It’s also worth noting that Pam was decidedly different from the other Black female protagonists on TV at the time. Clair Huxtable, Harriette Winslow and Vivian Banks (to name a few) were strong-willed, but also carefully poised and likely to reel their anger in before they reached their tipping point. Then there were problematic characters, like Sanford and Son's Aunt Esther—the ill-tempered church-goer who was always angry and ready for a fight. Pam, on the other hand, wasn’t bitter. She simply stepped into a room and, regardless of what others thought, decided to be authentic, even if that meant raising her voice (or fists, if the situation called for it). For an introverted kid from Brooklyn, terrified of confrontation, this taught me that I’m also entitled to my anger, even if others may see it as disruptive.
As I got older, I grew more appreciative of Pam’s unfiltered comments and strong sense of self. Pam went from working at a boutique to working alongside Gina at a successful PR firm, and whether she had a man or not, she knew her worth. This isn’t to say that there weren’t cracks in her armor; She certainly made questionable decisions when it came to love (like agreeing to marry an older man that she barely knew). But even these mistakes felt well-rounded and intentionally flawed—certainly nothing she needed to apologize for.
Given my quiet nature, I never saw much of myself in this firecracker character, but she did serve as a catalyst that helped me break out of my own shell. Pam showed me that others’ opinions are not nearly as important as how I see myself. She reminded me that Black women are entitled to their anger. That we can be “extra” or “loud” and still be feminine, sexy and confident. She proved that we can speak our minds, yet still be deserving of dignity and respect.
Did I eventually blossom into an outspoken fashionista who can breeze past every insult? Well, not exactly. But I can say that Pam helped shape who I am and how I view the world. I know that my emotions—including my anger—are valid. And I’d even like to think I’ve learned to dress a little better, thanks to her subtle guidance. (Though you probably won’t catch me rocking a mini skirt and matching crop top any time soon.)