While Portia slipped deeper and deeper into her eating disorder, she was also she was also terrified the tabloids would discover she was gay. Portia says when she was younger and began developing feelings for her close girlfriends, she knew there was something different about her. However, she tried to shut out that part of her because she says she wanted to be socially accepted. When her career began to take off in the late '90s, Portia says she tried even harder to hide her sexuality.
“Having to hide something like that just ruined me,” she says. “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 ever in history.”
In 1997, Portia's now-wife Ellen DeGeneres came out to the world. Portia says Ellen was the litmus test for gay actors everywhere. While many celebrated Ellen's honesty when she came out, others were not supportive. Ellen's sitcom was canceled a year later.
"[I thought], 'If she went down, there's no way in hell I can come out,'" Portia says. "'If someone as charming and wonderful as Ellen DeGeneres can't pull this off and keep her career, it's not going to work for me.'"
Portia continued to hide her sexuality to protect her career. "I would never do a talk show because I was so terrified—especially late night, the male talk show hosts—I was terrified if they would ask me if I had a boyfriend, because I didn't know how to answer that," she says.
Between hiding her sexuality and struggling with her eating disorder, Portia was coming to a breaking point.