Tragic Details About Carmen Electra

Carmen Electra, one of the biggest names in the entertainment industry, is known for a lot of things – Baywatch star, Playboy cover girl, protégé of Prince, MTV host, reality star, and the creator of the wildly successful "Aerobic Striptease" workout video. But what many fans may not know are the tragic events that she has endured and overcome over the years.

The singer, model, and actor, whose real name is Tara Leigh Patrick, was born on April 20, 1972, in Sharonville, Ohio. Growing up, her dream was to dance on Broadway, and she began her career as a dancer in the popular show "It's Magic" at Ohio's amusement park, Kings Island. After moving to Minneapolis and getting discovered, Electra started what would become a very diverse career. From signing a record deal to starring in a slew of parody movies to modeling for some of the biggest magazines in the world, Electra proved she could do it all.

However, her life was not all glitz and glamor. From family tragedies and money problems to rocky relationships and exploitation within her industry, Electra has dealt with more tragedy than most.

She experienced a brief period of homelessness

We're used to seeing Carmen Electra dressed to the nines at red carpet events and glamorous photoshoots, so it probably comes as a surprise to you that she experienced a brief period of homelessness during her early 20s. She had just moved to Los Angeles after touring with Prince. She had no car and no credit card — and the $5,000 she had saved up was stolen and gambled away by her then-boyfriend.

"I remember sitting on a park bench in the valley. I was crying because I was stranded. It was over 100 degrees outside," she told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. "I was sitting there with a pocketknife and a pager and some change in my pocket, and a really nice pair of high heels. Versace heels, because I had a few pieces of my amazing clothes I'd gotten along the way." In a later interview with The New York Times, she explained how her glamorous wardrobe allowed her to hide her struggles from the world. "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."

Making it in Hollywood is a struggle, with stars like Halle Berry and Jennifer Lopez also having experienced homelessness before they got their big break. But Electra refused to give up on her dreams, and the way she fought her way back is a testament to the strength and determination she's displayed throughout her life.

She lost her mom and sister two weeks apart

Losing a family member is devastating enough, but losing two within a span of two weeks is even more tragic. Electra was just 26 years old when her mother Patricia died of brain cancer in August 1998. "I miss her tremendously, I mean we were best friends and she lived two years fighting cancer," she told the Daily Mail. She would later reveal the guilt she felt at not being there enough for her mother during her illness. "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," she said in an episode of Hollywood Medium With Tyler Henry.

While she was still reeling from the loss of her mother, tragedy struck again. "It was the hardest and worst time of my life when [my mom] 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. On the outside I pretended I was this tough girl who could handle it but inside I was a mess. I wasn't dealing with any of the pain or grief."

She dealt with alcohol misuse

Carmen Electra revealed that while growing up in Ohio, she was taught to suppress her emotions and put on a brave face. "That's how people dealt with their problems, they shut down and I learned to do that too," she told The Mirror. So when her mother was diagnosed with cancer, instead of facing her pain head-on, she used alcohol to numb it — and she lost herself along the way.

"I didn't really realize, when my mom was sick, what I was doing. I started drinking. I never was addicted to drinking, but I was trying to not feel anything," she told The New York Times. One of my girlfriends, she gave me a couple self-help books because I literally called her to say, 'I just looked in the mirror and I don't know who I am. I don't even recognize myself — I'm looking into my eyes and I don't know this person anymore."

After seeing herself going down a destructive path, Electra thankfully decided to seek therapy and learned how to deal with her emotions in a healthy way.

If you or anyone you know needs help with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

She suffered from self-esteem issues

Despite being one of the biggest sex symbols in the world, Carmen Electra struggled with insecurities and self-esteem issues. "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 after her career took off, she was still affected by critics. In a 2005 interview with Howard Stern, Donald Trump made derogatory comments about her appearance. "I literally had to call and tell everyone, like, 'He said my breasts look like light bulbs, like do they? Do they?'" she said.

She also had to battle with negative comments from the media, with sloppy tabloid sensationalism at its peak during the height of her career. "Obviously there are times when you read something about yourself and it affects you. It's even harder when things aren't true," she told HuffPost.

Years later, Electra has learned to tune out the unkind comments and misogynistic insults. "The reality is if you want to be a public figure in entertainment there's an upside and a downside and you have to go into it knowing that some things are going to hurt and that's okay. You just have to pick yourself up and keep going."

Her first marriage lasted nine days

Carmen Electra surprised the world by eloping with her basketball star boyfriend Dennis Rodman in 1998. "It happened so fast, it was so spontaneous, and I remember right after I felt like 'Oh God, what did we do? What did we just do?'" she said while appearing on "The Oprah Winfrey Show." The couple wed at 7 a.m. inside a Las Vegas chapel.

According to Electra, she was not in a good headspace following her mother's death, which caused her to act rashly. "This was the worst part of my life and during that time I made some really bad choices. I didn't take care of myself and love myself the way I should have," she told The Mirror. "At the time I did the only thing I knew how to and I put these huge walls up around me, no one could get through to me."

The pair had quite a tumultuous relationship. They were once both arrested on battery chargers after a violent incident in a Miami hotel room. And, only nine days after their impromptu wedding, the newlyweds filed for an annulment, claiming they were not of sound mind at the time. Rodman's agent Dwight Manley questioned the legality of the marriage since they were both intoxicated. He also leveled some harsh accusations against Electra, calling her and others "leeches," People reported. "Obviously anyone that would marry somebody that was intoxicated to the point that they couldn't speak or stand had ulterior motives of some sort," he said.

If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support at their website.

Her second marriage ended in divorce too

After her split from Dennis Rodman, Carmen Electra found love again. In November 2003, she married guitarist Dave Navarro. The leadup to their wedding was broadcast on the MTV reality show "'Til Death Do Us Part: Carmen & Dave." Anyone who watched the show could see how in love they were and would have thought the pair would last. They had adorable nicknames for each other (she called him "Bird"; he called her "Mouse") and they both understood the pain of losing a parent. Navarro even got her initials tattooed on his chest.

However, only two and half years later, the pair announced they were amicably separating. "They're both heartbroken, but they still love each other," a source told People at the time. "The reality of it is that they're better off as best friends."

It seems Electra never quite got over her ex. In August 2017, she ran into Navarro at a New York City hotel and shared a sweet picture of the two to her Instagram, captioning the post, "#twinflames." Speaking about the post on the show "Daily Pop," Electra said, "We have a connection and it's undeniable and I'll love him forever. Will we get back together? We're not at a place like that but we are friends and we don't talk all the time. It's not a weird thing, but we do reach out and check on each other from time to time."

She and Rob Patterson didn't end up getting married

After two failed marriages and years of being unlucky in love, fans thought Carmen Electra had finally found her happy ending when she met former Korn guitarist Rob Patterson. The pair started dating shortly after Electra's second divorce in 2007 and got engaged in April 2008 after less than a year of dating. Patterson popped the question when the two were in Las Vegas celebrating Electra's 36th birthday.

However, after a whopping four-year engagement, the couple decided to part ways. Rumors been circulating in May 2012 that the couple had called off their engagement, but they denied those reports. Then in October 2012, a friend close to the couple confirmed that Patterson had moved out in September. According to RadarOnline, the split was due to Patterson's "on-off-on partying and failure to stick to his sobriety." 

The source explained that Electra was ready to settle down, but she grew fed up with the lengthy and Patterson's lifestyle choices. "After four years, no actual wedding and a lot of heavy partying, Carmen took a long, hard look in the mirror and realized this just wasn't the life she wanted to lead," explained the source. "She now wants to concentrate on her acting career and move on from what she's now calling the 'lost years.'"

Her likeness was used without her permission

In 2016, Carmen Electra filed a federal lawsuit against a New York-based strip club after they used her image without her permission. The La Oficina bar in Queens posted a picture of Electra leaning against a pole to their Instagram account with the caption: "looking good." According to the lawsuit, "This image shows Electra in a sexually suggestive outfit and was intentionally altered to make it appear that Electra was either a stripper working a La Oficina or endorsed the club." Electra was joined by models Claudia Sanpedro, Tiffany Toth, and Brenda Lee Geiger who also had their images used without consent. The group sued for defamation and trademark infringement, seeking $75 000 in damages.

Years later, Electra would go on to sue three more strip clubs – The New York Dolls Gentleman's Club, Private Eyes Gentlemen's Club, and Flashdancers Gentlemen's Club — as well as 10 co-plantiffs. Electra was only partially victorious — the clubs were banned from using her image, but the court ruled that the co-plaintiffs could not prove that their personal brand was recognizable enough. Electra was also not awarded damages. Electra's lawyer John Golaszewski slammed the court's decision, calling it a "free pass" for businesses to "unapologetically misappropriate and exploit the hard-earned intellectual property rights of women who are deemed not famous enough to be afforded federal trademark protection."

You have to admire Electra for leading the charge and using her platform to stand up for a woman's right to own her own image.

She lost her mentor and former boyfriend Prince

On April 21, 2016, music legend Prince died from a drug overdose. The 57-year-old seven-time Grammy Award winner was pronounced dead shortly after being found unresponsive in an elevator at Paisley Park Studios. The world reeled from the loss of the iconic star, but it hit Carmen Electra especially hard, as the "Purple Rain" singer was both her ex-boyfriend and mentor.

Prince discovered Electra after she auditioned to be a dancer for an all-girl band. Although she didn't make the cut, Prince invited her to move to Minneapolis and sign a record deal with Paisley Park Records. He even wrote a song for her called "Carmen on Top," which inspired her to change her name to Carmen Electra. "My name is Tara, so I was confused. I loved the song. I loved it, but he said, 'You're not a Tara. You're not Tara. You're Carmen," she revealed in an interview with OWN.

It was also Prince who helped her get back on her feet after her spell of homelessness, offering her a weekly gig in a dance show called Erotic City at his club, Glam Slam LA. "He made me who I am today. He inspired me. He believed in me. He picked a select few to believe in and taught us everything," Electra said of Prince when speaking to E! News. "I think of Prince every day."