3 Nov 2010

Ricky Martin, Portia de Rossi tell Oprah about their struggles and coming out as gay

Two openly gay stars Portia de Rossi and Ricky Martin appeared on Oprah this week to talk about their journey towards self-acceptance.

"There's a very fine line between being private and being ashamed": Portia de Rossi

Known for her TV roles on Ally McBeal and Arrested Development, and being Ellen DeGeneres's wife, actress Portia de Rossi discussed her memoir called Unbearable Lightness: A Story of Loss and Gain in which she revealed her struggles with anorexia and coming out as gay, in on The Oprah Winfrey Show which aired on Monday.

Portia de Rossi (left) and Ellen DeGeneres met in March 2001 and exchanged vows in August 2008.

The 37-year-old, who was born and raised in Victoria, Australia, told Oprah that she realised she was gay at 18 after continually developing feelings for her girl friends: "The thing that made me think I wasn't [heterosexual] was I developed very strong feelings for my best friends, for my girl friends, that were stronger than friendship. And I had a series of mini-heartbreaks throughout my teens because my fantasy of what life could be like with my best friend wasn't shared with my best friend. My best friend wanted to get married to a man and have kids and I just wanted to be with them. And that's when I thought something was definitely different about me. So really it took until I was about 18 when I realised I have to date other lesbians if I was ever going to fulfill that fantasy."

"Having to hide something like that just ruined me," she said referring to her eating disorder. By early 2000, the 1.72m tall actress weighed only 82 pounds (37kgs). "It really, really killed me because even though I'd gotten to a point where I wasn't ashamed of it anymore, I was doing it for financial reasons. I was doing it so I'd have a career because there were no lesbian TV actresses or actresses ever in history!"

de Rossi recalled her thoughts when she watched Ellen DeGeneres, who would eventually become her wife, come out in 1997: "It's the litmus test for me. If she went down, there's no way in hell I can come out. If someone as charming and wonderful as Ellen DeGeneres can't pull this off and keep her career, it's not gonna work for me, so I had to keep it hidden."

DeGeneres came out in a Time magazine cover story before her character on her then sitcom Ellen came out on the show which was almost immediately cancelled. Her character however short-lived is the first gay lead character on television in the US.

"Hiding your sexuality is the most horrible way to live and it really does a huge disservice to society, because if everybody who was gay came out in every profession, teachers, doctors, if everybody came out and said, 'I'm gay. Who cares?' It would make a big impact to what's happening with all this teenage suicide," de Rossi said.

She also spoke of coming out to her mother who was 'accepting' but was also told that her sexuality was her "private business" and not to tell anybody. To which de Rossi responded, "There's a very fine line between being private and being ashamed."

"I don't want my family to be based on lies": Ricky Martin

On Tuesday, it was Puerto Rican superstar Ricky Martin's turn to be on Oprah's couch. It was his first TV interview since confirming earlier this year decade-long rumours that he's gay.

"My kids gave me all the strength to come out," Ricky Martin said. "I had to because first of all I couldn't take it anymore, but they gave me that final push. I don't want my family to be based on lies. I want to be transparent to them. I want them to be proud of their dad, of their family."

On 29 March this year, Martin announced on his blog: "I am a fortunate homosexual man. I am very blessed to be who I am."

A father toddler twins Matteo and Valentino, he said he felt "numb" but "relieved" after pressing the send button. "I was in my studio alone for a minute. My assistant walked in and I just started crying like a little baby. I started crying. I was crying because felt free, I felt liberated. I could finally say I love myself completely."

Martin said he battled with his sexuality which he was aware of at a young age. "It was very difficult because for many years I was trying to pretend I was somebody else because of how I grew up in a conservative world, a conservative culture, very religious. My beliefs were telling me that my feelings and attraction towards men were evil and wrong.

"I always felt an attraction even at age four or five there was this chemistry. Obviously it was not what I was supposed to feel."

At the age of 21 having already found fame as member of the Latin boyband Menudo, he fell in love with a man so deeply that he felt he wanted to give up his career. "I wanted to leave everything and I even told him, 'You know what, let's go out and go to Europe, let's go to Asia...' because I didn't want to tell everybody (that I was gay)."

He told Oprah: "I am in a relationship right now, it feels amazing. I'm in a very beautiful relationship… All I can say is he loves my children and they love him. It can't get better."

Martin's memoir, Me, which was released the same day the interview was aired, also revealed his passionate sexual relationships with women which he described as genuine.

"I felt passion. I felt sexual… yes, it felt good. And I'm sure I'm not the only man, the only gay man that felt attraction to a woman."

However, Martin was quick to set the record straight: "I am not bisexual. I am a gay man. For many years, I thought I was. I was confused then, but when I was with a woman, everything wasn't perfect, but the most important thing is people loved to see me with women."

In August 2006, Martin became the father of twin boys, after arranging for a private surrogate. He told Oprah the turning point finally came in less than two years when he felt he had to come clean about his sexuality.

"My kids gave me all the strength to come out," he said. "I had to because first of all I couldn't take it anymore, but they gave me that final push. I don't want my family to be based on lies. I want to be transparent to them. I want them to be proud of their dad, of their family."

The 38-year-old also revealed he felt "violated" and "angry" after he was grilled by top US newswoman Barbara Walters about his sexuality in a hard-hitting TV interview in 2000 – because he wasn't ready to be outed.

He added that gay people must be allowed to come out in their own time. "Right now we are dealing with people that are being bullied because they are gay and now we're dealing with people who are committing suicide because they're forced to come out and that is horrible... You have to go through a very spiritual process in order for you to accept yourself and then it feels amazing."

At another point in the interview, Martin said that prior to coming out he had often felt he was "not enough." He added: "And the sad part is right now 17-year-old kids are going through that… and men and women in their thirties are going through that, and people go through life not accepting themselves…"

Oprah told Martin: "Don't you think that the more people who come out and are vocal about it; it gives other young kids who are feeling the same thing not just hope but inspiration to say… I think if everybody who were gay were to come out, it would change the world!" To which Martin said: "I totally agree. I totally agree."