‘You face it and erase it’: The reinvention of Pamela Anderson

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It’s a strange feeling when you’re prepared to see the face of Pamela Anderson but are instead greeted by her singsong voice. Anderson has logged onto our Zoom call but kept the camera off, having spent the afternoon working on her garden.

“You wouldn’t want to see me right now, I’m covered in mud,” she jokes. This is an occupational hazard for Anderson, who is in her self-described “renovation era”.

On her new TV show, Pamela Anderson leaves her Hollywood life behind to restore her grandmother’s property on Vancouver Island.Credit: Binge

In 2019, she relocated to her grandmother’s house, Ladysmith, a sprawling six-acre property on Vancouver Island. It’s on the water, in the same small town in British Columbia where Anderson grew up. The decision to move home was triggered by a deep need to reconnect.

“I lived in France for a couple of years but came home during COVID and realised, ‘Oh, this is the full circle moment that they talk about’,” explains Anderson.

She recruited her sons, Dylan and Brandon, from Los Angeles with one goal: “We’re going to renovate this place because I am rewriting my own history.”

Not even Anderson could’ve known how prophetic that might be. While working on the home, the 56-year-old was drawn to the pre-fame version of herself, who grew up at Ladysmith.

Pamela returned to her grandmother’s property on Vancouver Island in 2019, before releasing her memoir and documentary.Credit: Binge

This was the girl who climbed trees and skinned her knees, who “spent all day looking for barnacles and crabs under the rocks”. Long before Playboy and Baywatch, before breakups and breakdowns, before everyone in the world knew her name.

“Being back at this house made me understand I was still that same little girl, you know?

“I came home to myself when I came home, but it also made me realise that so much was unresolved in my life.”

The net result of this homecoming was twofold. First, the renovation transformed into a TV series, Pamela’s Garden of Eden, released last year. But more importantly, Anderson began working on her memoir, Love, Pamela, and a documentary, Pamela: A Love Story.

Anderson at a screening of her Netflix documentary in New York City in February.Credit: Roy Rochlin/Getty Images for Netflix

Both were released simultaneously on January 31 to critical acclaim, leading to Anderson’s unique position in popular culture being re-examined with fresh eyes.

Anderson’s story is one we thought we knew – the bubbly blonde who shot to fame in Baywatch and whose stolen sex tape and high-profile marriage to Motley Crue drummer Tommy Lee only added to her sex symbol status.

But the documentary and memoir offered Anderson something that has long escaped her: a chance to be heard instead of just seen.

“During long periods in my life, I felt resigned to ‘Oh, this is just what people think of me’, and it seems like you can’t tell your story, but the documentary changed that,” says Anderson.

Pamela Anderson with former husband Tommy Lee in 1995. The couple divorced in 1998.Credit: AP

She admits she hasn’t seen the entire documentary because revisiting that period of her life is too difficult. “I started to watch it and I just fell apart; seeing my sons young and our family together is hard.”

But she’s felt the impact it has had on her legacy. “For the first time I feel rooted for, people come up to me on the street and say, ‘I love you, but I never liked you before’, and even though it sounds strange, I know that’s a compliment.”

I am speaking with Anderson one week after the release of Britney Spears’ memoir, The Woman In Me, and it’s difficult to ignore the parallels. Like Anderson, Spears is attempting to regain control and ownership of her story, having been chewed up and spat out by an industry that once adored her.

While it might be optimistic to say Anderson and Spears are forcing a reckoning, is the response a sign things are moving in the right direction?

“I’m not sure, but I feel glad she’s doing this. I don’t know Britney personally, but she wrote me a note when the documentary came out and seemed touched by my relationship with my boys.”

Anderson returned the favour, sending Spears a letter reminding her that “this business is crazy, but we all get through it somehow”.

For Anderson, it’s clear that going home to Ladysmith is her version of getting through it somehow, and when talk turns to the second season of Garden of Eden, there’s a noticeable lightness in her voice.

“This place lets me know I’m good enough just as I am – I’m good enough for my dogs, my boys and my garden,” she says.

Season two features Anderson helping her two sons renovate their new Los Angeles home while together they continue to improve Vancouver Island.

“My boys are who I’m most proud of in the world, and they are my Garden of Eden,” she says. “And while I’m renovating my life, and I’m renovating this property, I’ve also looked into my history and been able to face it and erase it.”

Pamela’s Garden of Eden is on Binge from November 17, with new episodes weekly.

Find more of the author’s work here. Email him at [email protected] or follow him on Instagram at @thomasalexandermitchell and on Twitter @_thmitchell.

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