Pamela Anderson Names Hugh Hefner as Someone Who Treated Her with Complete Respect in Her Life

After Playboy founder Hugh Hefner died in 2017, Pamela Anderson paid tribute to him and said he "taught me everything important about freedom and respect"

Hugh Hefner and Pamela Anderson during Playboy's 50th Anniversary Celebration in New York City - Inside at New York Armory in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by Theo Wargo/WireImage)
Hugh Hefner and Pamela Anderson in 2003. Photo: Theo Wargo/WireImage

Pamela Anderson felt total respect from Hugh Hefner.

The model/actress was asked at one point in her interview with the U.K.'s The Sunday Times "if anyone has ever treated her with complete and utter respect" over the course of her life and career. After thinking a moment, she replied, "Hugh Hefner."

Anderson, who was 22 when she first posed on the cover of Playboy in 1989, recalled getting the call that founder/editor Hefner, who died in 2017 at 91, wanted to fly her to Los Angeles to be in the magazine.

"I was painfully shy and I hated that feeling. That's why I did it. I just didn't want that feeling any more. Doing that first photoshoot gave me this little kind of portal on what it felt like to be a sensual woman. My sexuality was mine. I took my power back," said Anderson, who went on to appear on the cover a total of 14 times.

She recently told PEOPLE of doing the Playboy gig, "I needed to take my power back as a sexual being, as a woman. I remember looking at the pictures, thinking I still didn't like them but they're okay. And then I thought, 'Well, I really flipped the script.' "

Pamela Anderson and Hugh Hefner (Photo by Laurence Cottrell/FilmMagic)
Pamela Anderson and Hugh Hefner. Laurence Cottrell/FilmMagic

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"On one hand I was vulnerable," she added, "but I also felt how could it be any worse than where I was? And if I have a choice with my own body I'm going to take it. I'm going to chose for myself."

Anderson paid tribute to Hefner after his death in 2017, writing on Instagram at the time in a since-deleted post, "I am me because of you. You taught me everything important about freedom and respect. Outside of my family. You were the most important person in my life."

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The Baywatch star continued, "You gave me my life," and also added, "Everything anyone loves about me is because you understood me. Accepted me and encouraged me to be myself. Love like no one else. Live recklessly With unfiltered abandon. You said the magazine was about a girl like me. That I embody the spirit you fantasized about. I was the one. You said."

(Hefner has had multiple allegations of sexual assault, as well as accusations of cultivating a culture of sexual predation at his clubs and properties.)

Anderson's new memoir, Love, Pamela and Netflix documentary, Pamela, a Love Story, are both out Tuesday, Jan. 31.

She told PEOPLE she hopes fans will find the book "empowering." Said Anderson, "It's kind of like the beginning of understanding my entire life." Most of all, she said, "I wanted to make sure it was from the heart."

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