Two openly gay stars Portia de Rossi and Ricky Martin appeared on Oprah this week to talk about their journey towards self-acceptance.
“There’s a very fine line between being private and being ashamed”: Portia de Rossi
Known for her TV roles on Ally McBeal and Arrested Development, and being Ellen DeGeneres’s wife, actress Portia de Rossi discussed her memoir called Unbearable Lightness: A Story of Loss and Gain in which she revealed her struggles with anorexia and coming out as gay, in on The Oprah Winfrey Show which aired on Monday.
The 37-year-old, who was born and raised in Victoria, Australia, told Oprah that she realised she was gay at 18 after continually developing feelings for her girl friends: “The thing that made me think I wasn’t [heterosexual] was I developed very strong feelings for my best friends, for my girl friends, that were stronger than friendship. And I had a series of mini-heartbreaks throughout my teens because my fantasy of what life could be like with my best friend wasn’t shared with my best friend. My best friend wanted to get married to a man and have kids and I just wanted to be with them. And that’s when I thought something was definitely different about me. So really it took until I was about 18 when I realised I have to date other lesbians if I was ever going to fulfill that fantasy.”
“Having to hide something like that just ruined me,” she said referring to her eating disorder. By early 2000, the 1.72m tall actress weighed only 82 pounds (37kgs). “It really, really killed me because even though I’d gotten to a point where I wasn’t ashamed of it anymore, I was doing it for financial reasons. I was doing it so I’d have a career because there were no lesbian TV actresses or actresses ever in history!”
de Rossi recalled her thoughts when she watched Ellen DeGeneres, who would eventually become her wife, come out in 1997: “It’s the litmus test for me. If she went down, there’s no way in hell I can come out. If someone as charming and wonderful as Ellen DeGeneres can’t pull this off and keep her career, it’s not gonna work for me, so I had to keep it hidden.”
DeGeneres came out in a Time magazine cover story before her character on her then sitcom Ellen came out on the show which was almost immediately cancelled. Her character however short-lived is the first gay lead character on television in the US.
“Hiding your sexuality is the most horrible way to live and it really does a huge disservice to society, because if everybody who was gay came out in every profession, teachers, doctors, if everybody came out and said, ‘I’m gay. Who cares?’ It would make a big impact to what’s happening with all this teenage suicide,” de Rossi said.
She also spoke of coming out to her mother who was ‘accepting’ but was also told that her sexuality was her “private business” and not to tell anybody. To which de Rossi responded, “There’s a very fine line between being private and being ashamed.”