In the new Netflix documentary, Pamela, a love story, Canadian icon Pamela Anderson finally gains control of her story. 

At a special screening of the film last night in Toronto, Pamela told the theatre full of admiring fans how it feels to finally reclaim her narrative. “Everybody wants to be seen. I feel like I’ve been such an observer of my own life. I didn’t know I’d ever be able to tell my story. I felt like if people knew how it all started, they’d see my life as a whole picture.”

Pamela, a love story is an enthralling and deeply moving portrait of Pamela’s life, and delivers many important reminders for us all to consider.

• Like everyone, Pamela’s life story is complex. Her childhood was difficult and traumatic, but there were joyous moments too, and the documentary honours the complexity of Pamela’s story, never writing off chapters as “good” or “bad”, but showing the nuances.

• There’s always more than one side to a story. It’s impressive that Pamela religiously wrote in a diary, and kept her diaries for so many years. Hearing the narration of when she moved to LA really allows viewers to see earlier chapters through her young eyes. The raw, honest thoughts from her diaries tell a story of a young woman experiencing life away from home for the first time, which is vastly different to how the media portrayed her.

• Humans aren’t one-dimensional—we have many roles. Watching Pamela’s maternal side, and witnessing the love, admiration, and protection that her sons have towards her is incredibly moving. It was Pamela’s eldest son, Brandon, that really urged her to make the documentary—he wanted the world to see who his mom really is. 

• Autonomy is paramount to our wellbeing. The film inspires thoughtful conversation around the themes of privacy and consent. 

• Our childhood experiences shape our early adulthood. Like most people, Pamela’s relationship with her parents is complicated. The doc is a reminder that every family has issues, and learning her story helps explain some of the patterns in her life, while also pushing audiences to examine theirs.

• Fast and dramatic change is hard. Pamela Anderson is without a doubt the biggest celebrity to ever come from Vancouver Island, and the world gets a good introduction to life in Ladysmith, BC, population 8573. It’s shocking to think about just how much, and how quickly, her life changed.

• We always have the power to try new things and change our story. Seeing how Pamela fearlessly took on a new challenge in her mid-fifties— her Broadway debut in Chicago—is hella inspiring. We also enjoyed the beautiful parallels between Pamela and her character Roxie.

• Humour and gratitude help us get through tough times. Pamela has lived through several nightmarish periods in her life, but she’s always used humour, gratitude, and a positive outlook to stay afloat, to help her survive. Even when the world was making fun of her, and her marriage was falling apart, she’d find moments of joy to cling to. 

• Growing old is nothing to be ashamed of. There are several scenes in the film where Pamela confidently wanders around in her robe without makeup. She talks openly about growing older and menopause, and it’s both refreshing and comforting. 

• Don’t let fear prevent you from taking big steps. Pamela was iffy about making this doc. Opening yourself up to the world is scary, but with encouragement, she persevered. The documentary has given her an opportunity to tell her story, and also created an opportunity for audiences to quietly evaluate and honour the complexities of our own truths.

Indeed, there are plenty of lessons. The film also serves up fun 1990s nostalgia for those of us who grew up watching Baywatch. Of course, it was also incredible to learn that Pamela dyes her own hair using boxed-dye from the local drugstore in Ladysmith. Awesome.