Review: Unbearable Lightness, Portia de Rossi

| 22 February , 2011 | Reply

Diane Sexton

With any celebrity autobiography, we realise the author must struggle to make it worth reading – why would people buy and read their book if their life has been out in the tabloids and shot by paparazzi for years? Surely there isn’t anything else to know? Well in this case, Portia de Rossi actually can tell us more, and not just in words. This is not a book about fame, or about all the famous names and places that Portia de Rossi has seen, it is primarily about how being a celebrity was caused by – and the cause of – her struggles with eating (bingeing, purging, starving).

A victim of perception, Portia de Rossi perceived that being successful meant being thin, from her earliest days as a teen model and through her career on television. This perception was encouraged by the people around her – colleagues, production crew, stylists, and of course the media who seemed to her to be stalking, waiting to pounce with photos of “celebrity diet hell” or “celebrity weight-gain hell” or whatever would sell the next magazine.

Portia’s sensitivity to public opinion, and feelings of vulnerability may have been exaggerated by her own low self-esteem, and fear of being “outed” as a lesbian, but there is a message here. However subconsciously, I think Portia de Rossi is saying to the entertainment media, the acting profession, the producers, and whoever else will listen, that they should do better at looking after the celebrities who are after all, their reason for existence.

On a more personal note, I do find it difficult to describe how Portia de Rossi’s account of her struggle with eating disorders affected me. On the one hand, I am lucky enough not to suffer from a clinical eating disorder. On the other, I, like almost every woman I know, looks at food not just as nutrition, but also can hear a little voice asking me “how much of this food can I have and which part of my body is it going to go to?” So reading Portia’s story is like seeing how much damage that little voice could do if it became the only voice you could hear.

Thankfully the story ends well with Portia finding acceptance, both of food and of her own sexuality. While this book can’t be a textbook for anyone suffering from an eating disorder, and probably shouldn’t be, I think it will appeal to those who, like Portia, have recovered. It’s also a well-told story in its own right and while not exactly “light” reading, in terms of subject matter, it is an easy read and well worth perusing.

Word from Sassi: I personally loved the book, I was surprised how well written it was and I couldn’t put it down and read it in a day. It was incredible to read how stringent she was and so caught up in the cycle of self abuse as I like to think of it as. The head stories that we tell ourselves are taken for granted, but to see it written the way Portia wrote it shows how we are our own worst enemies.

Available now: Hardie Grant RRP $35


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Category: Lifestyle

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