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Entrepreneurs

Carmen Electra on Why You Can't Fake Passion for Your Business

How a painfully shy girl went from backup dancer to TV star to business leader.
Carmen Electra on Why You Can't Fake Passion for Your Business
Image credit: Greg Doherty | Getty Images

Dancer. Singer. Actress. And now entrepreneur.

Carmen Electra still has that fun, tongue-in-cheek sensibility that made her a star on Baywatch and MTV’s Singled Out, but lately she’s gotten serious about business, launching a new line of perfume, Carmen Electra, and a line of lingerie, With Love From Carmen.

Entrepreneur caught up with the singing, dancing and cooking (well, sorta -- watch her episode of The Worst Cooks in America) star to discuss what makes a good partnership, the power of positive thinking and what spending time in Prince’s recording studio taught her about achieving success.

How is your perfume launch going?

I was really lucky because I got to connect with a partner who allowed me to create the perfume that I love -- from the scent to the design of the bottle. With social media, people know if you really love it or not, you can’t fake it, so you have to genuinely feel passion for the products. It started off being sold on Amazon and now it's in Walmart and T.J. Maxx. I also have a lingerie line called With Love from Carmen. I grew up dancing and performing and got into the burlesque striptease thing and became obsessed with lingerie. And now I’m taking that expertise and passion and applying it to making something I love. Patience and persistence pay off!

What have you learned -- good and bad -- from going into business with partners?

It needs to be a partner who respects your opinion, otherwise things can turn into a little war. If my name is on a product, then it represents me, so I want it to look good and to be quality. So, it can be frustrating when your partners disregard your input.

Related: What Prince Can Teach You About Creativity

Do you have any tips for spotting a bad partnership?

We don't listen to our instincts enough. I've learned to recognize how I feel when I walk out of a meeting. In the past, I’ve ignored those instincts and would let someone talk me into working on a project that I knew in my heart wasn't right for me. But I don’t regret those things. It’s all a learning experience. You're going to make a ton of mistakes, and if you learn from them, you can turn them into a positive in your life.

What has been the biggest thing you’ve personally had to overcome to find success?

I'm really hard on myself, and that kind of negative thinking gets in the way of everything. So when I notice that I’m putting myself down, I force myself to be positive. In the past, I’ve walked out of auditions because I was too nervous and too overwhelmed by the competition. Now I force myself to say, “This is my part, I'm going to get this, I'm going to kill it.”

Related: 5 Ways to Rewire Your Brain to Be Positive

When you walk into a business meeting, do you worry that people won't take you seriously and treat you like a character on Baywatch?

I still think that happens from time to time, honestly, because of the images that I have that I put out there to the public. That's why taking meetings and meeting people is really important, because they get to see that my passion is genuine. They see right away that I’m not the stereotype they think.

Are there any parallels between how you approach creative work and business?

In everything, I’ve learned that preparation is key. Never take for granted that the teleprompter is going to work, or that the presentation will work perfectly. You need to know your stuff!

What is the last thing you do before you go to sleep?

I am so jealous of people who can get by on two hours of sleep. I need eight hours, and since my schedule can be all over the place, I count my hours. I have a 4 a.m. wake-up call? Then I need to be in bed by 8. Maybe that’s a little obsessive, but that's what works for me.

Related: 16 Things That Lack of Sleep Can Do to You, According to Science

What is the first thing you do in the morning?

I'm definitely not a morning person, so I'll either play music or I'll listen to motivational speakers like Tony Robbins on YouTube. It helps take my mind off the fact that I don't want to stand!

How influential was Prince in your life?

I started off as a backup dancer, so having the ultimate musical genius believe in me and write music for me and give me my own record deal was just unbelievable. He worked nonstop -- always creating and never letting anything get in the way of his vision. He did not need eight hours of sleep! He taught me to not be afraid of risks. Prince would go in the studio and record singing in funny voices and sometimes scream and sometimes whisper -- he’d just try all sorts of things and see if it led to something. I was 18 years old at the time, and I remember thinking, “Wow, I would never think to do that!”

Just try something and see what happens.

Yes, between Prince and my time at MTV, I learned to just jump in and try stuff. Mistakes are cool, mistakes are awesome. That mindset opens up a different type of freedom, and I love feeling free.