“AC­TIVISM IS SEXY”

PAMELA AN­DER­SON. FROM BAYWATCH PIN-UP TO PO­LIT­I­CAL CRU­SADER

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Front Page - Words by NICHOLAS FON­SECA

Even Pamela An­der­son can’t help but mar­vel at her cur­rent pub­lic per­sona. Re­flect­ing on the strange and sur­real path that led to her present in­car­na­tion as ac­tivist and ad­vo­cate – for an­i­mals, the en­vi­ron­ment and a po­lit­i­cal pris­oner named Ju­lian As­sange – she is, un­char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally, lost for words as she tries to ex­plain the shift. As she ad­mits to Stel­lar in an exclusive Aus­tralian in­ter­view: “I won­der some­times my­self.”

An­der­son shot to fame in the ’90s thanks largely to her looks, bound­ing along the beaches of Baywatch, even­tu­ally peer­ing out from a record 14 Play­boy cov­ers and, years be­fore Kim Kar­dashian, pi­o­neer­ing the celebrity sex tape thanks to an il­le­gally pi­rated romp with her then-hus­band Tommy Lee. A bomb­shell in the mould of Mar­i­lyn Mon­roe and Jayne Mans­field, boast­ing a seem­ingly he­lium-in­duced voice and a mane of rock video-ready blonde hair, she played the part with rel­ish. “It was a beau­ti­ful, care­free time of my life,” An­der­son says. The Baywatch era was also, she’s quick to add, “where I re­alised I needed to share all the at­ten­tion I got with some­thing more mean­ing­ful, and have fun while do­ing it”.

Her first steps to­ward ac­tivism were taken any­thing but gin­gerly: a long­time ve­gan, An­der­son reached out to PETA (Peo­ple for the Eth­i­cal Treat­ment of An­i­mals) at Baywatch’s zenith, hand­writ­ing a let­ter to of­fer her ser­vices as a vol­un­teer. “She said that since [the show] had ex­ploded, she wanted to be known for more than her boobs and her boyfriends,” says Dan Mathews, se­nior vice pres­i­dent of cam­paigns for PETA.

An­der­son be­came one of PETA’S most vis­i­ble celebrity sup­port­ers, join­ing protests and ap­pear­ing in ads for the ad­vo­cacy group – she even posed nude in a bliz­zard for their first-ever anti-fur Times Square bill­board. “Be­ing ve­gan doesn’t mean be­ing shy or with­drawn,” she says. “It’s a po­lit­i­cal state­ment, like switch­ing to green en­ergy. This life­style… is a wild ex­pe­ri­ence: re­bel­lious, punk. I like the per­cep­tion that I’m chang­ing ac­tivism.” Be­sides, she cheer­ily adds, “a ve­gan diet im­proves your sex life!”

SEX – WHETHER HAV­ING it, mon­etis­ing it or lam­poon­ing it – has al­ways ex­isted in tan­dem with An­der­son’s celebrity. And she has al­ways been savvy enough to em­brace it. “She knows peo­ple first take note of her for her looks,” Mathews tells Stel­lar, “[so] she baits and switches to get them on­board.”

It is per­haps no sur­prise that she and PETA joined forces in 1995, the same year the sex tape leaked, ar­guably one of many times An­der­son’s savvi­ness has saved her.

In 2014, she was largely re­tired from act­ing and in­stead busy launch­ing her tit­u­lar foun­da­tion, which “sup­ports or­gan­i­sa­tions and in­di­vid­u­als that stand on the front­lines in the pro­tec­tion of hu­man, an­i­mal and en­vi­ron­men­tal rights”.

In her new ca­pac­ity as a (mostly) full-time phi­lan­thropist, An­der­son now or­bits the nexus of geopo­lit­i­cal power. She rubs shoul­ders with gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials, vis­its French mi­grant camps to dole out ve­gan food and pays reg­u­lar vis­its to ru­moured boyfriend and Wik­ileaks founder, Aus­tralian Ju­lian As­sange, at the Ecuado­rian em­bassy in Lon­don, where he has lived since be­ing granted po­lit­i­cal asy­lum in 2012.

How on earth did An­der­son get here? “I’m start­ing to see the cor­re­la­tion more clearly,” she says. “All the is­sues I fight for are to re­con­nect, even clean­ing up the en­vi­ron­ment. It is my in­trepid, ru­n­away mind. I’m a mis­chievous soul [and] ev­ery­thing I do is rooted in the lov­ing ex­pe­ri­ence of sen­su­al­ity.”

To that end, An­der­son claims that “plas­tic… has oe­stro­gen”, and im­plores men “not to drink from plas­tic bot­tles”. She has sur­pris­ingly tra­di­tional views on gen­der. “We are be­com­ing more an­drog­y­nous as a species,” she tells Stel­lar. “Men get weaker in an au­thor­i­tar­ian en­vi­ron­ment; they don’t need to be as manly. And women are work­ing… who’s watch­ing the kids? I may get some heat for this, but I’d con­sider my­self an ‘anti-fem­i­nist’. I ob­vi­ously be­lieve in treat­ing peo­ple fairly, but men and women are dif­fer­ent for a rea­son, with very im­por­tant roles to play.”

She also wor­ries that “the world will for­get how to make love”. Last year she and Sh­mu­ley Boteach, an Ortho­dox Jewish rabbi and author, wrote a Wall Street Jour­nal op-ed on the dan­gers of porn. They are now fin­ish­ing their book, The Sen­sual Revo­lu­tion, ex­pected for re­lease later this year. An­der­son also says, “I was just asked to write a sexy ve­gan cook­book. I’m draw­ing, paint­ing. I’m con­sid­er­ing a few artis­tic shorts and maybe a film next year. But my full-time job is what I’m do­ing, and that’s be­ing an ac­tivist.”

Se­ri­ous as she is about sav­ing the world, An­der­son still found time to film a cameo for the new movie ver­sion of Baywatch, out on June 1. But she ap­par­ently has mixed feel­ings about the en­ter­prise, which stars Dwayne “The Rock” John­son (in David Has­sel­hoff’s role as Mitch Buchan­non). In Fe­bru­ary, An­der­son ques­tioned John­son’s abil­ity to “gel” with his role and said she “never wanted to do the movie”. Even now, asked if go­ing back to the beach reignited her in­ter­est in act­ing, she tells Stel­lar: “Oh, god no. It’s the other way around.”

ASIDE FROM HER fo­cus on ac­tivism, An­der­son cites two key rea­sons for slink­ing away from the screen: Dy­lan and Bran­don Lee, her sons with Tommy Lee. “Since I had kids,” she says, “I didn’t do much act­ing. I wouldn’t leave my boys to work on a film.” She says she is proud that “I pro­tected their pri­vacy when they were small. Now they are over 18 and can make their own choices.”

Bran­don, 20, is an as­pir­ing ac­tor who, his mother says, “looks like an old movie star and is tremen­dously ro­man­tic and be­lieves in love and com­mit­ment”. Dy­lan, 19, has modelled for Saint Lau­rent and at­tends mu­sic school. “He is ex­tremely am­bi­tious and tal­ented,” she says. “Not only that, he has a good head on his shoul­ders and em­pa­thy.”

The pair are un­sur­pris­ing win­ners of the ge­netic lot­tery. For the re­cent Met Gala in New York, Bran­don suited up in a gold silk jac­quard Dolce & Gab­bana tuxedo, ac­ces­sorised with slicked-back hair, a whis­per of a mous­tache and an Elvis Pres­ley sneer. Dy­lan, mean­while, boasts a tidal wave of jet-black hair, his mother’s lips and his fa­ther’s cleft chin.

Like most mil­len­ni­als, the boys stay busy on Instagram. Their mother does, too – in a dif­fer­ent way. Her page is named after her foun­da­tion, and show­cases a cu­rated se­lec­tion of arty black-and-white pho­tos. “I try to evoke a feel­ing on my Instagram,” she ex­plains. “Cin­e­matic, ro­man­tic, nos­tal­gic – I’d pre­fer to live in black and white. It’s very flat­ter­ing.” If it’s el­e­va­tor self­ies you’re after, you’ve come to the wrong place. “I don’t care too much about other peo­ple’s day-to-day activities.”

Those look­ing for a per­sonal in­sight into An­der­son’s psy­che may find her per­sonal web­site and on­line jour­nal to be more re­veal­ing. The en­tries read like at­tempts at po­etry, or some vari­ant thereof – ac­cord­ing to An­der­son, her fa­ther and grand­fa­ther were po­ets. She posts ev­ery few days, usu­ally on sub­jects such as sex traf­fick­ing, an­i­mal abuse and, yes, As­sange. In a March 9 en­try called “My Ju­lian”, she refers to him as “the most in­tel­li­gent, in­ter­est­ing and in­formed man in ex­is­tence”. She’s writ­ten

``I adore ju­lian. he is a great man´´

``since kids, i didn´t act much. i would not leave my boys to work on a film´´

an open let­ter to Aus­tralia, crit­i­cis­ing Mal­colm Turn­bull’s “weak po­si­tion” on As­sange’s case for asy­lum. And she’s posted per­sonal pho­tos of As­sange with his in­ter­net-fa­mous cat, who has been seen in the em­bassy’s win­dows wear­ing a tie, and has its own Twit­ter ac­count.

“I adore Ju­lian,” An­der­son tells Stel­lar. “He’s a great man and it would be a dream to have him re­united with his young fam­ily in France. I hope [new Pres­i­dent Em­manuel] Macron will be as strong as [left­ist French politi­cian JeanLuc] Mé­len­chon when it comes to refugees – that in­cludes Ju­lian.”

But when asked to clar­ify their re­la­tion­ship, she says “it’s per­sonal, and he is a vul­ner­a­ble, po­lit­i­cal pris­oner. It’s dif­fi­cult. I will not re­duce it.”

As for Aus­tralians, she im­plores us to “de­mand that as a fel­low ci­ti­zen, Ju­lian is pro­tected by [your] gov­ern­ment. Stop kiss­ing Amer­ica’s ass.” And the cat? “I will not di­vulge any­thing too per­sonal,” she replies. “They are cute to­gether is all I can say.”

When­ever she vis­its the em­bassy in Lon­don, she cre­ates a stir. Last Oc­to­ber, As­sange fell ill after she de­liv­ered him ve­gan food – and con­spir­acy the­o­rists sur­mised she had tried to poi­son him. Food in hand or not, when An­der­son ar­rives she faces a swarm of pa­parazzi whose shots are splashed around the world. “I don’t pay much at­ten­tion [to the cov­er­age]”, An­der­son in­sists. “If it draws at­ten­tion to Ju­lian, it’s good. We need peo­ple, more than ever, to start re­al­is­ing what is at stake.”

On June 19, As­sange will al­most cer­tainly mark five years holed up in­side Ecuador’s Lon­don em­bassy. Twelve days later, An­der­son turns 50. Her plans are still un­clear. “Time has flown,” she says of the looming mile­stone. “I don’t want to cel­e­brate me too much.”

It is likely that, in con­trast to her “dear friend” in lockdown, An­der­son will be in yet another cor­ner of the globe, sol­dier­ing on as she pro­motes and pro­vokes in equal mea­sure. As she says, “I’ve rented my home out in Mal­ibu so I can travel and be other places full-time.”

Wher­ever she ends up on her fifti­eth birth­day, An­der­son isn’t likely to stay long. “It was fierce de­ter­mi­na­tion that made my dreams come true,” she says. “I don’t give up. I’m re­lent­less. I’m here to stir the pot – and give all the love I have.”

AC­TOR TO AC­TIVIST (clock­wise from top) Pamela An­der­son pre­pares food for mi­grants in France; her ru­moured boyfriend Ju­lian As­sange; in the orig­i­nal

Baywatch; with Dwayne John­son in the up­com­ing Baywatch re­boot.

EARTH MOTHER Pamela with sons Dy­lan (left) and Bran­don last year.

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