Her father, Paul Collins, was a Hobie Cat executive, and her mother, Norma, was a make-up artist and hairdresser to Ann-Margret.
Collins' parents divorced, and her mother married American stunt performer Bobby Bass.
Prior to the film's release MGM and the film's distributor, United Artists, were sued by the Edgar Rice Burroughs estate over the name of the film, as Derek's role and body overshadowed the story of Tarzan.
Although the film received negative reviews from many critics, Tarzan, the Ape Man became a box-office success, making over $35 million in ticket sales and becoming the 15th highest-grossing film of 1981. Directed by John Derek, the film explored the female protagonist's sexual awakening, and her journey around the world to find an ideal first lover to take her virginity.
Collins attended Narbonne High School and George S.