If there was anyone who embodies the idea of a Hollywood star, it’s Carmen Electra. If it’s not for the five Playboy covers, the hundreds of IMDb credits, her workout videos, her high profile relationships, her music career, or her reality TV shows, it’s for the image of her in Baywatch’s classic red swimsuit that’s permanently etched into our brains. At the time of this writing, the star has recently made rounds in the tabloids for spilling the dirty details of her short-lived marriage to former NBA star Dennis Rodman, but Electra is so much more than the relationships that have kept her in the public eye.
Electra’s rise to fame wasn’t easy. It’s peppered with near-misses, chaos, and tragedy. Nonetheless, the star has managed to fight her way out of rock bottom and pave her own path in Hollywood. If one thing’s for sure, it’s that Electra plays by her own rules and her rules alone.
Prince created the artist currently known as Carmen Electra
If it seems like Carmen Electra popped out of nowhere, it’s because she sort of did. One day she was 18-year-old Tara Leigh Patrick from Ohio, and the next day, she was Carmen Electra, five-time Playboy cover star and Baywatch icon. Strangely enough, it was Prince who plucked her out of obscurity.
According to The New York Times, the Purple Rain singer discovered Electra in 1991 when she auditioned for a girl group on his label, Paisley Park. Yes, she got her start as a singer despite the fact that her music career is oft-overshadowed by that of the men she dates (a criminal offense, if you ask us). Electra didn’t get the gig, but she made enough of an impact on Prince that he later located her at the Glendale, Calif. Holiday Inn and offered her a solo contract. The following day, he booked her a flight to Minneapolis, Minn., where she was picked up in “a purple limousine” (painfully on-brand), and they got to work on her eponymous 1993 album.
Prince hand-crafted almost every aspect of Electra’s fledgling career, from her songs to her image. He hated the demos she recorded for Capitol Records, saying he could’ve used them as a “coaster or a Frisbee.” He even took her on tour to Europe following her album’s release. Despite this, Electra’s music only graced the Billboard charts once in 2013.
Carmen Electra inspired Prince's music, too
Prince didn’t just help Carmen Electra launch her career. Collaboration sparked a romance, one Electra was too young to handle with care. According to The New York Times, Electra was just 18 years old when she got wrapped up with the Purple Rain singer and — possibly — messed things up by dating someone else behind the star’s back (though, she’s not sure if he was faithful either). Per the profile, it doesn’t look like Electra knows exactly when their relationship ended. All she does know is that it was definitely over by the time he invited her to listen to “Eye Hate U,” the track he penned about her infidelity. Whoops.
“I’ll just say, I was young and naive, and we were together, and I found out some things, but really didn’t know how to communicate properly,” she told the outlet, adding. “Now that I think about it, I would’ve handled it a completely different way … But I was naïve and hurt, and I just met someone, and kinda, that was it.”
Prince reportedly told Electra she had two options: live by “his rules” in Minneapolis or charter her own path in L.A. She chose the latter, thinking that if she couldn’t make it without him, then she didn’t “deserve” the success.
Carmen Electra worked her way out of homelessness
According to The New York Times, before Electra actually made it, she was briefly homeless in Los Angeles and had little more “than a pair of Versace shoes to her name.” She didn’t have a car or a credit card. At one point, she managed to save $5,000 before it was stolen by her then-boyfriend, who lost it all gambling. It was a stark contrast to the life she led touring with Prince.
“I got to the point where I was counting change, and had a shank in my back pocket, and a pager, because I wasn’t living in a good neighborhood and I would have to walk to the pay phone,” Electra told the outlet. “I didn’t have a penny. I had a beautiful wardrobe and my makeup case, so people didn’t really understand or realize my living situation.”
Prince ended up swooping in to offer Electra some help. He cast her in a weekly dance show called Erotic City at his Glam Slam LA club. The pair re-formed a friendship, and Electra was able to find some stability. Soon after, she started “gonzo-infiltrating red carpets” with eye-catching outfits, which often drew the mockery of fashion critcis, but this was a good thing. Her DIY PR strategy actually gained her enough notoriety that she was cast as the host of MTV’s Singled Out.
Insecurity led Carmen Electra to ditch auditions
Carmen Electra oozes self-confidence, but that wasn’t always the case. In an interview with The New York Times, the star admitted that her bombshell appearance was partly an attempt to cast herself as someone who “couldn’t be hurt.” Though it’d be hard to claim the star isn’t tough — especially with all she’s endured in her decades-long career — there was a point where she’d back out of auditions at the last minute because she was insecure.
“I would literally walk into the auditions and see all these gorgeous, perfect women sitting there, and I’m looking, like, trying to make sure I have my lines, my dialogue memorized, and sometimes I’d just walk out,” she told the New York Times.
Even later in her career when Donald Trump famously told Howard Stern he thought her boob job was “terrible” and looked like “two light bulbs coming out of a body,” she found herself reverting back to that insecure young woman. “I literally had to call and tell everyone, like, ‘He said my breasts look like light bulbs, like do they? Do they?'” she told The New York Times. Girl, even Donald Trump knows no one ever got a boob job to impress Donald Trump. Don’t worry about it.
Carmen Electra's rise to fame was tarnished by her mother's death
As Carmen Electra’s television career was taking off in the late ’90s, Tara Lee Patrick’s home life was falling apart. The star was in her mid-20s, having just landed a role on an MTV show when her mother, Patricia, fell ill with brain cancer. “My mom was my best friend and losing her was the hardest thing I have ever encountered in life. She was everything to me,” Electra told The Mirror in 2004.
In an episode of Hollywood Medium With Tyler Henry, Electra revealed that she still had a lot of guilt surrounding her mother’s death, mostly because she was preoccupied with her growing career. It was Electra’s older brother who stepped up to take care of their ailing mom, who eventually passed away in 1998 after a two year battle.
“It takes a very strong person to be around anyone that’s going through an illness,” she said in the episode, adding, “And there are the rare, beautiful people— My brother, my brother gave up everything to be by her side and he’s so strong to do that. I didn’t do that, and there’s a part of me that feels really guilty because, because I felt like I should’ve been there more.”
Family tragedy led to Carmen Electra' downward spiral
Though Carmen Electra had the support of her then-boyfriend, NBA star Dennis Rodman, 1998 was undoubtedly the hardest year of the Baywatch star’s life. Not only did she lose her mother to cancer, but according to a 2004 interview with The Mirror, she also lost her sister, who died of a heart attack in her sleep the same month.
“It was the hardest and worst time of my life when [my mother] died of cancer and then my sister had a heart attack in her sleep the same month,” Electra told The Mirror. “I felt like I was going around in a cloud, like it wasn’t real. I wasn’t equipped to deal with this type of emotion.”
In an episode of Oprah Winfrey’s Where Are They Now?, the former Playboy model admitted that the death of her mother and sister set her off on a bad path — the same one that led her to decidedly impromptu marriage to Dennis Rodman in Las Vegas, Nev. “I started drinking … I just went into self destruction … I started drinking,” she said. According to The Mirror, Electra eventually sought the help of a therapist, and the tragedy did have a small silver lining. “Losing my mom and my sister brought me so much closer to my dad, and this was a whole new experience for me,” she told The Mirror.
Here comes the bride (and the hangover)
For a short time in the late 1990s, Carmen Electra and Dennis Rodman were the ultimate power couple, the kind that — in all their chaotic energy — could even share clothes. The pair’s whirlwind romance was like a marathon of debauchery and all-night parties, most of which seemed to take place across the Chicago Bulls’ stomping grounds in Illinois and Las Vegas, Nev. It only makes sense that the pair tied the knot in Sin City after an all-night bender.
According to People, in 1998, the former Playboy model and NBA star had only been dating nine months when they decided to get hitched in Vegas at 7 a.m. — two hours before the chapel even opened. There was no music beyond the classic “Here Comes the Bride,” no flowers, no photos, and their exchange of vows wasn’t even recorded. In fact, Rodman’s agent Dwight Manley wasn’t even sure it was legal because, as he claimed via People, “Rodman’s partying the night before might have affected his judgement.” Rodman, who seemed miffed by his agent’s concerns, claimed he was “proud to be married” to the Baywatch star.
Of course, the brightest flames burn out the fastest. According to TIME, the pair filed for annulment nine days later. Six months after their elopement, like so many quickly evaporated celebrity unions, the marriage was officially kaput. “You think it’s romantic, but then you realize, ‘God, we did it in Vegas?’ It’s like getting a cheeseburger at a fast-food restaurant,” Electra told People.
They did what, where?
For many, Carmen Electra and Dennis Rodman’s relationship made little sense, but that’s before you peel back the layers. Think about it: could you really picture Electra donning a MAGA hat while hanging out with Kim Jong Un? Probably not, but when the pair tied the knot, the Baywatch star was reeling from her mother’s death, and Electra told Oprah Winfrey that she had a deep understanding of Rodman’s inner pain. “When it was good, it was amazing,” she said in an episode of Winfrey’s Where Are They Now?. “And when it was bad, it was the worst.”
According to the Los Angeles Times, Electra ignored warnings from her manager and agent and jumped all in with the basketball star. Rodman, as she claimed, was misunderstood. The NBA’s then-resident bad boy had a deeply emotional romantic side, which translated to the pair making love all over the Bulls’ practice facility — even the court, which we’ll never look at the same way again.
“He blindfolds me and we get on his motorcycle,” Electra told the outlet. “When he finally takes my blindfold off, we’re standing at the Bulls practice facility, center court. It was crazy, like two kids in a candy store. We were eating Popsicles from the fridge and pretty much having sex all over the damn place — in the physical therapy room, in the weight room. Obviously on the court.” You do you, girl!
Til divorce do them part
Carmen Electra and Dennis Rodman’s marriage would have been one of the greatest, short-lived reality TV specials in history. You can bet that MTV wasn’t going to miss out on those ratings a second time when the star wed Jane’s Addiction guitarist Dave Navarro.
In the golden age of reality TV, the couple had its own reality series, Carmen & Dave: An MTV Love Story, and the spin-off, Til Death Do Us Part: Carmen + Dave. They were the grittier, sexier, slightly more unhinged version of Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey — the kind of couple that wouldn’t argue over whether Chicken of the Sea was actually tuna, but rather, shove the whole can in each other’s faces before viciously making out. It finally seemed like the Baywatch star had met her ultimate match, until it didn’t. According to MTV, the pair separated in 2006 after three years of marriage, but the reason is hotly up for debate.
According to Radar, which isn’t exactly an arbiter of truth when it comes to celebrity scandals, Navarro had an affair with an unnamed woman who, years later, also had an affair with actor Gerard Butler. None of the connected marriages — Navarro and Electra’s, or the unnamed woman’s — survived, but the rumors did. According to People, Navarro and Electra were “heartbroken” over their split but ultimately realized they were “better off as best friends.” It was reportedly amicable, which doesn’t really hint at some major betrayal, so who knows?
What killed Carmen Electra's four-year engagement?
When Carmen Electra loves, she loves hard. Shortly after her split from Dave Navarro, she fell into the arms of Korn guitarist Rob Patterson. According to People, they dated for “less than a year” before getting engaged in Las Vegas, Nev. in 2008. What can we say? The woman has a thing for musicians and Sin City. The ring was a unique black diamond, but what was even more unique was the fact that their engagement lasted four years until it was clear she was never walking down the aisle.
According to E! News, the former Playboy model split from her rocker beau in 2012. Patterson moved out of her Beverly Hills, Calif. home, and Electra started going on “dinner dates” with Simon Cowell (Yes, that one). According to Radar, she was the one who broke it off because of Patterson’s “on-off-on partying.” Though the model spent some of her 20s chugging champagne with the Chicago Bulls, she was reportedly over it.
“Carmen … was particularly irked that no plans were being made during the long engagement,” a source told Radar. “Rob was more interested in where the next party was, and she recently came to the conclusion their relationship wasn’t going to work.” Around the same time tabloids got a hold of the news, Patterson allegedly changed his Facebook relationship status from “engaged” to “single.” Celebs: they’re just like us, airing their dirty laundry through subtle social media jabs.
Since when were Carmen Electra and Simon Cowell a thing?
Most of us don’t remember this, but there was a point where Carmen Electra and Simon Cowell were a thing. Maybe she just liked watching him roll his eyes and curtly degrade her every time she tried to sing along to the radio in the car. Perhaps, it really means something to gain the approval of the American Idol and X-Factor judge who made rejection his personal brand. Who knows? In an interview with Loaded (via the Daily Mail), Electra revealed that Cowell was “awesome,” “very charming,” and had “a great sense of humor” — at least aside from the moment where he allegedly cheated on her.
According to E! News, Cowell and Electra both “downplayed” their 2013 romance, but they dated for almost six months. Things only ended when the sometimes Pussycat Doll allegedly caught him with American socialite Lauren Silverman. Per the report, Cowell claimed that he was only friends with Silverman, but “there was nothing platonic about what was going on.” Electra reportedly “high-tailed it out of there” because she wasn’t going to “stick around and be a third wheel.”
Cowell didn’t just allegedly betray Electra. The Sun reports that Silverman was married to one of Cowell’s good friends at the time. Apparently, it was fate because, at the time of this writing, the pair are still together and share a child, Eric.
Carmen Electra is leaving the door open for Dave Navarro
A lot has changed since 2007. Dave Navarro is best known for shilling Taco Bell on Ink Masters, and Carmen Electra is just one degree away from Kanye West (she did a photoshoot with West’s collaborator Eli Russell Linnetz in 2018). Things change, people change, but not all things, and not all people. For those of us still hoping that Electra and Navarro rekindle their epic romance, we might just be in luck.
According to Life & Style, Electra and Navarro reunited in 2017. Their paths had crossed in New York City while the former Playboy model was shooting an episode of Worst Cooks In America: Celebrity Edition. They were coincidentally staying at the same hotel and managed to link up (probably ordering takeout, judging by the game show Electra was shooting). She claimed it was “really, really good” to see her former flame.
“We adore each other,” she told Life & Style. “Getting back together? Who knows. You never know what can happen in the future. He’s a great guy. Maybe we’ll surprise everybody and get married again! I’ll definitely say that we have a love for each other that is beyond what I can even explain.” In 2019, she even posted a throwback of one of their wedding photos on Instagram and raved about the “eternal love” she has for her ex. You heard it: true love does exist!
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