By: Allison Kugel
Tara Reid burst onto the scene as the flawless blue-eyed babe of the iconic 1999 camp comedy American Pie, a Fast Times at Ridgemont High for twenty-something Gen-Xers and precocious Millennials. Her flawless all-American looks led to films from cult favorite The Big Lebowski, to Urban Legend, Van Wilder, Josie and the Pussycats, Dr. T & the Women, and My Boss’s Daughter. She starred and held her own alongside Ryan Reynolds, Ashton Kutcher, Rosario Dawson, Kate Hudson, Richard Gere, and other movie heavyweights.
And then, something happened. Reid was young, stunning, and famous; and the media began taking more of an interest in her after-hours role as Hollywood’s resident party girl; largely ignoring her talent and her work ethic. Unlike most of us, Reid’s young adult days and nights were captured by paparazzi for the world to see. During our interview, she is quick to point out that, at the very least, mercifully, social media had not yet been invented. Thank God for small favors.
A painful public breakup with then-fiancé Carson Daly and a bout with botched plastic surgery further spun Reid’s public narrative out of control. She recently told E! News, “They almost make a cartoon character out of you, and they keep going with it,” referring to the rampant tabloid journalism of the 2000s.
The experience sent Reid reeling, and into a self-imposed media exile where she learned to reflect, regroup, and re-emerge focused on her craft, and with a healthy sense of humor as she displays in her willingness to embrace the camp genre with the Sharknado film series. In addition to working in front of the camera, she’s added film producer to her resume, with an upcoming slate of releases under her production banner, Hi Happy Films.
As women in our forties, Tara Reid and I discuss the power of knowing oneself and becoming unflappable in the face of life’s inevitable ebbs and flows. Smart, soulful, and creative, Tara Reid has reclaimed her power and found her most valuable commodity: peace of mind.
Allison Kugel: You were just working on a film with DMX before he passed.
Tara Reid: Yeah, a movie called Doggmen. It’s his last film and it was really interesting because he didn’t get to finish the whole film. They had to do what they did with Paul Walker (in his last Fast & Furious role). They make these facial sculptures and they put it on a face, and it looks exactly like [DMX]. It’s crazy.
Allison Kugel: Like CGI?
Tara Reid: No, it’s literally a face they make and put on. The last couple of scenes that he has to film, that will be what they are doing. It’s incredible and it looks so real. It looks just like him. So, that is how they are going to film his last scenes, and I’ll be in those scenes with him.
Allison Kugel: What is that going to feel like for you, to do that?
Tara Reid: I think everyone was absolutely broken by DMX’s [death]. He wasn’t just a great rapper, but he was a poet. I think he was one of the best rappers of our time, and this movie explains that. The last person that really did that was Tupac. I think it will be a great film. He’s a great actor, he’s a voice, and that mattered a lot to him. I think he will be really happy about how this movie comes out and looks. It’s DMX, and just to be a part of that history with him is pretty much incredible.
Allison Kugel: When he was on set, did he seem healthy? Did he seem happy?
Tara Reid: I never saw him on set. The movie started before I started working. I was due [on set]at the end of the movie. Then, unfortunately, that is when he passed. I actually never got to do the real scenes with him.
Allison Kugel: Oh man!
Tara Reid: I’m in the other scenes with the “not real” version of DMX. It’s going to be really interesting, and we are shooting that down in Florida.
Allison Kugel: Oh, wow. I’ll definitely look forward to seeing how they manage to do that when it comes out?
Tara Reid: I’ll let you come down to the set and you can see how they do it.
Allison Kugel: What three events in your life, if you had to narrow it down to three, shaped who you are today?
Tara Reid: Wow, that is a great question! Well, I guess one of them would be my parents making me, otherwise, I wouldn’t be here, so congratulations on that one (laughs)! I think another one would be feeling the force of getting into Hollywood, which is the hardest thing to do, becoming a working actor.
Allison Kugel: What do you mean by “the force?”
Tara Reid: It’s so hard to make it in Hollywood to begin with. It’s like winning a lottery ticket. To be lucky and fortunate enough to get there was incredible, and then seeing the aftereffects, and everything like that. The third and most painful one was having my parents pass away. That gave me a whole different look on everything.
Allison Kugel: Did it make you think about where they went when they passed? When my grandfather passed away when I was 32, the question that kept going through my mind was, “Where is he?” It started me on this journey of looking into life after death. Did you go through anything like that?
Tara Reid: I would talk about that with my sister, about where we go after this. Honestly, the hardest part, you’re going to make me cry now…
Allison Kugel: No, no, no…
Tara Reid: It’s okay. The hardest part is not being able to call your parents up and ask, “Hey, how do I make this lasagna?” or “How do I make this or that?” They were such good cooks. There are so many things I wish they wrote down, like their recipes, or even just to call them on the phone. I feel like I see signs a lot. I definitely feel their energy around me, and it’s healing for me.
Allison Kugel: What was your biggest take away from 2020?
Tara Reid: COVID was something that, obviously, we never expected, like the Black Plague.
Allison Kugel: Yes, in our lifetime…
Tara Reid: Never. From everyone staying home and not being able to go out or travel, to movies being cancelled, and even people being afraid of other people. A lot of fear was going on. But when I was in my house, I said, “You know what? I’m going to be proactive. I’m not going to sit here and just wait for COVID to come over, or for my industry to come back.” I started developing and producing projects for myself. We (Tara’s production company, Hi Happy Films) got in touch with a lot of amazing and creative people and got to put a lot of different projects together, from comedy to drama. We’ve got a pretty good slate coming up.
Allison Kugel: What do you have coming up?
Tara Reid: We are doing this one movie called Masha’s Mushroom (starring Reid, Vivica A. Fox, Beverly D’Angelo). The director, White Cross, she’s also my partner on that particular film, and she is absolutely brilliant. We got connected with such valuable people from financing to distribution, and I learned aspects of the business that I never knew before. I realized how hard it is to make a film come together and it gave me a completely different appreciation for the film business as a whole.
Allison Kugel: You’re also working on a vegan handbag line…
Tara Reid: I can’t say too much about it just yet, but it’s being done with a great handbag maker named Michael Kuluva. As far as the handbags, I can tell you they are not made of pleather, and it might be made out of vegetables and fruit, believe it or not. I know it sounds crazy. You would be shocked at how it’s made. Then, during this whole process, my boyfriend and I went down to Sedona, Arizona. My father told me, before he died, that he went there with his brother and it is very healing; it’s where the vortex (swirling centers of healing energy, where the earth is said to be “most alive”) is, and it’s very hippie and spiritual. We were supposed to stay four days and we wound up staying for four weeks.
Allison Kugel: And that helped set the vibe for the bag designs
Tara Reid: You get it. The process is pretty incredible, and it’s not just us that’s doing it. I think Hermès is coming out with a bag made from mushroom “leather.” We are going to debut our line next year during Fashion Week, and there will be a lot of Arizona-inspired spiritual stuff on the bags.
Allison Kugel: Speaking of that, do you pray? If so, who or what do you pray to?
Tara Reid: I do pray, and who I pray to depends on what situation I am in. I pray to Jesus, but I also pray to my parents all the time. They are probably my number one. And I pray to my guardian angels; I pray to St. Jude, St. John, or St. Christopher. They have different meanings depending upon what you are in need of. I also listen to tapes by Deepak Chopra which has helped me tremendously. His tapes help you break down, “Who am I close to? Who am I? What do I want? What do I not want?” And you really have to write it out in a diary form. My life started changing. A lot of us don’t know how to direct that positive energy, and I think that he is someone that really knows how to give that to you.
Allison Kugel: I’ve interviewed Deepak Chopra twice, and he was the first person who ever explained to me that there is no such thing as time. I was younger at that time, and I didn’t really get it, so he said, “Well, think about it. If you are in a rush or on a deadline, you feel like you’re running out of time. If you are bored or anxiously awaiting something, time feels like it is taking forever.” Then he said, “Time is really nothing more than the movement of thought.” It makes so much sense to realize that we are trapped in space and time, but you can step out of time and be completely in the moment. It is the most freeing and beautiful feeling there is.
Tara Reid: I agree with you a billion percent. It really is like, “I’m running late for this meeting,” or, “I’m going crazy from this deadline.” Then you’re like, “Wait, I don’t have to get this or do this right now. I can wait half an hour and the world is not going to end.” Time is relevant in a situation like we’re in right now, how we have decided to meet at a certain time. But when it comes to yourself, you can create how you exist in time. When you put out a manifestation and put something great out there, you have to close a lot of doors to open up new ones. That is one of the things that Deepak Chopra teaches. I believe that is what you probably got out of it too.
Allison Kugel: What was your favorite film role, and why?
Tara Reid: This is actually a really good story. Last night I was with my boyfriend watching TV and as we were going through the channels, HBO came up and my boyfriend says, “Oh My God, this is crazy, you’re on TV.” I looked and it was Josie and The Pussycats. That has always been my favorite movie that I’ve ever done. It was so much fun. Rachael Leigh Cook is amazing. Rosario Dawson was amazing. We were shooting up in Canada, having fun doing a girl’s movie, and the whole movie was the best experience. I played Melody, and she was always happy, a little bit ditsy, but kind of psychic. It was great waking up every day, playing a happy girl.
Allison Kugel: Have you forgiven the media for the way that they treated you years back, or do you still struggle with that?
Tara Reid: That is a really good question. I didn’t, and I was upset about it when I was younger, but I realized the only way I was going to grow and get out of that situation was to grow as a woman. So therefore, I do forgive them now. I have moved on, and my press has changed. I’m not angry about it anymore. When you finally let something go, it goes. It’s like taking a balloon and putting it up in the air, and it’s gone. I’m 45 years old and I’m not a child anymore. I’m not the little girl from American Pie. A lot of things have changed in my life, and I wouldn’t take back anything, because again, it put me where I’m at right now. I probably would not be talking to you right this second if everything was different. You’re a positive person I feel like you’ve gone through a lot of what I have, and I really feel like I can relate to you. Would you change anything?
Allison Kugel: I would not change anything. I really am at a place of peace in my life right now. There has been a lot of bumps in the road and twists and turns but I really would not change anything.
Tara Reid: Of course, there are going to be bumps in the road. That’s life. No one ever said it was going to be perfect, but if we didn’t go through these bumps in the road, it would not define us as who we are.
Allison Kugel: I find that my compassion and empathy muscles have grown, exponentially.
Tara Reid: I think COVID really helped a lot of people with that. People had no choice, they had to be inside. So, what do you do? Call your best friends, call people you haven’t talked to in a while, forgive yourself for a lot of things, talk to yourself a lot, and make sense of some of the things that didn’t make sense. I think that is where you and I are. I am completely comfortable in my own skin right now, and I’m happy with where my life is going.
Allison Kugel: Have any journalists ever apologized to you, whether it was a gossip columnist or tabloid reporter?
Tara Reid: To be honest, not really (laughs). If that day ever comes, you are going to be the first person I call and say, “Guess who called me to apologize?” (laughs) But no, not yet.
Allison Kugel: Is there a hobby or another profession that you would like to attempt?
Tara Reid: I think I’m doing that now, expanding beyond being an actress and producing and creating my own films with the roles that I’ve wanted. I also love arts and crafts. I’ve been beading my whole life. And I’m really into rose quartz for love, for example. Every bracelet or piece of jewelry that I make with crystals has a huge meaning behind it. I’m an artist and I feel like I’m covering a lot of different areas in that, and I’m definitely satisfied with it.
Allison Kugel: What do you think you came into this life as Tara Reid, to learn and what do think you came here to teach?
Tara Reid: I think I came into this life to teach people to feel good. I think I have a gift. It just seems like everywhere I go, among my friends, if there is something happening in their life, they talk to me, and I talk to them and I get them out of situations. What I’m here to learn is almost the opposite of that. I’ve had to learn to be progressive, humble, and to keep myself open to learning information that I can use to help others and help myself.
Allison Kugel: Were there times in your life when you were not as humble as you could have been, and you look back on it and think, “Man, I should have been a little more humble, down to earth, appreciative,” and all of that?
Tara Reid: Yes, I think when I first got famous, I didn’t really know what fame was. It is not something that is so easy to get thrown into, and it’s a bit shocking. The beginning of my fame almost scared me, and then I realized how to eventually deal with it. I learned how people are, and that not everyone’s going to love you. Social media can be terrible, and you cannot protect yourself on it. It was a growing process.
Allison Kugel: When you were on that first American Pie set, did all of you have a feeling like, “Wow! This is going to blow up and make us all famous,” or did it just feel like… a job?
Tara Reid: I think I felt like, “Oh, this is just a job.” Everyone in the cast was so new. The actors were mostly very green. It was the first movie for most of them, so we had a bond that was really close. When it blew up, you know, we still have that bond every time we see each other. The first people that you make it with, that never go away. The movie I was most excited about, but didn’t do well, was Josie and The Pussycats. You never know what is going to work and what is not.
Allison Kugel: If you could travel back in time and alter one historical event, where would you go and what would you attempt to change?
Tara Reid: I wouldn’t want to change anything, but if I were to go back in time to a historical event that was fun, I would have loved to have been Marilyn Monroe singing “Happy Birthday” to the president [John F. Kennedy] (laugh). It was such a legendary moment.
Allison Kugel: Would you like to become a mom at some point in your life, or are you good as you are?
Tara Reid: Well, I feel like I’m a mom already. I have two dogs that I’m so attached to. I take them everywhere I go. These dogs have probably been to eight different countries! Right now, that is where I’m at. Will I have kids? Let’s see what is in store for me. It’s not a no, and it’s not a yes. I have gotten my eggs frozen so there is definitely the potential of that. If it is meant to be, it will happen. If not, I’m very comfortable where I’m at
Allison Kugel: Where do you see yourself in five years if you had to visualize it?
Tara Reid: I definitely see myself being in a place where I’m excited and happy about producing and acting, and maybe married. I have great friends, so just to keep my friends close. I don’t have many friends, just ones that are my favorite and best, and we would do anything for each other.
Allison Kugel: That’s all you need.
Tara Reid: I just see myself going on the road that I’m on right now and feeling content. I have a great boyfriend, I have amazing dogs, good friends. Hopefully we can start traveling a lot again because that is one of my favorite things. I kind of see myself moving along like The Little Engine That Could: I think I can, I think I can.
Photo Credits: Brooke Mason Photography
Allison Kugel is a syndicated entertainment and pop culture columnist and author of the book, Journaling Fame: A memoir of a life unhinged and on the record. Follow on Instagram @theallisonkugel and AllisonKugel.com.