Unbearable Lightness by Portia de Rossi
Born Mandy Rodgers just outside of Geelong, Portia de Rossi is one of Hollywood’s most intriguing and talked about stars. Finding early success in the Australian film Sirens, Portia went on to starin the hit television series Ally McBeal, as well as the cult hit Arrested Development, launching her Hollywood career – and eventual high-profile marriage to Hollywood mega-star Ellen DeGeneres. Butdespite her success, Portia was plagued by self doubt, depression, anorexia and bulimia. Starving herself, involved in a fake heterosexual relationship and terrified of being ‘outed’ by the press, Portialived a Hollywood nightmare for years. Shockingly candid, outrageously funny, self-deprecating and no holds barred, Portia de Rossi’s autobiography is a frank and funny account of her not-so-perfectHollywood life.
Where can I buy it: QBD the Bookshop, paperback $14.99
When is it available: Now!
What can I expect: eating disorders, life story, celebrity insecurities, sexuality struggles
I admittedly only started this one because I was behind on my goodreads challenge with the end of the year looming. However, I did start it based on many positive comments on its ultra personal nature, it’s revealing and courageous writing and it ability to affect change.
I won’t blow my own horn by saying I read it because I’m a huge Portia de Rossi fan and I’m a diehard Ally McBeal devotee. I’m not. I just needed something to read and I love listening to biographies as Audiobooks.
I’ll start by saying this leans more to the memoir side of things as it chronicles only a part of Portia’s life between the ages of 12 and 25 when she struggled with anorexia and bulimia in secret, amongst what my uneducated in psychology brain assumes to be myriad other mental health issues. I feel like her eating disorders were an extension of other things, perhaps depression. But I don’t know for sure because I am not a doctor.
From what I can tell now, Portia has a good relationship with her mother but as an outside opinion haver, I feel like her mother almost encouraged the forms of caloric restriction, yo-yo weight loss and gain and highly abnormal eating that Portia struggled with for over a decade. She wanted a daughter she could show off, by telling people her daughter was a model and actress in LA, she had accomplished something. Despite initially not taking interest in Portia’s desire to become a model, she eventually became the person who would bribe her daughter with gifts and junk food if she lost weight in the lead up to a show or photoshoot. She changed the position of the needle on the scale so her daughter appeared heavier than she was to encourage weightloss. But what we all have to remember here is that at this stage Portia was 12 years old.
These behaviours continued when Portia found herself living alone in LA and could hide her habits from everyone. That’s what her family did, they hid everything about her from everyone. Which also meant that Portia was hiding her sexuality from the world. She herself says that she had always been gay, and her writing about her first marriage implies she seriously regrets being married without love for her husband. It is a kind of poetry that Portia admired Ellen DeGeneres’s tenacity in coming out on her show in the late 90s to become the most famous lesbian in the world, only for Portia, a struggling closeted lesbian who feared above all being fat and being outed, to find true love in her years later.
Despite the inspiration this book gave me to be healthy and the courage it gave me to be who I am and be happy about it, I fear that it could also be a tool or a guidebook or sorts. As Portia goes into such great detail about the ways in which she starved herself down to 40kgs, I worry about the impression it may have on younger females reading it. Whilst I am in no way a proponent or supporter of any form of censorship, I feel this is a very important book and it should be read, I would exercise caution for impressionable minds. Perhaps a parent could read it first, but in my anti-censorial beliefs, I leave that decision up to you.
I applaud Portia for this book. She has faced all of her fears and given herself freedom by being the one who told all of her own secrets to the world. She has ultimate control and a healthy lease on life now and I am sincerely glad I read this part of her life at this stage in my own.
Final rating: 5/5 stars