The following article contains references to disordered eating.
Alexa and Carlos PenaVega were born Alexa Vega and Carlos Pena, and the actors succeeded in show business before their paths ever crossed. Alexa is known for her role as Carmen Cortez in the “Spy Kids” films, and Carlos found fame in music as a member of Nickelodeon band Big Time Rush. Alexa’s earliest credits include a recurring role on the comedy series “Evening Shade” and a 1995 guest spot on “ER.” Coincidentally, Carlos’ first credit was “ER” in 2004. Both actors are now in their 30s, but while Carlos was getting started in the 2000s, Alexa had already landed. She reprised her “Spy Kids” role in three sequels and starred in the tween girl classic “Sleepover.” Carlos began his run with the wildly successful “Big Time Rush” franchise in 2009 and performed with the group for many years.
The PenaVegas’ careers in the entertainment industry have transformed as a result of their Christian lifestyle and family focus. “Our faith and family are in the forefront of everything that we do,” Alexa said on The Sarah Scoop Show. Carlos and Alexa are busy parents who strive to maintain their standards. There’s much more to their personal and professional story, including how they met, where they’re living these days, and what movies they’ve been making. It doesn’t take a spy kid to see what the PenaVegas are up to.
Carlos and Alexa PenaVega met at a Bible study in LA
If Alexa and Carlos PenaVega didn’t work together as kid actors, how did they find each other? The actors’ connection was something of an enigma for a while, with Bustle suggesting in 2015 that their meeting was “shrouded in mystery.” As years went by, the PenaVegas became more comfortable discussing the beginning of their relationship. As they’ve shared in a number of interviews, they connected at a Los Angeles Bible study and were engaged by September 2013.
In an chat with The War Cry, Alexa said she and Carlos initially “met through a mutual friend” named Andrew. Carlos had some unusual things to say about his first conversations with Alexa: “I had known of Alexa, but she was just ‘that chick from ‘Spy Kids.’ She had no idea who I was though, and when we first met, I was completely smitten. I became so nervous I actually started quoting ‘Spy Kids,’ which did not work because she told our mutual friend I was so weird.” Carlos went on to say he thought Alexa looked like Joseph Gordon-Levitt when she was younger, and as an adult, Alexa thought Carlos was a dork. On an equally awkward note, Carlos’ ex-girlfriend had invited him to the Bible study session. He thought, “Well, maybe if I show up to this thing, we could rekindle our relationship.” Looks like things that night surprised Carlos.
Alexa PenaVega has been married before
Carlos and Alexa PenaVega had both been through other relationships by the time they found one another. Alexa was married to producer Sean Covel from 2010 to 2012. E! News reported that they wed in Lead, South Dakota at the Homestake Opera House. Less than two years after they tied the knot, TMZ reported Alexa filed for divorce due to irreconcilable differences. The actor and her ex are over 12 years apart in age.
After becoming engaged to Carlos, Alexa reflected on her past with Sean Covel. “I’ve been through a marriage and I’m still very fond of my ex-husband, but if I’ve learned anything it’s that relationships are about compromise,” she explained to People. “But there are compromises like where you want to eat, what color you want to paint the wall … but not who you are as a person. Never compromise yourself.” Alexa seems to have taken her own advice in her life with Carlos as the two work together to support their family and pursue their dreams.
Carlos PenaVega dated another actor
Los Angeles Times reported that Carlos PenaVega purchased “a Mediterranean-style home in the San Fernando Valley for close to its $1.5-million asking price” in 2011. The five-bedroom, four-bathroom villa was a swanky bachelor pad, but its owner would soon look for love. Before he met Alexa, Carlos was extremely busy with Big Time Rush, both the touring boy band and the TV show.
PenaVega’s schedule with Big Time Rush filled his life, but he appeared to enjoy making time for his fans. The star answered questions in a YouTube video in January 2012, and someone asked how much time Carlos spent with his bandmates. He answered, “I spend every waking minute with the boys. … I see them a lot.”
Interestingly enough, the video still exists on the PenaVegas’ YouTube channel. In it, Carlos addresses another popular fan question: “People keep asking me if I’m dating this girl right here, Samantha Droke. … Yes, I am dating Samantha Droke.” Droke is an actor who was in Disney Channel movie “Princess Protection Program” with Demi Lovato and Selena Gomez. In 2012, Just Jared Jr. noted that she was spotted on vacation in Hawaii with Carlos PenaVega. Later that year, PenaVega opened up about his and Droke’s split to HuffPost, saying, “There was someone special in my life, but I just recently broke up with my girlfriend so now there’s not. The only special person in my life now is my dog, Sydney.”
Big Time Rush helped Carlos propose to Alexa
Big Time Rush was such a big part of Carlos PenaVega’s life that it was no surprise when J-14 reported that Kendall Schmidt, Logan Henderson, and James Maslow were all included in the proposal. Carlos told the outlet he popped the question to Alexa PenaVega “at a big dinner. The boys and I went on a cruise and we had a big dinner the very first night. Logan helped me out, James gave me some courage, and Kendall brought the tears.”
“It’s emotional!” Schmidt shared with J-14. “I had never been around an engagement before, and especially not one that was as cute and sweet as the way he was doing it.” Alexa would have been friendly with the Big Time Rush boys by that point because she’d visited Carlos at work at Paramount Studios often — the PenaVegas told The War Cry how much Alexa enjoyed being on set. It was her “second home.”
Carlos pulled out all the stops for his and Alexa’s engagement, even helping to create her ring. Alexa posted a photo of the sparkler on Instagram in 2013 and wrote, “I still can’t believe you built this thing from scratch! You designed something so beautiful baby!”
Carlos and Alexa combined their last names
When it came time to make things official, Alexa Vega and Carlos Pena got creative and legally combined their surnames into one last name. Alexa introduced their portmanteau name on Twitter in 2014 simply with “Mrs. PENAVEGA.” Telling the story of the name change, Carlos said to People, “We were literally at the county office in Ventura signing all the paperwork and the woman was like, ‘Whose last name?’ I said, ‘Let’s see if this works. Carlos and Alexa PenaVega. Just one word.'”
In an interview with The War Cry, Alexa added another tidbit: “We love our families, but we both come from kooky families. For us, we just wanted a fresh start. … We are going to start over. We’re leaping into our faith, we’re leaping into this family. … And that’s where PenaVega came from.'” It couldn’t have been easy for the actors to decide which professional name to use, but they became the PenaVegas pretty seamlessly.
The PenaVegas' Cabo San Lucas wedding was a hit
Alexa and Carlos PenaVega began their first chapter as a married couple in January 2014. They said their vows at Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit, a stunning resort in Cabo San Lucas. The couple told Us Weekly, “We are so blessed to have been able to spend this special day with the people we love the most. We look forward to sharing a happy and healthy life together.” Us Weekly revealed that the PenaVegas each had nine attendants in the ceremony. That’s a load of bridesmaids and groomsmen to keep track of — but hey, the more the merrier.
Alexa PenaVega reflected on the special day in 2020 for her and Carlos’ sixth wedding anniversary, writing on Instagram, “Never did I think that goofball guy from Bible study would completely sweep me off my feet and be everything God knew I needed! Taking a trip down memory lane is giving me all the feels! So many epic adventures together and so many more to come! Being married to someone you are completely head over heels for makes every single moment together feel special… even the hard days filled with overtired children who have poopie diapers while throwing tantrums… YES, even those moments can be special too. Love you so much my angel!” Most of Alexa’s accompanying photos captured the wedding, but she also threw in pictures from earlier in their relationship, including their first date (not that she would have called it that back then).
They 'jumped at the opportunity' to compete on Dancing with the Stars
“Dancing with the Stars” has given countless celebrities the chance to dance. In 2015, the PenaVegas were the first married couple to compete against each other for the mirror ball trophy.
The PenaVegas documented their experiences in a “Dancing” blog for People. “We thought it would be an awesome adventure and also an opportunity for us [to] be a positive light for people,” Alexa wrote. She also shared that she and Carlos “immediately said yes” when offered the gig. Alexa was partnered with Mark Ballas while Carlos danced with Witney Carson. The PenaVegas realized how competitive Carlos really was, but he remembered why it was important to participate in the first place. “We jumped at the opportunity to do this show because we wanted to do something that could brighten up people’s day,” he wrote. “There is so much darkness going on in the world today. We can’t even watch the news without getting depressed, and this show is something that makes people happy.”
The “Dancing” happiness wasn’t without its challenges for Carlos PenaVega, though. In the aforementioned People blog, he admitted that he wasn’t totally stoked about “the fact that Lex was going to potentially have another guy groping her on the dance floor for the next three months.” The couple focused on their dance numbers, Alexa was one of the last six in the competition, and Carlos made it to the final four (via ABC News).
Carlos and Alexa PenaVega shot a movie on a cruise ship
Alexa and Carlos PenaVega began to reevaluate their responsibilities in the entertainment industry once they started expanding their family. The actors now love working together and taking their kids with them. In a 2018 Hallmark movie called “Love at Sea,” the PenaVegas played love interests. Alexa’s character is the event planner for a culinary cruise, but she’s “dealing with the rookie cruise director,” played by Carlos, per IMDb. The sweet premise presented a special atmosphere for the PenaVegas.
“Love at Sea” was filmed on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship. TV Insider got the scoop on the location and why it made a splash for its leads. Alexa shared that she and Carlos had “been cruising for a long time and we really love Royal Caribbean.” It turns out that Hallmark asked the PenaVegas about their dream filming locale, and Carlos said, “I wanna film on a ship, we’ve gotta figure it out.” Carlos and Alexa worked around the cruise ship’s regular activities (like Zumba classes), and a couple of their castmates were accustomed to fictional life on the sea. William R. Moses and Audrey Landers had both guest-starred on “The Love Boat” years earlier, and Alexa expressed to TV Insider that she loved working with both actors.
Working together is important for the PenaVegas
“Love at Sea” might sound like a diamond in the ruff among TV rom-com gigs. However, the PenaVegas have worked together numerous other times, and they want to keep it that way. Alexa told Southern Living, “This industry was not built for families. If anything, it’s the opposite. You leave for six months, usually the family stays behind. And it’s really hard. I don’t know how you raise kids that way. I don’t know how you keep a marriage strong that way.”
Knowing “they want to work together on every project,” Carlos and Alexa have leaned into the generous opportunities Hallmark has given them. They’ve worked together both on mystery films and romantic comedies with the goal that their “family is never separated.” Alexa spelled out the deal for Southern Living: “Hallmark has just been so accommodating with that and anytime there’s an opportunity for us to work together, they bring it up. And if there isn’t, they fly the whole family out and we’re together anyway.”
Rules sometimes have exceptions, and the PenaVegas understand that. They put up a YouTube video on their channel in October 2020 in which Carlos announced, “Alexa’s gonna be leaving for six weeks to go film a Hallmark Christmas movie.” Alexa immediately chimed in, “Guys, I know that we said we would never do that.” As Carlos said under his breath, “They didn’t want me, so…,” Alexa tried to give him a pep talk about rejection.
Los Angeles was not right for the PenaVegas
The PenaVegas have been able to accomplish great things as a family in entertainment, and they’ve done most of it despite what would seem to be a big obstacle — they don’t actually live in Hollywood. The PenaVegas moved to Hawaii several years ago and have reflected on the transfer since then. Alexa said to People, “When we were living in California, there was never actually a break. The industry happens 24/7. And we thought, we need a place to go and reconnect and that needs to be our home.”
As the PenaVegas grew in their Christian faith, it became apparent to them that California wasn’t the right fit. Alexa said on The Sarah Scoop Show, “We didn’t really fit, in all honesty, the Los Angeles mold. You know? I mean, we were young people who were married. In LA, you know, you don’t get married young. It’s a very driven place, which is fantastic because, you know, people are trying to make it in the industry. … But for us, we really wanted a family…finding community who understood where we were at was really tough.” The actor still cares about her old friends, but she made the practical assessment that the group was not in the same stage of life as herself and Carlos.
Carlos and Alexa PenaVega's house caught fire
Though the exact decision-making timeline is unknown, it seems that the PenaVegas’ choice to move to Maui also would have followed a fire at their California home in 2016. Alexa penned a lengthy Facebook post detailing the emergency. She “woke up to the faint smell of smoke” at 5:00 in the morning, grabbed Carlos, and raced “through the house to figure out what was happening.” The event was traumatic, and Alexa must have been horrified to find that she had left the barbecue on.
The actor stressed fire safety throughout her entire post, listing costly mistakes that anyone could make, like misplacing the fire extinguishers or not checking smoke alarms. Alexa finished her post with, “I normally don’t like to go on and on… but this was so scary and so preventable and I just want to share this so everyone is prepared!” The PenaVegas had not had any kids yet when the incident took place, but thank goodness both actors were okay.
Moving from the busy familiarity of LA to the island life of Maui must have been a big deal for veteran actors like the PenaVegas, but Alexa told Sarah Scoop, “It was the best decision we’ve ever made, 100%.” Carlos had “always wanted to move” to Hawaii and was surprised that Alexa quickly agreed when he suggested it.
There was drama with the PenaVegas' first house in Maui
One might think things were picture-perfect after that first move, but the PenaVegas still weren’t satisfied. According to The Maui News, they caused quite a stir when they applied for a rental permit for their home in Kihei. This did not go over well with residents and the issue was raised at a committee meeting. The outlet reported that Wailuku resident Noelani Ahia said, “This is nothing personal, and you seem like lovely people, but this makes my blood boil. We cannot be allowing this type of thing to continue to happen when our people, not just kanaka maoli, but local people who have been here for generations, can’t even afford to stay here.”
The PenaVegas found that there were already vacation rentals around their home, which did not create the ideal environment for them. Carlos said (via The Maui News), “You’d meet somebody and a week (later) they were gone. For us as a growing family, we really value community out here, so that was tough.” Carlos and Alexa ended up moving within the area, and in 2020, Carlos announced yet another move on YouTube: “Alexa found a house online, she said that she wanted to…see if we could make the move, even though we had already committed to being here for five years, she said, ‘Why not? Let’s just see what happens, see what God has in store for us.’ So we prayed about it, and a week later, we listed this house…and within a week, it was gone.”
Carlos and Alexa PenaVega love their iconic roles
Celebrities come face to face with the nostalgia craze all the time, and the PenaVegas have definitely been asked about revisiting their most popular roles. Carlos told TV Insider, “Our band Big Time Rush, I would assume at some point we will all come back together and do some sort of reunion. I mean, that’s kind of what boy bands do. So I think that that’s gonna happen. That’s the only thing that could come back.”
Alexa was a guest star on “Big Time Rush” in 2013 and isn’t opposed to singing with Carlos now. “Listen, never say never, babe. You know it is tough because I love singing. I really, really do, but there is this silly fear, Carlos is so good at singing that I just get so embarrassed. It’s something that I have to work up to for sure, but I do love singing, and I do love worship music so you never know, it might happen,” Alexa told The War Cry.
On The Sarah Scoop Show, the PenaVegas talked about how much their kids love their work. “However, the greatest feeling is literally having your kid go, ‘Mom, I wanna watch ‘Spy Kids,’ or ‘More ‘Big Time Rush,'” she shared.
The PenaVegas are open with fans on YouTube and social media
Like some other actors, the PenaVegas document pieces of their lives on social media and through YouTube. They started a podcast but have released only one episode at the time of writing. The family’s YouTube channel encompasses multiple parts of their world, including their faith, essential oils obsession, and adorable children. The PenaVegas have three kids: Ocean, Kingston, and baby Rio. In May 2021, they welcomed Rio to the family, with Alexa sharing on Instagram that “Little Rio could not wait to come out and play with her brothers!” The new addition was in the NICU but went home in May 2021.
The PenaVegas worked through some fertility issues for about six months before having kids, which took a toll on Alexa. “I struggled with an eating disorder when I was younger,” she told People. “It was a big part of my life, and I was worried that I wasn’t getting pregnant because of some long-term damage from what I’d put my body through.” The mom is willing to help others understand eating disorders and has answered questions on Facebook about her experiences. Sadly, the entertainment industry contributed to Alexa’s disordered eating at 16, from body-shaming tabloids to producers telling her, “You need to lose weight.” Her message to those struggling with eating disorders: “Please know there is hope.”
The PenaVegas aren’t exactly like other celebrity couples, but their devotion to faith and family keeps them going.
If you are struggling with an eating disorder, or know someone who is, help is available. Visit the National Eating Disorders Association website or contact NEDA’s Live Helpline at 1-800-931-2237. You can also receive 24/7 Crisis Support via text (send NEDA to 741-741).
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