I have been a fan of Portia de Rossi since i watched the T.V. series Arrested Development and I often enjoy watching Ellen Degeneres’s show on YouTube. I usually avoid watching interviews unless I am looking at some specific celebrities, choosing instead to watch her monologues, funny videos and acts and her games (Know or Go is my favourite). But I stumbled across an interview of her wife, Portia de Rossi, soon after she released her book Unbearable Lightness in 2011.
I was touched by her story.
I have always loved the way she dresses and the way she looks and have considered her sophisticated. But then, I have only really known about her for about a year and a half.
In her book, Portia talks about how she was always told she would make a good model, since she was a little girl. On Ellen’s show, they reveal a photograph of her in which she is posing for the cameras at rather a young age. In her own words, children photography should not be carried out like that.
When she was nine, Portia lost her father. When she was 12 she stepped into the modelling world and in one audition, she was asked if she worked out. She says that she had spent so long trying to look perfect for her interview and yet the realization that she hadn’t worked out made her feel like a failure that day. It caused her alarm; ‘I had forgotten to work out!’
Soon she couldn’t stop analyzing every part of her body, scrutinizing every inch of fat on her skin. She was highly critical of even the slightest curves in her body, striving to become a perfect model. She maintained charts about her weight loss and felt a sense of accomplishment with every inch she dropped. She became obsessed with her weight and explored every bit of her body, followed complex food rituals which would allow her to purge and limit her food intake to the extremest amount. Every time she would land a modelling assignment, she took a step back with relief and then it was her turn to binge on all the food she hadn’t allowed herself to eat before. But with time, the relief periods between her assignment grew shorter and shorter as work poured in and she allowed herself to be swept away with the need to have the perfect body.
The result of her unhealthy lifestyle can be seen in numerous photographs.
And yet, she says, even though she was beginning to realize what was happening to her, every time she would look into the mirror, her eyes would move past her bony hands and focus on that tiny bit of fat she still needed to lose.
And all the while, inside of her she was also dealing with her sexual orientation, which was something she couldn’t reveal to the world. She felt it would end her career. And when Ellen came out of the closet, the response she received scared Portia all the more. She became convinced that it would be her doom, if she let the world know she was gay.
But Portia changed. She healed and she moved past the years of trauma she underwent. And now look at her.
Towards the end of her interview, she makes a candid confession about how much things have changed every since she’s been with Ellen. She feels so much stronger. She feels okay to be vulnerable, to be free. She says Ellen taught her that if you reach out to people, they feel you. If you shut up within yourself, you can’t survive. And she’s learnt to let go and not worry about things, including her sexuality.
And Ellen says that when she saw Portia she saw a smart, beautiful, talented woman. Not the anorexic skeleton of a person she had once been. She thinks Portia de Rossi is perfect.
It wasn’t Ellen who got Portia back together. It was Portia herself who did it. To feel damaged enough to cause yourself so much pain, to go the extent where you start to look the way she did! And then to rise back up from there and become so much more.
We’re often told not to make role models out of actresses and models. But when I look at Portia’s story, I see someone who was broken, for whatever reason , but healed herself. It must have taken honesty and a great deal of courage to get from where she was to where she is now.
And so we see that celebrities aren’t perfect. We cannot look at how gorgeous they are when they walk down a red carpet and see the real them.
Its okay to break down. Its okay to fail. Its okay to be in the depths of despair. It can’t mean the end of the world. Not when so many people suffer everyday, in myriad forms, and survive it. It can only mean we can too. It can only mean each one of us has it in us to live through our worse and survive it.
PS: I haven’t read her book, just some articles and her interview on Ellen are my basis for this post. I’d like to read it though.