Another fascinating aspect of Unbearable Lightness is the insight you get from behind-the-scenes of Ally McBeal. Portia writes that she felt isolated, but it was how everyone seemed to be on set. She’s informed by Courtney Thorne-Smith that they don’t really eat lunch together, and socializing isn’t much more than someone inquiring how your days off set were. And when she first came on the show, Portia said she could feel her female co-stars wondering how her addition would affect their screen time, something that happened again when Lucy Liu joined the cast and Portia began getting less to work with and pushed more into the background.
It’s interesting, though, that no mention is made of the rumors that surrounded Ally star Calista Flockhart‘s thinness. It’s likely that Portia didn’t have much interaction with her, but they were often linked in stories of "too thin" actresses at the time.
As a writer, Portia is able to keep readers engaged without pitying her or becoming enraged along with her family and friends that become so worried they begin to stage interventions until she promises she’ll stop dieting. Instead, you can be a spectator, knowing that eventually Portia will gain the strength to shut out the negativity flowing through her brain waves, not only accepting herself but fully understanding and loving herself too. She credits her horse and her loving relationship with Ellen as bringing her to the best place she’s ever been in her life, and that includes being out as a lesbian to everyone, including her grandma, who once shut off Ellen after saying she was "disgusting." (She’s since come around and watches Ellen’s talk show every day.)
Portia and Ellen with their moms
Portia is also able to write about being an actress in Hollywood who is unsure of how to be the public figure she’s expected to be. She worries about how to prepare for red carpets, being able to be a good spokeswoman for L’Oreal, and how to navigate a film career like her Ally McBeal co-stars. Instead of taking the smug route celebrities tend choose in their own autobiographies, Portia is candid about what was going through her head at every moment, and it’s the number one reason Unbearable Lightness is able to have something for everyone. Even if you haven’t battled an eating disorder or had to keep quiet about your sexual orientation, each of us has felt unsure of ourselves at one time or another; so insecure that we had to pretend to be something we’re not. But, like Portia, in the end, we all find it would have been so much better, easier and made us happier had we just been ourselves from the start.
Unbearable Lightness will be available Nov. 2.