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Of all the iconic looks worn on Hollywood red carpets in the ’90s, Pamela Anderson’s 1999 MTV Video Music Awards hat remains one of the most memorable. In attendance alongside her ex-husband Tommy Lee, the actress donned a white corset, sequined pants and, most notably, a giant pink feathered hat — a look that has been paid homage over the years by the likes of Kim Kardashian, Kelly Ripa and Kacey Musgraves. Over 20 years later, just ahead of the premiere of Hulu’s Pam and Tommy series, The Hollywood Reporter spoke with the woman behind the accessory, Ivy Supersonic, who also designed similar feathered cowboy hats for Lee’s Methods of Mayhem music video for “Get Naked.”
It was 1998, at a party at the Playboy Mansion, when Supersonic first met Lee. As Supersonic remembers it, the Mötley Crüe drummer had just gotten out of jail — a six-month sentence for battery against then-wife Anderson — and despite Lee and Anderson’s infamous sex tape leaking just a few years prior, Supersonic didn’t know much about the rockstar.
“I really wasn’t familiar with Tommy,” the designer says. She later confirmed that she had never seen the sex tape, either.
That night, Supersonic was attending the Playboy party with her boyfriend at the time, Slick Fifty drummer Jesse Dylan Baird, who arrived donning one of Supersonic’s iconic feathered cowboy hats.
The Mötley Crüe drummer liked the feathered hat so much that Baird offered it to him right then and there. “I was a little peeved,” Supersonic recalls, in reaction to Baird giving her hat away. “But that was his idol. What was I gonna say?”
And that was that.
That is, until Supersonic received a surprise call from Lee, who was in need of another hat.
“He was like, ‘Yo, what up, dude? It’s Tommy Lee,'” she says of the call. “He’s like, ‘You know, I love this hat, but I have dreads and I’m growing out of it. It doesn’t fit me.'” Supersonic — who was heading to L.A. soon after — offered to meet Lee so he could pick out some of her other hat designs.
From then on, Supersonic and Lee cultivated a friendship — one where Supersonic always had a hat on-hand for him.
“Whenever he had a girlfriend, I would make her a hat,” Supersonic says.
In 1999, Lee temporarily quit as Mötley Crüe’s drummer, and started his own rap-metal band, Methods of Mayhem, whose tracks would feature the likes of Fred Durst, The Crystal Method, U-God, Kid Rock, Snoop Dogg, Lil’ Kim, George Clinton and Mix Master Mike. That same year, Methods of Mayhem released the track “Get Naked,” which partly chronicled the stolen sex tape incident. Lee apparently wrote the song while in prison. “He would write the lyrics, and then he would call his home and drop the lyrics on his voicemail,” Supersonic says.
In need of some accessories for himself and his back-up dancers, Lee enlisted Supersonic to design some feather cowboy hats for the “Get Naked” music video — an opportunity that led to the creation of one of Supersonic’s most recognizable hats.
“Pam just saw the whole thing with the hats [in the “Get Naked” video], and she came up to me and said, ‘Hey, so I’m [presenting at] the [VMAs] next week. Could you make me a pink feathered cowboy hat?’” Supersonic remembers. “I made her this pink feathered — I can’t really call it a cowboy hat — it was just an Ivy Supersonic feathered hat. It was very big, pink and fluffy. I thought that she would like it, and I was hoping she would.”
The hat in question went on to become an iconic look for Anderson, with Kardashian West dressing up as her for Halloween in 2018. (Anderson wrote on her Instagram in response: “So funny …. @kimkardashian as me for #halloween @mtv awards (what was I thinking?) ha.”) Ripa wore a mondo-sized version of the hat in 2003 and Musgraves wore a look that some considered an homage (in purple) at the 2021 VMA’s.
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“So I [made the hat] and I didn’t really know what to expect because, well, you know, Tommy wasn’t always dating Pam,” the designer says. Indeed, Lee and Anderson had been divorced since 1998. “And so I gave the [pink] hat [to Tommy] and he was like, ‘Oh dude, it’s sick. Pam’s gonna love it.’”
It was at that moment that Lee also decided he would go naked to the VMAs — building on the theme of his “Get Naked” song — under a trench coat, alongside Anderson in her fluffy pink hat.
“I was like, ‘Well, your song is about getting naked. So you gotta just go naked, get a trench coat at Barney’s,” Supersonic recalls. “He wore Burberry.”
As for the awards show itself, Supersonic stayed home that night, unsure if Anderson would end up wearing her hat. “I just sat home in my studio apartment on Irving Place at the Zeckendorf Towers and watched it on this small little TV that my cousin gave me,” she remembers. “I was like, I just can’t go with them because I don’t wanna take that chance that she’ll feel like I’m taking the spotlight.” Upon seeing Anderson wearing the hat, Supersonic was stoked. “Dude, she wore it! I was like, that’s dope.”
The next day, Anderson appeared on Live! With Regis and Kelly. When the actress was asked about her fluffy pink hat of the evening prior, she called out Supersonic for making her the accessory.
“She said, ‘My friend Ivy Supersonic made me that hat,’ which was really great,” Supersonic remembers. “[Later] in 2003, Kelly [Ripa’s] producer called me and said, ‘Kelly wants to be Pam Anderson for Halloween. Could you lend Kelly a hat?’”
In her career as a hat-designer, Supersonic also remembers receiving a call from Paris Hilton once in the late ’90s. “She wanted to get a hat, and I said $2,000, and then I just heard ‘click.’” Unbeknownst to Supersonic, Hilton was likely still just a teenager at the time.
These days, Supersonic notes that she’s still in touch with Lee. “I still talk to Tommy, yeah,” she confirms. As for the Hulu show that recounts the events of the couple’s infamous stolen sex tape, Supersonic is looking forward to seeing it.
“I’m so excited to watch it,” the designer says of the show. “I don’t know if my hat is in it, I mean, I would hope it is. I don’t know how that works. But Tommy and Pam — they were the ‘It’ couple then; I guess they’re gonna be the ‘It’ couple forever.”
In regard to the costume designs on the show for Anderson and Lee (played by Lily James and Sebastian Stan, respectively), Supersonic says she was never approached for any insight or use of her hat designs.
Nevertheless, Supersonic says of the series, “I think it’s gonna be amazing. But I feel really badly for Pam. That’s such a personal thing, something so terrible to happen to somebody. And now she has to relive this whole thing.”
“People probably think because [Pam] was on the cover of Playboy so many times — like the most ever — that it’s OK. That for some reason, they could take that liberty and it’s fine. But, I don’t think it’s fine,” she adds about the release of the sex tape.
Pam and Tommy premieres on Hulu on Feb. 2.
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