With a career as expansive and notable as actress’ Gena Lee Nolin, it’s hard to imagine the star could have a more impressive second act up her sleeve. But with her iconic “Baywatch” and “Sheena” days behind her, Nolin has managed to step into perhaps her most meaningful role yet—acting as a health advocate for those struggling with thyroid disease (and even producing a podcast and New York Times bestselling book on the subject, in the process).
Nolin first rose to fame in the 90’s for portraying the character of Neely Capshaw in the original “Baywatch” series—a show which remains a pop culture staple even 33 years on since its first episode premiered.
With Nolin’s roots now firmly settled in the Valley, and a slew of accomplishments in the health advocacy space under her belt, the star feels more at home with herself than ever before.
“The last couple of years, I’ve really started to appreciate more about myself, about my body and all that it does for me,” says Nolin. “It gives me the energy to be with my kids, my husband, my family and friends. And right now, that’s what it’s all about for me.”
Fabulous Arizona had the chance to chat with Nolin about revisiting her “Baywatch” days in the upcoming documentary, navigating her journey with thyroid disease, and what fans can expect from her new book. [This interview has been edited for length and clarity.]
I understand that you have been in production for the reboot of “Baywatch.” How has it been getting to revisit a project that was obviously such a huge part of your life?
There is a reboot that is being discussed and there’s a few different things that are going on production-wise—with a documentary and then a reboot of the actual show 20-plus years later. In the original storyline, I was married to David Hasselhoff and we [our characters] had a baby. Right now, we’re just kicking around different ideas and storylines—it’s kind of under the radar, but it’s exciting. In terms of actually reviving the show and opening all of this up again, it feels similar to doing a sequel—you just never know if it’s better to leave something alone. Regardless, it’s definitely a lot of fun to reconnect with everybody.
What do you think it is about “Baywatch” in particular that still makes it so iconic and relevant, even all these years later?
I think the show was just such a singular moment in pop culture. Timing is everything and “Baywatch” just hit at the right moment in time. It was something that made so many people happy in so many different countries. It wasn’t Shakespeare, but it was fun. And I think it made people feel like they could escape their everyday life, even if just for an hour.
Beyond being an incredibly talented actress, you’ve really evolved into being such an influential health and wellness advocate for thyroid disease. I’m curious—what would you say is the biggest misconception about navigating life while living with that condition? And what’s been the biggest thing that you’ve discovered since being diagnosed?
The first thing I would say is to listen to your body. When there’s something wrong or something doesn’t feel right, it’s most likely not. Don’t take no for an answer, because there’s a lot of doctors who claimed I was fine—when looking back, I wasn’t. I really took it upon myself to acknowledge that there was something wrong and when I was finally diagnosed, it was such a relief. When you have a platform, it’s vital that you share your information and your story because it’s human and it’s something people can relate to.
So much of your inspiration for adapting a healthier lifestyle, I understand, really just stemmed from that diagnosis. How would you say your approach to health and wellness has changed the most since being diagnosed?
I think it’s just given me a completely different lease on life. You take things for granted in your younger years and you just assume everything’s going to be fine. But then when something really shakes you up, it just brings more awareness and wisdom to the value in eating properly, exercising and really having the self-love that I didn’t necessarily have in my 20’s.
Between the diverse wellness scene and the great weather that we have here in Arizona, the Valley really is such a prime destination for embracing that cleaner, more natural lifestyle. I’ve heard that you actually have an edible backyard where you grow a lot of your own produce. Can you tell me more about that?
It’s amazing—when we bought our house, the woman who lived here before us, she started this huge garden with orange and lemon trees, limes, pomegranates, figs and tangerines. Like you name it, we have it! [LAUGHS] I really don’t have a green thumb, but I kind of committed to taking it over. It’s so handy to be able to look to Mother Earth for your food, especially while I’m cooking.
You’re also a New York Times bestselling author thanks to your book “Beautiful: Inside and Out.” What inspired you to want to put your pen to paper and explore your journey through writing?
I think it came from a desire to just share my story, while also realizing that the beginning of my health journey (and things really not feeling right) started with “Baywatch.” I knew something was wrong and it was such a journey chasing doctors, just trying to justify what I was going through. Ultimately, I wanted to share that story. I’d started by creating a support page called “Thyroid Sexy”—rather ironically, because it was really the most unsexy I’d ever felt in my life. I didn’t have an answer to what was going on, I felt so low and lost—and I didn’t really have anyone to talk to you about it. So, that’s when I started the page. Then Simon & Schuster reached out about writing a book, and I jumped at the opportunity. It was really liberating!
As a final question for you, I understand that you’re working on a follow-up book to your best-selling debut “Beautiful: Inside and Out.” Are there any details that you can share with us about that project? Or are there any other upcoming ventures that you’re particularly excited about?
The book that I’m currently working on isn’t just about health and wellness—it’s more about beauty, skincare, taking care of yourself and also just looking inward. My entire life, I’ve looked outward—I’ve always been focused on how I look. Am I thin enough? Am I pretty enough? It’s always been very exterior. And now I’m getting into what makes you beautiful inside. And I think that’s really important. As we get older, we see that there’s so much more to who we are than just what’s on the outside. Life is really more about internal beauty and owning yourself exactly where you are. I can’t share much more, but I’m excited for people to read it and connect with it!
For more information on Gena Lee Nolin and her advocacy work with Thyroid disease, visit her “Thyroid Sexy” support page.