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It was the worst month of my life when my mum died of cancer & sister had a heart attack; EXCLUSIVE: CARMEN ELECTRA TELLS OF HER GRIEF.

Byline: TINA CALDER

BAYWATCH babe Carmen Electra lives the ultimate Hollywood dream - but nothing can mask the pain of losing her loved ones.

Her famous figure and outrageous personality doesn't hide the inner demons that haunt the girl born Tara Lee Patrick.

Sitting in a top London hotel, Carmen fights to hold back the tears as she opens her heart in her most revealing interview ever.

The 31-year-old told how her career was just beginning to take off when her world collapsed after her mother and sister died within a month.

Carmen said: "My mom was my best friend and losing her was the hardest thing I have ever encountered in life. She was everything to me.

"It was the hardest and worst time of my life when she died of cancer and then my sister had a heart attack in her sleep the same month.

"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.

"At the time I felt that I only had myself outside my family, they were back in Ohio and I was living in Hollywood.

"I felt there was no one other than my family I could trust. That was hard, to think there is no one out there who you can talk to, who will understand and won't judge you."

Carmen, who was 24 at the time, said growing up in Ohio you were taught not to talk about your emotions.

She added: "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.

"I was always taught growing up not to feel anything. I was told not to cry.

"I tried to speak out and express myself but I was told to be quiet.

"That was hard because I was trying to develop as a person and a young woman but that's the way things were done then in the mid-west in many homes.

"That's how people dealt with their problems, they shut down and I learned to do that too."

Despite her loss, Carmen continued to search for fame and began to build on the success she had already achieved.

Several years earlier she had tried to break into the music scene after being signed to Prince's Paisley Park Records.

It was then she was encouraged to change her name to Carmen Electra.

And shortly before the death of her mother and sister, Carmen became known after she posed for Playboy.

But her big break came later when she was offered a role in Baywatch.

Despite her success Carmen said she still wasn't able to cope with everything that had happened in her life. After her mother and sister died she married basketball star Dennis Rodman but filed for divorce one week later.

She said: "I was going through so much in my life at that time I couldn't even stop to think about how I was feeling.

"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.

"It took a lot of searching and time to figure out how I felt and how to deal with it.

"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.

"I had to teach myself that it was OK to cry, to feel, to hurt, to grieve, to be upset and to be angry at them for dying.

"I learned to talk to other people about how I was feeling.

"It's so empowering and although I can say that I am still working on it, I'm not perfect."

Eventually Carmen sought professional help, something she says was her smartest move ever.

She added: "I finally did see a therapist. I think everyone in Hollywood goes to therapy and things began to change for me.

"It's nice to have an outside opinion because you don't necessarily want to burden your friends all the time with your problems.

"I think if there really is something going on that you don't understand it's nice to sit down with a professional and talk about how you feel, how to get over the bad feelings and how to feel better.

"There's nothing wrong with going to therapy. I am proud of it, I am proud of the fact that I had the courage and I would recommend it to anyone who is suffering emotionally." Carmen, who stars as Staci in the new Starsky & Hutch film, said that apart from learning to open her heart and let people in, her loss brought her closer to her father and her Irish roots.

She added: "Losing my mom and my sister brought me so much closer to my dad and this was a whole new experience for me.

"My dad was born in Ireland and I even have a little Irish on my mum's side as well.

"I began to think about families and how important they are.

"Although I have only been to Ireland once I do still have a great connection with the country.

"My real name is Tara Leigh Patrick I was the girl on St Patrick's Day in school who would wear all green."

Having tried a little bit of everything in the showbiz world from singing and dancing to acting and modelling Carmen said she still has dreams and aspirations for the future.

And although she is seen as an international sex symbol, she has insecurities just like anyone else.

She explained: "When I was creating my Carmen Electra persona it was my dream to be considered a sex symbol, then I posed for Playboy and appeared in Baywatch and I couldn't believe it, to actually achieve those things I wanted was a dream come true.

"The way I see myself is completely different, I'm just this girl from Ohio who had braces. I was the skinny kid with short hair and acne.

"I'm a normal girl, of course I have my hang-ups so now I have to pinch myself every now and again to believe what has happened to me.

"I've had knocks in the past and my family has been so important to me.

"But there's no point dwelling on the bad times. I'm feeling really positive about my career and my life now."

Carmen is now married to Jane's Addiction rocker Dave Navarro and says life has never been better.

She added: "I was going through hell, then I met Dave and everything changed, he is such a sweet person with a good heart.

"It's great to know that no matter how bad it gets I have the finest rock god ever put on earth at home waiting for me. Now all I want out of life is a baby.

"I look forward to when that happens.

"I have the perfect man now I want the perfect family. I got my fairytale wedding and all I need is to have a little baby.

"We are letting nature decide when but I hope to have a little boy to follow in his father's footsteps soon."

tina.calder@mgn.co.uk

CAPTION(S):

DIVORCE: Ex-hubby Dennis Rodman; HAPPY: With husband Dave and, main, in Playboy; IN ON THE ACT: Carmen plays Staci in new Starsky & Hutch film; BEACH BABES: Carmen, Pamela Anderson & David Hasselhoff
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Copyright 2004 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Mar 18, 2004
Words:1261
Previous Article:At last I've learned to like myself; HALLE BERRY ON HOW SHE CONQUERED HER INNER DEMONS.
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