Unbearable Lightness by Portia de Rossi

When Ellen DeGeneres started seeing someone new a few years back, all I knew about this person, Portia de Rossi, is that she was the fierce icy blond on Ally McBeal.  I used to watch Ally McBeal with my Mom back in the day, as silly as the show was.  I later found out she also had a character on Arrested Development.  I’ve since read articles in various magazines about how happy she is to be married to Ellen.  In these brief glimpses of Portia de Rossi, I never would have guessed that she had a severe struggle with coming out as a lesbian and an even worse struggle with anorexia and bulimia which almost killed her.

Unbearable Lightness talks about de Rossi’s dark past, being an early 20 something newly in Hollywood from Australia and her downward spiral into anorexia.  Portia de Rossi really surprised me as a writer.  She is very poetic in her descriptions and the story she is weaving becomes completely engrossing.  We can actually watch the subject, de Rossi, become consumed by her illness to the point in which all she thinks and obsesses about is food and her weight.  She feels an intense pressure to be perfect, having just scored a major role on a hit TV show, Ally McBeal.  She actually does not talk too much about the show though except how much she hated it and how  the actors or actresses on the show barely spoke to one another outside of shooting a scene.

Portia de Rossi also speaks about how hard it was to be this person who was supposed to the object of mens desires when inside she was a lesbian, afraid to come out in an industry that almost destroyed the career of someone whom she had really admired, her later wife, Ellen Degeneres.  At the same time de Rossi was terrified that someone would find out that she was a lesbian, part of her battle with anorexia was caused by that same issue, not feeling like she could come out and be herself.

Portia also describes her relationship with her mother in the book, which seems to have been a complex one.  Her mother also really wanted Portia to be perfect and put a lot of pressure on her from a young age (though admittedly, Portia says most of the pressure to become perfect was something that was just ingrained in her).  Her mother taught her dieting secrets from the age of 12 and took her to Weight Watchers at the age of 15.  She also helped her lose weight to prepare for various modeling jobs that Portia booked.  And when the question of Portia’s sexuality came up, her mother told her she should stay in the closet and that no one would want to hire a lesbian in Hollywood (just look what happened to Ellen, with her show being canceled and all).  Wow, I can’t imagine my mother teaching me dieting secrets at the age of 12, thank god.  Nor can I imagine my mother telling me to stay in the closet about my queerness.  I know that my mother is proud to have a queer, happy daughter.  I wish all mothers would support their daughters in the same way.

All in all, I was surprised by this book and by Portia de Rossi’s writing skills. Oh, and if you want to see something adorable, watch clips of Portia on Ellen’s show!

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2 Comments

  1. xengab said,

    April 18, 2012 at 11:13 am

    I’ve seen it she was really adorable end so loving

  2. February 8, 2013 at 7:04 am

    “Unbearable Lightness by Portia de Rossi | bitsandpiecesbibliophile” ended up being a superb posting, can’t help but wait to read through more of ur
    blog posts. Time to spend a bit of time on the net hehe.
    Thank you -Jed


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