In the newest episode of the online docu-series It Got Better — part of the It Gets Better project to foster hope in LGBT youths — Portia de Rossi discusses how her eating disorder distracted her from addressing her sexual orientation.
I didn’t want to think about being gay. Having the eating disorder was kind of like a babysitter. It kind of allowed me to not think about who I really was.”
Talking about her childhood, the actress candidly speaks about her struggles as a young model.
I felt tremendous responsibility when I was 12 years old, and I was put on a catwalk. My modelling agents had told me to go on a diet. So I didn’t eat for 10 days before then. I’m up on this catwalk, and I’m a little kid and posing and trying to be sexy and strutting around and all the other models are making fun of my bushy eyebrows.”
The Arrested Development star goes on to describe what happened after the bullying.
When I got in the car after that event and just opened up a bag of my favourite candy and just put my whole head in it and I think, ‘Sh*t, what have I done? I just undid two weeks worth of dieting. So then I vomit. I erase the feelings with food, erase the food with vomiting, but you’re still left with the shame.”
Growing up de Rossi felt isolated and confused about her sexual orientation. She first noticed her feelings toward other girls at the age of 10. Being gay was the ultimate taboo in her family. When her mother initially discovered de Rossi’s interest in women, she encouraged her daughter to keep her romantic life private.
When de Rossi headed to the States in the 1990s to pursue her acting career, she battled anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating as she pushed down her personal feelings.
I was 82 pounds at the time, very much in the closet. They were both hand in hand. It was all the same thing: shame.”
De Rossi’s dual struggle is a common one in the LGBT community. Lesbian and bisexual teenagers are twice as likely to report binge eating at least once a month, according to the National Eating Disorders Association. Instances of violence, bullying, and fear of rejection when coming out contribute to a predisposition of eating disorders in LGBT teens.
True to the form of the It Gets Better campaign, de Rossi reveals how her life changed and improved. After getting a wake-up call about her deteriorating health because of self-starvation, she began the long road to recovery.
As de Rossi learned to accept her body, she also accepted that she was gay.
Who you are is enough. There is no us and them. There is no way to be. There is no normal.… How amazing is it to be alive and be uniquely you?”
The second season of the web series will feature such celebrities as RuPaul, Andrew Rannells, Janet Mock and Nate Berkus.