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Pamela Anderson is iconic, but not for the reasons you think

by Isabel Weeks Hankins

Trigger Warning: Sensitive topics of a sexual nature 

Pamela Anderson is the woman who seamlessly defined the 1990s. The curly blonde updo and sensually smokey cat eye made her the it-girl of the decade, and many mimic the iconic look on social media to this day. 

But the world behind the beauty, glamour and wealth of the Baywatch star isn’t a life of serenity or bliss. Ultimately, it’s of strength and speaking out.  

Ⓒ Netflix 

Molested by her babysitter as a young child and raped by a 25-year-old when she was 12 and again at 14, Anderson always wanted to take back the power of her sexuality. She achieved this with countless covers for Playboy, her 11-season stint on Baywatch and the 1996 film, Barb Wire

However, in 1997, the little control she had on the reigns of her own life were stolen along with the release of the infamous sex tape. Plummeting both Anderson and her then-husband, Tommy Lee, into the eye of the publicly scandalous storm. 

Anderson was laid out for the world to see. It was the ultimate violation and the definition of a breach of privacy. Whilst Lee was redefined as the Rock star he was, being praised for the size of his penis, Anderson was again a spectacle. 

By some, Anderson was even berated for showing her body in such a sexual way, despite the couple being married. 

Ⓒ Netflix

When confronted with such a situation I imagine many of us, including myself, would climb for the hills and chuck our phones in the bin, ceasing contact with the outside world. But not Anderson.  She continued to work in the public eye. Smiling in front of the paparazzi as if the life and the career-altering moment had never happened. 

Twenty five years after the original publication of the tape, Hulu’s eight-part series, Pam and Tommy, was released meaning Anderson was forced to relive that unfair and horrific part of her life. 

Sebastian Stan confirmed, in an interview with Variety, he had spoken with Tommy Lee and was praised by him for his portrayal of the Mötley Crüe drummer. Anderson, on the other hand, did not want the story to be retold nor was her consent given to produce the show. 

Was the person who was truly violated in that private and intimate 54-minute video forgotten? Somehow the show, which was themed around the idea of consent and exploitation, managed to ignore the wishes of the person who really mattered: Anderson. 

But now Anderson is taking back control by giving herself a voice in the new Netflix documentary, Pamela: a love story. 

Ⓒ Netflix

In March 2022, Anderson announced the documentary with a post of a handwritten note on Netflix letterhead. Towards the bottom of the note, it said: “not a victim, but a survivor”, encapsulating the path the feature-length documentary would take. 

In the trailer for the documentary produced by her son, Brandon Thomas Lee, it is clear Anderson is not seeking pity. More admirably, she is deservedly using her voice to speak out about her experiences on her own terms, something all women should be able to do freely in this day and age. 

Hopefully, the Netflix documentary inspires a sense of change in the way people view Anderson. Countless times she has shown that resilience is her most desirable attribute, rather than the multitude of other things she is known for. 

In light of everything Anderson has been through, she has proven everyone wrong. She is not just the blonde bombshell in a red swimsuit. She is a woman. She is a survivor. And her voice is finally being heard. 

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