Pamela Anderson has long received recognition for her status as a ’90s sex symbol. Famously plucked from the stands of a football game, she ascended to stardom by modeling for Playboy magazine, then continued to amass wealth and success as she ventured into acting, eventually rocketing to fame as C.J. Parker in “Baywatch.” And while Anderson is no stranger to posing nude, it’s in her memoir “Love, Pamela” where she truly bears it all.
In the memoir, Anderson pushes back against the media’s depiction of her: the misogynistic caricature of her as a salacious, vapid bombshell. The memoir details her journey of healing from substantial trauma. A heart-wrenching yet inspiring ode to her inner child, “Love, Pamela” enables Anderson to reclaim control over her narrative and process the sexual, domestic and animal abuse she faced from a young age.
“Love, Pamela” begins with several pages of verse. Anderson’s poetry contains a distinct sense of whimsicality intermingled with bittersweet nostalgia. She envisions herself as belonging to a “collective mermaid society,” a lineage of beautiful, free-spirited women, while describing her decision to dismantle her shyness and unabashedly dive into life. Anderson’s verse recurs throughout the memoir, serving as a testament to her willingness to break with convention.
Anderson initially focuses on the warm, comforting aspects of her childhood — the angelic appearance of her little brother, her affinity for orange popsicles, the abundance of berries and flowers in the garden behind her house. However, Anderson quickly veers into a dark, unsettling direction. She reveals the sickening sexual abuse she suffered throughout her childhood and adolescence. She divulges the violent, abusive behavior of her father, who drowned her kittens after she disobeyed him and once attempted to hold her mother’s face to the stove.
Anderson’s intensely descriptive language transports readers into the miserable crevices of her childhood and at times, the memoir feels unbearable to read. However, Anderson laces her narration with forgiveness and optimism. Her thirst for light and life emits through the disturbing darkness of her past.
The star’s curiosity permeates throughout her writing. She scatters references to various celebrities, artists, writers and philosophers throughout the memoir. Anderson reminds her audience that she is a product of not only her trauma, but her mentors as well. From Walt Whitman to Angela Davis to Noam Chomsky to Rick James, Anderson creates a fully fleshed out universe for her readers. At times the constant references border on chaotic, but Anderson ultimately manages to convey the mayhem of her world.
While the memoir tackles incredibly difficult topics, some moments in “Love, Pamela” feel coated in sweetness. Anderson conveys the fun of reckless generosity, the extravagance of Hollywood glamor, the hazy warmth of falling in love and the invigorating adventure of self-discovery. She reveals the ultimate sources of her fulfillment — her flourishing relationships with her children, her activism within animal rights and environmentalist movements and finding amazement in the world around her.
“Love, Pamela” captures the multiple dimensions of Anderson’s character, granting her an opportunity to provide rationale for her decisions and reflect on an immensely colorful, eventful life. She emphasizes that capitalizing on her sexuality empowered her to recover autonomy over her body and the money that accompanied it rescued her from a background of poverty and domestic abuse.
Creating a cohesive thread, an image of Anderson’s five-year-old self recurs throughout the memoir. In the beginning, she envisions herself hugging and reassuring the playful child that she used to be. In the end, she reveals she kept a photo of herself at five years old on her dressing room mirror while playing “Roxie” in Chicago on Broadway. Anderson proves that despite the loss she has suffered, the years of sexual exploitation and the unkindness of the media, she refuses to relinquish her goodness and innocence.
The memoir concludes similarly to how it began. In several pages of verse, Anderson encourages readers to continue on their personal journeys. She signs off her name in a beautiful scribble and departs with a curvaceous, Picasso-esque self-portrait. Including a drawing of herself at the end of the memoir illustrates that Anderson has finally grasped control over her image.