PHOTO COURTESY ABC
Tia Carrere was partnered with professional dancer Maksim Chmerkovskiy for ABC's "Dancing With the Stars" competition.
Tia's last dance
Aches and pains aside, Hawaii's Tia Carrere is enjoying a career boost from her "Dancing with the Stars" fame
The star will tango once more on Sunday's finale
NO PAIN, NO GAIN.
Even though local-born Tia Carrere has been gone from the popular "Dancing with the Stars" TV show since the beginning of the month, she's still feeling the ramifications of the competition, both on her body and a suddenly revitalized career.
"Dancing with the Stars": Airs from 7 to 8 tonight on KITV/ABC, with the two-hour season finale from 8 to 10 p.m. Sunday, pre-empting "Desperate Housewives"
She and the other former contestants will make one last terpsichorean turn, however, on the two-hour season finale Sunday night, as the results of the judges and voting viewers' tallies will finally be known. After tonight's final competition, who will be the champion? The leggy and formidable Stacy Keibler? The personable Drew Lachey? Or surprise finalist and football legend Jerry Rice?
The Sacred Hearts Academy graduate says it's still a whirlwind life, although she's had time to reconnect with baby daughter Bianca and husband Simon Wakelin.
Speaking by phone from her Los Angeles home, she said that after her ouster, "I went to New York to do a press tour for the show, came back, flew to Boston for a job, and did a piece for 'Oprah.' ... We're also moving into a new house, and with TV pilot season coming up, I've gotten about 10 offers, half of them dramas, half sitcoms. By the end of next month, we plan to take a breather and visit England to finally give Simon's parents the chance to meet their new granddaughter.
"The best byproduct for me career-wise, from all the press and attention the show has gotten, is getting this bunch of pilots. Before that, I don't think they would've thought of me, if they hadn't seen me, like, everywhere.
"But all this hasn't been without its challenges. In fact, as I'm talking to you, I'm sitting down with heating pads on both my knees, a heating pack on my back, and my feet still hurt."
Plus Carrere said she still had a blood blister on her right big toe courtesy of her dancing partner, Max Chmerkovskiy, during a practice session.
Still, she'll be there Sunday night, doing the tango, more than 30 pounds lighter than when she started and, in her words, "back out in a big way."
Despite the injuries, did anything positive in terms of body awareness come from "Dancing With the Stars"?
PHOTO COURTESY ABC
The final dancing pairs are professional wrestler Stacy Keibler and Tony Dovolani, left, singer Drew Lachey and Cheryl Burke, and retired pro football player Jerry Rice and Anna Trebunskaya.
"It helped my posture," she said without hesitation. "I'm much more aware of it. I also realize that I don't have to work out on heavy weights, and not get crazy to get in shape."
Carrere divulged that "many actresses don't want to have babies, because of their concern over their figures. It's insane but it's Hollywood. But as I go into the next chapter of my life, I've come to realize that the pregnancy and post-pregnancy weight is temporary."
She's an acolyte of the Southern California NutriFit healthy meal plan, and supports founding director Jackie Keller's book due next month, "Body After Baby: The Simple 30-Day Plan to Lose Your Baby Weight."
"I'm very happy that there was a clear path and method to achieving all my goals, that I didn't have to starve and go crazy."
WHILE ON the show, Carrere said, she dutifully listened to the judges, but "I realized that they had to come up with their little sound bites as well, their biting comments, so I didn't take it to heart. ... But all of them made very valid points, like I was leading with my left shoulder again, or I didn't pull my head farther back. It's these certain things I saw when I later watched the show on TiVo. ... Because once you're in the dance, you feel like you're stretched out to perfection, and you're just enjoying it."
She admits that the intense instruction was more than the contestants had bargained for. "You've got to realize that our dance partners, some of them have been doing this since they were 4 years old -- mine for 22 years. And here I'm learning everything in four days. But we made the impossible possible," Carrere said with a laugh.
COURTESY OF SIMON WAKELIN
This portrait of Tia Carrere and baby Bianca was taken in December by her husband, photojournalist Simon Wakelin.
Still, don't expect to see her hoofing up a storm any time soon after Sunday. "After being let go on the show, the first thing I said to myself was, 'I got to do my singing again and my acting again, things that I'm good at.' While I enjoyed seeing the progress I made on the show, what I achieved, it's not my forte. I've got to dig in and work on the things I've loved doing over the past years."
And frankly, she says, "every week was like banging my head against the wall. Each time, there was a different rhythm, a heel-toe accent. And once they added that show where we had to do the salsa and the samba, it became too stressful. I was happy to go home. It was just impossible."
it seems that most viewers -- well, those who use online message boards -- were disappointed to see "Soap Net" host Lisa Rinna voted off last week. She had seemed destined to make the finals.
But Carrere was not surprised that Jerry Rice moved on instead. "Remember, a cricketeer won the English version of the show. Don't discount the huge football fan base, and I think Jerry is the most improved. ...
"Giselle (Fernandez) is a much finer dancer that I am, yet she went before I did. I guess the voters connected my mother story, dancing just seven weeks after having Bianca. ... It's that unknown quotient that keeps the show exciting and people talking around the water cooler."
Finally, asked who she believes will win, she pauses for a considerable time. "Gee, that's a hard one. Everybody has done so well. Stacy has the most dance experience, Drew's got a great personality and Jerry is such a legend. I don't know but I do love Jerry Rice. Ten years ago we did the 'Battle of the Network Stars'-type show on Fox, and we competed against Junior Seau and Jill Goodacre, and we won, Team Jerry and Tia.
"I like him great deal because he came in with no dance experience. It's very stressful, and at times we would look at each other and roll our eyes because you feel so overwhelmed. ... But he didn't become one of greatest football players of all time without a will that is stronger than mine. He might be able to pull it off."