Sunday, January 23, 2011

Unbearable Lightness by Portia de Rossi

Portia de Rossi. Unberable Lightness: A Story of Loss and Gain. New York: Atria Books, 2010.

This autobiography tells of an entertainer’s career, life, and her struggles with anorexia that left her with lupus. She describes her fears that her homosexuality could hurt her career, and how, after being exposed, her career continued and she now is married to Ellen DeGeneres.

While anorexic, de Rossi fixated on counting calories and exercising to lose weight. De Rossi also smoked cigarettes, beginning at age 14, to suppress her appetite, as well as to impress other girls.

The author started modeling at age 12. She was told her butt was too big and she needed to exercise. This message drove her towards over-exercising and under-eating. She later stopped exercising because she felt muscles made her look too fat.

The author quit law school to try acting. She met and married her husband Mel while filming a movie “The Woman in the Moon”. They married, even though she told Mel was she gay.

DeRossi was cast on the TV series “Ally McBeal”. She was worried about hiding her sexuality. She noted there had never been a lesbian leading lady in Hollywood. She felt insecure while filming “Ally McBeal”, as the cast did not mingle and social much. She felt isolated.

The author would cry with wailing sounds driving how after working on “Ally McBeal”. She didn’t understand why she was crying, as she cried even when she thought her performances had gone well. She feared being fired even though no one suggested she might lose her job. Her insecurities dug tightly into her.

Her self-doubt reemerged while a second character similar to her character was added to the series. She wondered if this had been done because her acting wasn’t good enough, or because they thought she looked too heavy. She was uplifted when L’Oreal hired her for shampoo commercials and when she appeared on the cover of “Vogue”. She returned to self doubt when L’Oreal personnel expressed surprise she was a size 8. She felt she had to become thinner. She began limiting her calories as she went from 130 pounds to 82 pounds.

The author panicked when she learned her contract with L’Oreal had a morality clause. Violating the clause would require her to return the money they had paid her. She feared if it became known she was gay, the morality clause would be invoked.

Her brother was worried about her weight loss. He told he felt she was killing herself. Her doctor told her she had osteoporosis. She realized she wanted to live. She overcame her anorexia, yet did so by swinging into an opposite obsession. Her weight increased to 168 pounds. At that point, she noted she “had no sense of myself”. She was further troubled by a photographer who constantly followed her, in the hopes of outing her sexuality.

The author had a role in the TV series “Arrested Development”. She told the show’s producers she is gay and was glad to know it did not matter to them. A photographer finally outed her homosexuality to the public. She found it uplifting to no longer hide her secret. She was able to then obtain a constant 130 pound.

She is now married to Ellen DeGeneres. They met when de Rossi weighed 168 pounds.

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