What Happened to Tia Carrere?

We take a look back at the career of 90s dream girl Tia Carrere, star of Relic Hunter, True Lies and Wayne’s World.

Sometimes your entire world can change in a single moment. For a young Tia Carrere’s world became more excellent one trip a local grocery store where the parents of a man who was producing a movie saw her and told her about this movie their son was shooting. This would lead Tia Carrere to land a role in the film Aloha Summer. She says she was super nervous because she had never acted before and hadn’t even thought of it as an option in her life but she did it! Ms Carrere grew up wanting to be a singer…. and she did that too!

tia carrere Wayne's world

After rocking everyone’s world in the Wayne’s World cinematic universe film franchise, Tia Carrere became a household name in the early nineties while also standing toe to toe with some of the biggest names in the business. But after a few bad turns at the box office it seemed she was destined for the direct to video bins that would lead her into a steady career of TV appearances that never seemed to match the immense talent she displayed when she first started. With two Grammy wins to her name and a Disney live action remake that might not be horrible in the pipeline, its time we ask that ever important question: WTF Happened to Tia Carrere.

Early roles

But as always we must begin at the beginning and the beginning began on her birthday 1967, Hawaii. Carrere would move to Los Angeles at the age of 17 and begin dating a man who acted as her manager. The man was a few decades her senior and although landing Carrere some gigs on shows like Star SearchThe A-Team, MacGyver and General Hospital would end up stealing all of her money and leaving her homeless. Luckily she had a Modeling Agent who let her crash at their place. Carrere says she never even thought about going home as she came out to L.A with one goal in mind, there was never a plan B.

Carrere would continue landing small parts on shows like Friday The 13th: The Series, Quantum Leap, Married With Children Tales From The Crypt while also landing roles in films like two Best Movie You Never Saw classics, Showdown at Little Tokyo and Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man

Wayne’s World and stardom

She was landing auditions for bigger roles including a chance to play David Hasselhoff’s girlfriend on Baywatch when she was presented with a new script that featured a strong female character that needed to have great style and most importantly could sing. For Carrere, it was the role of a lifetime that she knew she could nail. That role was of Cassandra Wong in the big screen adaptation of the hit Saturday Night Live sketch Wayne’s World which would go on to be the highest grossing SNL sketch turned movie of all time pulling in over $183 million on a $20 million budget and making us all feel like we were not worthy of Tia Carrere’s talents. She would even be nominated for the first ever Most Desirable Female at the MTV Movie Awards.

From there, Tia Carrere became the “it” girl of the early nineties. She wasn’t just another pretty face on the big screen, she was a multi-talented performer with screen presence that could stand up to the biggest stars, which she did when she starred opposite Sean Connery and Wesley Snipes in the $107 million grossing Rising Sun in 1993 before returning to her star making role later that year in Wayne’s World 2, although this one didn’t light up the box office as much as the first one earning $72 million against a $40 million budget, critics and audiences alike agreed that Carrere stole every scene she was in. While the cast and crew of Wayne’s World would reunite, virtually, during the pandemic for the Josh Gad hosted Reunited Apart, where Carrere would show that after all these years, she’s still got that star power!

True Lies

It would be that star power that would land her one of her biggest roles ever when she appeared opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger in the James Cameron directed True Lies where she would play a worthy antagonist with equal parts beauty and crazy! While many of us fell in love with her as the perfect woman in the Wayne’s World movies, her performance in True Lies showed a genuine range she possessed as an actress… and even as the villain we all still fell in love with her which was in large part due to her dance scene with Schwarzenegger which would nab the pair a Best Dance Sequence nomination from the MTV Movie Awards while she would receive a Best Supporting Actress nomination from the Saturn Awards.

tia carrere true lies

In 1993, Carrere would fulfill her lifelong dreams by releasing her debut album.. titled Dream! The album would garner some solid reviews throughout the years, and would even go platinum in the Philippines. With her voice appearing over the final credits of Batman: Mask of the Phantasm as she sang the song I Never Even told You

There was no denying Carrere had a knack for comedy and in the early 90’s there kind of was no bigger comedy star than Pauly Shore, if you don’t believe us, go check out our WTF Happened to Pauly Shore video! So it would be no surprise when Carrere signed on the dotted line to take on the female lead in Shore’s film Jury Duty in 1995. The only problem was, this was when Shore’s films started to dip at the box office as Jury Duty could only manage $17 million off a $21 million budget.

Relic Hunter

From there the remainder of the 90’s turned into a bunch if direct to video titles like The Immortals, for which she also was an Associate Producer on, Hostile Intentions, Hollow Point, Natural Enemy, Top of the World, Scar City, 20 Dates, Five Aces while also still showing up in theaters a few times in films like Kull The Conqueror which was a massive dud only generating $6.1 million worldwide and the parody film High School High which only garnered $21 million.

tia carrere relic hunter

She would close out the 90’s by shedding her wholesome perfect girlfriend image for the scandalous film My Teacher’s Wife where she plays, well, you get the picture! On TV, Carrere would appear in the shows Murder One and Veronica’s Closet before landing the lead role in the series Relic Hunter which would run for 3 seasons and 66 episodes and nab her an ALMA Award nomination for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Syndicated Drama Series before discovering the world of voice acting when she landed gigs on Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child and Hercules which would make way for her entry into the world of Disney Animated Films with 2002’s Lily & Stitch where she would voice Lilo’s older sister and legal guardian. A role she would reprise several times over the years in projects such as the direct to video Stitch: The Movie (2003), Lilo & Stitch: The Series (2003-2006), Lilo & Stitch 2: Stitch Has a Glitch (2005) and 2006’s Leroy & Stitch.

From the early 2000’s on, Carrere would appear in a ton of limited or direct to video titles such as Back in the Day (2005), Dark Honeymoon (2008), Wild Cherry (2009), Hard Breakers (2010), You May Not Kiss The Bride (2011) and Gunshot Straight (2014) among others while her TV career has been filled with noteworthy projects like The O.C, Nip/Tuck, CSI: Miami, Hawaii Five-0, Family Guy, Blue Bloods with recurring roles on shows like In Plain Sight and showing off her pitch perfect comedic skills as Richard Lewis’ girlfriend who enjoys small talk on Curb your Enthusiasm. While also lending her talented vocals to the video games Saints Row and Saints Row IV as Lin. She would also have the distinct pleasure, I guess you would call it, of being fired by the Future President of the United States when she was Fired in the fifth week of the fifth season of Celebrity Apprentice. It would seem the fifth week of whatever competition program she was on was her achilles heel as she was also eliminated in the fifth week or the second season of Dancing With The Stars.


Of course one area where Carrere has truly shined is her music. Despite her first album, 1993’s Dream not being a hit in the states, her passion for music never left her and after a 14 year break she would return with the Hawaiian inspired album Hawaiiana which would land Carrere her first ever Grammy Nomination for Best Hawaiian Music Album. She would follow that up a year later with the album ‘Ikena which would see her become a Grammy Winning Artist when she won in that same category. She would follow that pattern by releasing the 2009 album He Nani which would be nominated for Best Hawaiian Music Album in 2009, and then go on to win that award the following year for her album Huana Ke Aloha.

After toiling away in films that never really garnered much of a response like Showdown in Manila (2016) and the animated The Legend of Hallowaiian (2018), Carrere would land a series regular role on the RuPaul created Netflix series AJ and the Queen playing a scene stealing villain that Carrere has said she loves to play because she gets to just chew the scenery while performing. Sadly the series was cancelled after just a single season. But she would return to movie theaters in 2022 with the comedy Easter Sunday (which we interviewed her for) and earlier this year she would appear in an episode of NCIS: Los Angeles, so there’s that.

Where is Tia Carrere now?

And that is where we find Ms. Carrere today, an actress who has had an over 30 year career in a business where such things aren’t always the norm. Seeing her pop up on your screen is like seeing an old friend, there is a familiarity we all share with her and that is because she was one of the first woman to command the screen with her sheer bad ass-ness without being an action hero. She was a rock star that we all fell in love with. Of course being a music star is where she is most comfortable and that is where you can still find her today, up on the stage singing some of her now iconic Hawaiian songs. And despite having big theatrical hits over the years, we may have seen nothing yet as she is set to star in the live action version of Lilo & StitchIt is for those reasons, and so many more, that no one should give a F about what the F happened to Tia Carrere, because she is doing just fine!

About the Author

318 Articles Published

Brad grew up loving movies and wanting to work in the industry. Graduated from Full Sail University in 2007 before moving to Los Angeles where I was fortunate enough to join SAG-Aftra in 2012. I love every second I get to write about movies for Joblo!