Lost in Love with Carlos & Alexa PenaVegaWhether you know them as actors and singers or as the adorable island family in Hawaii, Carlos and Alexa PenaVega have paved the way for Christianity in Hollywood.
She sets down the baby monitor and laughs as he can’t seem to get the microphone to work. On Hawaii time, they log in to speak to The War Cry. They are two of the most iconic Christians in Hollywood, a dynamic duo and parents to Ocean and Kingston. Carlos Pena was the Nickelodeon teen heartthrob in “Big Time Rush” and Alexa Vega was the epitome of girl power as she portrayed Carmen in the blockbuster movies “Spy Kids.” Whether you know them as actors and singers or as the adorable island family in Hawaii, Carlos and Alexa PenaVega have paved the way for Christianity in Hollywood.
When The War Cry sat down with Carlos and Alexa, they had an important question for Alexa right away, “Were the ‘Thumb Thumbs’ in “Spy Kids” real actors or CGI (computer graphic imagining)?” Alexa laughs and says, “They were real people inside of those ‘Thumb Thumb’ suits, and they were as creepy in person as they look on screen. Some of it was CGI, but for the most part, actors were in these large, custom- made suits that were heavy and thick, rubber-like material. It was so strange!” Carlos laughs at her answer and starts to share a story about visiting each other on sets during their relationship. You can feel their warmth and compassion through the computer screen. They start a casual conversation as if they were speaking to lifelong friends. Growing up in Hollywood, Carlos and Alexa see beyond the façade of the glitz and glamour and have created a life of their own inspired by God’s Word.
WC: Tell us a bit about yourselves.
Alexa: Hey everyone! My name is Alexa PenaVega.
Carlos: And my name is Carlos PenaVega. We are actors, performers, entrepreneurs, parents and Christians!
WC: How did you two meet?
Alexa: We actually met through a mutual friend at Bible study in California.
WC: Did you guys know about each other prior to meeting?
Carlos: 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.
WC: So did you have to work on a friendship before you asked her on a date?
Carlos: I think I can speak for a lot of guys when I say that we like things to move quick. Alexa was not into that though. She wanted to be friends first, friends second, friends third and friends fourth. But I was persistent, and church was really the bases of our relationship. She would pick me up and we’d go to church together, and that is kind of how we started our whole relationship. I had never been to Bible study before, and when I went to my first one, I met Alexa! It’s really cool that our whole entire relationship has kind of started in our faith.
WC: Since you two didn’t know one another, what led you to attend that specific Bible study group?
Alexa: It was our mutual friend, Andrew, who invited us. I’ve known him since I was 13 years old, and Carlos has known him since he was18, and all this time, Andrew would tell us that we were very compatible. He would always say things like, “You have to meet. You two just have to meet,” but the timing never worked out. We were either in other relationships or just not ready to date at all. So, Andrew had invited me to his Bible study quite a few times. It was a Bible study at his house that he led and just this one particular time, I decided, “You know what? I’ll go check it out,” and this is after a couple years of him having this Bible study that I finally decided to go. It just so happened to be the night Carlos showed up as well.
Carlos: Yes, and I actually was there because I had been invited by an ex-girlfriend and I was thinking, “Well, maybe if I show up to this thing, we could rekindle our relationship.” So, it’s kind of crazy how I ended up meeting Alexa.
WC: What is your favorite characteristic about one other?
Alexa: Carlos has this awesome childlike personality, and I mean that in the absolute greatest way. He is so joyful, and he is never afraid to have fun. He is always making me laugh and brings so much joy to my life.
Carlos: You know for me, I love that Alexa always has really great things to say about me. [laughter] In all seriousness. Alexa is always so positive. She doesn’t see the world as black and white and will always try to find the positive in any situation. I have never met anyone else who can find a positive spin on just about anything and stick to that side, because most people see the world as so negative, but Alexa doesn’t.
WC: How did you two find time for each other while working in Hollywood?
Alexa: Bible study and church were two things that were very important to both of us and that really paved the way for us in the starting point of our relationship. We instantly became inseparable. I actually remember this moment, we were walking into a mall and there was this lady coming through the door, but Carlos and I were holding hands. I went to let go of his hand to let her through and he squeezed my hand harder and he said, “Sorry ma’am, we are inseparable!” It was so funny because it was true. I would go to his set and spend time with him there. If I had to fly out for a shoot, he would fly in and visit me. We made that time for one another pretty effortlessly.
Carlos: We can’t really relate to other relationships in our industry where one of them is constantly jetting off for another gig. I understand different professions, but I believe being in a relationship, especially a marriage, you have to find time to be together.
WC: And were you two still dating while you [Carlos] was on Big Time Rush?
Carlos: Yes. We shot at Paramount Studios and Alexa would come by almost every day and just hang out. She likes to be on set though, it’s like a second home for her.
WC: How did you balance out work and your relationship?
Alexa: I think we were doing two things really. We were both kind of growing in our relationship but at the same time also growing in our relationship with God and our faith. So, we started looking at our careers a little differently, if you look at the roles that I was taking back then versus the roles that I take now, they look very different because we set new boundaries for ourselves. We set new boundaries in our relationship and you could see that progression. We were navigating how to make them coincide with one another but it was just kind of the beginning of navigating it all.
WC: Do the projects that you take on reflect your faith and beliefs?
Alexa: In short, yes. We tend to work on projects that we are passionate about and align with our faith. I think the one thing that is kind of a struggle that we both faces is that a project won’t always a hundred percent align with our beliefs and truths. I think a lot of times it is very unrealistic to what actually goes on in a Christian household and in Christian lives because we are not perfect people. We mess up, we fail daily and we are constantly trying to better ourselves. I feel like a lot of the Christian movies out there, they cater to the Christian audience but how do you make worldly content but with kingdom-hearted background? So our goal is to one day create content for the world, but that comes from a kingdom-heart. So everyone can see it, everyone can enjoy it, but it is all based on Jesus essentially.
Carlos: I can’t tell you how many times I get onto a project and have to have the conversation of me saying there are certain phrases or profanity that I’m not comfortable with. It’s inevitable but I have to have that conversation and ultimately, I have been lucky and fortunate enough to be a part of so many great stories. And you know, I’m glad I have those conversations because you never know who is going to see the film or show you’re on, and if kids are watching it, we definitely don’t need to curse and set bad examples for young children. It’s been interesting and fun to try to find a balance in the projects that we ultimately take.
Alexa: Well, I honestly feel like I have this mindset now because you can do a movie about drug addiction as long as there is redemption at the end. You’re not showcasing that drugs are fun, you’re showing the sins and tragic that comes with drug addiction, and the story of redemption is so powerful and can touch so many lives. We prefer to do films now that have a positive message as the outcome. The problem is because a lot of these projects nowadays glorify drugs, alcohol and infidelity, the sin is being glorified instead of the redemption.
Carlos: Exactly, there definitely is a balance, and we are fighting hard to bring that line a little closer to the other side.
WC: Switching gears, Carlos, your last name is Pena. Alexa, your last name is Vega.
WC: And you combined them to create your own last name?
Carlos: Yes, exactly.
WC: Did you legally change it or is that just something that you started on social media?
Carlos: It’s legally our last name!
Alexa: When we went to the courthouse to get our marriage certificate we couldn’t figure out whose last name we would use, so we put them together and though, “Huh, it works.”
Carlos: We were like, “We are the PenaVegas now!”
WC: With a new family name, you decided to move from Hollywood to Hawaii. What influenced your decision to move?
Carlos: I had always been in love with Maui and wanted to move here and Alexa was not about that. She loved Los Angeles and never saw herself leaving. When Alexa was pregnant with our first son, Ocean, we were trying to find a new city to move to because we just weren’t happy with the area and the schools near us. So, I remember one day as I was leaving for the gym, I said, “Hey, what if we just move to Maui?” and she said, “I’m in.” I just kind of laughed and continued to my car. But then I ran back inside and said, “Were you saying, ‘I’m in’ sarcastically or you’re serious?” and she said, “I was serious. Let’s go.” I told her, “As soon as I walk out this door, I’m going to call our realtor and tell him to sell the house and we’re going. So, if this is for real, I am going to put everything in motion,” and she said, “Okay.” I got in the car drove to the gym, but I don’t think I even worked out. I immediately got on the phone and told people that this was happening. That’s literally how it happened. Everyone thought we were crazy.
Alexa: We were in Maui like two months later.
WC: Do you two have similar parenting styles?
Alexa: I would say, yes.
Carlos: Yes, I mean other than the fact that Alexa has so much more patience, but I think it’s a good balance.
WC: How do the two of you handle any arguments or disagreements?
Alexa: Here is the truth, I think it drives Carlos nuts, but we will argue and then I’ll ask for someone alone time to pray about it or talk to God about things. Whereas Carlos is more, “No, let’s just apologize and makeup,” because he wants to end it right then and there and figure it out. I like to take time to process and think about things. So, we operate very differently in those kinds of things. It’s a struggle sometimes to balance that because I want to be able to respect how he feels, and he wants to respect how I feel. I feel like in any marriage, communication is key, and we are learning every single day how to better our communication, how to lift each other up and build a great foundation.
WC: Do you think that your faith also guides your parenting styles?
Carlos and Alexa: A hundred percent.
WC: What are some parenting techniques that you might do with your sons that are faith-based?
Alexa: I think that is honestly where a lot of my patience comes from and a lot of grace. It is interesting because before you become a parent, it is so easy to judge other parents, and then you become a parent and you are hit with the reality of parenting very quickly. Grace and patience start growing and extending to so many people. You are learning how to keep a baby alive like your whole world has just been rocked in a really good way, but it’s a lot all at once, especially if it’s your first child. I look to my relationship with God and really try to slow down with everything I do.
For example, when I play with Ocean [Carlos and Alexa’s son], and I try to get their attention, they can only focus on their toys. So, one time, when I wanted him to focus more on me, I started to remove all the distractions from the room—such as his toys—until he looked at me and started playing with me. He started to giggle and smile, and I remember the way my heart felt in that moment. I was overwhelmed with joy and love and then it hit me, like I had this feeling of God going, “That is how I feel with you,” but I can only imagine that it is a million times greater the joy and love that God has for us, but then it also got me thinking going, “Wow, God loves us so much.” Ocean can mess up; he could scream or cry or not let me sleep, but I am going to love him so much regardless because I have that grace and I had that patience with him. But I do not want him to remove the distractions for me. I want to be able to remove the distractions myself so that I have that relationship with him, and I have made space for him.
WC: How did you come up with the name Ocean?
Carlos: In the early months of Alexa being pregnant, we were on a sailing trip in the middle of the Caribbean, and one day we were sitting out there, and we were just kind of talking about baby names. And I’m sitting there looking out into the large body of water and just sort of said, “What about ocean?” In the moment of being in the middle of the ocean and witnessing God’s incredible work, you know, no cell phones, no nothing. It just all felt right.
Alexa: Absolutely. You look out at the ocean and it is so peaceful and beautiful, but it is also incredibly powerful, strong and vast, and I just loved how it can bring two types of feelings together.
WC: How do you two balance work, marriage and being parents?
Alexa: We made this decision that we would never take on projects at the same time. We will be there for each other regardless, I guess, if that makes sense. So, if I am shooting a movie, Carlos will come with me. We will keep the entire family together. No one is staying home. It’s very important to us. We see too many families separated, then fall apart and the kids need both parents, you know, the statistics show the importance of a two-parent household, and in the entertainment industry, it’s hard to do that. So, we have just made it a rule and we have stuck to it.
I think we focus on our marriage first because if we want to raise strong men, we want our marriage to be reflection of God’s Kingdom and what love looks like. We have to actually show our sons how people treat one another, and if we are not doing that in our marriage, how on Earth are they going to grow up and become what we want them to be or what we hope for them to be? Our priority in our household is our marriage and that trickles down into how we parent. It allows us to have even more love for our children, more patience with our children, but it starts in our marriage.
WC: Through your YouTube channel, you show your fans a bit of your island life. Can you tell us about what inspired that project for you guys?
Carlos: Yes, I started it handful of years ago, but it was because I was tired of other people telling our story. I wanted to have more control of the content that I was putting out. So we originally did some sit-down videos, then it evolved into a vlog, and now it’s evolving into something else, and we have no idea where it’s going, but we’re enjoying the ride.
I actually shared something with Alexa the other day, it was a quote that said, “Sometimes we may be waiting on a stop sign right? But God is waiting for us to take a step.” I felt like God was telling me, “Just do what you got to do. Create your own content take that step,” and since we have taken that step, it has been evolving and evolving and to me, that is what is so exciting. Had I not taken that step, we would not have this little channel that we have in a way to share God’s love and our life. It is such a unique time that we are in that we have these different media’s to go out and I mean, look, I am literally in Hawaii and you are wherever you are and we are talking and it is working and now somebody else is going to hear this and that message is going to get spread on and on and on.
WC: How do you find time for your faith between work and everyday lives? Do you spend time alone with God, or do you spend time with him together? Maybe both?
Alexa: I would say it goes back and forth, and over the years, we have learned a lot. There are definitely seasons where we were so overwhelmed and consumed and allowed our alone time with God to get pushed aside, and you could totally see it in the seasons that we were going through because there was more struggle, there was less peace and God is always right there ready to pick up where you left off. So instead of feeling guilty that maybe you have not been speaking to him as much or that your relationship with God is not where you want it to be, you can absolutely pick up where you left off and just be like, “God, I am sorry, but I am here and I just want a relationship with you,” and I feel like we went through a couple of those seasons before we found really good balance.
So, when I came to the realization that when you become a parent, it is so tough because your kids need you all the time, that actually getting a quiet moment alone with God is very, very rare, but I realized that there are moments where you need to be on your knees, talk to Jesus and bring the Holy Spirit in, that is fantastic, but there are also moments where you should just have conversations with God. So even while I am washing the dishes, I will be talking to God. While I am folding the laundry, I am talking to God because I know the day is a little crazy but God knows my heart. God knows my passion for Him, and he is not going to go, “Oh, well, you are doing the dishes so I do not accept how you are speaking to me.” No way! Like God just wants a relationship the way that I talk with Carlos, the way that I love my husband. I do not have to absolutely stop everything to have a conversation with Carlos that is meaningful.
A lot of the conversations that we have are actually in the middle of chaos, which are some of my favorite moments in our marriage. One time, both kids were throwing a fit; Ocean was having a tantrum, Kingston was screaming, and we were in the middle of a shoot in Vancouver, so we were operating on no sleep. We have like a 15-hour day on set, and we were both standing in the kitchen of this apartment and it is completely chaotic and in that chaos, we just looked at each other and fell into a hug. We were holding each other for two minutes and it is one of my favorite moments because amongst all the chaos, the craziness, the exhaustion, we were still a team. It didn’t have to be this crazy, romantic moment. It was a very powerful moment in our marriage.
WC: What advice would you give to other people who are struggling to balance their faith with their careers?
Alexa: You have to ask yourself at the end of the day, “Am I representing the kingdom?” Am I representing God the way that I am supposed to? That doesn’t mean you have to go out and be a pastor, or suddenly work for the church, but are you being a representation of what he made you to be? Just make sure that everything you do, you do it intentionally with His intention.
WC: Carlos, you inspired so many people through songs in Big Time Rush. Would you ever consider doing something in the Christian lane?
Carlos: You know, I really want to. The music industry is such a hard thing to get into, and I’m still trying to figure a way to make my own content and be successful with it. I want to be able to impact people in a positive way. I would love to create music and just give it away and just let people really get to feel it. The short answer is yes. Long answer is, I’m just trying to figure out a way that I can do it how I want to do it.
WC: Would the two of you ever considered being a duo in song?
Carlos: I want to say yes, but Alexa would never! Which is weird because she was on Broadway.
Alexa: 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.
WC: What has been your favorite project that you worked on together?
Carlos: I really enjoyed our Hallmark mystery franchise. We got to be part of it from the ground up, and it was the first project that that we got to help create.
WC: This next question is just for Carlos. What is your favorite “Spy Kids” movie?
Carlos: Oh man. I feel as though I know the first one the best, but I also really like the third one.
Alexa: I love the second one. Two is my favorite.
WC: And for Alexa, what is your favorite Big Time Rush song?
Alexa: Hands-down, it’s “Lost In Love,” because as we were both falling in love with one another, Carlos wrote that song. We hadn’t said “I love you” yet, but he sent me a song and said, “I wrote this for you.” So, my that song will always have a special place in my heart.
This article was originally published in the October 2020 issue of The War Cry. To read our interview with the PenaVegas from August 2022, click here.