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Pamela Anderson: Life as a Single Mom

Pamela Anderson. The name is instantly recognizable around the world, and the moment you hear it, an image pops into your head. For many people, the name is synonymous with the head-banging, guitar-thrashing world of rock and roll. For others, she’s a pin-up girl whose body leads the way. Then there are those who know her as a victim of domestic violence who inexplicably went back to the man that abused her. Still others wonder why she is famous at all.

Whether you read the tabloids and follow every rise and fall in Anderson’s life, such as her custody battle or engagement to Kid Rock (Robert James Ritchie, 31), or if you watch mainstream TV and hear only the big news about her, such as her hepatitis C diagnosis, chances are, you are aware of Pamela Anderson. But you probably haven’t heard her story in her own words, as she tells it to Women’s Health & Fitness.

Anderson, 35, the quintessential California beach babe, is of Scandinavian descent but originally from British Columbia. “Discovered” at a Canadian football game while wearing a Labatt beer T-shirt, Labatt hired her for an ad campaign that drew the attention of Playboy magazine, and she has appeared on the cover more times than anyone else in the magazine’s history. Television came calling, and she appeared on Married … With Children, Home Improvement, VIP (which she executive produced), and of course, Baywatch, the show that launched her into an international celebrity.

Her rocky marriage to former Motley Crue drummer Tommy Lee resulted in two boys, Brandon and Dylan, and that’s where Anderson’s story truly begins.

“I’m kind of doing my part in changing the world by raising two conscious kids, you know?” she says, laughing. And it’s clear that the boys are the focus of her tumultuous world.

EA: What is a typical day like for you?

PA: We’ve got swimming lessons and baseball and soccer and music lessons and all kinds of things. I’m kind of like the “soccer mom.”

EA: Are you active with the kids?

PA: They keep me in shape. We play baseball in the backyard, bike riding on our street, so they kind of keep me in shape, I guess. They just got their yellow belts (in karate), so they’re very excited. They do pretty much everything together. They’re only 15 months apart, so they go to the same things.

EA: As they get older, do you run around more?

PA: Well, my youngest one is really the most active one. He’s the one who’s very, very sports-oriented. He’s so coordinated: He’s been riding a two-wheeler since he was 2 years old, with no training wheels or anything. He skateboards, he snowboards, he skis, he surfboards. My oldest one is an incredible swimmer and an incredible artist. He’s like a performer, so he acts more dramatic … the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree! So they’re both really active but they’re both very, very, very different.

EA: How are you nurturing Brandon’s artistic side?

PA: I just actually framed a couple pictures of his. They go to a Waldorf school. I believe in that philosophy completely. It’s just a very nurturing, artistic kind of education, and they have an incredible art program where they work with watercolors. It’s just a different kind of thing than I’ve seen in any kind of school. He’s learning all these colors, and he painted an alien, a fisherman, and then this rhinoceros. It’s so beautiful; the colors were blended and everything. You wouldn’t believe it – it’s just absolutely gorgeous. He likes piano, and he wants to take guitar lessons. And he’s definitely a performer, so he’s always putting on a hat and jumping out in front of everybody, you know?

EA: Is he aware of the business you are in, and his dad is in, and does he want to emulate that?

PA: I think he thinks everyone’s dad’s a rock star and everyone’s mom’s on a TV show. You know, like, “Where’s your mom’s trailer?” They love going to the set. I mean, they don’t know any different, really.

EA: Do you show the kids other things in life?

PA: We go to Michigan a lot, and we were there with my fiancé and his friends, and they’re very down-to-earth, normal people. Kids ride dirt bikes, my kids ride their bikes and four-wheelers, and it’s just kind of a woodsy, country way to grow up, and we spend a lot of time there.

It’s just funny the things that they say and they hear. They definitely are aware of people asking for autographs and the paparazzi jumping around. They just call the paparazzi the “bad guys.” “Mom there’s bad guys! Get in the car.” They’re very protective, but you know, I don’t think they have too much of a strange life, because they have their school, and they have the beach, and then they have the woods. They’re definitely not city people.

EA: When they go to school, are they surrounded by a lot of other celebrity children, or do they go with “normal” kids?

PA: It’s for everybody; it’s kind of a different philosophy. People from all over the place, people send their kids from everywhere to this school or to different schools around the country, because it’s really an incredible way to raise kids, because really we can only change through our children, and so it’s raising compassionate kids and kids who have a conscience and who aren’t going to necessarily go to war … They don’t learn to read until they’re in second or third grade. I mean, everything sticks better.

EA: Are there any strategies that you use at home to create compassion and empathy?

PA: Well, they don’t watch a lot of TV. They’re really not supposed to watch any, really, according to the philosophy, but you know you can’t get away from … when they’re visiting other people and stuff. They cook with me, they cook every day at school. You respect their childhood but you also don’t treat them inferior to you. If you believe in this kind of system or philosophy, you can only do better than if you didn’t, you know? You just try and do your best.

EA: You are known for your love of animals. Do you have any?

PA: I have two dogs, and having the animals here and there for my kids, it’s cute, because Brandon will walk into his class and say, “My mommy likes these animals!” and then we’ll just go on to do something else. I have a golden retriever, and I have a chocolate lab (puppy). My lab’s called Old Joe and Star’s the golden retriever. He’s the best dog in the world, and he’s so healthy, too.

I had to kind of stop rescuing dogs for a little while with the kids because I rescued an Australian Shepard, and he was herding the kids. He was herding them into the corner. He’d nip at their heels, and then he’d like corral them. And we had a pug I rescued, too, with only one eye and a hernia operation, I mean the kids know … we need to help animals. I’m vegetarian, but they eat meat every once in a while. My oldest son was at a birthday party today and he goes, “Can I have a veggie burger?” He’s just kind of copying me. He goes, “I don’t eat meat,” but they do.

EA: As long as we’re talking about food, tell me what you like to eat.

PA: I eat fish. For protein, I’ll eat shrimp or whitefish, salmon. I normally eat pretty healthy. My only downfall is Starbucks, which I’m doing a lot better at, by the way.

EA: What do you order?

PA: I was up to five Starbucks a day for a while, and then I finally just said, “What am I doing?” First of all, I can’t handle the caffeine. I’m already hyper enough; it’s not working with my personality, and so I cut down. I was having like full-on grande mochas, with the whole milk and everything. Unless I want to gain 30 pounds, I thought I better slow down. Now I get non-fat, half-caff mochas; that’s what I’m drinking, and I’ll drink like one a week.

EA: You went from five a day to one a week?

PA: Yeah, in like three weeks.

EA: Are you getting withdrawal?

PA: No, I’ve been all right. When I’m in Michigan, there’s no Starbucks out there, so when I’m out there, I can’t have one. But I used to panic about it; now I’m not panicking.

EA: Is that where your fiancé is from?

PA: Yes. We go out there all the time. Way out in the country. It’s in northern Michigan … It’s very beautiful, lots of acreage, lots of room, for the kids and dogs. I’m going out again soon, and I’m taking them with me. We’ll see what they look like swimming in ponds. I don’t know if my golden will get in a pond. I won’t get in a pond. I’m scared of a pond. I grew up on a beach, and he (Kid Rock) goes, “You can’t swim in a pond? There’s sharks and all these different things in the ocean…” I’m not going in there, there’s a fish in there, you can’t see through the water, and there’s flies on top sometimes. I can’t. I’m an ocean/beach girl. I went in a pond once, and I swear I felt something hairy fly off the bank and jump in there … There’s these groundhogs and all these animals I’m not used to. I’m like total West Coast beach girl, and out there there’s horseflies. It’s different, but it’s fun, and it’s good for the kids to see all these different sights and sounds.

EA: Right! Do you have any nutrition tips?

PA: Well, I like to eat a lot of salmon, a lot of fishes with a lot of oils, which is good for your skin and your hair. You know, I think it’s kind of like your background, I’m Finnish, you know, and I’m Canadian, so I’m used to having a lot of fish in my diet … And red wine. Salmon and red wine, even though I’m not supposed to drink very much because I have hepatitis C, and I’m not supposed to drink at all, you know, but I’ll have a glass of red wine every once in a while or a glass of champagne. I’ve cut down a lot.

Milk thistle, that’s what I take a lot of for my liver. I had a liver biopsy, and your liver is graded from one to four; four is cirrhosis and a liver transplant – everything horrible, cancer, all that – and one or zero is a healthy liver, and I’m a one. They tell me that with the disease that I have it’s pretty miraculous that my liver’s still healthy. They go, “Keep doing what you’re doing,” and I go, “Well, I have a glass of red wine every once in a while or I’ll have some champagne,” and they go, “As your doctor, I’m telling you not to drink; as your friend, I’m telling you that you can have a glass of red wine.” But really, you’re not supposed to drink at all. I mean, even a person with a healthy liver who drinks is hurting their liver.

EA: So do you attribute your healthy liver to a healthy lifestyle?

PA: Yeah. I mean, I do have a healthy lifestyle. I know it’s hard to believe! People think, you know, or whatever they think of me, you know, wild and crazy and all these things, you know a different kind of lifestyle and stuff. I do work a lot, I have long hours, and I have two kids, and I don’t have a nanny or anything, so I’m kind of a little sleep-deprived. Other than that, I do not like people to … I could never maintain the life people think I have – I’d be dead! There’s no way – I have two kids to come home to and bring to school in the morning. But I’ve always really had a healthy lifestyle ever since I was in school, since I was growing up. I always ate really good and cooked my own food.

EA: That’s one of the goals of this interview – to get out the truth about you, rather than just the tabloid innuendo.

PA: Yeah. The tabloids love me. It’s been bad and good for me. You know, I can’t stand the tabloids, and I can’t stand the way they kind of, you know, they twist everything around or they make things up. It really makes you out to look like a complete idiot. I’m a good mom; I’m not an idiot, you know? I’ve gotten my life pretty much together pretty good for a single mom with two kids. And I’ve gone through a lot of different things, but you know, coming out – I see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Even with the custody of my children, it’s a really difficult time, but this is all part of my journey, and I just have to get through it, and I am. But it’s difficult for anybody, people without money, people without friends or family or anything, having to go through what I’ve gone through. I feel like I have all these resources, and it’s still the most difficult thing that I’ve ever gone through. I don’t know how people do it, and that’s why I’m really going to get involved with domestic violence centers and a domestic violence hotline, and I work with the liver foundation, and women’s shelters, and runaway homes.

I’m going to do what I can do. It’s therapeutic for me, too, because I think, someone going through that, once they help somebody else, it’s almost like you’re helping yourself. What you can’t do for yourself, you can do for other people. I also was working with PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), too. It’s so important the education of children, you know, the proper kind of education. I’m also going to go to Guatemala.

EA: What are you going to do there?

PA: The people … they’re just having kids and couldn’t look after them … they didn’t know what to do with their kids, and so what she’s (Nedra Roney, the founder of Nu Skin) done is they formed this orphanage called Valley of the Angels, and there’s a pastor there who’s looking after 250 children. I think a lot of American people think that the answers to these people’s problems are to adopt children from these countries, when they don’t want people to adopt their children; they want to raise their kids there. They’re teaching them all the skills; they’re teaching them how to garden, construct, and medicine and all these other things so they can save their country … They can’t go to school; they have nothing. I’d like to do something. So I’m going to go to Guatemala with my boys (to raise awareness for it).

EA: How do you manage your hepatitis C condition?

PA: Well, I’m treated at UCLA, and I’m actually just going to talk to my doctor … he’s a specialist, and they took a liver biopsy. They were thinking of putting me on interferon, you know, the new drug. You go on it for nine to 12 months, you lose your hair, so it’s really scary – it’s almost like chemotherapy. You’re sick every single day for nine months and so you really have to have a lot of help. I was lucky when I found out that I don’t need to go on that right now because in a year and a half there’s more drugs being found and getting approved and there’s going to be less side effects. I think there’s a new drug coming out, and so in the fall, I may go on this drug, and it supposedly can cure like 90 percent of people.

EA: How do you treat your condition right now, because you’re not on any medication?

PA: Well, right now there’s nothing I can do, except for just live happily and, you know, I have to exercise every day. My doctor told me that I have to exercise one hour a day, which of course I haven’t in the past. I’m trying to get into the idea about doing that. I get a lot of working out with my kids but that’s not enough; he says I need to be on a treadmill or something.

EA: So, it’s more cardiovascular?

PA: Yeah. It’s just getting my body in shape. Before I go on any drug, I need every ounce of support that I can from my body. I need to be the healthiest I can possibly be before I get on that because it’s very deteriorating to be on it and it can change the entire body chemistry. No one knows how each person is going to react, and it doesn’t necessarily cure everybody. I think you can live your whole life with hepatitis C. I think it’s just really important to get tested when you’re young. I’m going to do public service announcements, and I’m hoping to do them on MTV so they’re very young-oriented, young people start getting tested. You get it from, basically, it’s needles. It’s very, very, very difficult to get hepatitis C – you have to either share a needle, you know, doing drugs or tattoo needles or intravenous. You have to get into your blood system … It’s very difficult to get, but you know, some people live their whole life never knowing that they have it. All of a sudden they’ll start going downhill, and they’ll be like, “I need a liver transplant.”

EA: How did you realize that you had it?

PA: I just got a routine check-up, a routine check-up, and my doctor said, “You have a glitch in your blood work,” and I said, “What’s that?” and he said I have hepatitis C, and he told me that my ex-husband had it, too, and that’s, you know, how I got it. I didn’t know about it – my ex-husband never told me about it. It is hard to tell somebody when you have something like that. Like I have friends that have other diseases that it’s very difficult for them to tell a partner that they have, but you have to tell somebody or risk … and definitely don’t share a needle with someone if you know you have something like that. It’s murder!

EA: So, with your ex (Tommy Lee), are you able to communicate civilly, or is it very difficult for you?

PA: It’s pretty much impossible right now because it’s not about the kids, you know. I’ve always raised my kids from day one, and he’s always been, you know, very, very jealous of the kids. You know it’s not anything to do with that; it’s only about hurting another person. It’s just terrible; it has nothing to do with anything. There’s horrible things going on that I’m not allowed to talk about. It makes me wanna’, you know, scream from the rooftops what’s really going on but I can’t, you know? It just sickens me, the system, that this could be going on so long, and the things that actually have happened … I just think that children need to be more protected.

EA: Do your kids see him?

PA: He sees them supervised. People have been following us so much, and it’s like I don’t want to be saying anything negative about their father. I think it’s very, very classic behavior in domestic violence relationships that it carries over to the children, and I obviously do not want my children exposed to something that they’re innocent of. They didn’t make this choice. It’s frustrating, but I see the light at the end of the tunnel. We’re all getting through it. My kids are happy kids; they’re really doing well and flourishing and thriving.

EA: Do they understand about their dad?

PA: They never really had a relationship with him. They don’t ask, you know. They’re very happy at home, and this is just something we all have to get through.

EA: How is their relationship with your fiancé?

PA: Oh, he’s wonderful. They love him. They call him Big Bob. He’s Big Bob, and his son’s name’s Bobby. He’s a good guy.

EA: When are you getting married?

PA: I don’t know yet. We haven’t made any plans. I’m not so ready to jump into something … In our business, it’s kind-of difficult, but right now we’re happy, the kids are happy, and we’re planning on it, but who knows.

EA: Are you living together?

PA: He lives in Michigan, and I live here (in California). So when he’s here, he’s with me, and when I’m there, I’m with him.

EA: How would you say that motherhood has changed you, if at all?

PA: I’ve always been a real motherly, mothering person. Even when I was younger, my boyfriends would say, “I wish you were my mother,” and things like that. But I always liked taking care of people, so it comes very naturally to me … My mom tells me, “I’m worried about them being in the school; I’m worried about this or that; Why aren’t they reading?” You know, I’m so clear on what I want for my kids. I know I’m very instinctual, I’m very intuitive, and I just go with my gut. I just know that they’re supposed to be treated naturally, good nutrition, and it’s not all about stuffing antibiotics down their throats. I don’t have all the answers, but I really feel strongly about how I’m raising my kids.

EA: Speaking of having the answers, I hear that you’ve started an advice column in Jane magazine?

PA: I’ve always written. My brother’s always said, “You know, you should be a writer.” I’ve always written and loved it; I felt like I always communicated better through writing. My first article was about being pregnant; I was six months pregnant, so I wrote a whole article about pregnancy and stuff like that. And the next one’s about domestic violence and the next one is going to be on the liver foundation, hepatitis, I mean I have like 20 columns already, in my head.

EA: And what about the cartoon?

PA: I’m doing an animated series with Stan Lee, and it’s called Stripperella. It’s going to be very kind of tongue-in-cheek, silly, a lot of innuendo. It’s very PG. It’s on TNN. I’m 0069, I’m an undercover agent. It’s just ridiculous silliness; it’s funny. It’s for adults, probably more of a college-type audience. It’s probably going to go be on, to the edge, take it as far as we can go, but don’t go any further.

And VIP is over. It was a mutual decision … I just want to be with my kids; it’s too time-consuming. So, I’m just doing a lot of things that I can do at home. I’m going to do my animated voiceover, and I have my column. And everybody’s always asking me about merchandising and clothing and stuff, and that’s all coming very soon.

EA: So no more TV?

PA: Not right now … but that can change at any moment!

EA: We’ll stay tuned!