Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Politics is Portia

Portia de Rossi

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.


Anonymous said...

I too have been following Portia de Rossi and her career and life since "Sirens" and was very impressed with her interview with The Advocate.

I really love her work in comedies like "Arrested Development" and "Better Off Ted"!

I'm so glad that she and Ellen found their way to each other, their wedding photos posted so matter of fact in People magazine was terrific and the fact that they live their lives just the way the rest of the world does helps to put a face of "normalacy" on lesbian/gay relationships. If even one person sees them and realizes that LGBT people are just the same as everyone else, I think that would be wonderful.

Anonymous said...

I admire her and how articulate she is. Did you see her shut down that right wing idiot on the View when asked about gay marriage. Awesome!

thanks for the post.

Norma Desmond said...

Better Off Ted. Why aren't more people watching it? Her characters is GENIUS.

Lyn said...

Smart, beautiful, kind, all the things Ellen said she is on Oprah. I am so happy for the two of them. They are inspiring.

Anonymous said...

Hail to our new leader! :) I <3 Portia.

tlsintx said...

i think this pic of Portia and Ellen is my fav of all time...

Anonymous said...

She was in Scream II for a minute. And please watch Better Off Ted. It is def. snort worthy!

LizW said...

I'm not sure if it's because I'm biased in her favor, but when I watch Better Off Ted, I feel as though she's the main character. Does anyone else feel that way?

Making Space said...

Beautiful, eloquent, and inspiring. Thank you!