The Pamela Anderson we didn't know

What critics are saying about the former Playboy Playmate's memoir

Pamela Anderson in France
(Image credit: FRANCOIS GUILLOT/AFP via Getty Images)

Considering how long Pamela Anderson has been in the public eye, her new memoir, Love, Pamela, released alongside a Netflix documentary, "might feel like overkill," Jessica Pressler says in The New York Times. But Anderson is a "natural storyteller," which shouldn't be surprising since "her ability to sustain a personal narrative is what's kept her in the public eye for going on four decades."

Anderson uses this skill in her book to set the record straight about her small-town upbringing, her rise to fame, and the scandals that rocked her career. In fact, "the most disappointing thing about Love, Pamela is that it doesn't come in a form that can be injected directly into your veins," Pressler says. There are free verse poems intertwined with the prose, which is "not as annoying as it sounds." With so much going on, "you need the extra line breaks to catch your breath."

Anderson recounts her life story, beginning with her childhood in Ladysmith, British Columbia. She describes the idyllic beauty of her childhood home "in lush detail," but "interspersed among these sun-dappled scenes are episodes of harrowing violence," Pressler continues at the Times. The author recalls retreating into her imagination to cope with her childhood traumas, including numerous incidences of sexual assault and her parents' tumultuous marriage. "It's how I learned to control my life," Anderson writes. "One fantasy after another." Anderson then takes readers on what Pressler describes as a "dazzling and occasionally dizzying ride" through the height of her fame, in which "vivid scenes of '80s and '90s decadence bump up against blind items about Russian oligarchs and brief but iconic celebrity cameos."

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The memoir "reveals a side of the one-time Playboy Playmate and Baywatch star that feels unexpected," Ashley Fetters Maloy writes for The Washington Post. She reveals herself as a "voracious reader" who "cobbled together a personal philosophy from a curiously wide range of sources." Anderson proves to be "smarter and more thoughtful than the person many late-night hosts of the 1990s thought they were talking to." What her memoir does best, writes Fetters Maloy, is "lay bare the fact that the sexpot caricature of Anderson — the mythic, crushingly larger-than-life idea of her — obscured the charms of the real one." Anderson invites audiences "to laugh with her, not at her," Fetters Maloy says, and refuses to be a victim. Anderson does not linger on the stories of her traumatic experiences. Instead, Fetters Maloy writes, she devotes "the majority of Love, Pamela to joy."

"There is a thesis in her book," Sophie Gilbert writes for The Atlantic, "if an accidental one." Anderson narrates rather than analyzes her life experiences, and what emerges is "a devastating portrait of what it's like to be a person who — almost arbitrarily — drives men wild." The memoir illuminates how "Anderson exposed something feral and monstrous in people, long before she became a model, and for decades after."

This book is an "explosion of a deeply held cultural myth," Los Angeles Times critic Mary McNamara proclaims. Reading Anderson's point of view "illuminates not just her own story, but the often hideous cultural hypocrisy at work in all forms of the entertainment industry and the media surrounding it." Anderson dedicates very little space in her memoir to lingering on her traumatic experiences, unlike the controversial Hulu series Pam & Tommy, which dramatized the fallout after someone stole leaked a sexually explicit video of Anderson and her ex-husband Mötley Crüe drummer Tommy Lee. "Pamela Anderson has many interests," McNamra writes, "but dwelling on the past is not one of them." Instead of wallowing, Anderson focuses on the parts of her life by which she'd rather be defined, like her work on Broadway and as an animal activist. Her "minimalism" is a "rare quality worthy of admiration," even though "it leaves you with a limited understanding of who she is."

Anderson "displays a remarkable lack of anger," Kirkus Reviews says. Her memoir is full of crazy, juicy anecdotes, but her "good heart shines through." Anderson's "humility…never fails her" as she recounts her "kooky, messed-up, enviable, and often thrilling life."

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