Pamela Anderson Takes Control Of Her Life Story : Consider This from NPR Pamela Anderson has had an incredibly rich, and varied, career. She's an actress, the author of several books, and a prominent activist - especially for animal rights.
But many people still see her primarily as a sex symbol, the archetypal "blonde bombshell."
In a new memoir titled "Love, Pamela", Anderson takes control of the narrative, telling her story in her own words.
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Pamela Anderson Takes Control Of Her Life Story

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For decades, Pamela Anderson has been a force to be reckoned with. She's a prolific activist, campaigning most vocally for animal rights. She's also authored several books, both fiction and nonfiction. But, you know, over the years, Anderson's work as an actor and model and her love life have been in the headlines the most. That's when she's often reduced to descriptions like this.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #1: Pamela Anderson is this generation's sultry sex goddess.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #2: Hollywood and the blonde bombshell.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #3: International superstar from her role on "Baywatch"...

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #4: ...Is perhaps the most famous blonde on the planet.

CHANG: So while that image has certainly opened a lot of doors for her, it's also come with a lot of unfair assumptions.


RUBY WAX: Would you want to be a serious actress?

PAMELA ANDERSON: I am a serious actress.

WAX: I mean, you know...

CHANG: And that's why Anderson wanted to tell her own story in a new memoir titled "Love, Pamela."

ANDERSON: I don't want a ghostwriter. I don't want a collaborator. I just need a great editor, and that's what happened. I wrote every word.

CHANG: CONSIDER THIS - the story of the blonde bombshell is a story told about Pamela Anderson, not by Pamela Anderson. Now, with her new memoir, she's ready to take control of the narrative.


CHANG: From NPR, I'm Ailsa Chang. It's Wednesday, February 1.


CHANG: It's CONSIDER THIS FROM NPR. Pamela Anderson, the Playboy Playmate and TV star who became one of the most famous sex symbols of all time, has written a book about herself. And it was her sons who gave her the idea.

ANDERSON: I think they're just sick of always fighting for their mom. And they don't even really know the gritty details of everything, of course. But they felt like, you know, that I've overcome some things, which is what made me very strong or gave me the sense of humor.

CHANG: And a warning - Anderson has worked through a lot, including sexual trauma, which we'll be talking about in this episode. Anderson told me that she was a painfully shy kid who was molested by a female babysitter at a young age.

ANDERSON: From then on, I just felt kind of like a prisoner of my childhood. I just felt like I couldn't - I was really confused. And I knew it had something to do with my body. I just felt very shy. And I just was painfully shy, paralyzing. It was such an awful feeling. And so when I did get to LA, when I did push myself to kind of make these kind of brave choices, it was life or death for me. It really felt like I was doing something to overcome and take my power back.

CHANG: Yeah.

ANDERSON: And I did it in a - with a vengeance (laughter).

CHANG: You certainly did. You certainly did. I mean, one of the things that you mention in your book that really moved me is even though you had gone through sexual trauma very early on in life, over time, you were able to get to a place where you could really enjoy sex. You say that sex actually helped you conquer some of your shyness. Quote, "I loved roleplaying. I could disconnect, be someone who wasn't me. Sex could be fun, fulfilling and imaginative." Tell me, how did embracing your sexuality help you take back control, help you give yourself power?

ANDERSON: Well, I'm a romantic, and I was always a big reader and loved fairy tales. And so it was this heightened reality of what romance could be 'cause it couldn't just be two normal people, you know, sitting on a couch reading together. For me, it had to be my knight in shining armor is coming in on a horse covered in, you know, like - Tommy and I just had this very wild kind of romantic time together.

CHANG: You and Tommy Lee, yeah.

ANDERSON: Yeah. It's how I imagined a real, loving relationship should be because my role models were my parents who were - you know, it was alcoholism and, you know, abuse and things like that. So I just felt like, I don't want that.

CHANG: Yeah.

ANDERSON: I don't want that. And I thought maybe others did it differently. So that - because, you know, the abuse in my life - I think what people don't realize is it's accumulative. It's like a - it's compounding. It's, like, any time you start with something that happens and then the next thing that happens is just on top of the last thing and then more and more and more. So it just became harder and harder and more and more about my imagination and playing a character because I really did want to disconnect from myself. I think my goal was just to be happy. My goal was to...

CHANG: Yeah.

ANDERSON: Especially right now, my goal is to make these next few months really happy ones because I am going back and feeling those feelings again. Writing the book was volcanic.

CHANG: I can imagine.

ANDERSON: I was so angry. It was weird because, you know, I'm a pretty happy-go-lucky person, I would think. And then while I was writing, I just - this rage was coming out of me. I was literally, like, the exorcist. I was - my head was spinning. You know, I felt like, you know, if anyone wanted to change anything or do anything - my poor editor, she's a saint. But I was really determined to tell my story. I just wanted to reach those feelings that are unexplainable. And I just wanted to be able to struggle for those words and try and explain where - how this all happened.

CHANG: But if I may, you know, one continuing theme in your story that you write about is the strength that you found in your sexuality. And I want to talk about the Playboy Mansion because this is a place that, you know, has a reputation for wild parties where things have gotten out of control, where there have been reports of sexual assaults. But you were able, at Playboy, to find a place that nurtured you, that empowered you, a place where you felt safe. You write that Playboy was an honor. It was a privilege, as you put it. But you also say it may have set you up. You write that it may have given some people the impetus to treat you without respect. And if I may, I want to turn to the sex tape. I'm sorry that you keep getting asked about this.

ANDERSON: No, that's OK.

CHANG: I have just one question for you. What did it feel like, at the time, to watch your husband, Tommy Lee, get basically put on a pedestal for how he appeared in the video while you were essentially slut shamed for years?

ANDERSON: I - you know, I didn't think of it that way. I felt like it was negative for both of us. But, you know, Tommy's a rock star. I mean, it kind of adds to the kind of legendary craziness. And I, you know, was a little actress on "Baywatch" and had kind of hopes and dreams of being an actress and, you know, raising my children and I think, in an instant, became a cartoon character. And then, you know, it was all these home movies that were all spliced together. There was no tape made. It was just our home movies that were...

CHANG: Right.

ANDERSON: ...Stolen out of our safe. And the whole safe was stolen. And...

CHANG: But, like, as it was erupting literally around the world, did you feel like you were getting treated so differently than Tommy was?

ANDERSON: I wasn't getting - no. I wasn't thinking that at all. I was just thinking, how is this going to affect my family? How is this going to affect the people around me? And I was devastated, absolutely devastated. But I came up with this way of kind of getting through it with grace and dignity, as I said. You know, I'm going to have to leave the house. I'm going to have to walk around. I'm going to have to work, and my kids are going to have to go to school. And this is out there.

CHANG: Yeah.

ANDERSON: And you have to learn how to live with it. And I know it had a - it affected our relationship. I think it was the reason we fell apart. And it's unforgivable that people still find ways to capitalize off it.

CHANG: Well, you have made very clear that you have learned to use your sex appeal to draw attention to very real, important causes that you care about, like animal welfare. Can you talk about that piece? How, like, instead of letting your public image in any way limit you, you've used it to influence and persuade people to care about the things that you deeply care about.

ANDERSON: Well, I started to think that anything that got me in the door was a good thing. So a lot of times I would meet with world leaders because they wanted to meet me, you know, have a kiss on the cheek or an autograph. And I wanted laws to be changed, and we both got what we wanted. So they were always very impressed that I knew about what I was fighting for. They didn't expect me to come in alone and to have these thoughts. And so I was able to be very successful.

CHANG: You understood that people like to be around you, want to be around you.

ANDERSON: (Laughter) It was kind of funny. And there has been strange things. When I would write a letter to somebody to meet them, they would call and say, you know, I was - the prime minister of Australia, for instance, would say, can I bring my buddies along? I'll meet you, but can I bring my buddies along? And when that was...

CHANG: How did that feel when they would ask that?

ANDERSON: Well, I was getting kind of used to that kind of behavior, but I - publicly, people were starting to kind of catch on how awful that was. And I would just - again, I didn't crumble. I mean, you just have to keep going. Disrespect is a weapon of the weak. And I was able to change laws for animals, and that was really important to me to kind of have some meaning along this kind of...

CHANG: Yeah.

ANDERSON: ...Silly, superficial career. I felt like I wasn't able to really dig my teeth into anything of substance when it came to my career. So I thought, well, this is how I can create some meaning.

CHANG: Exactly. You talk about, actually being underestimated was like a secret weapon. Like, one of the poems...


CHANG: ...In your book reads (reading) when you have nothing to live up to, you can't disappoint. People whispered I might be genius if I could form a full sentence - utter shock.

You know, I love that because I love it when people underestimate me. It means...


CHANG: ...I'm just going to show them that they're wrong.

ANDERSON: Right (laughter).

CHANG: Is that how you felt sometimes?

ANDERSON: Yeah, I did. And I would always kind of laugh when people go, oh, my gosh, she wrote a poem, or she said this. And it was just, like, if it was anybody else, maybe it would be kind of sidelined. But because it was me, it was so shocking (laughter). Thought it was...

CHANG: She can put sentences together in a paragraph.

ANDERSON: Yes. In a paragraph.

CHANG: And make a statement. Yeah.

ANDERSON: Write a book (laughter).

CHANG: Right. Right.

ANDERSON: She couldn't have done that by herself.

CHANG: No duh, people. Yeah.

ANDERSON: (Laughter).

CHANG: So, you know, something I'm curious about when you're writing a book about yourself is what to reveal and not reveal. Like, so many times, people who go through trauma are told, shine a light on it. Name it. Open up about it. But you point out near the end of your book that some parts are best left unsaid. Tell me about that decision.

ANDERSON: Well, I mean, my book started out of just - as just a poem. It was, like, a 60-page poem, and that turned...

CHANG: (Laughter).

ANDERSON: ...Into, like, more poetry. And I had to learn how to shape it and put it into a book. But I also felt like there were some things that just didn't need to be in there because I really wanted to balance it with - it's a whole life story. It's not just - the things that happened to me aren't me. You know, I wanted to make sure that my feelings about these situations were - it was more about that, and not about just, like, the men in my life or people that had come and gone.

But I'll tell you, the hardest part of the book for me to write was about the abuse as a child, to actually name things like the games she used to make me play on her. And I felt like, I really don't want to say this, and so I probably should say it because I think there's so many people out there - you know, predators know how to pick vulnerable people, and they do things to you that are so embarrassing and shameful that you would never tell anybody. And I think that's something that we need to kind of get past. And I think that, hopefully, will help young people or anybody tell somebody. It's hard to. But I wanted to say that. And I - you know, I took it out, erased it. I put it back in. I took it out. I put it back in. I thought, I'm going to put it back in. It needs to be in there, and I think it'll speak to somebody.

CHANG: Did naming it out loud, putting it in there - did it change the way you think about the past now, when you think about what happened to you?

ANDERSON: Well, I've - obviously, my survival mechanism was my imagination and also learning how to compartmentalize. And I'm dealing with that a lot right now with my mother, even. My mom, you know, she read the book, and we were - been talking. And it kind of comes out in - you know, in jibs and jabs and, you know, those feisty kind of comments. My mom's very sarcastic and funny, but it's, like, very cutting and cold. And I can tell she's just processing. So I'm just kind of - I'm listening to her. But it's - I think in the end, it's helpful. And I want to stop this because in my family, this is a lineage. This is generations of the same story. And I don't want that for my niece, my other women in my life or my kids or anybody in my family.

CHANG: The story being sexual trauma?

ANDERSON: Yeah. Someone has to be brave enough to stop it. We don't have to tiptoe around alcoholics. We don't have to be in abusive relationships. We can leave. And I said to my mom, which was very difficult, is I guess the difference between her and I is that I left and she stayed, that I chose my kids and she chose my dad. You know, like, we've been going at it a little bit like this, but I think it's good. Let's get this out. Let's get this out. I think that's why, at any sign of abuse for me, at any sign of violence, I left. And, you know, people kind of like to make fun that I've been married multiple times. But - and I make fun of myself, too, because it's my - this - those are my regrets. I wish I didn't, but I just wanted to recreate a family for my boys. But I just, you know, was not fishing in the right pond, maybe.

CHANG: You're still searching.

ANDERSON: I'm still searching.

CHANG: You're still seeking. Pamela Anderson's new memoir is titled "Love, Pamela." And the Netflix documentary about her life is called "Pamela: A Love Story." Thank you so much for having this conversation with me. I really enjoyed this.

ANDERSON: Thank you. Thank you very much. Have a good day.



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