Tara Reid remembers watching E.T. as a kid and idolizing Drew Barrymore. “I wanted to be like her,” she says, revealing that the actress and beauty mogul inspired her to pursue a career in Hollywood. “Then, after American Pie, she came up to me at a sushi restaurant and said, ‘Oh my god, I love you!’ I was like, ‘I literally wouldn’t do what I do if it wasn’t for you.’”
Reid, 45, known for her cult repertoire of films over the years from The Big Lebowski to Josie and the Pussycats, and, of course, the aforementioned American Pie, is on the set of her latest project. She’s wearing a white puff-sleeve top and gold lamé skinny jeans, showing off a black structured cross-body bag adorned with colorful crystals. This time, the character she’s playing is herself. Her newest venture? A fashion collaboration with the designer Michael Kuluva. The bag, named “Kura”, a portmanteau of “Kuluva” and “Tara”, is both eco-friendly and sustainable, made from cactus leather and recycled cotton with Tara’s own specially curated semi-precious stones and crystals to decorate it. A launch is planned during New York Fashion Week.
“This is a really precious thing for us,” says Reid, who is joined by Kuluva on the set of the shoot. He adds: “We’re gonna dazzle you! When you carry the bag, you will have a little piece of Tara and I with you each time.” Kuluva’s label, Tumbler & Tipsy, has previously shown at NYFW back in 2012, with Kendall Jenner modeling on the runway.
A month ago, Reid is excitedly telling me about this new project from her home in L.A. This time, she’s in a pink Chanel jacket and “very comfortable pants” (which I can’t see on Zoom), fresh off filming Shark Week antics for the Discovery Channel, including swimming with actual sharks. “The sharks were, like, 30-feet long,” she says. “They’re huge!” In case you forgot, Reid has plenty of experience dealing with the frightening fish from playing April Wexler during her Sharknado days. But that was then. Now, she’s sitting pretty.
“Everything’s falling in place now, and thank gosh,” she says excitedly. “It took a long time.” She’s not just talking bags and crystals, though it’s clear that she really is very happy about both of these things, positively beaming through the screen as she talks, even bringing the stones close to the camera so I can see them clearly. “The best time in your life is when you can actually say that there are not enough hours in a day.”
By the end of 2021, Reid anticipates that she’ll have several film projects out in the world, almost all of which she’ll be producing and directing, with studios like Paramount and stars like Rebel Wilson signed on. Friends are asking her if they can be in her movies again, and she’s been speaking with Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins “for whatever she has in mind.” Though production includes a lot of moving parts—financing, distribution, assembling a cast—Reid is up for the challenge. “It’s a real game trying to figure it all out,” she says.
Before Reid became famous for her roles in ’90s and early aughts classics (as Bunny, Vicky, Melody, and April), she starred in Saved by the Bell: The New Class. It was pretty much the only thing she’d done prior to landing The Big Lebowski. “That was ridiculous,” she recalls of auditioning for the role in the seminal Coen brothers movie. “Charlize Theron and Liv Tyler were there; I was like, ‘I’m never gonna get this part.’ Then they gave me the offer. It was so unexpected.” Next came Urban Legend and American Pie; a three-picture deal with Universal. “Boom boom,” she says, conveying the swiftness of it all. “We got lucky.”
For Reid, the audition process hasn’t exactly gotten any easier over the years. “They expect so much from you because you’re famous already,” she says. “The worst is when you’ve flopped it [the audition] and you know you were good.” In the past, Reid has requested second auditions. “I didn’t get the part necessarily, but they would come back and say, ‘Well, she tried; she had a lot of nerve—in a good way.’” Say what you want about Tara Reid, but the woman has guts.
She’s also one of the actresses who, owing to her rise in fame during the dawn of the millennium, was subjected to the intense glare and scrutiny of the paparazzi. “You don’t know what they’re going to say or what picture they’re going to show,” she says. The O.C.’s Mischa Barton, a fellow teen starlet of the same era, recently penned an article about the press harassment she received. And Britney Spears has found herself back in the spotlight as she tries to fight her conservatorship. “What [Britney Spears] is going through, it’s heartbreaking,” says Reid, who has shown her support for the singer in recent Instagram posts. “I’ve never heard of anything like it. She’s still going through it, and it’s heartbreaking.”
Reid credits social media for allowing big-name celebrities to finally stick up for themselves. “It makes a difference,” she says. “Before it was cool to make fun of someone. People are watching their words more carefully. I think it’s great to give a positive spin on everyone. People deserve that.” If Reid could have her way, everyone would give out one compliment a day to create a chain reaction of good moods.
Perhaps this benevolent behavior is why Reid has amassed a loyal fanbase—who have affectionately dubbed her “Cult Queen” as a reference to her cult status. Cult Queen also happens to be the name of Reid’s other venture: a collection of sunglasses, complete with crystal-adorned croakies.
Of all the films Reid has starred in, Josie and the Pussycats remains her all-time favorite. “I had lunch with Rachael [Leigh Cook] recently,” she says, referring to her co-star in the titular role. The pair reminisced about how excited they were about the film, which bombed at the box office before becoming a cult classic (Reid is a Cult Queen, mind you). What’s more, the film is now viewed as being ahead of its time for its satirical comments on capitalism and commercialism. “People didn’t understand it,” reflects Reid. “Now there’s Instagram, Twitter… they all get it.”
Looking back at her career, Reid has no regrets. “Everything in my life is meant to be,” she says. “There’s been good times, bad times, whatever times. They were right times. I’m at the best part of my journey, and I can’t wait to see where it goes.”
Back on set, the conversation flows from how and where to wear Reid’s bag (across the body or around the wrist—it’s a day bag and a night bag!), the protective element of crystals (Reid says they have centered her and made her feel healthier and happier), and why there’s such a palpable nostalgia for the ’90s and 2000s right now.
“People in the ’90s are older now and they’re realizing what they miss and what made them happy,” offers Reid. “You feel good!” interjects Kuluva, whose favorite Reid film by far is American Pie. “[It] brings you back to a time in your life when you’re carefree.” So, how about those American Pie 5 rumors? “Who knows,” starts Reid, “I think we’d all like to go back to it. If it happens, it happens, but if it doesn’t, we’re all moving on.”
Masha’s Mushroom is the upcoming film Reid will produce and star in alongside Vivica A. Fox that seems to have garnered the most press as of late. “Super trippy” and “a bit scary,” Reid plays Masha, a mother who is organizing her daughter’s birthday when things become rather hallucinatory. It’ll be the first of five films, in a similar vein to the franchises Reid has been in before. “The story can keep moving on and on; it really has legs,” she says.
But before she can grace any more red carpets, Reid needs to learn how to walk in heels again. “I’m not even joking,” she laughs, explaining how she wore Christian Louboutins to a friend’s recent birthday and struggled to walk the next day. Her solution: wear heels around the house for at least an hour each day to get back into the proverbial swing of things. Rest assured, when she has mastered those lofty heights once more, the pair in question will go great with her new Kura bag.
Photographer: Danelle Cole; hair: Cindy Zamora; makeup: Amy Galibut; photo assistant: Emily Cole; creative consultant: Natalie Corrales; lighting / art director: Liana Grigoryan
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