsals and I kind of got out of the habit of being at the gym every day. And the dancing worked different areas of my body and so once we finished the show I cut my workout down to going maybe twice a week. I’ll do 30 minutes of cardio. I like to walk on an incline on the treadmill, and then just sit-ups.

EA: What kind of dancing are you doing?

CE: The show that I’m doing is kind of like a burlesque cabaret act. So, it’s very sexy, and it’s a lot of plies, a lot of bending. So you work your legs. We should come out with our own workout video because it’s actually a really good workout! We have different guest stars that have performed with us. They kind of rotate depending on their schedules: Christina Aguilera, Gwen Stefani, Brittany Murphy, Charlize Theron – so it’s cool.

EA: Can you tell me a little bit about your eating plan?

CE: I’m finally learning how to eat, because I’m from Ohio, and I grew up where first thing in the morning you have scrambled eggs with bacon and toast or biscuits and gravy, you know what I mean? So I grew up kind of just eating whatever I wanted and so I never really knew how to eat. It finally starts to catch up with you at a certain age and I remember when I hit 20 years old, I was still eating all that stuff and I was gaining weight. I hired a nutritionist and she helped me plan meals and she taught me to eat more protein and cut down on the carbs. I also like sushi.

EA: Do you ever indulge?

CE: I still have a junk day … I love junk food!

EA: So what do you eat on your junk day?

CE: Oh, God, we’ll have pizza or I like sweets. I have a major sweet tooth so I like ice cream and cookies and cake. Whenever I have a craving, I think you should just have some, as long as you don’t overdo it, it’s OK, you know?

EA: Do you ever cook for yourself?

CE: No, we like to eat out so we never cook. I’ve never used the kitchen here, not once. OK, I don’t know how to cook great, but I’m not bad if I try. I can make really good hot wings. But Dave, he likes to eat out and so do I.

EA: Are you going to get married?

CE: We’ve been engaged for about a year and we just moved in together about two months ago. And we are just really trying to be healthy and, yeah, we’re taking our time but we’re so excited and we’re so in love. He’s an amazing person, so I’m so happy.

EA: How has the relationship impacted your life?

CE: I spent a year before I met Dave, I was single, completely single, and I lost my mom. My mom passed away from a brain tumor.

EA: Oh, I’m so sorry.

CE: Yeah, and I lost my sister within a week of my mother and I was so devastated.

EA: How did your sister pass away?

CE: She passed away in her sleep. I actually was shooting a movie and my dad called and he said, “You’d better come home because your mom is not doing good. She’s only expected to live a couple of weeks, so you’d better get home.” And I flew home immediately and she was in really bad shape and I remember I was basically going home to say goodbye to her for the last time and the phone rang and it was my niece telling me that my sister died. So I was just devastated. It was so weird, you know? Probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to go through.

EA: I can imagine. How did you get through that?

CE: For a long time I didn’t feel anything because it was so painful that it was easier for me to try to distract myself with people, with friends, with a relationship, drama. I would go out a lot. I hired friends to be my assistant, people just to be around me 24/7 and I wasn’t feeling. I wasn’t allowing myself to feel anything and I made a lot of really bad decisions and it took me a while to finally … Actually, I’ll tell you what happened. I was watching Oprah and Dr. Phil when they were doing a show together, and Dr. Phil said, “In order to heal, you have to feel.” And I remember hearing that and I was like, “OK, I need to feel some of this. I can’t keep running away from it.” And I remember I pulled out my mom’s picture and I just looked at her picture and I just let myself cry. And I let it out and I made a lot of changes in my life, and I did a lot of healing, and it was the greatest thing that ever happened because it changed my life. Not her death, I mean, but just loving myself and taking care of myself and allowing myself to be human. Because I just always thought that to cry was a sign of weakness. My mom was like a real tough woman. She was a third degree black belt, and I had this image of my mom like breaking boards, and she was just this tough chick, and I realized it’s healthy to cry. It’s OK, and I let it out.

EA: Obviously it helped a lot.

CE: It really helped so much, and I decided that I needed to be alone for a long time. I didn’t really know how long it would go on for but I didn’t want a new relationship to be another distraction from the healing process. And that was hard, too, because I had gone from a four-year relationship into a two-year relationship and I had never known what it was like to be alone. And it was the best thing I could have ever done, and then a year later I met Dave, and we have so much in common. His mom passed away as well, and so we just bonded on this level, and he’s my best friend. We’ve been together ever since.

EA: Do you think things happen for a reason, like it was meant for you to meet each other?

CE: I always say to him that our moms are in heaven and they put us together. They’re looking out for us.

EA: That time when you were making bad decisions, would that have anything to do with the Dennis Rodman relationship?

CE: Absolutely. I actually met Dennis when my mom was diagnosed and she was having surgeries and going through that whole process. I met Dennis and there was something about him that was so much fun and I would go to Chicago and it was a total distraction from everything, and he’s a very fun person, you know? He likes to have a good time, you know, he’s like the life of the party. I think that when my mom and my sister died, even though I knew that the relationship with Dennis was really unhealthy, I was trying to hold on because I think I was really afraid of being alone, because I felt abandoned by my mom and my sister. And so I was holding on to this person that I love and it took me a long time to realize that, you know what, we both have different goals in life, and he wanted to party and I wanted to settle down and we weren’t compatible.

EA: Was it your decision to end the marriage, or how did that happen?

CE: What happened was we were in Vegas and it was like 7 o’clock in the morning he proposed to me, it was spontaneous. We didn’t think it out at all; we just went and did it. I was doing a show for the WB, so he flew me out there for the weekend just to hang out and then he proposed to me. I had to fly right back and go to work and he called me on the phone and he was laughing and he goes, “Turn on the news.” And I turned it on and they were saying all these things that we were drunk, and to him, he thought it was funny. Because he always said any publicity is good publicity and I never believed that. He’s used to that drama and that kind of attention and I wasn’t. I was in tears and I remember I called my manager and Dennis had flown back in at this time and we drove to Orange County and I walked in and he just thought it was the funniest thing. We’re flipping through news channels and I was crying and freaking out and at that point I realized this person’s not there for me. This person doesn’t care about my feelings. And what I had said to him was, “I want out of this, I want out of this,” and I was freaking out and I said, “I want to annul this marriage. Let’s annul it,” and he goes, “Are you sure?” And I’m like, “Yes, yes.” It really freaked me out and at that point I thought, “God, I think we made a mistake.” And so, he had a family attorney, but I’ve never had a family attorney. I don’t know the first thing about marriage and attorneys, and it’s like a whole new world for me. And so he called his attorney so we could get it annulled, doing it for both of us. Neither one of us went through with it. We decided to try to make it work. So we ended up staying married for five months. It gets so confusing. I’m so glad you’re asking because it keeps coming out wrong. I think people are so confused, so this is great. I get to explain what happened.

EA: I hope it’s therapeutic for you.

CE: It is! So we decided to try to make it work and so we stayed married for five months and it was really rocky and really tough. After that I decided to file for a divorce and we did and it was probably the best thing that I could have ever done.

EA: Was it a hard thing to go through, in terms of community property or other issues?

CE: No, not at all. I didn’t want anything from him. I never asked that guy for a dime, I never wanted anything. I work so hard. I’ve been independent for years now, and I would never. I just wanted out of it. I just wanted the drama to go away, and the longer I stayed in that marriage, the more drama, and it was too much for me. I couldn’t handle it.

EA: It sounds like you went through an ordeal, and so I have to commend you on coming out on the bright side of it.

CE: I learned so much about myself, because sometimes when you go through a lot of hard times, especially when things happen back to back like my mom, my sister, and then the marriage. It was just so much, and it was so overwhelming, but sometimes situations like that force you to dig deeper within yourself. And I really learned so much about me, and at times I want to say, “Yeah, I regret that, hell yeah!” but at the same time, you know what? I may have never done the work that I do now to be a healthier, better person.

EA: You sound like you’ve come a long way. You’re in a healthy relationship.

CE: He respects me and he’s my partner and you know what? With the person I love, I’m really protective and I have my man’s back, nothing will ever go down. I have my guy’s back and he’s got mine. And I didn’t have that in my marriage. I had his back but Dennis didn’t have mine. And it was like the codependent side in me wanted to make it work and be there for him and help him and it just couldn’t happen. But Dave, he’s my partner; he’s my best friend.

EA: What are your top beauty or wellness tips?

CE: First of all, sleep is so important. And sometimes you don’t realize when you have a busy schedule or you have a lot of stress, because I used to not get a whole lot of sleep. I think at one point, like during that time that I was going through a lot, I couldn’t go to sleep because I was so worried and so stressed out that I just couldn’t sleep at night and you feel it in your body, you can see it through your skin. So number one, get whatever your hours are – for me it’s eight, I have to have eight hours – and it’s mandatory. What else? Water. Drink lots of water. I used to hate water. I wouldn’t drink it, so for the past two or three years I’ve been forcing myself to drink water.

EA: What do you still want to accomplish in life?

CE: I want to continue to work the next few years really hard, whatever that may be. Music – I’d love to get back to music, because that’s my first passion. I love to dance. I love acting. So I would just like to continue to keep doing what I’m doing. And I feel like my life has balance. It has work in it and time for my relationship and that’s really important to me, to have that balance. And I would like to start a family, maybe in three, four years.

EA: Can you see Dave being the father of your children?

CE: Absolutely. He’ll be an amazing father. The weird thing is that everyone keeps mentioning, “When are you gonna’ have a baby?” and with me, when a lot of different people keep saying the same thing over and over, people that don’t really know each other, it gets weird. I’m starting to think, “Am I going to get pregnant soon?” like, by accident or, you know? That always happens to me and that’s been the main question everyone keeps asking. And then I had a woman walk up to me and say, “I don’t know why, I’m never wrong about this. I predicted everyone’s pregnancy. You’re gonna’ get pregnant in a year and a half.” So, we’ll see what happens. I would prefer to work a little longer, maybe a couple more years. But if I were to get pregnant, I would be more than happy.

That’s like, my dream, to have a baby, to be a mother. Everyone in Hawaii, when we shot the Baywatch movie, everyone had kids and little babies, and it drives me crazy. I love ‘em. I want to steal the babies. Like, OK, you’re not getting her back, so … I just love them, and I can’t wait to be a mother. But I’m glad I waited, you know?

EA: You’re still very young, in terms of today’s mothers.

CE: I really admire Madonna. She did it right, you know what I mean? She worked and she worked and she still works, and she’s so amazing.

EA: Who else do you admire?

CE: It would just be the woman that has a career and is able to have a family. I admire women that can do it all, you know? Because I know what it’s like to be on the career end of things and it’s a full-time job and it’s a never-ending job, and we’re working even when we’re not working. When you go to the grocery store, you’re still working, you know, and you sign autographs. It’s great; it’s a blessing and I love it, and I’m so thankful, but sometimes it’s really hard.