Portia de Rossi spent years keeping her sexuality a secret, and on Monday’s “Oprah Winfrey Show,” she revealed that staying silent for so many years tore her up inside.
“Having to hide something like that just ruined me. It really, really killed me,” the actress, who on Tuesday releases her memoir, “Unbearable Lightness,” said.
Portia said that she first realized she had feelings for other women when she was a teen.
“I had always really loved men — and still do — and just kind of assumed that I would be straight. I think everybody assumes that you’re gonna be heterosexual. And the thing that made me think that I wasn’t, was I developed very strong feelings for my best friends,” she explained to Oprah.
While Portia developed feelings for a female best friend, it was a love that was unreciprocated.
“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,” she said. “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. But really it took me until I was about 18 when I realized I had to date other lesbians if I was ever going to fulfill that fantasy.”
In addition to the pressures of Hollywood, the former “Ally McBeal” star said that keeping her sexuality a secret was one of the factors that lead her to having a serious eating disorder.
“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,” she said.
While starring on “Ally McBeal,” Portia said she avoided appearing on talk shows because she didn’t know how to answer the question, “Do you have a boyfriend?” and she admitted that she paid very serious attention to Ellen DeGeneres’ coming out in 1997.
“I watched that like I’m sure a lot of gay people did, especially gay actresses at that time. ‘What’s gonna happen to her?’ because really, 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,” Portia recalled of her feelings at the time of watching the woman who would eventually become her wife.
Oprah, who appeared as the therapist Ellen came out to on her then sitcom “Ellen,” told Portia playing the role caused a huge stir.
“I got more hate mail for playing the therapist on that show than I’d ever received in my entire career – just for playing the therapist,” Oprah said.