From the glitz to the glam to the most amazing gadgets, the stars of “Spy Kids” seemed to have it all. “I think it was the best childhood we could have asked for,” Alexa Vega, who most of us know as kid secret agent Carmen Cortez, told Hollywood.com. While she was busy having fun on-screen, the blockbuster film completely catapulted her career.
When the three-part franchise finally came to an end in 2003, “I cried like a baby,” Vega admitted to BBC. Growing up on set, her fellow actors and filmmakers became family to her. “Hopefully we can go far in our careers,” she added at the time — which has us wondering what exactly the actress has been up to ever since.
From marriage to movie sets, from the limelight to the literary world, it turns out Carmen from “Spy Kids” been busy. Many people also may not know that she goes by a different name now instead: Alexa PenaVega. How did that happen? Read on to find out what the actress who plays Carmen on “Spy Kids” has been up to.
Alexa PenaVega got her big break in 'Spy Kids'
Other than acting on national television, Alexa PenaVega lived a fairly normal childhood. She was enrolled in a regular school, and unlike many kids her age, she loved sitting in a classroom. There, PenaVega could be around kids her own age instead of much older moviemakers. Because of that, “having to go back and forth between school and filming would sometimes be frustrating,” she admitted to Complex.
In 2001, PenaVega became ecstatic that she booked the role of Carmen Cortez in a movie that had “kids” in the name. While working on “Spy Kids,” PenaVega was surrounded by other actors her age, and she truly had the time of her life. “What other kid gets to be hooked up on a harness and flown all over the room?” she later laughed to Hollywood.com.
While the young actress was busy having a great time — and taking home a hefty paycheck — young fans all over the world were falling in love with “Spy Kids.” What started as a single film quickly turned into a three-part franchise, and PenaVega even got to perform on the series’ soundtrack (via Girl). “We had no idea people were going to like ‘Spy Kids’ this much,” she admitted in an interview with PVR Pictures. From there, endless opportunities seemed to await the 15-year-old star.
Alexa PenaVega went from the big screen to Broadway
While her big screen career was booming, Alexa PenaVega decided to move onto a stage musical instead. In 2007, she booked the role of Penny Pingleton in the award-winning musical “Hairspray.” It was then that PenaVega’s acting career took a completely different direction. “Doing Broadway sparked a completely new interest in me,” she revealed in an interview with Moviehole, and from then on out, it influenced the types of roles she began taking, too.
The following year, PenaVega found her way back to the big screen. This time, it was in a movie musical; starring in “Repo! The Genetic Opera” gave her just another reason to use her voice. PenaVega sang multiple songs on-screen, which sparked her interest in pursuing an even more musical career. “It just opened up a whole new kind of genre that I would love to jump into,” she continued. “And hopefully we’ll get another chance.” Fortunately, PenaVega’s next project would help her to do just that.
Alexa PenaVega got her own TV Show
After snagging a recurring role in the television series “Nashville,” Alexa PenaVega was offered another musical series to star in. In 2009, “Ruby & the Rockits” — a series that revolves around an ’80s pop star — hit television screens everywhere, giving this movie star another opportunity to sing to us all.
While PenaVega was excited for another reason to rock out at work, starring in the series wasn’t as easy as she initially expected. On the first day shooting her singing scene, one of the creators dropped some unexpected news on the young actors: Instead of lip syncing the songs like they had planned, “ten minutes before we had to go in and shoot, he tells us that he wants us to sing it live,” PenaVega revealed to We Love Soaps.
Though this family-friendly TV show only lasted a single season, playing Ruby was exactly the role that PenaVega had been looking for. “For me, ‘Ruby and the Rockits’ is exactly where I want to be,” she said.
In 2012, Alexa PenaVega experienced heartbreak
Once she wrapped up “Ruby & the Rockits,” Alexa PenaVega tied the knot with her filmmaking fiancé in October 2010; she’d fallen for film producer Sean Covel. Yet, while they seemed to be totally in love, tabloids began reporting that something was seriously wrong in their relationship. In the end, PenaVega and Covel opted to get a divorce in 2012. “We tried everything before making that decision,” PenaVega later told Complex. “But people staying married for the sake of being married is not healthy at all.”
PenaVega had tried to keep their split a secret at the time, but her divorce was now out there in the open. Looking back, the young actress had felt like the “Napoleon Dynamite” producer was “holding her back,” and unfortunately, she felt she was doing the same for him, too.
Luckily, that relationship is something PenaVega doesn’t regret. “If I had to go back, I would do it the exact same way,” she confessed. “Sean is a wonderful person and he was everything that I needed at that time in my life that I was in.”
Alexa PenaVega returned to her famous franchise in 'Spy Kids 4'
In 2011 — almost a decade after she made her debut in the original “Spy Kids” movie — Alexa PenaVega found herself home once again on the set. Just like the actress herself, her character “Carmen is now an adult. She’s grown up,” PenaVega explained to PVR Pictures. So in “Spy Kids 4: All the Time in the World,” there was an entirely new set of kid stars. Carmen was then more of their mentor as she took on the role of their aunt.
Though Carmen was at a completely different place in her life in “Spy Kids 4” — just like PenaVega herself — being in a film in the franchise immediately brought back so many memories. “We got on set, and all of our old gadgets were there with all the old sets,” she reminisced to the LA Teen Festival.
However, there was a lot of new stuff for PenaVega to learn as an adult spy. The new kids seemed to have it all down, though. “They were teaching us everything,” PenaVega explained to Hollywood.com. “We’re like, ‘When did we get uncool?'”
Alexa PenaVega appeared in an Aerosmith music video
By 2012, Alexa PenaVega found herself once again in the world of music. This time, there was no singing involved — at least, not from her. That summer, PenaVega appeared in a music video for Aerosmith’s newest single “Legendary Child.” In it, she played one of the fierce women that were rollerskating during a wild chase. It was all rough and tumble, which seemed to be in true PenaVega style. “I have always been such a tomboy in my day-to-day life,” she revealed in an interview with Bohemian Mama.
Up until this point, a music video wasn’t something that PenaVega had ever done before, and it was a big deal to more than just the young star. It was also the first song that Aerosmith had released together in nearly eight years (via Rolling Stone). Needless to say, the video was just as legendary as the title of the song suggests.
Alexa PenaVega wrote and released a comic book
After rollerskating around an Aerosmith music video, Alexa PenaVega began writing a story about rolling around on two wheels instead. “I wanted to see more girls out there be, kind of, action heroes,” she explained to The Hollywood Reporter. So in 2013, PenaVega wrote and released her very first comic book called “Suicide Layne.” “It’s about this Motocross star — girl — who races by day and avenges her father’s death by night,” she explained.
While 2013 seemed like the best time in PenaVega’s life to release it, “Suicide Layne” was a story that was long in the making. In fact, she’d originally presented the idea to director Robert Rodriguez all the way back in 2002 when she was working on “Spy Kids 2: Island of Lost Dreams.”
Now that PenaVega’s comic book has become a reality, she hopes to one day be able to take it to the big screen. Ever since she first thought up the idea, she always imagined her lead character being played by “Fast & Furious” actress Jordana Brewster. However, there may be a much more experienced actress who would be perfect for the role: PenaVega herself. The main character “does ride a motorcycle,” she said. “And I ride motorcycles.”
Alexa PenaVega transitioned to more mature movies
After everything she’d been through, Alexa PenaVega knew it was time to make a major career move. After all, “you want to keep people guessing,” she said on The CineSnob Podcast. “You don’t want them to know what you’re going to do next.”
After continually being offered the same types of roles, PenaVega was determined to take on more mature parts in movies. Unfortunately, it wasn’t easy for the former child star to be cast in them; everyone knew her as the little girl they saw growing up on screen instead. So after much deliberation, PenaVega realized there was only one person she could convince to take a chance on her: “Spy Kids” director Robert Rodriguez. In 2013, he ended up completely rewriting a role so she could star in his R-rated action film “Machete Kills.” From the metal bra to the thigh-high chaps, the skimpy ensemble wasn’t something that PenaVega was used to at all. Yet, in order to completely reinvent in her image, “what a better way to do it [than] with people that I really trust,” she told Clevver.
While PenaVega didn’t want her acting career to be “predictable,” she still was picky about the roles she wanted everyone to see her play. “You want to make sure that you don’t alienate your audience,” she explained to The CineSnob Podcast. “And you don’t want to lose your fans along the way.”
Alexa PenaVega fell in love again
Fortunately, there’s a happy ending to Alexa PenaVega’s love story. In 2013, she fell for someone who also happened to grow up on-screen; after originally meeting at Bible study, the young actress began dating “Big Time Rush” star Carlos Pena. In fact, she even appeared in an episode alongside him. “We were friends at first,” she explained during an Instagram Q&A. “But then once we started dating we both just knew!” Sure enough, six months later, the pop star proposed to PenaVega on a cruise ship (via Power 106 Los Angeles).
The following year, the couple got married in Mexico, and they both debuted a completely new last name to the world: PenaVega (via Us Weekly). “We thought it was a cool way to meld our lives together, for two to become one,” she explained to Parents. “I gave a piece of myself to Carlos, and he gave a piece of himself to me.” From that moment forward, they began working together a lot more often, too.
Alexa PenaVega competed with her husband on 'Dancing with the Stars'
Once Alexa PenaVega was married to a musician, it seemed like a great time to get back into the world of music. However, this time it would be in a much different way; in 2015, both Alexa and her husband, Carlos PenaVega competed on season 21 of “Dancing with the Stars” — against each other.
While the series made it seem as though this married couple was extra competitive with each other, that certainly wasn’t the case behind-the-scenes. “Boy, did they milk it when it was just us two against each other,” Alexa laughed during an interview with Media From the Heart. Indeed, Alexa’s overall experience on “Dancing with the Stars” opened her eyes to how television shows portray a marriage. “When you look at what’s on TV nowadays and what actually represents a solid marriage, they don’t really have anything out there,” she said, adding, “You can still enjoy each other and be on a competition together.”
When it was announced who’d be moving onto the semi-finals, it was between Alexa and Carlos. In the end, PAlexa was eliminated. Fans watched as her husband burst into tears, whispering to her that he wished he’d been the one eliminated instead. “He’s the best thing I could’ve ever asked for,” Alexa later admitted to Entertainment Tonight.
After appearing on 'Dancing with the Stars,' Alexa PenaVega became a YouTuber
The same year that Alexa PenaVega and her husband competed on “Dancing with the Stars” was when they decided to share their lives with the world even more than before. In 2015, they posted their very first video vlog together on YouTube talking about their day. “There aren’t filters to what we’re doing,” she explained to Media from the Heart. “We’ll be honest about the conversations that we have, and we’ll post it.”
The PenaVegas’ YouTube channel — LexLovesLos — stemmed directly from their “Dancing with the Stars” experience. Together, the couple wanted to show the world what a real marriage looked like. “Everyone has this distorted image of what marriage and relationships are supposed to be because of what they see on TV,” PenaVega explained. Instead of reading a script, the two share their day-to-day adventures, their children’s birth stories, their epic vacations, and everything in between. It’s the perfect place to see what the PenaVegas have been up to, and everyone seems to be interested, too. Today, their videos have surpassed nearly 150 million views.
Alexa PenaVega headed over to star on the Hallmark Channel
From the big screen to the small screen and everything in between, there was something that Alexa PenaVega had yet to tackle: TV movies. In 2016, she accomplished this, too; Alexa officially joined the Hallmark Channel family when she received the leading role in “Ms. Matched.” Funny enough, it wasn’t her first film for the network either. “Everybody keeps saying that,” she explained on Home & Family. “I did a Hallmark Hall of Fame film when I was 12, and I did a Hallmark film two years ago.”
It was in 2017 that PAlexa began bringing the love of her life into all of her projects, too. That year, she starred alongside her husband, Carlos PenaVega, in “Enchanted Christmas” on the Hallmark Channel. The two then became both producing partners and co-stars on Hallmark’s “Love at Sea.” In 2019, the PeneVegas got their own series with the network called “Picture Perfect Mysteries: Newlywed and Dead.” “Ideally, if we could do every project together, we would,” Alexa told Media from the Heart.
In 2016, Alexa PenaVega became a mother
In 2016, Alexa PenaVega had some big behind-the-scenes news to share: the movie star was going to be a mother. “We can’t believe we’re having a baby,” she and her husband Carlos PenaVega told People. “Truly, our hearts are exploding with the new blessing we get to experience.” Later that year, their son Ocean King PenaVega was born. Though the busy new mom continued to work, she brought her new bundle of joy wherever in the world she happened to be filming (via KTLA 5).
Three years later, another baby boy came into the PenaVegas’ lives, this one named Kingston James PenaVega. And at the end of 2020, fans found out that there would be yet another new addition to the PenaVega family, too. During a “Big Time Rush” reunion on Instagram, the family announced that Alexa was having a baby girl in June 2021 named Rio Rey PenaVega. Funny enough, “before I knew I was pregnant, Ocean would literally tell me that I was pregnant, that there was a baby girl in Mommy’s belly,” she revealed during an Instagram Live (via the Daily Mail).
Expanding the PenaVega family even more may be in their plans, too. After all, Alexa has six brothers and sisters herself. “So who knows really,” she told fans on Instagram.
Alexis PenaVega waved goodbye to Hollywood and said aloha to Hawaii
After Alexa PenaVega had given birth to her first baby, she and Carlos PenaVega desperately wanted to step away from the spotlight. The hustle and bustle of Hollywood didn’t seem like the best place to raise their growing boy, and they had the perfect place in mind (via People). In 2017, the PenaVegas packed up their things and moved to Maui. “Everybody thought we were crazy [and that] we were never going to work again,” Alexa told Home & Family.
When Alexa became a parent, however, her priorities completely changed. Instead of chasing after the spotlight, she was now chasing after her toddler; Alexa’s new job was to raise her son right. “We just want to raise really happy kids. Kids that are running around outside and not hooked to their tablets all day long,” she explained. “So if it costs us the career, then it costs us the career.”
Luckily, while living in Hawaii helped her be able to spend more time with their little ones, Alexa has also been able to book more leading roles. “To be honest, when we moved out here, we have worked more than ever,” she said, and of course, their children are always there alongside them for it (via KTLA 5).
Alexa PenaVega went into voice acting
Though we’ve mostly seen Alexa PenaVega up on the big screen, many fans may not know that she’s lent her voice to some animated stuff over the years, too. However, everything changed for Alexa and Carlos PenaVega in 2019. “Out of nowhere Nickelodeon was like, ‘Let’s give your family their own show,'” he explained to TV Insider. “And they wanted to make it work from Maui.”
After starring in a few episodes of the network’s animated series “Loud House,” the PenaVegas were indeed offered their own spin-off series called “The Casagrandes.” When it aired for the very first time, “people related to it so much,” Alexa explained. “We’re both Hispanic, so to be able to see our families represented, even within a cartoon, was really cool.”
While the PenaVegas have been easily able to lend their voices from afar — Carlos built a voiceover booth in their own Hawaiian home — acting out cartoon characters isn’t as easy as it seems. Many times, the PenaVegas have ended their days without having voices at all. “You’re exhausted because you’ve been singing and laughing and jumping,” Alexa continued. “There’s just so much energy packed into such a small amount of time.” Yet, after three seasons and even more voiceover roles in the works, it seems safe to say that Alexa still enjoys it just as much as acting in films. At this point, this actress can really do anything!
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