Sunday, August 12, 2012
Unbearable Lightness by Portia de Rossi
Evidence of de Rossi's battle with anorexia and bulimia is there in the images online. In some, she looks almost skeletal. In Unbearable Lightness, de Rossi documents her dieting extremes. She subsisted on 300 calories a day for a long time, collapsing from starvation while filming Who Is Cletis Tout?. She went from 82 pounds to 168 pounds in 10 months.
When de Rossi was 12, she began modelling professionally in Australia. That is also when her problematic relationship with food began. She came to the US for an acting role in Sirens and ended up staying in California, where she could further her acting career. In addition to taking control over her body with extreme dieting and exercise, she changed her accent and was careful to remain deeply in the closet. She narrates her own story in the Simon & Schuster audiobook with no remaining trace of an Australian accent.
I was struck by the hateful force of the drill sergeant in de Rossi's head, the internal voice berating her for being a fat, lazy dyke. The voice ordering her to run up seven flights of stairs again and again in order to burn off the extra calories from a pack of no-sugar gum. It was painful, at times, to feel what it was like to be inside of de Rossi's illness. She had such a fear of consuming any fat, for example, that she hand washed fresh-out-of-the-dishwasher dishes before eating off them because they felt greasy to her.
The final CD, disc 8, is mostly epilogue; the long healing process. De Rossi gets rather mushy talking about Ellen, the love of her life. It is good to learn, however, that de Rossi is now accepting of her own self, not trying to be someone she is not.
Whether you are interested in lesbian lives, celebrity memoirs, or insight into eating disorders, I recommend Unbearable Lightness.