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14 May 2006 @ 01:17 pm
Beauty Talk  
InStyle Magazine - September, 2000

As razor-tongued litigator Nelle Porter on Ally McBeal, Portia de Rossi once again debunks the myth that all lawyers are boring: So far, her character has fallen in and out of love with the show’s bleeding – heart nerd, John “the Biscuit” Cage, fulfilled a sexual fantasy of being spanked, and kissed a boy half her age. “ I love Nelle Porter,” says the 27-year-old Australian-born de Rossi. “She’s the kind of woman I aspire to be – intelligent, quick-witted and powerful, but feminine and vulnerable at the same time.”

And though she may not be as aloof as her TV alter ego, de Rossi admires Nelle’s nasty side. “I love it when she gets mean and bitchy, because she gets to say things I would never say in real life but would secretly love to.” If the actress seems particularly well suited (and we don’t just mean those Armani ensembles) to play Nelle Porter, perhaps it has something to do with her background. De Rossi was attending lay school in her hometown of Melbourne when she landed her first role, in the low-budget Australian film Sirens (which starred Hugh Grant).

“It took five or six phone calls from the producer to convince me to go in for my first audition,” says de Rossi. “I was an 18-year-old law student, and I had absolutely no interest in acting.” After reading for the part, however, de Rossi had an epiphany. “I realized there were other ways to get your views across besides being attorney.” Like, um, playing one on TV. Still, the once reluctant thespian hasn’t limited herself to the courtroom. Though best known for her role on Ally McBeal, de Rossi has appeared in more than a half-dozen films, including Scream 2, Stigmata and The Invisibles. Up next: De Rossi will play the daughter of an escaped convict and diamond thief (Richard Dreyfuss) in Cletis Tout and a delusional masseuse in the independent movie Women in Film. “I get to play this intensely crazy character who calls herself ‘thief of energy’ because she believes she can steal people’s energy by massaging them, “Now that’s a magic touch.

Is your personal style anything Nelle’s on Ally McBeal? Nelle Porter and Portia de Rossi are like oil and water stylistically. Nelle is so put together – she uses clothing to control how she presents herself to the world. In that sense, she’s completely unlike me. I tend to find things that are comfortable and fit well, and I stick to them. I’m wearing the same pair of pants today that I wore three years ago during the filming of Scream 2.

What’s your typical off-duty uniform?
Boots, Bettina Liano jeans, a belt and a black tank.

And clothes fetishes?
Boots. I can’t seem to get out of them. I have boots for every occasion – boots with chunky heels, boots with high heels, boots with pointy toes. I’ve got 16 pairs of black boots, and every one of them serves a different purpose.

Did growing up in Australia influence your style?
I started modelling when I was a little kid. Being exposed to so many fads made me realize how easily things come and go. I don’t succumb easily to trends.

How about makeup – what is your everyday look?
Very minimal and clean: a little eye contouring, some lip gloss. One thing I love about my job is that I’m always being introduced to new products and learning about new ways to apply makeup while I’m doing photo shoots.

What’s the best tip you’ve picked up so far?
Highlighting the inner corner of the lower lid with a pale, shimmery eye shadow. It accentuates the almond shape of my eyes.

What’s in your makeup bag?
L’Oréal Quick Stick Instant foundation in Sand Beige, MAC Studio Fix Wet/Dry Powder foundation, Chanel Gélee, Christian Dior Light and Lasting eye shadow, and Stila Lip Rouge in Smooch – it’s like a Sharpie; you draw it on.

How do you take care of your skin?
Wash my skin with Dermalogica Special Cleansing Gel – it’s oil-free, and it cleans my skin really well without stripping it, which is important since I have to wear so much makeup.

Do you have a favourite fragrance?
I love Annick Goutal’s Petite Ché rie. It reminds me of being a little girl because it smells like this doll I had as a child called Strawberry Shortcake.

Do you ever share beauty secrets on the set of Ally McBeal?
Lucy Liu was crazy about this horse shampoo called Mane & Tail and she gave me a bottle of it. It’s got tons of protein, which is supposed to make your hair strong.

Your hair is almost as famous as you are (de Rossi has a contract with L’Oréal). How do you take care of it – besides treating it to the occasional dose of Mane & Tail?
I wash it every day. I don’t feel clean if my hair isn’t clean. I also have a fabulous hairdresser – Art Luna – whose salon I go to every two weeks to get conditioning treatments. I’ve memorized an entire script for Ally sitting in the salon’s garden waiting for my conditioner to sink in.

Have you ever had short hair?
Yeah – twice! After I did Sirens in 1994, I cut off all my hair. Then two years later, I cut it to the nape of my neck. I felt like a completely different person. I felt naked, exposed.

What’s the worst beauty mistake you’ve ever made?
Several years ago my colorist was experimenting with different shades and my hair came out gray by accident. I actually liked it, so I kept it for a while. My agent nearly died – he wouldn’t let me be seen anywhere. If you go back to my first few episodes of Ally, you can see that my hair is still a little gray.

What about fitness? Do you work out?
I love running and Pilates. I also do ballet. I’ve been a dancer all my life. I’m the kind of person who can’t lie still for half-hour massage, so ballet is perfect for me. While you’re moving, you’re not even thinking about your abs or your arms – though incidentally you happen to be working every muscle in your body.

How do you feel when people say the women on Ally McBeal are too thin?
I’m annoyed. When you live a life on camera, you’re bound to have people comment on all phases of your life. But with Ally McBeal, it’s become a national pastime to scrutinize our weight.

As an Australian, do you think your attitude toward fame is different from Americans’?
Australians have very come-what-may attitude, which I feel has helped me deal with some of the pressures. Right now I’m on a hit TV show, but five years from now, I could be living on Bondi Beach in Australia selling trinkets to tourists. I’m just enjoying it as it comes.