Good Enough Mother’s heart broke a little bit yesterday while watching Oprah’s interview with actress and author Portia de Rossi.
Did you catch it? De Rossi, Ellen DeGeneres’ better half (they were legally married in 2008) gave an unflinchingly honest and heartbreaking look inside her life, or at least what it was like as an up and coming actress/model in Hollywood. In her new book, Unbearable Lightness, de Rossi talked about how years of hiding her sexuality, coupled with the pressures of being on the hit TV show Ally McBeal, led to an eating disorder in which, at her lowest point, she was consuming just 150 calories a day. A DAY! Can you even imagine?
I was never a huge Ally Mc Beal watcher but I do recall the buzz about the women on the show and how scary skinny they were. Calista Flockhart, who played the lead was frighteningly thin and Portia looked near death in paparazzi photos around the time.
But what is it about size that makes even the most confident women tremble if even just a little bit? Of course it’s exacerbated in show business, including TV news, the world I used to be in. I wish I had a dime for every time someone said to me (and still do to this day) “Oh you’re just a little thing.” Or “You look so much bigger on TV!” (That last one is usually said with such surprise that they are holding one hand over their mouth). People, please, that is NOT a compliment so if you ever see me in person, I’d really rather you bite your tongue than hear that (again).
When I left local news in Dallas, Texas for the bright lights of CBS’s The Early Show back in 2002, I was in my late 30’s and looked like your average woman. 5’6” tall, I weighed about 135 pounds (hey, I liked to eat and BBQ is BIG in Big D), I was roughly a size 6-8. I had had a couple of kids so my waist was not as small as it once was, even though I worked out. It was just the way my body was built. The other women on the show, Hannah Storm and Julie Chen both had great bodies with much slighter builds. I never got too crazed about it but I was always more aware of my size.
Now, even though I’m not too far from where I was, I am working to get back to the weight I was before or at least close. But size is not what’s forefront in my mind as much as overall health and I am acutely aware that I need to counter some of the images that my teenage daughter sees in the media. How could I do that if I myself was focused on being a size 4 just because? My job is to present to Casey a picture of what a healthy, strong, REAL woman looks like, complete with warts, wrinkles and even some rolls.
What most struck me during Portia’s interview yesterday was how smart De Rossi seems (Unbearable Lightness has been attracting rave reviews). If a woman as together as Portia can find herself corrupted by media images what chance do other young girls have? Only today we’re hearing that Disney star Demi Lovato is in rehab for, apparently, eating disorders and ‘cutting’. How truly sad – and what a statement this makes about today’s society. Let’s just hope Demi can find her way back the way Portia finally has…
But what about you? What do you tell your daughters about weight and food and eating right? Are you worried by the images they see on a daily basis? And where do you lay the blame most… start commenting everyone…