Pamela Anderson was an icon for those who grew up in the ’90s. Whether it was her role as C.J. on Baywatch or her relationship with Tommy Lee, the Canadian model was practically everywhere.
However, beyond her voluptuousness and the scandal of her sex tape, we don’t know much about her — and boy, was there a story to tell!
In her new Netflix documentary Pamela, A Love Story, Anderson surprises us and leaves us with tears and shame for perhaps not paying attention in time.
Life Before and After Playboy
To many, Pamela Anderson is the figure running in slow motion in the red one-piece bathing suit on Baywatch. To others, she’s the Playboy magazine icon who made that yellow hair dye color so fashionable at the time.
In one way or another, her body and image were products we felt we had the authority to consume.
But Anderson is also a person with a story director Ryan White puts before our eyes, piercing our hearts with Anderson’s transparency and honesty.
“I love being in love and being vulnerable,” the actress says in the documentary.
Produced by her son Brandon Lee (who further highlights his mother’s sensitivity), Pamela, A Love Story features illuminated portrait shots of Anderson’s makeup-free face as she offers her truth – how she carried on through those years with the grace, how she knows how to laugh at herself.
The common thread? The diaries Anderson has kept throughout her life.
“Basically, my life is all yellow legal pads,” she says. “I wanted to write things down in case I forgot them.”
Reading these entries opens a window into her personal story, told in first person. They’re dispatches from a life characterized by dissociation, violence, and resilience, showing how she finally regained control of her own narrative.
“I’m looking for something,” says a woman who chased love for decades. “I feel restless.”
Between her written memoirs and VHS tapes, Anderson recalls a childhood marked by her parents’ relationship, early sexuality, abuse, and a Playboy offer that would transform her into a sex icon.
“I remember seeing Playboy magazines. My dad had them hidden under his Donald Duck comic books,” she recounts. “But I saw them, and I thought, ‘God, these women are so beautiful,’ like, ‘why don’t I look like that?'”
Pamela would not only come to look like them, she would forever change the canons of beauty.
Anderson rose to fame when she was chosen Playmate of the Month for February 1990 and she has been on the cover regularly ever since. Today, she holds the record for the most Playboy covers starring one person.
But fame is not fulfillment and her modeling career transformed her into a character that she lost herself in it.
Until true love — and scandal — arrived.
In Search of Lost Love
Pamela, A Love Story gravitates around her relationship with musician Tommy Lee, and the impulsiveness, intense love, family, and scandal that arose from their pairing.
We witness firsthand what Anderson went through as her private life was violated, stolen, and commercialized as a sex tape. On top of that, the documentary superimposes images of the countless television scenes in which she is repeated asked about her sexuality or her breasts.
However, the actress takes the reins of the story and transforms it into a fairy tale with an ending we didn’t know we needed.
Yes, Pamela Anderson has been married many times and has been searching for that impossible love she saw in her parents’ relationship — for better or worse. But true love, the one she gets to at the end of this brilliant documentary, is love for herself, the one that honors the past and sets the future on pillars of steel.
And she does so by proving wrong anyone who doubted her abilities as an artist. Anderson reclaims her life on the Broadway stage in the skin of Roxie Hart, the iconic role in “Chicago” of a woman who murders her lover to get her career off the ground.
“There was a lot of times I said, ‘I don’t care what people think,'” she says, “’cause it’s the only choice. If I cared what people think, I wouldn’t be here right now.”
“But I care enough.”