Brutally honest account of an anorexic journey

2011-04-06 00:00

ALTHOUGH Portia de Rossi is best known as Ellen DeGeneres’s wife, she first made a big name for herself when she landed a role in the hottest TV series of the late nineties, Ally McBeal. This should have been one of the high points of her life, but the unflinching scrutiny of the paparazzi caused deep-seated fissures in De Rossi’s psyche to surface.

Unbearable Lightness is De Rossi’s examination of her battle to overcome the resurgence of full-blown anorexia­, an illness which, until her Hollywood success, had been only a mild eating disorder.

When De Rossi became a model at 12 in her home country Australia, she realised she could lose enough weight to satisfy even the most demanding photographers if she starved herself a week before a modelling­ assignment.

So she learnt a cycle of bingeing and purging early. Also, a sneaking realisation that she was a lesbian was suppressed by the awareness that this “sort of thing” was frowned upon. De Rossi married as society expected her to, but when her husband left her just before she landed her plum role in Ally McBeal, her latent homosexuality came to the fore again.

De Rossi’s anorexia reached its height at a time when she should have been at her happiest. With a hit international TV show under her belt, De Rossi felt judged by the relentless scrutiny of the paparazzi. Her body was deemed ungainly at 59 kilograms) when most of her female­ co-stars averaged a size two or four dress.

Unbearable Lightness isn’t an easy read. De Rossi is brutally honest about her obsessive illness. It’s frightening to read how manically she starves herself. Eventually her body begins to shut down. When she reaches 38,5 kgs, she collapses on a film set. It is then that she realises her life is at risk. Slowly De Rossi makes peace with her body as well as her sexuality. Her acceptance of both is the key to her health.

This book is an indictment against trying to fit into an unrealistic ideals created by the media. It’s also an object lesson about being true to oneself.

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