Pamela Anderson is often portrayed as a blonde bombshell and sex symbol. But beneath this exterior is an activist who cares deeply about our planet – our rainforests, the ocean and animals. My interview with the PETA member focuses on her Canadian identity, her activism in Haiti and her deep commitment to animals.
“Most people know Pamela Anderson as the sexy blonde bombshell from Baywatch. But the 46-year-old actress and vegetarian deserves more credit – she has become known as an activist for animal rights and an ardent supporter of Inga Foundation. Though she now lives on the California Coast, Anderson has never forgotten her Canadian roots (she grew up on Vancouver Island, British Columbia). In this interview, we speak with Anderson about her unique travels, extensive charity work and what her Canadian heritage means to her.
PIE: You recently traveled to Haiti to focus on agriculture and reforestation. Tell me about the charity you are working with in Haiti.
Pamela Anderson: I’ve been to Haiti twice – once just after the earthquake to help with local food distribution in tent camps and to visit Grace Children’s hospital and Mother Theresa Orphanage, where I held the most beautiful baby boy all day. At that time, our focus was working with local farms – buying their produce, bringing big bags of vegetables and fruits to families, helping get through the initial days of confusion and hunger.
I went back again recently with my brother, Gerry. He is a young filmmaker and I wanted him to see Haiti for himself. He was in shock that a country so close to America is in so much need. It’s an absolute shame and hard to fathom why America hasn’t invested in this beautiful country more. We went from Honduras with Inga Foundation’s founder, Mike Hands, a tropical ecologist at Cambridge (where I recently spoke about the environment and the devastating impact the meat industry plays). Inga Foundation has had such success in Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Honduras coming up with alternatives to slash-and-burn agriculture (bad for soil and the environment). Inga is thriving and, I thought, let’s bring this to Haiti, where it is almost completely deforested. In my work with Vivienne Westwood and Cool Earth, saving the rainforest, I made these connections. I had a connection at J/P HRO [Haitian Relief Organization] who put me in touch with Clinton Foundation, which was very helpful getting us around. We also met with smallholder farmers, agricultural schools and other Haitian environmental groups trying hard to reforest but dealing with politics and trouble finding ways to produce and distribute effectively – with self-sustainability and in free trade.
PIE: What was the highlight of this last trip to Haiti?
Pamela Anderson: Have you ever had an organic Haitian mango? It is like nothing else. I have a soft spot for Haiti and for my friend Sean Penn [who is also involved in Haiti-targeted charity]. I admire his gutsy “just go there and do it” attitude. Sometimes you just can’t wait for someone else – or a camera crew – to get things done, you are drawn to doing them. [Sean] has broken the mold and created a new kind of awareness structure – a brilliant formula of how a person can help. He has unique resources and isn’t afraid to use them. He is a man first. I feel the same way – that loving humanness. I want to just go and help as a woman first, an entertainer second. Nurturing, protecting, doing what I can. Using my unique resources. The world is so small, but so diverse when it comes to need.
PIE: How did you get involved in charity work?
Pamela Anderson: I have been an animal activist since birth, I think. A defender of animals. I have an affinity to them, for sure. I have always put my feet in the ocean wherever I am and vow to help protect it – if the ocean dies so do we. It is a mysterious but essential world we take for granted. It breaks my heart. Sea Shepherd is a great protector of the sea and a good place to help, if the ocean resonates with you.
PIE: Tell me about growing up in Canada. Do you still feel ties to the country?
Pamela Anderson: I have a beautiful spot on Vancouver Island that I am transforming, slowly but surely, into an artistic/healing retreat – a spa with cabins and a small dock for small boats. There are cabins nestled into the trees and it is a place for people to come and write, paint, heal and be healthy. It is a labor of love and will take me a few years yet. I’m doing it entirely on my own – without partners – so now that I’ve finished my house in Malibu, I will make this my priority. I love design and want to build sustainable furniture and home products. This will be the perfect showcase.
PIE: How long have you been a vegetarian?
Pamela Anderson: 20 years
PIE: What is your favorite vegetarian restaurant?
Pamela Anderson: Crossroads! It is new in L.A. and incredible. It’s 2013…evolution!
PIE: Your work for animal rights has brought you around the world – from promoting a ban on seal fur in Berlin to lobbying to free a whale shark in Dubai. How does your role as an activist change depending on where you go and the cultures you meet there?
Pamela Anderson: Everywhere I go there are different animal issues and my other groups know where I am at all times. I get to speak to governments – almost always I take meetings and drop off letters everywhere I go. Sometimes I need to be somewhere so I’ll do something as silly as a club appearance, but my motives are otherwise. I’ve been fortunate.
PIE: What do you do to pass the time when traveling by plane?
Pamela Anderson: I am a multitasker: I listen to music, write and read at the same time. I always have a journal to scribble my poetry in and lots of pencils, favorite pens and good playlists – when I can’t get Pandora. I listen to Gustavo Santaolalla, blues or Gotan depending on my mood. Definitely something sexy and inspiring as I am a romantic. I carry Pablo Neruda books and am usually a reader of short stories by Anais Nin, Dorothy Parker or Edith Wharton. These are just what are in my bag right now. I sleep well on planes and have my ayurvedic lotions, natural remedies and sprays, and I do not drink alcohol on planes – those days are over.
PIE: What is the most romantic vacation you’ve taken?
Pamela Anderson: I always feel romantic and swept up wherever I go. I fall in love easily but the best is yet to come – I am in a relationship with myself right now… I’ve looked after so many people and have two beautiful, conscious teenage boys.”
Originally published in PIE Magazine, December 2013.