There can only be one Pamela Anderson. I mean… those breasts, the red swimsuit, that tape, not to mention the many marriages and her surprising friendship with Julian Assange.
Or so I thought, until I saw paparazzi photographs last week of another young Pammy running along a California beach, as if the past 25 years had all been a dream.
It’s an unlikely casting, but Lily James is playing the role of Pamela Anderson (or CJ Parker to long-time Baywatch fans) in a TV biopic due to be released on the Hulu channel later this year.
Called Pam & Tommy, it tells the story of her whirlwind romance with rock band Motley Crue’s wildman drummer Tommy Lee, and the infamous theft of the sex tape they filmed on their 1995 honeymoon.
Lily James (right) is starring in a new biopic on Pamela Anderson and was transformed into the star (left)
Then, Pamela was at the height of her Baywatch fame — few women have been plastered across as many teenage boys’ bedroom walls before or since. Already, there is controversy over the show, with a friend of Pammy saying: ‘Pamela has no intention of watching this godawful show, absolutely not.’
Yet the thing that’s truly set tongues wagging is the epic transformation of demure-looking Lily — more a crinolines and pearls type known for period drama — into a Playboy bombshell who was one of the best-known faces (and bodies) of the 1990s.
So what does it take to turn a brunette, hardly blessed-of-bosom English rose into a pneumatic California Pammy in her prime? Quite a lot of hard work, it turns out! On a rainy May day, I wade in to find out…
Making Pam’s famous face
First things first: Janet Jackson’s former make-up artist Amanda Clarke is tasked with taking my pale-skinned, dark-browed, average-lipped visage and turning the dial up to maximum.
She applies foundation three shades darker than usual (Chanel Vitalumiere in Cendre, £43) before layering bronzers and blushers to recreate Pam’s sun-snogged skin. ‘The base in the 1990s was always a full, fairly matte coverage, so this might seem thicker than you’re used to,’ explains Amanda.
Next, the brows. Like Lily’s, mine are strong: that’s how it’s done in 2021, but in the 1990s thin, high arches were the order of the day.
The Daily Mail’s Libby Galvin before her Pamela Anderson-inspired makeover
I’m nervous as Amanda rummages in her kit that she might be about to whip out the tweezers. Thankfully, she plucks some trade secrets from up her sleeve, instead. ‘Lily may have had her brows plucked and dyed for the role — it would be worth it on a film set,’ she says.
‘But there are alternatives. You can wax them down, foundation over them and then draw them back in the desired shape, as drag queens do, which is effective.’
I breathe a sigh of relief as she gets to work sketching in arches with a flesh-coloured pencil.
A considerable time later, we move down to my eyes, aiming to recreate Pam’s Playboy smoulder.
This is not the kind of make-up you could wear for a dip in the Pacific without emerging looking like Alice Cooper. ‘Pam’s make-up is very rock chick — smoky, dark eyes with kohl used inside the waterline and thick black lashes,’ says Amanda. On goes the dark grey eyeshadow, strong black liner, false eyelashes and a healthy coating of mascara to take the look from pedestrian to boardwalk.
And Pam’s lips? This was before fillers went mainstream and Pam’s sexy pout was very much her own. To mimic it, mine were heavily lined outside my natural lipline in a slightly darker pencil, then the middle filled in with a lighter, browny-pink lipstick and iridescent gloss typical of the decade. My face alone takes more than an hour to prepare.
Getting into that cossie
Now it’s time to slip into something less comfortable — the iconic, highest of high-cut red swimsuits that Baywatch is still best known for.
While the head of wardrobe on Pam & Tommy, Ashley Scott Sinclair, spent £2,000 on a custom leather corset and had several dupes of the iconic scarlet cossie made for Lily, my dedicated stylists ordered a swimsuit on sale from the Jack Wills website (£25).
Almost as surprising to me as lovely Lily James becoming Pamela is finding out that the preppy ‘university outfitters’ sells the best facsimile of the Baywatch costume available on the High Street.
I step into it and hoik the fabric further up my hips than seems wise, simultaneously admiring the extra eight inches of leg it gives me and fighting the urge to swathe myself in a dressing gown.
Add the Baywatch badge, printed off and pasted above my left hip, and you’d never know the difference.
DD boobs and glowing teeth
THE most daunting aspect of the Pam Project comes now. The showbiz saying that ‘t*ts and teeth’ are all it takes to get the audience’s attention could have been coined for Pamela. I’m wondering how I can possibly fill her swimsuit in all the right places.
How does Lily do it? On the set of Pam & Tommy, David Williams (the man once tasked with supervising the Vulcan ears in Star Trek: Picard) has overseen the creation of a prosthetic ‘chest plate’, complete with lifelike nipples, to mimic Pamela’s DD implants.
The neck-to-navel artificial bosom takes up to five hours to apply in order to make Lily look realistically endowed during beach and underwear scenes.
Thankfully, I too have the help of a Hollywood expert: Amber Riley, who not only has an Oscar nomination to her name but tells me the last prosthetic breasts she was responsible for were A-lister Jennifer Lawrence’s, as blue- bodied mutant Mystique in X-Men.
We begin by wrestling me into a silicone vest. Running from just under my chin to the bottom of my ribs, the weighty contraption has a pre-sculpted collarbone and frighteningly generous breasts. Amber explains that, on a film set, they’d make a cast of my body, over which they would sculpt Pam’s form in Plaster of Paris, then pour silicone or latex foam in between to create a prosthesis which would fit my shape seamlessly, leaving space within for my own breasts to fit snugly. But this takes time, which we don’t have.
Amanda Clarke works on putting Pamela Anderson’s peroxide blonde tresses on to the Mail’s Libby Galvin
‘This vest is more usually worn by transgender women or drag artists, so is designed to be worn on a completely flat chest,’ explains Amber — which is probably why I’m struggling for breath.
Amber arranges my swimsuit around the new bosom and sets to work, but we soon realise that the faux collarbone is far too low compared to Pamela’s. My real one is a better match, so Amber takes the shears to the silicone, turning it from a vest to a bandeau and releasing my natural neckline.
She then sets to work tanning my entire body with Tropic Instant Glow Perfecting Leg Serum (£14) in lieu of any help from the British summer so far. Properly applied, not only can you create colour, but shape, using a darker shade of tan to exaggerate my new breasts and increase the muscle tone in my thighs (something Pammy had naturally from running in slo-mo along the beach so often).
Amber continues the contouring with a mixture of foundations, powder and deft brushwork to make the line between my real chest and Pamela’s melt away.
‘Ideally we would use a mixture of airbrush and hand-painted brushwork, and use a sort of putty to blend the line between real skin and prosthetic, but we will have to rely on good lighting to do a little bit of the work here,’ Amber says.
The two-hour process feels arduous, but is nothing to Lily’s five hours in the chair, or the marathon sessions Amber tells me about: ‘On one film, we had to do seven hours of make-up to start shooting at 9am, so we began at 2am — then had to take it off again. The removal took two hours.’
By comparison, my new teeth and nails are easy — temporary veneers from Amazon (£16) are fitted like a gum guard, by dropping them into hot water for a minute then biting to mould them. My square-tipped French manicure (as worn by every woman from the early 1990s to mid Noughties) is from Boots, and the acrylics press on easily with glue.
The Mail’s Libby Galvin was transformed into Pamela Anderson in just a mere seven hours
In the event, I soon spit out my teeth — they look much more Katie Price than Pamela Anderson, and we don’t want to get our glamour models mixed up.
When I catch a glimpse in the mirror, I hardly recognise myself. Who is this mahogany-skinned, pneumatic woman?
Donning the peroxide wig
Yet my dark hair remains a dead giveaway. Which brings us to the blonde wig. Hulu’s hair stylist Erica Adams decided against bleaching Lily’s hair and instead sourced several £500 peroxide wigs. That might sound expensive but, for a real hair wig, it’s cheap indeed.
‘A good one would cost around £3,000,’ says Amanda Clarke, who not only works miracles with make-up but was a wig mistress in London’s West End. She has hired a selection from The Wig Store, known for supplying hairpieces to BBC costume dramas. Perhaps Lily has even used one of theirs in a former role…
Amanda quickly pin-curls my hair into tight little knots (‘We use these as anchors for the wig,’ she says) before popping a beige stocking cap over the top. It’s far from my best look and I’m grateful when the blonde hairpiece hovers into view and is eased on to my skull-capped head.
An age of teasing, primping, weaving, moussing, spraying, scrunching and tonging ensues to get the tresses to exactly the right level of straggly yet sexy perfection.
Amanda even works a little brown hair powder into the roots to create the ‘grown out’ peroxide look, adding authenticity with a few clever dabs of colour.
And just like that, a mere seven hours later, I’m a camera-ready Pam.
Already missing the wow factor
Baywatch harbours all sorts of fond memories for me, from watching it on grainy terrestrial TV to hearing the theme tune play weekly in my university nightclub (at the opening bars, every bloke in the building would whip off their top and swing it around their heads, as if they were about to dive into the surf rather than paddle across a sweaty dancefloor).
And yet, never had I imagined looking like Pamela Anderson, or envied her body — so far from my own it was never even a goal.
Now, though? The largesse of my new chest makes the rest of me feel dainty, and the bronzed body and bright hair provide a wow factor I’m entirely unused to.
As I wriggle out of my second-skin decollete and turn the bathwater brown removing Pam’s tan, I have to admit, I already miss it.