Things you never knew about Pauley Perrette

She starred in one of the biggest shows on network television, but how well do you really know Pauley Perrette, the actress who played forensic specialist Abby Sciuto on NCIS for 15 seasons?

For example, it's pretty clear that Abby's raven locks aren't exactly natural, but did you know that the dye Perrette used to transform into the fan favorite forensic scientist actually caused her to have a severe allergic reaction? Or how about the fact that on top of her acting talents, Perrette also happens to be a singer, entrepreneur, devoted churchgoer, and tireless advocate for a variety of causes?

Yeah, there's a lot more than you probably realize to the actress behind those tattoos and spiked dog collars. In fact, Perrette even has real-life training that probably comes in handy in her role as a brilliant, intrepid crimefighter. Intrigued? You should be. Read on to uncover more things you never knew about Pauley Perrette.

Beauty is pain

Perrette is arguably best known for her NCIS character's signature black hair, but like we just mentioned, that's all make believe. The New Orleans-born actress is actually a natural blonde and for years, Perrette dyed her hair black to maintain her character's look. However, in a 2014 interview with Extra, Perrette revealed that she developed an allergy to black hair dye.

Perette also took to Twitter, sharing a few scary photos (one of them is above) of just how bad the reaction got. "I almost died from Black #HairDyeAllergy," Perrette wrote. Later, speaking with CBS News, Perrette revealed that she had a more minor reaction six months earlier when she "broke out into a rash all over her neck and scalp." This time, she said, "The other half of my face had become twice the size of my head."

The solution ended up being something called Elumen, which Perrette tweeted about, describing it as "an ionic infusion of color, not dye. Based on +ionic magnetic charge not dye Only safe one." Why didn't producers just write it into the show that her character becomes a blonde? 

"I don't think the world is ready for a blonde Abby. I'm not ready for a blonde Abby," Perrette told Queen Latifah. Now, that's dedication to a role right there.

Scone but not forgotten

Perrette is the co-owner of the New York City bakery, Donna Bell's Bake Shop. The Southern-style bakery is named after Perrette's mother, who died of cancer in 2002. The shop opened in 2011, with the help of Perrette's best friends and co-owners, Darren Greenblatt and Matthew Sandusky.

According to the trio's 2015 book of the same name, Donna Bell's Bake Shop started when Greenblatt fell in love with Perrette's mother's cooking after visiting her home during the holidays. After a successful trial run serving up Southern pastries in a food truck, Greenblatt enlisted Perrette's help to open a brick-and-mortar shop in their old neighborhood of Hell's Kitchen in Manhattan. Sandusky, a mutual friend who "worked in the Los Angeles food industry," came on board, and Donna Bell's was born.

With the hectic shooting schedule of NCIS, which tapes in Los Angeles, Perrette isn't able to spend much time with her hands in a mixing bowl in the Big Apple. However, Sandusky told CNBC, "Sometimes I'll send her a text message telling her she has fans in the shop, and she'll call my phone. I'll act like it's a coincidence and I'll go, 'Oh, Pauley is on the phone,' and I'll put her on the speaker and she'll say hi." 

Aw, that's so… sweet. (Sorry.)  

Her marriage sounds like an episode of Law & Order: SVU

Perrette's first and only marriage — to musician and DJ Francis 'Coyote' Shivers — ended dramatically and disastrously in 2004 when the couple decided to split. According to Fox News, Perrette obtained a restraining order against Shivers the same year they divorced. Perrette, along with another ex-wife of Shivers, Bebe Buell, told Fox that he "stalked them and inflicted upon each of them endless mental distress," as well as "terrorized them sexually during their respective relationships." Yet another ex of shivers, former girlfriend Angela Garber, accused him of rape and physical assault.

But the alleged acrimony goes both ways. Shivers, who has been arrested on multiple occasions for violating Perrette's longstanding restraining order, has repeatedly challenged Perrette's claims, even going so far as to file his own lawsuit against her in 2014. In his lawsuit, Shivers claimed Perrette engaged in a "decade-long campaign of harassment … intended to financially, physically, and emotionally ruin [him]." Ultimately, the court dismissed Shivers' lawsuit.

Her punk rock aesthetic makes perfect sense

Perrette used to be the lead singer of the Los Angeles grunge rock band Lo-Ball, which was sort of like Hole meets Orgy. A quick search of the band on YouTube kicks up fascinating songs such as "Lipstick & Aspirin" and "Uncomplicated." The band's song "Can't Get Me Down" was also featured on the soundtrack to the 2001 hit movie Legally Blonde.

Perrette subsequently recorded other songs as well, including "FEAR,"  which was featured on an episode of NCIS. "I wrote this song as a love letter to myself when I was scared," Perrette said. "It has helped thousands of people around the world."

In 2012, she talked to Parade about her musical ambitions, saying, "I was into music before I was an actor." She also told the magazine about a collaboration she was working on, called Stop Making Friends, with D.M.C. from the legendary hip-hop group, Run D.M.C. As if that wasn't impressive enough, she also revealed that she's a photographer and a writer to boot. Does that make her a quadruple threat? We've already lost count.

People kinda like her

Along with co-star Mark Harmon, Pauley Perrette appeared in every single episode of NCIS since its premiere in 2003 through her departure in Season 15. For those keeping score at home: that's 352 episodes. Her work ethic did not go unnoticed by her bosses, NCIS executive producers George Schenck and Frank Cardea, who told CBS News, "From day one, she has brought incredible passion and specificity to the role. Abby is a character that inspires millions of fans around the world, and all of us at NCIS are appreciative of Pauley for portraying her."

TV audiences apparently agree because Perrette has developed a massive fan base. She's consistently been the top-rated female actress on television, according to the ever-popular Q Score. According to The Wrap, Perrette retired from NCIS in the top spot, far ahead of her peers. At one point, she was even rated as high as Tom Hanks and Morgan Freeman in terms of popularity. And that's not to say that a woman couldn't or wouldn't ever be as popular as a male actor, but we feel like standing shoulder to shoulder with Forrest Gump and/or God is an achievement worth mentioning.

A violent attacked changed her life forever

In early November 2015, Perrette was physically assaulted and threatened by a man outside her home in Hollywood Hills, Calif. Shortly after the incident, Perrette described the event on Twitter, writing that a homeless man allegedly "grabbed me so forcefully, pinned my arm, punched me in the nose [and] forehead [...] repeatedly telling me he was going to kill me." She went on to describe the incident as "life changing."

The accused, David Merck, 45, was subsequently charged with felony counts of making a criminal threat and false imprisonment by violence, but was later "found incompetent to stand trial," according to LA Independent. He was then sent to Patton State Hospital for psychiatric treatment.

In February 2018, Fox LA exclusively reported that Merck had been released from the hospital and was back out on the streets. When reached for comment, Perrette refused to talk about it on camera "over fears for her safety," but she did release the following statement: "It changed my life forever. I don't walk outside my house. I think it's entirely possible that the next word I hear about this guy is that he'll kill a female."

Unfortunately, Perrette's ordeal with Merck wasn't the only frightening run-in she'd have with a homeless person.

What are the odds?

In February 2016 — only a few months after she was attacked by a homeless man outside of her own home — she took to Twitter to share the news she had been attacked again by another allegedly homeless person. According to her terrifying account, she was sitting in a row of cars at a stop light when she pulled out a dollar bill to give to the man, who was asking for money from drivers. She waved him over and when she did, he grabbed her wrist, leaned into her car, and demanded to know what time it was.

"He was in my car and I was scared," Perrette wrote. "I looked at my dashboard and first said, 'I rebuke you satan in the name of Jesus Christ,' Then said to him, 'It's 5:37.' He held my wrist for a moment, then released and left. I have a tactical knife and a taser in my car next to me, but I thought about that dollar to give him first. Did not arm myself."

Perrette also wrote that it's a learning process, and that she is more aware than ever that she needs to be smart, safe, and giving, all at the same time. "I am learning," she added at the end of the post.

It's unclear what, if anything, happened to her alleged attacker.

She's a vocal advocate for the homeless

Two months after she was attacked outside of her home, she was back on the streets volunteering with the Los Angeles Police Department. They were trying to get an accurate count of just how many homeless people were living on the city's streets, in hopes of helping the city put together a plan that would allow for the construction of affordable housing for those who are in need.

CNN reported that Perrette's efforts go beyond that, noting that she walked the streets to reassure people they were trying to get funding and made a point to visit those she came to know. One of those people is Raquel, a woman who refuses to leave her spot on the sidewalk, believing she's waiting for her family, long gone. Perrette reportedly does what she can, and even though her repeated attempts at getting Raquel off the street have failed — she refuses to leave, terrified she's going to miss her family's attempts to find her — Perrette continues to stop by to offer a hug and moral support. "They are our brothers and sisters," the actress told CNN. "They all are."

Perrette has also expressed compassion toward the man who was charged for attacking her. "My heart broke for him," she wrote (via E! Online). "My tears that night were for him. I had looked into his eyes. There was nothing there. It seemed like his soul and his humanity were gone. He was out on the street without resources. It was a consequence of our failure as a society to take care of our mentally ill and impaired homeless community."

Single and not even close to ready to mingle

When Perrette announced her engagement to actor and former British Marine Thomas Arklie, she also announced that they wouldn't be getting married until everyone else had the right to marry, too. 

When the Supreme Court ruled in favor of gay marriage, Perrette had this to say (via Fox News): "We have been engaged for four years because we worked for a federal, marriage-equality law, and Friday was the strangest day. My life as a civil rights activist and as a straight ally has been marching, speaking, donating, marching, donating, speaking, marching, speaking, rally, holding poster signs, and then it was over. It was so weird." That was in July 2015, and one thing that Perrette and her husband-to-be didn't do was rush to set their own date. In fact, that wedding day never arrived and, as of this writing, Perrette and Arklie are no longer together.

Though she was open with the press about her engagement, Perrette was nearly radio silent regarding her rumored split with Arklie. In 2018, during a CBS News interview, Perrette finally opened up a bit, saying marriage just wasn't in the cards for her. "Nope. Tried it. Not for me. Not at all," she said. "The best decision I ever made in life" was to remain single. "I don't have to have a boyfriend, or a husband, or a girlfriend, or anything, you know?"

One thing that outlived Perrette's engagement was her LGBTQ activism

Perrette has been a longtime ally of the LGBTQ community, and only a few months before the aforementioned Supreme Court ruling, the actress was on the blue carpet for the 2015 GLAAD Media Awards. When she stopped to chat with After Ellen, she was asked if she had been the target of any hate for her activism. "Absolutely," Perrette said, adding, "I'm proud of it … When I get hit up on Twitter by extremely bigoted people, or extremely bigoted organizations, I'm so proud of myself because I know that I'm doing the right thing. And then I think, who would I be if they liked me? I would be someone I couldn't, shouldn't be around."

Perrette's LGBTQ activism has continued. In 2016, the actress spoke in support of the Los Angeles LGBT Center, noting that its presence in the community creates a safe haven for youth. In a May 2017 tweet, she declared herself "a loud #LGBT activist" who fights "for ALL being discriminated against." It doesn't get any more clear than that, huh?  

Bye, Michael Weatherly, it was nice DiNozzo you

When Michael Weatherly — aka Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo — left NCIS in the Season 13 finale, it was the end of 13 years of working together. While there are a ton of stories about drama behind the scenes and actors hating each other on popular shows, that doesn't appear to be the case on this long-running crime drama.

Perrette tweeted: "Been shooting #NCIS season 13 finale. Don't know when I've cried this much in a long time." Only an hour later, she tweeted again: "My brother. @M_Weatherly Today… just in rehearsal. Tears. This #NCIS episode is amazing. I LOVE YOU MAN!"

As if there was any doubt about just how much Weatherly's exit was going to impact her — and the entire show — she also posted a heartfelt goodbye (coupled with a warm welcome for newcomer Duane Henry.) "I know you all love DiNozzo, but I don't think ANYONE loves him and Michael more than me. He is my brother, my love, my heart."

She cherishes her Southern roots

Pauley Perette is a Southern girl at heart. She spoke to Wane about her childhood growing up in the South and made it clear that she treasures her roots. Born in New Orleans, she said her family moved 13 times, with her father's piece of Alabama property being the only real, regular "solid home base that we've ever had."

For the interview, Perrette even wore a flannel shirt that she says has been kicking around her family since her dad's youth, something that she's kept as a physical reminder of her history. She even shared photographs of her father wearing the same shirt.

According to Perrette, heading to California for a life in front of the camera was not part of her original plan. "My dad is a firefighter and as are all my cousins, and I am incredibly proud of that. But this is all me being out here, and it's a total accident and it's really strange. I am the only person in my family that's in the entertainment industry. And I studied sociology, psychology and criminal science in school, so this was just a complete accident."

She credits (at least, in part) her Southern upbringing for her interest in civil and human rights. Growing up in an area on the front lines of the civil rights movement, she said she was deeply impacted by the words and work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

'My dogs are my happiness'

Perrette isn't just spending her precious spare time helping humans; she's helping animals, too. "Like, my dogs are my happiness," she told CBS News. "They're my reason for living." 

Perrette has shared her home with rescue animals, as well as special needs and senior pets, too. She's also been a fur mama to several cats who lived to the ripe old ages of 20-plus. According to what she told People at the American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards, the key to longevity is "talking to them all the time and giving them that kind of love. They want to stay."

In 2013, the actress went the extra mile to help law enforcement dogs live longer, happier lives too. For her birthday, she asked friends, family, and fans to donate to Kevlar for K9's, an organization that supplies law enforcement and military dogs with Kevlar vests. Her tweets garnered more than 440,000 responses.

She's lost count of her tattoos

Part of Abby's on-screen persona isn't just her black hair. It's her very visible tattoos. According to Parade Magazine, the distinctive spiderweb on her neck is fake, as is the cross on her back. However, some of her real tattoos do make it into the show. In fact, she has so much ink that she's lost track of her total number of tats. 

Her favorite? Something simple on the ring finger of her left hand. "I have the numbers 12:21. That's my favorite Bible verse, Romans 12:21, which is, 'Don't be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.' That's my favorite one and I look at it every day. That's my mantra."

One tattoo she no longer has? A heart shape that used to match a tattoo she got with her then-husband. Though she may regret that one, Perrette is still adding to her body art collection. In 2015, she tweeted her thoughts on a new addition — the words "RIGHT NOW" inked onto her wrist. "To remind me that past and future fears don't matter," she said. "Just Right Now matters."

Giving it up to God

It's not surprising that Pauley Perrette's favorite tattoo is one that refers to a Bible verse because the actress credits her faith with getting her through a lot in life — including that aforementioned attack in 2015. A few days after the incident, E! Online reported that she sought comfort in her congregation. Perrette reportedly attends the Hollywood United Methodist Church, and after her visit to the church, she tweeted: "So so so good to be at church today."

In 2011, the actress talked to the United Methodist Church about her developing faith. She said that even though there were times when she didn't go to church, her faith had always been strong enough to get her through the toughest times. She said talking to God is "like a conversation, it really is." She also said Hollywood Methodist is the place for her. "The faces at the church and in the congregation are every size and shape and color and type, everyone coming together here. And it's so beautiful and I thought, you know, I think that's what God wants Heaven to look like."

Perrette blended her faith with her activism when she spearheaded a movement to revive the Red AIDS Ribbons that hung on the outside of the church as a symbol of solidarity with people suffering from HIV and AIDS. She also "co-preached a sermon about civil rights" with her pastor to champion LGBTQ rights.

Music videos were her gateway to stardom

Perrette's big break in the acting business came through the world of music videos. In an interview with Punk Globe, Perrette said that while working as a bartender, she "overheard a girl say she made $3000 doing a commercial." That sounded like a good deal to Perrette, who eventually found "a director that took a liking to me and put me in a bunch of music videos and commercials."

Although she kind of glosses over that whole "getting a director to take a liking to you" aspect of her career (which is probably the more interesting part of the story,) Perrette did name drop some famous artists that hired her for their videos. "I was in Madonna, George Michael, Salt-n-Pepa — it goes on and on," she told Parade. "Back in the day, they would give us $50 for 12 hours. … I was in so many music videos. It's just hilarious."  

You can catch Perrette delivering a baleful glare and anguished neck rub in the above video for Madonna's "Secret." Sure, it's only a 2-second performance, but she absolutely nails whatever it is she's supposed to be emoting. 

The Abby Effect

During an appearance on The Talk to discuss her departure from NCIS after 15 years, Perrette spoke about how important it was to her that the show had a direct impact on the lives of so many young people, particularly girls. This influence has been dubbed "The Abby Effect," and it describes how female fans of Perrette's character have been inspired to pursue degrees in math and science. Perrette said it's been "enormous and overwhelming" to have inspired such a positive trend. 

To help keep it going, the actress set up scholarships at two different colleges where she studied: Valdosta State University in Georgia and New York's John Jay College of Criminal Science. According to the CUNY scholarship page, Perrette's endowment will award students who "demonstrate continued financial need, are majoring in Forensic Science, and remain in good standing" a yearly amount of $7,500 for up to four years. "I hope this scholarship provides an opportunity for a deserving young person to accomplish their dream of acquiring an education in Forensic Science," Perrette said.  

Setting her sights on stalkers

In September 2017, Perrette broke her silence on her decade-long ordeal with a stalker. Though she chose not to give any specific details about her own case in order to not "give her tormentor the attention she says he craves," Perrette said that she "100 percent" believes her life is in danger, and that she lives in a constant state of fear.

Following the tragic shooting death of singer Christina Grimmie, Perrette told CBS News that she never felt comfortable coming forward over concerns for her own safety, but Grimmie's death was "a cold reminder that stalking is a deadly problem." Perrette decided to act.

Working together with California Congressman Adam Schiff, the actress is working to strengthen existing laws related to stalking, as well as put new ones on the books to address the new ways that stalkers are harassing their victims. "Stalking laws do not work right now," Perrette said. "They have not been updated in 20 years. In that 20 years, so much has happened — mainly the internet."

Additional measures Perrette has called for include restraining order reforms; third party culpability to hold responsible anyone who "knowingly and willingly helps a stalker;" and stopping abuse of the court system, which she claims stalkers use as a way to see their victims. "I believe that the reason that many stalkers use the legal system to sue their victims is because it's control," Perrette said. "Because they're telling you where you're going to be that day, and unfortunately our court system has no help for us." 

When art imitates life

As we previously mentioned, Perrette set up scholarships at two colleges she attended. What we didn't mention is that she happened to be working on a master's degree in criminology when Hollywood came calling. According to an interview with AJC, Perrette said that growing up in Georgia, she was drawn to the world of law enforcement via "the notorious Atlanta child murder cases in the early 1980s." As a result, she spent her time reading "science textbooks" and dreaming of becoming a cop. When it came time for her post-secondary studies, Perrette chose "sociology and psychology and criminal science," but never got the chance to impart her knowledge in the real world police setting.   

Asked whether she felt her studies had any kind of meaningful impact on her role as a brilliant scientist, Perrette told Wane, "I think at the base level it helped me with all the big words. I was pretty good with that. But also I have such a sincere interest in that — real life crime fighting and real life mystery solving and real life detective work … I don't have to fake that, because I've got that. I've always been obsessed with crime. Not committing them but solving them."

Does she have any regrets about choosing a life of "fighting fake crime" as she phrases it? "I am incredibly grateful," the actress told Wane. "Right when I wake up every morning: 'Thank you God for my job!' Because I love my job and I am really grateful, but I am still kind of like, 'What? Me?' It's so weird." 

We're guessing the pay to fight "fake crime" is far better by comparison, too.

From the forensics lab to the makeup counter?

When Perrette announced that the 15th season of NCIS would be her last, fans understandably freaked out. With their despair over the loss of a beloved character came a swirl of rumors about Perrette's exit, including that the show was somehow "mad" at her, or that she was leaving to run a skin care line.

Perrette denied both rumors via Twitter, and even appeared on an episode of Inside Edition to further clear up the whole skin care line thing. According to the segment, shady internet companies have been using Perrette's name and likeness to dupe customers into unwittingly signing up for subscriptions to skin care products. "It's a fake company. It's a scam," Perrette said, which the show confirmed by ordering what they thought was a free sample of the product being marketed using Perrette's likeness, only to find out that it had automatically been enrolled in an $89 monthly subscription.

Perrette, for the record, said that she only uses "soap and baby oil" to wash her face. "People are getting scammed, they actually are, and no one can catch these people!" 

Hmm…If only she knew some sort of crime-fighting super genius who could figure this whole thing out…