It was while running on the beach in that iconic Baywatch bathing suit that Gena Lee Nolin, who played Neely Capshaw on the hit TV show (1995-1998), noticed something was off. Despite exercising and eating healthy, the actress – who got her big break as a “Barker Beauty” on The Price is Right – felt sluggish. She would learn years later that she was feeling the early symptoms of thyroid disease, a chronic condition that required her persistence for proper diagnosis and treatment at a time when less was known about its prevalence. “I didn’t even know where the thyroid gland was, at the time,” says Nolin, who lives in Scottsdale with her husband, retired NHL star Cale Hulse, and two teenagers. “It was frustrating and intriguing at the same time.” The former Playboy model’s search for answers prompted her to start an online support group, without revealing her identity, which led to a call from a publisher. After releasing Beautiful Inside and Out: Conquering Thyroid Disease with a Healthy, Happy, “Thyroid Sexy” Life in 2013, Nolin is preparing to release her second book next year.
Did you intend to write a guide for others?
Some of the things in life that we do successfully are accidentally done. Truly, I was so low… I started a support page and didn’t know what to call it. I just wanted somebody to talk to. I thought, “thyroid” and “sexy” [which became the name of the group]. Because I didn’t feel sexy. It was just a jab at Baywatch and Playboy. From that, the following was so insane. It was just incredible how it all unfolded. I just wanted to help people, I didn’t think it would go any further than that.
Where has it gone?
I was doing the thyroid thing when thyroid wasn’t cool. Now everyone knows. I am just so relieved. It makes me so happy to see people on my support page, or they’ve read my book and it’s helped direct them to help them get to the bottom of their health and wellness… When you get your blood and labs done [now], it’s almost routine to check your thyroid. That wasn’t always the case.
What have you learned?
I say to everybody, “Listen to your body.” If it’s telling you something, keep digging until you find the answer.
What is a thyroid sexy life?
For me, it’s always been about outer beauty and my looks. I was done. I wanted to look in and see the beauty inside. To me, that’s more beautiful than anything. Living a thyroid sexy life is being in sync with your body and being aware when something doesn’t feel right.
How do you like Arizona?
I love being in the outdoors and nature. I fell in love with Arizona 23 years ago, and it’s something I’ve never taken for granted. We’re so lucky to get the best weather almost all year round. How about those gorgeous sunsets? Everywhere you turn, there are amazing hikes, restaurants and interesting people.
How fun was it roasting The Hoff on Comedy Central?
The roast they had for my beloved TV husband, David Hasselhoff, was absolutely hilarious. There wasn’t a comedian that didn’t have some choice words to dig up, but it’s all in good fun. I think it’s over when we start taking ourselves too seriously. I’m still waiting on my roasting call.
Tell us about the new book.
I was so vulnerable writing [the first book], but I said, “Screw it. Let’s talk about the elephant in the room.” Now I’m writing another book about inner beauty and how to change the narrative in your life – just looking inward versus the way I’ve lived the entire first part of my life.