Tami Erin’s iconic turn as the free-spirited Pippi Longstocking has been both inspirational and endearing to generations of young ladies who want to grow up to be like Pippi. Erin’s success, however, is not only measured by the lives she has touched through her character – but the lives she is changing with her philanthropy. Not bad for the girl who always wanted to be a movie star.
“When I was five I would walk around the house saying I wanted to be a movie star,” she recalled. “I was just a ‘Barbie doll’ little girl who would flip my hair and prance around and that’s what I thought a movie star was. My parents would tell me, ‘Everyone wants to be a movie star,’ but I was meant to do it – it all happened so quickly and easily that I knew it was what I was meant to do.”
Before getting to the big screen, Erin was one of the world’s most recognizable child models – appearing in a variety of national and international campaigns.
Erin signed on with Elite Model Management – arguably the world’s largest modeling management firm. One week after signing on, Erin was in her first national campaign and hasn’t stopped moving forward.
“Modeling with Elite and my movies have taken me all over the world. I’ve traveled to 14 countries and over 35 states in the U.S. and spent time with Kings, Queens, and Princesses” she explained. “I love it, and the life I have is a direct result of all the opportunities that I have been given and taken a hold of.”
One of the opportunities afforded to Erin was her audition for the role of Pippilotta Delicatessa Windowshade Longstocking – a character that would change Erin’s life. “It was actually my first movie audition when I went to meet Garrison True – he discovered Aileen Quinn (‘Annie’),” she said. “I was very shy as a child – and I flew in for the audition and my mom just asked me to sing out loud, in front of everyone, ‘Tomorrow’. It was good for me and it opened me up. I didn’t find out until years later that after Garrison and I played a couple of scenes and I had left, he called Ken Annakin on the phone and said, ‘I think we found her.’ And that was with Garrison going to Paris, London, Japan and all over the world looking for Pippi. It was amazing because Ken became my second dad and such an important part of my life since I was 11. When Ken told me I got the job I just jumped into his arms – I was so happy; I was finally a movie star.”
When “The New Adventures of Pippi Longstocking” was released 25 years ago, few could have foreseen the longevity the movie would have – with Erin having no doubts at all.
“The movie is such a gem, a true classic,” she beamed. “I love it so much. I love the character, I love what she stands for – she always comes out on top and she’s strong – the embodiment of girl power.”
Another fun memory for Erin is the freedom she had at such a young age while filming. “One of the things I look back on is how fortunate I am was,” she said. “To be on a private plane, to be in a Presidential Suite all by yourself, to order what you want, to jump on the bed and to have people giving you gifts all the time is like heaven.”
Fortune would also favor Erin when she headed to Japan for the premiere of the movie as a guest of another free-spirited young lady – Princess Nori.
“I went to Japan for the Royal World Premiere as a guest of Princess Nori,” Erin stated. “She and I just hit it off and started talking about fashion and burgers. Sitting there with Princess Nori at the premiere of the movie in a theater of thousands of people I just kept thinking, ‘Exactly!’ I had just given her a doll in my own image, I sang acapella for everyone and now they were showing my movie. I am a movie star. It was overwhelming in a positive way.”
While Erin may not have seen the similarities between herself and Pippi, there were two people who did: Erin’s acting coach – the legendary Jeff Corey – and Pippi Longstocking author Astrid Lindgren.
“I met with Jeff to go over the script and he had an amazing ability to teach the craft of acting in a very usable way,” Erin explained. “It was magical to watch him. Working with Jeff showed me how much of Pippi is who I am and how little difference there is between Pippi and me. Astrid Lindgren actually called me Pippi when we met – and for her to have called me Pippi was very sweet.”
Furthering her connections to Pippi, Erin also saw Pippi merchandise – in Erin’s likeness – flying off shelves, with a lot of it ending up with Erin.
“I have one of the largest Pippi Longstocking memorabilia collection in the world,” she said. “I went to a toy fair and Hasbro had an artist create a doll in my likeness. It’s a great accomplishment to have your own doll and clothing line and to have endorsements like Aqua Fresh and Hostess. The clothing line was initially for charity to help disadvantaged children and it was so successful that I started to do it as a business.”
Helping children seems to be a perfect fit for Erin, who has used her fame as a means to raise awareness for a number of charities throughout the years.
“When I became the United Nations Ambassador I was educated about the hunger, education and wartime issues that children face globally,” Erin stated. “As I’m living this extremely privileged life, I’m learning about the struggles children face and I was so fortunate to use my fame to help. That’s where my journey in philanthropy began. I always felt I was lucky and I have to help. I love what I do and this is part of my responsibility of being a movie star. It’s easy to be a star and take things for granted or take things for yourself. Yes, I am a movie star; but I was raised to be an amazing person. You can’t just prance around and pretend everything is fantastic in the world if you know you can do more. I was encouraged to give back. It’s something from my heart to the world.”
Tami Erin’s gifts to the world have been plentiful and the actress/singer/philanthropist will continue to give back as much as she can – even as she prepares her next (top secret) projects. One thing Tami Erin recognizes is that she has worked to get to this point and she is truly thankful for everything she has earned.
“My career has been a blessing,” she said. “I feel fortunate to be able to share my story. It’s phenomenal to know people all over the world enjoy my work and that Pippi brings them happiness. It really is so beautiful and I’m happy and incredibly grateful.”