Pamela Anderson Interview Smashbox Campaign 2024

Pamela Anderson is Zooming in from her cozy Vancouver Island home and baking a loaf of rye bread while she’s doing this interview. “I try to keep up with the Joneses, but the whole hair and makeup crew, hiring photographers to chase me around and retouch pictures thing — I’m not doing that. It’s too much work,” she says, makeup-free, with hair that was recently cut a foot shorter for a film role. “I have dogs to look after. My vegetables don’t care.”

Even so, the actress and model has been making quite the comeback in the last couple of years, including a successful Broadway run, her 2023 documentary Pamela: A Love Story, and the release of her memoir. She’s also been embraced by fashion, fronting campaigns for Proenza Schouler, Frankies Bikinis, and more. Now, Anderson is the newest face of Smashbox, as the brand celebrates two beauty legends: its Photo Finish Primer, which was released in 1996, and Anderson herself.

NYLON caught up with Anderson ahead of the Smashbox campaign launch to talk about her ’80s teased hair, her famed Baywatch and Barbed Wire makeup looks, and what she’s learned from going makeup-free.

Smashbox’s Photo Finish Primer was a game-changer in the ’90s. Do you remember when it first came out?

I do. [Smashbox co-founder] Davis [Factor] is a friend of mine and we hung out in the same crowd. I remember when they started Smashbox Studios and had a studio line of makeup, and I just thought it was genius. Finally, somebody figured out how to make a living in all this, and they did such a great job — and that was a great product. I always call them the OG in this space. What I was really drawn to with the campaign is working with friends and family. This was a fun wink to the past.

It’s interesting because I haven’t been wearing a lot of makeup lately, or basically no makeup. I felt like primer was the magical-mystery next step, and then I’ll figure out what I want to look like when I grow up. I think it’s funny because back in the day, I would’ve loved to have been hired by Smashbox to do a beauty campaign, but I wasn’t cool enough.

It’s nice to have this full-circle moment and to be able to feel so embraced. I am enjoying the moment because I know how this world works, and I found a way to be my own best friend and believe in myself before others did. I felt like Smashbox just came around at a perfect time. I’m doing this because I don’t want to take myself too seriously. I always have my philosophies and I’m a mother, but I love to have fun. I love glitter. I love to play dress-up. You have to have fun. I have to tell my kids this, too. I said, “You guys, this isn’t rocket science. This is not world peace. This is beauty.”

Can you tell me about some of your favorite signature beauty looks from the ‘90s?

Oh my gosh, everything turned out to be a Halloween costume. I used to try and embody an entire look, like if it was Baywatch or Barb Wire or if it was going on a red carpet or walking down the street, I felt like it was performance art. The characters you embody stand the test of time because they really come from an authentic place. I laugh because on Baywatch, I insisted on wearing waterproof eyelashes so they never fell off. It was crazy, even underwater. With Barb Wire, I haven’t said this before, but I had to fight really hard to have Alexis Vogel be my makeup artist because they wanted Kevyn Aucoin. And I was like, “Who’s that? I want Alexis.” So Alexis got the job and later on, I was like, “Hey, wait a second. Kevyn Aucoin? That name sounds familiar.”

What has surprised you about your no-makeup moment?

It may seem silly, but there were times when my kids were growing up where I wouldn’t want any pictures taken. I didn’t want to disappoint anybody. Everything had to be professional photographs. Now I think, “God, I really missed out on a lot because I was so insecure.” Paris Fashion Week is probably the last place you want to go with no makeup. But I thought, “This is about the clothes. Are people going to like me more if I’m wearing a perfect black swooped eyeliner? I don’t think so.” I think it was nice that it resonated with people, but I’m just experimenting with myself. I really felt freedom. The weight of the world was off my shoulders. We get so caught up in what other people think of us and the competition with ourselves and the self-hatred. I felt like I’m just not going to play the game anymore.

Pamela Anderson at Paris Fashion Week on Sept. 28, 2023.Stephane Cardinale – Corbis/Corbis Entertainment/Getty Images

What’s your first beauty memory?

I remember I used to watch my mom through the keyhole in the bathroom. She was always teasing her hair into these messy buns. I always remember her with the rolled-up jeans and gardening clogs and gloves. She had a real look, like a very kind of disheveled ‘50s bombshell. I would always try teasing my hair with a little pink comb. I would be standing on the toilet seat in the mirror just teasing all my hair up. I just looked like a disaster. But my mom put a lot of emphasis on being pretty. She was the bombshell, and my dad was the bad boy.

What are you excited about in beauty right now?

I really love that it’s in fashion now to be sustainable and cruelty-free and all those great things that were not fashionable. Everyone thought I was really annoying back in the day when I insisted on those things. It kind of narrowed my tunnel of opportunity. But I’m glad I stuck to my beliefs and I can still align myself with people like this. So I’m really excited about that. And I think beauty is freedom. Freedom to be whoever you are in whatever chapter of your life you’re at — it doesn’t get less fun.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.


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