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Busier than Ever

Actress Gena Lee Nolin on iconic acting roles, to being a health advocate, to family—and yes, those 'Gena-isms'

Article by Michelle Glicksman

Photography by Tracy Ann Battaglia/Fully Alive Photography

Originally published in Scottsdale City Lifestyle

Makeup Tamara Bickley of Makeup Artistry by Tamara, LLC

Hair Catherine Sorrentino of Vjordan Salon

Styling VICI

Furniture Dang Fine Rentals & Design

Photographed at Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale

Well holy buckets of fire is Gena Lee Nolin busy.

I caught up with her recently to see what the Scottsdale resident and iconic actress—yes, of Baywatch fame—has been up to.

Our conversation was long, not only because there was a lot to cover, but because we frequently went off on tangents about life, kids, and more—and because we were laughing. Nolin is open, honest, relatable, and funny. And yes, spend any time talking with her and you’ll be frequently treated to the “Gena-isms” that she offhandedly sprinkles into many of her conversations—terms like “Holy buckets of fire,” “slow as molasses in January,” “good gravy,” and “heavenly days”—which are nods to her Minnesota background, as well as her playful personality and sense of humor.

For Nolin, whose acting career ranges from her turn as one of Barker’s Beauties on The Price is Right to her role as Neely Capshaw on Baywatch to Sheena on Sheena, and more, life is about so much more than just the roles she plays. It’s about helping others and making the world a better place.

Making an Impact

“Whether with friends or family, whether it’s personal or professional, I just want to lighten the mood, and make others feel good,” she says. “And plus, right now, we’re living in such a dark and uncertain world, and I think it’s just so important to put a smile on other people’s faces. Even in the drive-thru at Starbucks, I’ll crack a joke before they can, or give a compliment, or pay for the order behind me. There isn’t enough of that going around the world.”

Although most people know Nolin for her famous red bathing suit, she also wants to be just as known for the work she does now.

“I was so blessed to be a part of something so iconic and I never took it for granted,” she says. “But, I always knew that there was a day it would be over.”

Of course, that doesn’t mean she’s given up acting. Far from it, in fact. She has a number of projects in the works, although some have been pushed to later this year due to the pandemic. There’s a Baywatch documentary that is tentatively scheduled to air in February, a Baywatch reboot with Neely Capshaw, and a soon-to-be announced big television show.

Beyond acting projects, Nolin is also a fierce health advocate and a bestselling author—a role she comes to with personal experience.

After a series of misdiagnoses, in 2009, she was finally diagnosed with Hashimoto’s and hypothyroidism. Her experiences led her to want to help others through the process, and so she founded Thyroid Sexy, which has a social media presence where she shares her journey, information about the conditions, and provides resources. She also co-authored her first book, along with Mary J. Shomon, called Beautiful Inside & Out: Conquering Thyroid Disease with a healthy, happy, “Thyroid Sexy” Life. Published by Simon & Schuster, it landed at #1 on Amazon and Barnes & Noble Top 5 Health Books.

Nolin is currently writing on her second book, also with Simon & Schuster, which will include new things she’s learned to help with health, nutrition, and how to live your best life.

Changing Perspectives

After years of needing to look a certain way for the camera and dealing with these conditions, Nolin has finally learned to look at her body in a new, healthier way.

“I’ve always felt this obligation to look a certain way, be a certain way, and I’ve really let that go,” she explains. “Being healthy is number one for my family. If I look great in the process after taking care of myself, taking care of my health, taking care of my skin, well, that’s a bonus.

“When people run into me, I’d like them to say I loved your book or I helped them with their thyroid, or I found a doctor because of you before they say I look great for my age. To me, making a difference like that in other people’s lives is so worthwhile, and much greater than fame or being on TV.”

New Collaborations

To that end, Nolin recently took an entirely new first step—she’s collaborating with Dr. Scott Gerrish, owner of Scottsdale’s Gerrish MedEsthetics.

“This is the place and person I want to collaborate with and make a difference,” she explains. “He is someone who is all about working together for a healthier approach. What was special to me with Dr. Gerrish is that his approach to healing and beauty is from the inside out.”

Gerrish offers various medspa treatments, and focuses on maintaining natural beauty without undergoing surgery.

“I’m not against plastic surgery whatsoever,” she says, “But I’d rather do a more holistic, healthy approach to looking my best first, for as long as I can.”

She’s also promotes mental health awareness, and is involved with the Imperfectly Perfect campaign.

Beyond health, Nolin is a brand ambassador for clothing brand VICI, an accessible, high-quality clothing line. She began as a customer, and was so impressed with the quality that she began talking about it on social media. When the company saw, they quickly reached out to collaborate.

Her Top Priority

Even though Nolin juggles all of this on her plate, the one thing that always comes first is her family.

She and her husband, former NHL player Cale Hulse, first met on a blind date, and have now been married going on 18 years.

“We were set up on a blind date at a Starbucks, and four hours later, after a genuine, intelligent conversation, I knew I’d be having a second date with him,” she says, describing him as a “Really, really kind, genuine man who has integrity and loyalty. He’s a wonderful father—I’ve never seen anyone love his children so fiercely. He’s present with me, with our children, with his job, with his friends—he’s that guy.”

She’s also very involved in her children’s lives. Her oldest son, Spencer, was in film school in California and is now working in the industry; her middle son, Hudson, loves art and sports; and her daughter, Stella, is following in her father’s footsteps and loves to play hockey.

When asked what she loves about motherhood, Nolin says, “Everything. I love everything. The good days, the challenging days, and the days in-between. I love the chaos and I love the cuddles.

“I think the biggest lesson I’ve learned as a mother is that you can’t control them. You can guide them, advise them, and be there for them, but at the end of the day, they’re going to follow their own passions, and as parents, that’s where we have to step back and just watch, through the good and bad, and be a safe place for them to land.”

Being a Support

For Nolin, it goes back to making people feel good. She wants to give her kids the support to be themselves and to feel good about themselves, just like she does to others.

“My advice to people is that it’s never too late to do what you love. Follow your dreams. Do what you love, and most importantly, make an impact on someone else’s life. Smile at somebody at the grocery store. Give a compliment. Do whatever you can do. It’s just human kindness, and that’s what we need more than ever.”

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