Pamela Anderson, Uncensored and on Her Own Terms: “It’s a Scary Place, but I Like Scary Places”


When Pamela Anderson was growing up, her mother told her there was no such thing as natural beauty. Beauty required at least an hour in front of a mirror, she explained, and if you brushed and and powdered and glossed enough, beauty was power.

Speaking to Vanity Fair from her hometown of Ladysmith, Canada, Anderson recalls that her mother’s notes on her TV show appearances or editorial spreads have always been about the hair or makeup: “She doesn’t hear what I’m saying or talking about. She’s just looking at the pictures.”

Now, Anderson is 55 years old and done playing the “Barbie doll cartoon character” whose dialogue doesn’t matter, she says. She’s shed the teased hair, liquid eyeliner, and skintight dresses for loose-fitting sweaters practical enough for lawn work. (This morning, between an NPR interview and journaling a few pages of her stream of consciousness thoughts, she raked leaves.)

Billions of people have seen her body in various stages of undress—covering Playboy, slow-jogging on Baywatch, and cavorting in a private home movie that was stolen from her and former husband Tommy Lee’s home and uploaded on the internet, never to disappear. (Anderson says she did not make a cent from the tape, whose release earned the distributors $77 million in less than 12 months and deeply traumatized Anderson.) Yet, just ahead of releasing her HarperCollins-published memoir, Love, Pamela, and her Netflix documentary, Pamela, a love story, in which she emotionally bares all, she feels more vulnerable than she’s felt in her 50-odd years.

Speaking from a piano bench in her home, she calls the impending January 31 dual debut date frightening. “I don’t know how they will be received,” she says. “It’s a scary place, but I like scary places.” Well practiced in the art of deflection, she adds an oft-repeated, self-deprecating coda: “People don’t really associate me with big expectations, so I can only surprise people. I don’t have a lot to live up to.”

She doesn’t know if the world will accept this new, natural iteration of herself. In the documentary, like on this FaceTime, she is lovely, if completely makeup-free. She points to her face.

“If people love me like this, then it could be good,” Anderson tells herself. “I’m almost 56 years old. This is it. It’s not that bad.” Last year, when Anderson’s mother caught her daughter filming the documentary in a loose-fitting dress, she scoffed, “You’re not even showing off your figure anymore.” Anderson remembers retorting, “I don’t know, mom. Just let me go through this.”

“This” being a kind of metamorphic awakening for Anderson that began with a broken heart and a sold Malibu beach house. “A broken heart is always an interesting place to be,” she muses. “It’s always an artistic place, anyway.” During the pandemic, Anderson closed out the chapter of her life spent in the elite California zip code and returned to her roots: Canadian normalcy. She started renovating a house and felt fulfilled in making it “my art project”—designing and decorating her new life. On top of the upright piano behind her is one of the first paintings she purchased—a stormy landscape in a gilded frame—plus a framed snapshot of her and her golden retriever Zeus in front of the Louvre. (“He’d only poop at the Louvre,” she explains.) Speaking about the house renovation, she says she started to “romanticize everything. Everyone was looking good—all the contractors that were here.” She married one in December 2020, and around the time the marriage ended, about a year later—“It ended up being a disaster”—she was ready for some serious introspection.

Anderson in her Netflix documentary. 

Courtesy of Netflix.

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