She was figuring out who she wanted to be after years of being told who she was. It was the artist formerly known as Prince who renamed Ms. Electra, the Ohio native formerly known as Tara Leigh Patrick, after he discovered her in 1991 auditioning for a girl group on his record label. She didn’t get the singing gig, but weeks later, he tracked her down to where she was staying at a Holiday Inn in Glendale, Calif., and offered to make her a solo star instead.
“Basically he said, ‘Well, I want to sign you to Paisley Park Records, but you have to come to Minneapolis. And your flight is leaving at 7 a.m.,’” Ms. Electra said. She got on the plane. “I remember landing in Minneapolis to a purple limousine, and it was just so strange, taking such a chance. It just seemed like a dream or something, like it wasn’t real.”
From Paisley Park, Prince produced her 1993 album, “Carmen Electra,” and took her on the road opening for him in Europe on his Diamonds and Pearls tour. He also helped Ms. Electra hone what would become her signature look at the time — big, Priscilla Presley-inspired eyelashes, a corset and hot pants under a cashmere coat, and heels — a mix of athletic street style dressed up under a veil of Hollywood glamour. “I remember him saying, “Are you a blonde or a brunette?” And I was so young that I’m like, ‘I’m a brunette,’ you know?” said Ms. Electra, who is now blonde.
But Prince never sugarcoated things for her, even as he molded her into a star. She played him her first demo recordings for Capitol Records, before he summoned her to Minneapolis. “He said, ‘I could use that as a coaster or a Frisbee.’”
“He’d call you out if you hit a wrong note — he’d bark, ‘Arf, arf,’ you know? And you’re just like, ‘Ah, don’t make me cry, I’m trying my best,’” Ms. Electra said. “But that was the genius in him. He had that. And I am forever grateful, because honestly, I learned so much from him, and it just gave me a little boost of confidence, to push. And I mean, that was really the beginning of getting over a lot of fears.”