Actress Pauley Perrette


The popular star of NCIS lives with food allergies

It was 2003 when Pauley Perrette first played Goth forensic scientist Abby Sciuto on the TV global sensation NCIS. In 2011, she was voted America’s favorite prime-time television star.

The Southern-bred actress began her climb up the fame ladder in commercials while living in New York City and doing some modeling. When she moved to Los Angeles, she landed roles in Frasier, Time of Your Life and Murder One, to name a few. But it was a guest spot on JAG that led to her role as Abby on NCIS.

Perrette’s early goals were to work with animals or be an FBI agent, having studied at John Jay School of Criminal Science—and to live a long, happy and healthy life. To this end, she is disciplined about physical activity and healthy eating habits and always tries to look on the bright side of life.


Living Without You studied criminology and now you’re involved in forensic science on a daily basis on the set of NCIS. Karma?

Pauley Perrette My obsession with crime came from a basic question that I started thinking about when I was around 13 years old. It had to do with humanity and the human experience, the fact that humans can make life so much harder for others by committing a crime. I worked with America’s Most Wanted and John Walsh, too. With my job now, I work a lot with police officers and law enforcement—federal and local—so I definitely would have gone into this field if I weren’t an actress.

What do you do on a regular basis to cut down on stress?

One thing is, I’m a huge television person. I love watching TV. And one of my favorite shows is mine—I watch the NCIS marathons and I watch the reruns. Another thing is having friends in my life. I cherish my friendships and couldn’t live without them. Just going out and having great conversations is stress reducing for me. Kickboxing is another thing. I hit the bag pretty much every day. Kickboxing is amazing for strength and good balance. Plus, it feels good. It’s a great overall workout and gets rid of stress.

Your skin is like porcelain. Any special skincare routine?

I use baby oil on my skin at night after I wash it with face soap from the drugstore. That’s it. Very simple. The main thing is, I haven’t been in the sun since I was a young teenager. And as silly as it sounds, I think my good skin has to do with being happy. I’m not happy constantly but I think that happiness is probably the best skincare regimen in the world. Be happy and be kind to people and to yourself. That’s the best thing you can do for overall health, including healthy skin.

What about diet? Have you omitted any foods over the years?

Oh, yes. I actually eat very few things. I’m allergic to onions and almost all herbs, such as dill, rosemary, basil…pretty much across the board. And I omitted sugar on my own five years ago but that was a personal choice. I gave it up for Lent one year, felt great with lots of energy and decided to do it again the following year. After the second time, I said, you know what? I’m done with sugar. I don’t use sugar substitutes either.

What actually happens to you if you ingest certain herbs?

It’s a definite allergic reaction. I break out in hives and it feels like my throat is closing up.

When were these allergies first noticed?

Onions have always given me an allergic reaction since I was a little girl. If there’s a fresh one cut up around me, my eyes swell up terribly and my throat, as well. Then I found out about basil when I, unfortunately, ate some pesto sauce on an airplane and my head swelled up like a watermelon. That was a very scary experience. It has happened with other herbs, as well, so I’ve learned to eat very cleanly.

Does this prove to be a challenge when dining out?

I just know how to order foods now. I order everything really plain—but I love plain, simple, clean foods anyway. Most restaurants are aware of people with food >70 allergies these days, so I basically say no to all herbs, just to be on the safe side.

So there are no herbs in your kitchen, right?

That’s right—no herbs.

What do you usually eat?

I always have turkey and whole grain bread on hand. I switched to whole grains when I gave up sugar. I have a drinkable yogurt in the morning along with a glass of pure juice, apple being my favorite. I can drink that all day.

What is the number one change in your life since becoming such a globally popular star?

[Laughs] I never had to think about combing my hair if I needed to run down to the drugstore. Now I have to think about stuff that I would never have considered before, like looking in the mirror before I go out the door. That’s what makes this business weird. If I roll out of bed and look bad, someone will take my picture and say I was partying hard the night before.

What have you done to give your character, Abby, her own identity?

My producers have been awesome in letting me incorporate a lot of my own stuff into Abby. Now she works for charities, just like I do in my real life. She works for Habitat for Humanity and worked with, Save The Children, American Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders…all that came from me. Plus, I’m from the South and we just hug everybody. So instinctively I would hug people and that has become one of Abby’s traits.

Over the years, you’ve sported hair colors ranging from green to fire-engine red—to no hair at all. What three words best describe you?

[Long pause] Empathetic, faithful…. and goofy!