Actress Portia DeGeneres has spoken out about her decision to come out, saying that at first she did not understand her sexuality and that she “didn’t want” to be a lesbian.

The star, formerly known as Portia de Rossi said in an interview on The Conversation with Amanda De Cadenet, that she had not understood her sexuality at first, as that she did not know any lesbians, and there was nobody to look up to.

She said: “I just didn’t want to be a lesbian. I’d never met one for a start and I just thought they were strange and that they hated men and they were very serious and I had these ridiculous images in my head and there were no out celebrities or politicians or anybody that I could look to and go, ‘Oh, I could be like that’. There was nobody that I could say, ‘I could date her and I want to be like her.’

“I just kind of thought I don’t want to live like this. I don’t have to, I don’t need to, I just shut down the emotional life.”

The 40-year-old went on to say that she thought not coming out had a bad impact on her health. While starring in Ally McBeal between 1998 and 2002, she struggled with eating disorders and said she thought those were a symptom of hiding her sexuality.

“The thing that kept me company was my eating disorder. It was like a lover, it was like somebody who never ever left me. Like a thought that would always keep me excited, interested and focused. It’s adrenaline.”

DeGeneres came out in 2005, and married chat-show host Ellen DeGeneres in 2008.