What Pamela Anderson reveals about her life in highly anticipated Netflix documentary

Pamela Anderson is finally telling her story on her own terms in the highly anticipated documentary Pamela: A Love Story, which is being released Tuesday on Netflix. The film gives viewers an honest account of Anderson's life — from early childhood to Playboy model and Hollywood vixen.

Honest account of Anderson’s experiences, from childhood to Hollywood vixen

Pamela Anderson takes control of her story with new documentary

4 months ago
Duration 2:09
In a new Netflix documentary and memoir, Pamela Anderson is sharing her story on her own terms after years of feeling misunderstood.

WARNING: This story contains distressing details.

Pamela Anderson is finally telling her story on her own terms in the highly anticipated documentary Pamela: A Love Story, which is being released Tuesday on Netflix.

The documentary, co-produced by one of Anderson's two sons, Brandon Lee, and directed by Ryan White, gives viewers an honest and open account of Anderson's life — from early childhood to Playboy model and Hollywood vixen — through a series of never-before-seen home videos and private diary entries.

The audience is introduced to Anderson, 55, in a way she hasn't been seen before — on camera with no makeup and situated comfortably and casually in her childhood home in Ladysmith, B.C.

Here are the biggest takeaways from the film.

Anderson's difficult upbringing 

The Canadian American actress, model and animal rights advocate describes being exposed to her parents' fraught relationship from an early age. The couple would often fight, and her father was a big drinker who at times became violent, exposing Anderson and her brother to domestic abuse.

At times, they would leave her father and live on welfare, and Anderson says she can still remember the taste of the powdered milk they would drink. But her parents would eventually reunite — leading the troubled cycle to begin again.

WATCH | Trailer for Pamela: A Love Story: 

This early exposure to abuse and a toxic relationship shaped Anderson's views on love, relationships and later her choice of men — her first boyfriend kicked her out of a moving car, leaving her to tumble into a ditch.

"I certainly don't blame my parents for my upbringing," Anderson said in the documentary. "I'm grateful because I gained a lot of good qualities, along with the bad. I'm a survivor."

Molested by babysitter

Anderson alleges in the film that her babysitter repeatedly molested her as a child, describing three or four years of abuse.

"She always told me not to tell my parents. I tried to protect my brother from her, I tried to kill her," Anderson said, describing a moment she tried to stab the babysitter in the heart with a candy cane pen, telling her she wanted her to die.

LISTEN | How Pamela Anderson and other celebrities are reclaiming their own stories:

Pamela Anderson was one of the biggest stars of the '90s. Now, she's telling her story in the Netflix documentary Pamela, a love story. Culture writers Alessa Dominguez and Kathleen Newman-Bremang join Elamin to talk about the ongoing trend of celebrities taking control of their own narratives through documentaries.

The babysitter was then killed in a car accident the next day.

"I was sure that I did it, that I wished her dead and she died," Anderson said, adding that she carried the guilt throughout her adolescence.

Alleges she was raped at age of 12

Anderson alleges she was raped by a 25-year-old man when she was 12 years old.

Anderson kept this a secret, in fear of feeling like a burden to her family. "I felt like it was my fault," she shared in the documentary.

"My mom was always crying about my dad, I couldn't bear to hurt her more. I didn't tell her or anyone," she said.

Blonde woman gazes into the distance as she stands on a bright sandy beach in front of open waters
Pamela Anderson is shown in a scene from a new Netflix documentary on her life that includes a series of never-before-seen home videos and private diary entries. It's being released on Tuesday. (Netflix)

"I tried to forget it, but I felt like it was tattooed on my forehead. Like I had this image of 'I had sex' on my forehead and I didn't want anyone to know that I had it," Anderson said, adding that the abuse led her to feel extremely shy and self-conscious.

When she arrived at her first Playboy magazine shoot in September 1989, Anderson described feeling as though she had broken free of her paralyzing shyness with the first snap of a camera.

"I'm so sick of all this past that's created this insecurity in me.... It's like a prison, I have to break out of it," she wrote to herself.

"That was the first time I'd felt like I had broken free of something."

Woman in blonde hair and white coat stands on beach in front of ocean waves
In the documentary, the Canadian American actress, model and animal rights advocate says her parents' toxic relationship shaped her views on love, relationships and later her choice of men. (Netflix)

Series felt like 'a punch in the stomach'

On Feb. 2, 2022, Pam & Tommy, a limited series created for Hulu, was released on Disney+ professing to detail the story behind the whirlwind romance between Anderson and her rock-star husband, Tommy Lee, whom she divorced in 1998. The two were robbed of their privacy when a sex tape they made was stolen and illegally distributed, becoming the first case of viral content and changing the course of Anderson's career forever.

When the series was released, the media were trying to get comments from the former Baywatch star, who is known to have had no involvement in the project, but she remained silent.

A boy in a grey sweater and white hat and a blonde woman stare into a television watching old VHS tape
Anderson is shown with one of her two sons, Brandon Lee, who co-produced the documentary. It was directed by Ryan White. (Netflix)

At the time, Anderson was preparing to return to the spotlight for her Broadway debut in Chicago and was ready to move on and find redemption. The series opened up old wounds, she said, and brought to the surface memories that she had blocked.

Anderson said when she learned of the show, it felt like "a punch in the stomach."

"This feels like when the tape was stolen," she said. "You are just a thing owned by the world, you belong to the world."

Anderson said that just like the tape, she has no desire to watch the series.

"Nobody really knows what we were going through at that time," she said. "They should've had to have my permission."

No idea who stole the infamous tape

To this day, Anderson said, she never learned who stole the sex tape that forever changed the course of her career — and she doesn't care to find out.

The safe holding the tape had been stolen during renovations to the home she shared with Lee, and it could have happened at any point during a six-month period.

A man wearing a black hat and white T-shirt, and a woman with long blonde hair and sunglasses smile into the sunshine.
Anderson and rock musician Tommy Lee, her husband from 1995 to 1998, are shown in Malibu, Calif., in December 2005. A sex tape made by the couple was stolen from their home in 1995 and widely distributed online — changing the course of her career. (David Livingston/Getty Images)

"The damage is done," the star said in the documentary. "Why would I want to go through that again?"

Anderson and Lee have refused to make money off of the invasion of privacy that then became what is believed to be the internet's first piece of viral content, all against their will.

"You can't put a monetary number on the amount of pain and suffering it caused," she said.

Blonde woman stares at television in dark room in white T-shirt with nail in mouth
In the documentary, Anderson, 55, appears on camera with no makeup and is situated comfortably and casually in her childhood home in Ladysmith, B.C. (Netflix)

At the time of the tape's release, Anderson felt as though she had become a punchline to every joke, and any image she was beginning to build completely deteriorated.

Now, she said she's ready to embrace the past and move forward.

"My life is not a woe-is me story," she said. "I'm not a victim. I put myself in crazy situations and survived them.


Griffin Jaeger is a reporter for CBC News and a 2022 Joan Donaldson Scholar. You can reach him at griffin.jaeger@cbc.ca