After four years of dance lessons, Electra is enrolled in Cincinnati's School for Creative and Performing Arts, where she appears in Peter Pan with classmate Nick Lachey. "I wanted to dance on Broadway," Electra tells PEOPLE in 1997.
After graduating from Cincinnati's Princeton High School, Electra moves to L.A., where a talent scout working for the singer Prince sees her dancing at the Hollywood club Spice. She eventually gets a record deal on Prince's Paisley Park record label and follows his suggestion to change her name from the more prosaic Tara Leigh Patrick to Carmen Electra.
Electra's self-titled debut album is released and it's a dud. Shortly after, she leaves Prince's Minneapolis digs and returns to L.A. to pursue an acting career. Her first Hollywood gig? A guest spot on Baywatch Nights. The following year, Electra begins a three-year relationship with B Real of the Latino hip-hop band Cypress Hill.
Electra appears nude in Playboy for a photo spread titled, "Electra!" Her mother recalls to PEOPLE, "I said, 'Go for it, girl!'" This sexy, head-turning spread puts the aspiring actress on the map. Electra is faithful to the magazine, appearing in Playboy in June 1998 and on the covers in Dec. 2000 and April 2003.
Electra takes over for fellow Playboy model Jenny McCarthy on Singled Out, MTV's Gen-X version of The Dating Game. "There's only one Jenny McCarthy, so I'm not going to try to be the same type of person," Electra says to Entertainment Weekly. The show is cancelled in less than a year.
Following yet another Playmate, Electra joins the cast of Baywatch as the character Lani McKenzie after Pamela Anderson's departure.
Electra first encounters NBA wild man Dennis Rodman at L.A.'s Billboard Live nightclub when his friend grabs her by the arm and pulls her over to meet Rodman. Eight months later, they wed at the Little Chapel of Flowers in Las Vegas, sometime before 8 a.m. Less than two weeks later, Rodman files for annulment, claiming he was inebriated at the nuptials. "It's easy to get caught up in a moment," Electra tells PEOPLE. "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's sister Debbie dies of a heart attack. Ten days later her mother dies of a brain tumor. Electra tells PEOPLE, "Dennis sent enough flowers to fill my entire apartment. I never had a man do something like that for me before. I see how much good he has inside of him. That's what I fell in love with."
Electra and Rodman celebrate New Year's Eve together in Las Vegas. "I love her to death," Rodman tells PEOPLE. His sister Debra adds, "There will be no annulment. They will remain married." In January, Electra heads back to work in her new WB series, Hyperion Bay. She plays a cutthroat, eager-to-claw-her-way-to-the-top vixen, opposite Mark-Paul Gosselaar. The show is cancelled at the end of the first season, and that April, Electra files for divorce from Rodman.
A month after their divorce is finalized, Electra and Rodman are arrested and taken out of South Beach's Bentley Hotel in handcuffs after police answer a domestic dispute call. Both spend several hours in custody before being released on $2,500 bail. Battery charges against both are later dropped.
BIOGRAPHY (top to bottom): Clark Samuels/StarTraks; Jim Smeal/Wireimage, inset: amazon.com; Michael Bezjian/WireImage; Lisa Rose/Globe; Photofest; ALBERT FERREIRA/Globe; GLOBE; BIG PICTURES