CARRIE ANN INABA
Story and Interview by Montgomery Fisher, Jr.
Carrie Ann Inaba has a to-do list as long as her remarkable and varied career as a dancer, pop star, choreographer, actress and Hollywood producer, and most recently as a judge on the hit show "Dancing with the Stars." This Hawaiian beauty has an endless curiosity about life, with abundant self confidence culled from success in every area that she has committed herself.
After winning a talent show as a teenager, her first bold career move was to move from her beloved native Hawaii to Japan to be groomed as a pop star. She had to learn the language and culture, sing the Japanese lyrics phonetically, and bear all the pressure of recording and performing for a demanding public.
Carrie Ann decided the pop artist life was not her path, so she entered U.C.L.A where she studied choreography and graduated cum laude with a degree in World Arts & Culture. While in college she landed a role as a Fly Girl on the hit variety show "In Living Color," the same show that spawned the career of Jim Carey, Jamie Fox, Damon Wayans, and fellow Fly Girl Jennifer Lopez.
From there her Hollywood career took off. Madonna brought her on as a dancer on her "Girl Show World Tour," and when she asked Carrie Ann to shave her head, she hardly thought twice. Carrie Ann pushed the envelope when she co-choreographed and performed the famous topless erotic pole dance. She also toured with Ricky Martin on his World Tour in 1999 and danced in his music video "Shake your Bon Bon."
As an actress, Carrie Ann has appeared in many hit movies. She costarred as 'Fook Yu,' a pig-tailed Japanese schoolgirl cooing over Mike Meyers with her twin 'Fook Mi" in "Austin Powers: Goldmember;" and before that she appeared as 'Felicity Dancer' in "Austin Powers II: The Spy Who Shagged Me." She also appeared in "American Virgin" and "Monster Mash." As a dancer, she was featured in "Boys and Girls," "Flintstones II," "Showgirls" and "Lord of Ilusions."
Carrie Ann is also one of the most sought after choreographers in Hollywood. Her television credits include "American Idol," "So You Think You Can Dance," "American Juniors," "The TV Land Awards," "The Swan," "Starting Over," "Dance Fever" and the "Miss America Pagaent."
In December 2006, Carrie Ann became the director of the first "Dancing with the Stars" live stage show. This arena tour visited 38 cities and was one of the most successful arena tours to date. Currently Carrie Ann appears twice weekly as one of the three judges on "Dancing With The Stars." She has gained the reputation as the honest, fearless "tell it like it is" judge on this hit show. "It is a joy to see the professionalism and dedication of all the dancers, but it is my obligation to judge each performance with a critical eye," says Carrie.
As president of her own company "EnterMediArts" Carrie Ann writes, directs and edits digital documentaries and films. She recently produced and hosted a travel DVD "Tokyology," a light hearted look at Tokyo, narrated in Japanese and English. Her "to-do list" includes creating a Vegas show, performing on Broadway, acting in a martial arts film, and producing educational videos to benefit children based on arts and culture.
One of the hardest working women in Hollywood, Carrie Ann is still a free spirit. "I just go where life takes me. I'm very curious about life. And, if something sparks my interest and I get some resonating feeling inside about it, I just go with it." And, it is her amazing grace under the relentless fire of Hollywood that has made Carrie Ann Inaba the amazing star that she is.
This is a magazine focusing on Hollywood Entertainment. You're from Hawaii. I don't know of two more different places in the world. What is the best part of each?
The best part of Hawaii is the weather. I love being outside and in the sun. I enjoy sitting on the grass and listening to the ocean or the sound of the wind in the palm trees. The best part of Hollywood is meeting interesting people. Every job takes you into a new family. I've met some incredible people through the years. I've learned a lot about myself through these encounters. There are some characters as well and it's really incredible to meet such diverse people. The weather here is not bad as well. I like California sunshine almost as much as I like the Hawaiian sun!
When did you discover dance?
I discovered dance at the age of 3. My mom enrolled me in a class for creative movement. It was fantastic to be so free in movement at such a young age. I still look at dance as a way to express oneself.
What are some of your favorite musical genres? Who are some of your favorite musicians?
My favorite musicians are: Seal, Sinead O'Conner and Sade. I also like Robin Thicke and Christina Aguilera.
What was the best part of being a judge on "Dancing with the Stars"?
The best part of being a judge was watching these celebrities find their own connection with their bodies. In American culture we are somewhat disconnected with our bodies. We have a tendency to be "in our heads" most of the time. Dancing is about letting go of the mind, letting go of the ego and finding the power of the body. Since I've been a dancer my whole life and I believe so strongly in body knowledge, to see these stars find more confidence and expression through their bodies as they went through the process of learning these dances, is a joy. I am so proud of them and happy for them as they grew through dance. Dance has been so under-appreciated in the past few years so to see how people are falling in love with it all over again makes me proud to be on the show and it makes me glad that I chose to stick with dancing because for me dancing, the art, the sport and the work ethic of it have taken me to where I am today. I am grateful.
You have made so many bold decisions in your professional life; moving to Japan as a teenager to be a pop star, becoming a Fly Girl on "In Living Color," shaving your head to be a main dancer with Madonna, starting your own production company. Any regrets?
No regrets yet! I don't believe in regrets. The only regrets I have had are when I have hurt someone. Sometimes we make mistakes in the way we say things to people and I have had regrets in relationships but not in my career. I am not afraid to try new things in my career. I work very hard at everything I do and then I let life lead me through.
You have been photographed by great photographers like Tony Donaldson, John Paschal, Brad Yuen, Alison Dyer, Mark Benington, Kwaku Alstoxi, John Russo, Giuliano Becker, Olivier Potzman among others; who captures your outer beauty and your inner beauty?
I enjoy doing photo shoots because they are like mini-productions. I enjoy the collaboration process where we come up with ideas together. I'd say I've only worked with one photographer who treated me more like I was a mannequin than a living, breathing person. He didn't allow me to move or use my hands or express myself
at all. I think all creative projects; including photo shoots should be the collaborative efforts of all involved. I truly loved working with Kwaku Alston, Tony Donaldson and John Paschal.
As president of your production company - EnterMediArts, Inc. - you must have many creative projects in development. Looking into a crystal ball, which of those projects do you prophesize will be your next to produce?
I'd like to do a large production in Las Vegas. I'm working on developing one now. It's got multicultural themes, powerful music and movement from all cultures, incredible set design and speaks in universal themes. It's the project I've been hoping to do my whole life. I'd like to collaborate with Julie Taymore on it as well and have Lisa Gerrard do the soundtrack. That's my dream team. I'd love the opportunity to work with them both. I think they are incredible women with powerful gifts that they use well.
Who in Hollywood would you love to work with?
Julie Taymore, Lisa Gerrard, Baz Lurhman, Michael Buble and Bob Fosse...if he were still alive.
You have so much joy and passion for living. Do you have any advice on how to stay happy?
Yes, I do. We all have tough times. I've had a lot of very difficult times in my life. I think it's important to go through your tough times. Don't try to sweep them away, or deny them. Allow the anger, sadness, and all other emotions that arise from situations that may be difficult, to flow through you. Let them out. Find a creative medium, do something you love and channel the emotions. I think it is so important to let your life and love flow through you. Don't hold it in. Also, on the positive side, don't be afraid to tell people you love them. If you see someone on the street that makes you smile, tell them and thank them. If you see someone who needs your help, don't be afraid to help him or her. We all need to express ourselves and we need to help each other since we are all part of this universe. A good friend once told me, if there is darkness; shine light upon it and it will be dark no longer.
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