Born Amanda Lee Rogers on January 31st, 1973, this natural brunette and open lesbian has had a rise in Hollywood that has overshadowed some very personal troubles. She was born in Horsham, Victoria, but grew up in the suburb of Grovedale, Geelong, still in the southern Australian state of Victoria. Modelling for print and TV commercials, she changed her name to Portia de Rossi when she was 15. Portia she took from the William Shakespeare’s play The Merchant of Venice and de Rossi as an Italian last name to give her a European flair. She says in retrospect that it was no doubt in some way for her to give herself an identity whilst dealing with her repressed sexuality.
She studied at the University of Melbourne Law School after completing her high school years at Melbourne Girls Grammar School. Although applying herself to her studies she soon found herself attracted to acting. Shortly after doing her first feature film she gave up on her Law degree and headed to Los Angeles in America.
Her first film was Sirens in 1994, an Australian movie that featured Hugh Grant, Elle Macpherson and Sam Neill. Coincidentally, or not, the film was released in America in the same week of the release of Four Weddings and a Funeral and Bitter Moon, both Hugh Grant movies. She then earned a role in the slasher franchise Scream 2, but it would be her “ice queen” role in the TV show Ally McBeal that would give her international recognition. She was then cast in a few movies, some that would do well like Stigmata and others not so well such as Who is Cletis Tout? with Christian Slater. It would be TV though where she would be a star with roles in the extremely funny and Emmy Award winning series Arrested Development, Nip/Tuck and Better off Ted.
She earned the Best Actress in a Series, Comedy or Musical in 2005 from the Golden Satellite Awards in 2005 thanks to her role as Lindsay Bluth Funke in Arrested Development. Although she has not herself personally won many awards her roles in various ensemble casts have seen her and the show’s casts nominated and victorious in many cases. Most notably in 1999 when Ally McBeal’s cast won the Screen Actors Guild Award for an Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble Cast in a Comedy Series. She has also been in numerous top 100 sexiest women line ups along with TV Guide naming her and Ellen DeGeneres as one of the power couples of Hollywood.
Portia de Rossi was married to documentary maker Mel Metcalfe in 1996, but the relationship didn’t last long, only two years. There was speculation that she did it to gain a Green Card to work in America. The relationship ended in a bizarre triangle with Metcalfe leaving her for the wife of Portia’s brother. She then dated singer Francesca Gregoni from 2000 to 2004, a relationship she tried to keep out of the papers, before finding her current partner Ellen DeGeneres. She came out about her sexuality in 2005, and “married” Ellen in 2008 before changing her name legally to Portia Lee James DeGeneres. In her new book she discusses the terrible feelings of ostracism she felt about her sexuality and most graphically her eating disorder, which at the age of 25 caused her to collapse on set with the doctor telling her, quite frankly, that her organs were failing. She also suffers from Systemic Lupus Erythematosus, an illness where the immune system attacks the body’s cells and tissues resulting in inflammation and tissue damage.
She is involved in many charities such as FXB International, for African AIDS; The Art of Elysium, an art foundation for terminally ill children; Locks of Love, wigs for children with medical hair loss and Alley Cats Allies, which improves the lives of cats. Her struggles are all recorded in her autobiography Unbearable Lightness: A Story of Loss and Gain.
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