A showbiz memoir about eating disorder

By Lisa Schwarzbaum
October 14, 2010 at 04:00 AM EDT

Portia de Rossi—now known in private life by her married name, Portia Lee James DeGeneres—knew she wanted to be famous back when she was an Australian teen named Amanda Lee Rogers. Lucky L.A. hopeful, her dream came true. On TV, de Rossi is especially famous for her roles on Ally McBeal and Arrested Development, and just regular-famous for her parts on Nip/Tuck and Better Off Ted. And on the red carpet, she is most recently famous for her marriage to Ellen DeGeneres. We?ve seen “Porshe”—as her family calls her—look blond and blonder, and have admired her sparkle; we?ve also seen her look thin and thinner, and we?ve wondered about her health in a business that fetishizes feminine coltishness.

Unbearable Lightness, de Rossi?s memoir of a lifetime of starving and bingeing and purging (as well as part of a lifetime hiding her sexuality), is at times so wrenching that it?s difficult to imagine how the author, now 37, has kept her misery hidden for so long. ?Since I was a twelve-year-old girl taking pictures in my front yard to submit to modeling agencies, I?d never known a day when my weight wasn?t the determining factor for my self-esteem,? she writes with weary honesty. At her most perilously anorexic, the publicly glamorous TV star weighed 82 pounds. Ten months later, in the depths of bulimic bingeing, she had doubled in size. As an autobiographer she reports this with a vivid eye for detail, particularly about foods devoured, foods refused, and the ways a woman can hide her self-destruction, particularly when posing under the searchlights of fame.

The blunt, pity-free matter-of-factness with which de Rossi shares secrets and lies about her eating disorders and her sexuality makes this forthright confessional story at once shocking and instructional, especially for younger women who may be secretly suffering on their own. B+