Unapologetically is a Yahoo Life series in which women and men from all walks of life get the chance to share how they live their best life — out loud and in living color, without fear or regret — looking back at the past with a smile and embracing the future with excited anticipation.
Tia Carrere has some complicated feelings about being labeled a sex symbol.
“The mantle of sex symbol is quite a heavy one decades later,” the actress, 55, tells Yahoo Life. “You’re frozen in time in celluloid history at the peak of your beauty and at your goal weight. You can’t help but chafe at the thought that people are comparing you favorably or unfavorably to what you look like when you’re age 23 — but you have to let that go.”
Carrere is currently starring in Easter Sunday alongside Jo Koy, who based the film on his stand-up comedy and his Filipino family’s raucous celebrations. Carrere portrays Koy’s character’s aunt, a glamorous woman whose drama with her own sister causes a family rift on the holiday.
Carrere, who got her start in the ‘80s with a recurring role on General Hospital before turning heads in films like Wayne’s World and True Lies, says she still feels like she’s 35 — and does the best she can to stay in her best physical shape by prioritizing water and sleep. Yet the biggest difference, she explains, is that now she knows her power.
“I wish I knew how amazing I looked then,” she says. “I wish I knew my own strength then… As young women, we don’t realize the strength and power that we have in our youth. And you know, I wish that I believed in myself more because I let people get away with stuff that I shouldn’t have.”
Carrere — who previously spoke about an uncomfortable experience with actor Steven Seagal, who she worked with in the ‘90s — says she wishes that the system had been “more protective” of people of her generation, so that they didn’t have to “do the tap dance when someone says something inappropriate.”
“You’re tap dancing as fast as you can, trying to avoid situations where you don’t get hired again,” she recalls. “And this is just the reality: ‘You’re difficult. You’re the b****.’ It’s terrible.”
Carrere, who shares one daughter with photojournalist Simon Wakelin, says that she “never had the power” that some of the leading men she’s worked with in in Hollywood enjoyed.
“I’m just grateful that things are different now for women,” she explains. “I’m really grateful that women have banded together and there are more women in power positions at studios. I know female studio heads that weren’t there when I was coming up. And that has made a huge difference, female showrunners and producers and writers.”
As she gets older, Carrere says she utilizes “the technologies that are at hand” in order to “maintain a youthful and health glow,” explaining “there is a career longevity to that.”
“I try to be very disciplined and not looking like that overdone look that we see because you are putting yourself in the hands of people that can make you look different with fillers and Botox. Don’t try to look like somebody else,” she says.
Still, she’s not the kind of person to post bikini photos on Instagram.
“I would love to get into amazing shape to show a bikini picture, but I prefer one pieces anyway. I know what works for me and I know what works for my body and what makes me feel comfortable,” she says. “I could become a triathlete and go, you know what? I can’t believe I have a 12 pack for the first time in my life, and maybe I would want to celebrate that with a bikini picture. But, as of yet, I haven’t gotten to that point.”
No matter what, though, Carrere says she’s proud of how content she is with herself — which is no easy feat working in Hollywood.
“I’m comfortable in my skin,” she explains. “I’ve done incredibly well with maintaining a balanced mind, body and spirit for having been in this business almost 40 years now. And unfortunately, we’ve all seen the carnage along the way. It’s very, very difficult when you’re the product not to take it personally when your stock goes up or down, when people take nasty potshots at you, as they can with easy access now with social media. You really, really have to work on your internal core strength so that the marketplace doesn’t dictate whether you’re happy with yourself.”