Watching someone come fully into herself, especially in the public eye, is a rare and wonderful thing. The first time I saw Portia de Rossi was 17 years ago in “Sirens.” Known by the prurient as The Movie Where Elle Macpherson Gets Naked, it was actually a strange, sexy little meditation on exploration and desire. It was also Portia’s first film. Now, while others probably remember the naked supermodel, I remember Portia. That scene where all the woman slowly caress naïve, eager Giddy is, well, did I mention I remembered Portia?
When I next saw her she was the tightly wound Nelle Porter with her ice-smooth bun and icier personality. Yes, I totally watched “Ally McBeal,” the show that some claim nailed the coffin of feminism shut with the spike of its stiletto. I wouldn’t go that far – I mean, who doesn’t like a creepy dancing animated baby? But “A Room of One’s Own” it certainly wasn’t.
Then came those tabloid photos of her necking in an alley with Ringo Starr’s daughter. Then came “Arrested Development.” And then, then came Ellen. Now, I don’t agree with the idea that to be truly happy we must pull a “Jerry Maguire” and find The One who completes us. But I do believe that love can open your heart to what is most important in life.
And, make no mistake, these days Portia knows exactly what is most important in life. In a great cover story for The Advocate, she talks extensively about what matters most to her.
“Maybe by sharing my life, I can make people more aware of how important gay marriage is.” Is that more important to her than acting? “Of course,” she answers immediately. “Actors come and go. Characters come and go. TV shows come and go. While acting is entertaining, for me personally, it’s a little empty….My career is only a part of my life, and it’s certainly not what I think I was born to do.”
So what was she born to do?
“Ever since Ellen and I got together, I feel like I’ve been given an opportunity to actually—God, this sounds corny…” She rolls her eyes at herself, fidgets, and then forges ahead. “Well, I feel like my life can actually kind of stand for something. And I don’t mean that in a self-aggrandizing way, like, ‘Look at me, I can make a difference.’ But I feel like, maybe I get why I’m here.”
Corny? No. Amazing? Yes.
Portia talks about everything: her relationship with Ellen, the fight for gay marriage, her battle with anorexia, her coming out and even her poor vegan cooking skills. Also, did you know she is writing a book? Good God, at this point if you told me she could also juggle while riding a unicycle I wouldn’t be surprised one bit.
So why does she think coming out in Hollywood so important?
“People say, ‘There are lots of openly gay actors.’ And I’m like, who? If everybody I knew that was gay and not being open about it came out, it would make a huge difference to people coming up as young actors in Hollywood. Huge. To producers, to people in casting. I’m sure that when I was with Ellen a lot of people wondered if I could play a straight role convincingly. By having the opportunity, other people can go, ‘Oh, that’s OK. It didn’t kill that show. That was believable.’”
And why is the fight for gay marriage so important?
“I think it’s up to us to save marriage. Up to gay people across the country, seeing as though we’re fighting for it so vehemently. This whole thing has been a wave of excitement and hope, and then it gently falls back into despair. And then it picks us up again. Unfortunately, we’re the ones who have to suffer this—this humiliation, really. There’s kind of a dignity that’s been stripped from us. Gay people are the ones who have to suffer through it—but without it, it won’t change.”
Finally, why was appearing on Oprah so important?
“Being on Oprah was a very surreal moment—to go from being so closeted and so afraid to talk about my sexuality to sitting with my wife, talking about my wedding and how much I love her. To look out at that audience and see most of the audience crying—Oprah was crying! Life can take so many twists and turns. You can’t ever count yourself out. Even if you’re really afraid at some point, you can’t think that there’s no room for you to grow and do something good with your life.”
Like I was saying, a rare and wonderful thing.
p.s. Everyone watch “Better Off Ted.” Portia will make you snort at minimum once per episode. Guaranteed.