Born Althea Rae Duhinio Janairo, Carrere, of mixed Spanish, Chinese, and Filipino heritage, longed to be a singer as a child. Although she was eliminated during the first round of her 1985 Star Search appearance, at the age of 17, she was spotted by the parents of a local producer while shopping at a Waikiki grocery store and was cast in the role of Lani in Aloha Summer, (1988) her breakthrough role.
Following this initial success, Carrere relocated to Los Angeles and, after several months working as a model, landed a role in the daytime soap opera General Hospital. She emerged into the public spotlight when cast as Cassandra, a rock singer and love interest of Mike Myers' character Wayne in Wayne's World, (1992) a role she reprised the next year in Wayne's World 2. (1993) A trained singer, Carrere performed all of her own songs in the two films, and the "Wayne's World" soundtrack features her vocals. She also turned down a role in the series Baywatch to audition for "Wayne's World."
On 22 November, 1992, Carrere married Italian/Lebanese producer Elie Samaha, and she has appeared in severed of his film, none of which have achieved widespread success. Other roles in prominent films followed her role in Wayne's World, however, including the part of villain Juno Skinner in True Lies (a 1994 Arnold Schwarzenegger action film) and secretary Victoria Chapell in High School High (a 1996 parody).
From 1999 to 2002, Tia Carrere starred as archaeology professor Sydney Fox in Relic Hunter, an action-adventure series reminiscent of the Indiana Jones films. The syndicated series lasted for a total of three television seasons before its cancellation. Most recently, Carrere provided the voice of Lilo's sister "Nani" in the animated film Lilo and Stitch (2002), and its spinoffs.
A striking Asian beauty, Carrere modelled nude for the January 2003 issue of Playboy magazine; years before, however, she had used a body double for a nude scene in Showdown in Little Tokyo. People magazine, in 1992, named her on its annual "50 most beautiful people" list.
Carrere has continued to nuture her singing career. In 1993, her first solo album, Dream, was released, and went platinum in the Phillipines. In August of 2003, Carrere was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award by Phillipine President Gloria Arroyo. She is reportedly working on a new album in her home studio.