Pamela Anderson returns to make-up – but not as you know it – for The Met

By Jessica Diner

Photo: Getty Images

“I’m so happy it’s this fairy garden theme,” the icon said of the 2024 Met Gala. “My grandfather is Finnish and was really into mythology and fairytales, so I grew up around fairies, nymphs and tree spirits.” In recent times, Anderson has been embracing her Finnish ancestry, and a make-up free face. Until last night's Met Gala, that is

It’s 48 hours before the Met Gala and Pamela Anderson and I are both in our sweats. She is in her hotel room on the Upper East Side, I am on my sofa in London. We are speaking on Zoom to talk about her first Met – and the fact that legendary make-up artist Pat McGrath is creating her beauty look for the occasion. Because tonight – in a departure from the bare-faced beauty movement she has spearheaded on the red carpet virtually single-handedly – Pamela is wearing make-up. But more on that in a moment.


If you have seen her Netflix documentary Pamela, A Love Story, or her make-up free appearances at Paris Fashion Week last autumn and subsequently in campaigns for Proenza Schouler and Re/Done denim, you’ll know that Pamela has become something of a poster girl for a minimalist beauty approach, heralding it as her new era of self-acceptance.

Pamela Anderson in Oscar de la Renta – and make-up by Pat McGrath – at the 2024 Met Gala .

Some months on from that first Paris Fashion Week outing, I asked her if she realised how pivotal it would become – if she could have anticipated the interest that surrounded her decision to face the cameras make-up-free. “I saw it as an authentic, sincere move to free myself from false expectations,” she explains. “It just hit me, especially while I was in Paris, that I’d rather be looking at architecture, going to museums and enjoying being there, rather than sitting in a make-up chair for three hours.”

Anderson insists that she gets more compliments when bare-faced than she ever did wearing foundation and bronzer. “I know it’s cliché, but beauty comes from within – it’s what you believe about yourself,” she says. “I felt like this girl from Vancouver Island in all these fabulous clothes. And when I took that all away… I was just me. That was the feeling that I wanted to get across, and I think that resonates with people.”

So how does she feel now, on the cusp of one of the most high-profile red carpets on the planet, about to sit in Pat McGrath’s make-up chair? “I have spent a lot of my life in make-up,” she says happily, before effusing about McGrath’s work. “I’m so grateful and excited that I get to work with Pat. I know she’s going to take whatever this is [here Anderson gestures towards her beautifully undone face] and polish me up a little bit. We had a long conversation about the way that photography has changed how we wear make-up. In the ’80s and ’90s we wore really strong make-up, and then digital photography came along and, all of a sudden, you look different.”

So how does that pertain to her Met make-up look? Anderson envisioned “something dewy, soft and ethereal. Kind of romantic and approachable – but still ‘done’. I feel like there’s always been this very elegant woman inside of me. And I feel like [the Met Gala] is actually the time I get to be that woman.”

Photo: Pat McGrath Labs

McGrath concurs when we speak just as she is about to meet Pamela at her hotel: “Pam wanted to wear make-up again for the Met Gala, so we created a look that acknowledged her natural beauty, but then took it to the next level. We wanted to explore the next incarnation of natural – an elevation of natural – and to show how you can wear a full face of make-up but in a very fresh and beautiful way,” McGrath continues. “She was in love with the spa-fresh skin I’ve created for the runways, so the basis of her look is this sublimely luminous complexion using our Skin Fetish: Highlighter + Balm Duo, and the beautiful new shades of our Divine Cream Blush: Legendary Glow Color Balm. The rest of her make-up is airy and lively, with a touch of fantasy. On her lips, we’re debuting a brand-new product that’s coming very soon – stay tuned!”

We can’t forget the fashion. Pamela made her Met debut wearing a bespoke Oscar de la Renta dress and Pandora jewellery. “I’ve never worn a dress or jewellery like this – it’s so amazing. It doesn’t feel real, it’s like a fantasy… somewhere in between being awake and being in a dream,” she says. “Fernando [J Garcia, co-creative director for Oscar de la Renta] has been great, as has Pandora. They created custom jewellery for this and it’s all sustainable. 30 years ago when I was looking for sustainable jewellery, there wasn’t anything, and now there is.”

Photo: Getty Images

Anderson’s dream-like experience pertains perfectly to this year’s dress code, ‘The Garden of Time’, and the Sleeping Beauties: Awakening Fashion exhibition at the Costume Institute. “I’m so happy it’s this fairy garden theme,” she said. “My grandfather is Finnish and was really into mythology and fairytales, so I grew up around fairies, nymphs and tree spirits, and finding little toys in my garden… I’ve always lived in this magical fairy world. It’s all coming together.”

The next time we speak, I am once again in my sweats on my laptop at home, but this time Pamela is red-carpet ready. She looks sensational: an ethereal dream in soft pink, with immaculate “Pat perfect” skin and hair whipped up by Orlando Pita. “In the past, I have obviously followed the Met Gala and looked at the beautiful clothes and the beautiful people, and tonight is a pinnacle moment for me,” said Pamela. “I know people not in the industry might think this is superficial – but it really is a dream realised. It’s important to me to be seen as who I really am, and I feel like that is the moment I am in right now. I am so happy, I am going to dance all the way up those stairs!”

And with that she bids me farewell, ending our call as she prepares to go and walk the red carpet, her dream very much a reality.

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