When it came time to finally share her story, Pamela Anderson says it was her two sons, Brandon, 26, and Dylan, 25, who convinced her to do so. “They were the ones who encouraged me to tell my story,” she says of her two boys from her marriage to rocker Tommy Lee.
In her new memoir, Love, Pamela, excerpted exclusively in this week’s PEOPLE, and a new Netflix documentary, Pamela: a Love Story, both out Jan. 31, she candidly shares all they went through together, both the good and the bad.
“Brandon and Dylan are true miracles, considering their gene pool,” she writes. “They have been through so much, yet they are not full of holes.”
Anderson, 55, reveals the toll that the 1995 theft of her and Lee’s personal tapes (which were made into a sex tape and sold without their permission) took on their marriage and the relentless attention that came with it.
“We dealt with it the best way we knew how and some of it got crazy,” she says. “And Tommy and I, between the two of us, I don’t think we had the maturity level to really handle it all.”
After Lee was charged with spousal abuse in 1998, she filed for divorce.
Looking back, Anderson says, “I think we really let our kids down. And that’s something it’s really hard for me to forgive myself about. We should have found a way through it. I couldn’t accept any kind of violent maneuver. It was my childhood fears coming out. I didn’t want that for my kids and as much as I loved Tommy more than anything in the world, I loved my kids more.”
In the months and years that followed, she focused on raising their boys. “They saved me,” she says. “I don’t want to put that on my kids but having children changed everything. I’ve loved every moment.”
Now that they’re grown, she marvels at their talents and tenacity. “Brandon is really creative and is this fiery kind of kid. Dylan is more introspective and more Zen. It’s a good team.”
In turn, her sons played a key role in her new documentary. “We didn’t want to make a talking heads film,” says Ryan White, director of Pamela, a Love Story, “so the only people we speak in the film are Pamela’s parents and Brandon and Dylan. The question of what’s it like to grow up as Pamela Anderson’s son fascinated me as a storyteller. It turns out she’s a damn good mother.”