When photos of Lily James as Pamela Anderson first emerged from the set of Pam & Tommy, they caused what you might call "a bit of a stir" online. Not just for James's spot-on transformation, the you-have-to-see-it-to-believe-it stills from set felt distinctly of the moment, looking right at home on fashionable Instagram feeds already inundated with inspiration from the couple's late-'90s heydey. The star's signature pout, for example, mirrored the lip combos you might stumble across on TikTok. Her hair looked right out of a fluffy supermodel hair hot rollers tutorial. And, of course, Pam's thin brows foreshadow the inescapable evolution towards beauty maximalism and glam in 2022 after years of embracing a "barely there" makeup aesthetic.
As far as pop culture beauty inspiration goes, Pamela Anderson's aughts-90s cusp style fits squarely within the current paradigm shift. From Miu Miu's divisive ultra-mini to the return of lip gloss, Y2K trends have taken over runways, street style, and now, thanks to Pam & Tommy, our streaming services.
Ahead, we're digging in with a behind-the-scenes look with Pam & Tommy's hair and makeup leads, Barry Lee Moe and David Williams.
Naturally, both artists pulled inspiration from Pam's robust archive of red carpet appearances, Baywatch episodes, and work with Alexis Vogel, the Hollywood beauty pro responsible for Pam's signature bombshell look. "I did find a lot of behind-the-scenes photos that showed her working with Pam," says Moe of Vogel, who sadly passed away before the show's development. "From hot roller sets to seeing photos of her doing Pam's makeup, there was a plethora of images from their time together. So, that was always my inspiration that I kept around me throughout the process."
Williams also cites Vogel as an important source in his research process. "When Alexis got ahold of her, she really became the blond bombshell that we know of as Pam," he explains. "And, I wanted to honor that look."
As the pros tell it, channeling the recent past takes a bit of trial and error. For James's hair, Moe used unconventional methods to make the star's wigs look every bit Pam. "I looked at such a variety of images, but I also read articles from Pam," Moe explains. "She stated publicly that she's always colored her own hair using drugstore products." That particular detail spurred research on what shades of blonde would've been available in drugstores at the time—and concocting the perfect multidimensional approach to recreate that color. "We ended up using four different shades of blonde that were blended throughout the whole way to give it dimensionality, but also that overall kind of bombshell platinum color," says Moe.
Williams embraced product authenticity as well. "In this particular piece in the '90s, I absolutely want to use as many products from the period as possible in order to be authentic in the look." The show's breakdown includes favorites like Charlotte Tilbury (a top artist in that time period), Bobbi Brown (another makeup pro who came up in the early aughts), Stila liners, and Tom Ford smoky eye palettes. In short, all artists and brands with staying power that helped shape early '00s beauty trends.
In the end, Moe went back to basics. "I used a lot of the same methods that Pam did back in the day," he explains, citing large Velcro rollers, which "help set their blowouts and really get that lift at the root." In fact, he used tools lifted directly from the time period. "I have a lot of vintage Remington hot rollers from the '80s and '90s in my kit, and there's nothing like those to lock in a set. You can put your hair in rollers completely and then start doing your makeup."
As for the makeup, a few cult favorites helped Williams bring the character to life. The secret to Pam's signature pout? Charlotte Tilbury's Pillow Talk ($24), of course. "It's a great color that works on just about every woman," says Williams. The "slightly overdrawn lip of the '90s" was absolutely key to Pam's look, "so getting that lip shape correct was paramount," according to the MUA.
The final hair and makeup creations helped James capture Pam's essence on set. "So much of Pam Anderson is her hair," Moe explains. "She used it so well—she was such a hair person. In every interview, she was always flipping her hair, tossing it around. And I think it served as protection for her sometimes."
A pivotal scene—in which Pam and Tommy first meet at a party in Mexico—was the moment when it all came together for Lily James. "You just saw her come to life as soon as we put her hair up. Something lit up in Lily, and she was like, 'I'm Pam Anderson.'"
As for whether Pam's thin-brows-big-hair aesthetic will translate IRL, Williams is optimistic. "We have had thick, full brows for the better part of more than a decade," he explains. "So, I do think we are going to see things start to shape more, as we move into this part of the millennium." And that's all part of the natural trend cycle. "Oftentimes, you will see in around the second decade of the century is when the new fashions take hold, and I think we are going to start to see big movement in fashion. We're seeing it in clothing right now," he explains. "When you look at designer trends, they are very much diametrically opposed to what has been popular in the past decade." Inevitably, beauty is bound to follow suit.