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Tara Reid Wants You to Take Her Seriously

The early aughts It girl is regaining control of her own narrative, with a shift to production and her upcoming thriller, Masha’s Mushroom.

by Ilana Kaplan

Photo by GP/Star Max/GC Images

Tara Reid is gleefully jangling her crystal bracelets in front of me. There's rose quartz for love, onyx to curb negative energy, one for protection and one for awareness. “We bought all these crystals, and I made bracelets, and we saw a psychic,” the actress exclaims. Reid has tapped into her spiritual side lately, an activity enhanced by a move with her boyfriend from Los Angeles to Sedona, Arizona. “It was really nice to change up the energy,” Reid says on a recent afternoon over Zoom.

The actress, 45, may not be an energy healer, but her impassioned speech about spirituality could charm (or fool) anyone into thinking she is. With her syrupy voice, she can’t help but wax poetic about the psychic she recently encountered. “She said that my sister would meet someone in two months and marry him, which my sister is very excited about, and me and my boyfriend are going to get a house soon, together,” Reid explains. But her face lights up as she reveals that the psychic predicted her career would “go off” not just in acting, but in producing as well.

For fans who have followed Reid’s career over the years, that news might come as a surprise. In the early Aughts, Reid was a Hollywood It girl—she landed starring roles in American Pie, Urban Legend, Van Wilder and Josie and the Pussycats. Her projects, in recent years, have been less flashy—she found a cult fanbase for the made-for-TV sci-fi disaster franchise Sharknado, for which she took on the role of shark fighter April Wexler.

Reid had no idea the film series would be a game-changer for her career. When she got offered the role, she recalls, she told her agent, “‘I'm not doing a movie called Sharknado. That sounds ridiculous.’ It was the worst movie I ever read,” she recalls. Six films later, Reid has been to outer space, given birth to a baby inside of a shark and flown. Joining the franchise, which made $5 billion, was the right call: “It became the biggest sensation, ever.”

Following the end of the Sharknado series in 2018, the actress has remained undeniably busy—her IMDb lists about 21 upcoming projects she’s involved in—cutting her teeth as a producer in addition to acting. “I've always been the actress and, all of a sudden, I turned the tables and I became a producer,” she says. “I realized how much harder it is to get the funding and the financing, the actors and the locations.” It’s a massive shift, but it’s been a long time coming.

Photo by Brooke Mason

The actress can’t help but gush over her “baby”—her first producing project, Masha’s Mushroom. In the thriller, Reid plays the titular character—a workaholic mom whose birthday party goes awry when everyone is drugged by a purple powder. Also starring Vivica A. Fox, Billy Zane, and Beverly D’Angelo, the characters must battle hallucinations to determine what’s real in order to survive. “Everything about this movie is colors and just really trippy, weird stuff,” says Reid. “All of a sudden, people are jumping into the windows and they're swimming with the fish.” It’s going to be “a big franchise.” The psychic, she says, reiterated that, too.

Her excitement about what’s next is palpable, and Reid begins pouring out details about her other projects in a stream of consciousness. There’s Mikey and Miguel, an animated LGBTQ+ series she describes as “Family Guy meets The Simpsons meets Will & Grace”; Hollywood Disclosure with Serena DC where celebrities share their most intimate moments; and The Prophecy of Troy, a film that gives insight into what happened 10 years prior to The Trojan War. A surge of energy bursts through Reid as she describes the latter film—she’s going full-on method actor for it. “[The Prophecy of Troy] is cool because I play a badass. I ride a horse [and] I use a sword, so I'm going to have to get training for that one,” she says. Reid loves to embody the characters she’s taking on and learn as much as possible about them. When she starred as ditzy drummer Melody Valentine in 2001’s Josie and the Pussycats, she had no idea she was going to have to learn how to play the drums. But she’s glad she did: “One of the great things about acting is you get these jobs, and you learn something that you never knew before.” That dedication was a disappointment, however, when the film “bombed” upon its initial release. “I think it broke all of our hearts,” she says. “I can't talk exactly for [Rachael Leigh Cook and Rosario Dawson], but we thought it was going to be a huge hit.” Now, she believes, they were ahead of themselves. The world just needed to catch up.

Nowadays, Reid is determined to be taken seriously—something that’s been an uphill battle for her throughout her career. Along with Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears, and other young women who were in the public eye, Reid was a paparazzi magnet who was endlessly scrutinized. The “party girl” label followed her throughout her Hollywood rise and earned her the reality show Taradise, in which she famously got paid to travel the world, eat at famed restaurants, and, well, party. (“It was the best show,” she adds.) That reputation, however, haunted her, once every aspect of her life was fair game for tabloid fodder. She was body shamed and chastised about everything from plastic surgery to her substance use. Beyond the comments, which at the time were hurtful, the picture the tabloids often painted was often damaging. “People don't realize by them bullying you, especially with magazines, that you lose jobs, you lose work, you lose money,” she says.

Reid knows this experience firsthand. Part of the reason she didn't continue doing Taradise was because she realized it was hurting her reputation. “It was everyone's favorite show around the world, but the executives, they judge,” she says. If social media existed back when she was starting out, she could have stuck up for herself, she says. “No one knew how you really felt, if it even happened or if you got framed,” Reid adds. “That's the one good thing about social media, is that you get to speak your voice when you couldn't before.” Retreating from the limelight and becoming more private, she says, helped her reclaim her narrative and grow up. “I’m finally a woman, and I feel like it.”

In recent years, though, Reid has found a new following as a gay icon. She thinks it’s due in part to her work with the NOH8 campaign over the years and her camp movie roles in the late ‘90s and early ‘00s. Reid isn’t quite sure how it happened, but she’s “grateful” to be recognized. More recently, people might say that label had to do with her leaving a comment on Nicole Kidman’s Instagram wanting to cast her in one of her forthcoming projects. Reid says she’s still waiting for a reply. “She knows about it, but there's no answer back yet,” the actress explains. “No one's completely giving answers yet because of how bad Covid is.”

The future, for Hollywood, may remain uncertain, but Reid is adamant about looking ahead. In the past, perhaps she would have humored the tabloid talk. At this point, she isn’t keen to talk too much about it. Even though she has “no regrets,” it opens up a wound she’s worked hard to heal. Instead, she’d much rather focus on her business strides, which she believes will ultimately stand on their own. “I think I'm going to shock a lot of people [with] how big of a producer I'm going to become,” Reid says. “And that's something I really enjoy.”