Dawn O’porter

Submitted by on Sep 1, 2015

Dawn O’Porter: The broadcaster and teen novelist on depression, polygamy and flipping burgers for her A-list husband

Sunday 30 March 2014

There is such an issue for women on comedy-panel shows I did 8 out of 10 Cats recently and afterwards I got loads of shit [on Twitter] about the way I looked. That’s why women don’t go on these shows: if you have a hair out of place, you get negative comments. Men are allowed to just be funny; it’s not fair at all – and I know so many women in the public eye who are so much funnier than men.

My mum’s death when I was seven affected every part of my character I didn’t realise quite how much until I wrote my first book, Paper Aeroplanes. I wanted to write a book about teenage female friendship and the main character is a girl who lost her mum and went to live with her aunt in Guernsey, which was what happened to me. Seeing her trauma unfold on the page, I realised, oh my god, that’s how it felt: I’d not realised how damaging it was, and I found writing it cathartic.

Needing other people’s attention is in my soul When something like [the death of a parent] happens, you want to be noticed. So it’s no surprise that being in the public eye became important to me. I needed to make sure people knew I was around. I’m more relaxed now that the hole I had in my heart was filled, after I met Chris [O’Dowd, [the IT Crowd and Bridesmaids actor, whom Porter married last year].

I got very depressed a few years ago when I wasn’t getting any work I was frightened that everything was over for me, so I put every piece of energy I had into being depressed, crying myself to sleep each night. But I’m full of regret for that two-and- a-half year period, as I forgot to take stock and appreciate what I had: I’d just met Chris, and was living this amazing life in LA. And I’m more happy writing now than appearing on TV; it’s a relief.

I see how the marriages of couples in the public eye break down Luckily when I first met Chris, we had time to establish ourselves as a couple and work through things before the flurry of fame came with Bridesmaids. People used to say to me, "Chris works away a lot, with all these lovely actresses…" I was like, "Thanks!" But Chris and I have this expression: "Why go out for burgers when you have steak at home – steak that cooks you burgers."

Breastfeeding in public shouldn’t be deemed inappropriate One woman feeding her baby recently was told by a stranger to do it in the toilet, and she replied, "You go eat your lunch in the toilet!" Boobs have been sexualised to such an extent that when they get used for what they were put there for, it’s seen as unsuitable. If I had a baby and I got criticised for it, I would aim my tit at their face, and squeeze.

I have issues with authority I actually got kicked off the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme at school. All that kind of regimented, "achieve, achieve, then get a certificate" thing isn’t my bag.

Polygamy is not as harmful as tabloids make us believe I did a documentary on polygamy and I visited this affluent family in Utah with three wives and 16 very happy, bright, socialised and interesting kids. Though I’m anti-religion, I admired the way they were bringing up the children within the family unit and I thought, they’re making this work. We must stop this tabloid-level judgement of alternative groups of society. We need to look at the good and the bad and try to have a balanced argument.

Dawn O’Porter, 35, is a broadcaster and teen novelist. Her debut book, ‘Paper Aeroplanes’, has been nominated for the 2014 Waterstone’s Children’s Book Prize. Her follow-up, ‘Goose’, (£7.99, Hot Key Books), is out on Thursday

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