|“||You know, for as long as I can remember, I've been able to identify what I want and I've been willing to pursue it. Do you really think I should apologize for that?||”|
–Bette, "Loose Ends"
Bette is an affluent, Ivy League-educated, biracial lesbian. Passionate, charismatic and driven, she is a formidable titan of the art world. Her storied career has also seen her take on academia and politics, though her love for contemporary art has never wavered. Bette is uncompromising in her convictions and is never one to shy away from hot button issues. She enjoys challenging the status quo and is not afraid to step on toes to get what she wants. With her relentless tenacity, Bette usually prevails against the odds, but her self-destructive tendencies often make her her own worst enemy.
While Bette strives to do better, her self-centeredness and need for control over others can wear down her relationships, and her romantic entanglements remain complicated, particularly with her on-and-off girlfriend, and eventually ex-wife, Tina Kennard. Beyond all that, she is a devoted mother to her daughter Angelica Porter-Kennard.
Bette grew up in North Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, coveting the conditional love of her bigoted father Melvin. Her mother Maxine was an artist who walked out on her when she was a child, while her older half-sister Kit struggled with addiction and was often absent from her life. Bette graduated from Yale University with a BFA and MFA in art history, and quickly made a name for herself in the art world by opening her own gallery in the 1990s. Bette also came out as a lesbian in college and has never shied away from her sexuality since. In her younger days, Bette was a "player" who slept around and she gained a reputation for being a serial cheater. One of the women Bette dated and cheated on at the time was Alice, who became her best friend after they broke up. However, after meeting Tina and stealing her from her boyfriend, Bette settled down in a long-term committed relationship.
At the start of The L Word season 1, Bette and Tina have been together for seven years. The couple live a seemingly idyllic suburban life in West Hollywood, surrounded by their friends Alice, Shane, and Dana, and their new next-door neighbor Jenny. To the outside world, Bette and Tina appear to have the perfect relationship as they try to start a family of their own. However, Bette is consumed by her work as the director of the California Arts Center (CAC) and has little time or patience for Tina. Over the course of the season, Tina suffers a miscarriage while Bette's problems mount at work as she faces off against a conservative Christian group. Bette eventually cracks under the pressure and begins an affair with Candace, the carpenter she hires for her career-defining Provocations exhibit; Tina discovers the affair and leaves Bette.
Bette initially continues her relationship with Candace but decides at the start of season 2 to try and win back Tina, whom she later discovers is pregnant with their child. Standing in Bette's way, however, is her new rival Helena who interferes in both Bette's personal and professional life. Bette's self-absorption pushes Tina away at first, but they bond over their unborn child and eventually get back together. Bette's life is suddenly turned upside down when she learns that her father has cancer. Melvin passes away and Bette is fired from the CAC, having neglected her work to look after her dying father. Finally, after a difficult birth, Bette and Tina's daughter Angelica is born.
Season 3 opens six months later with Bette and Tina struggling to rekindle their sexual desire for each other amid parenthood. At the same time, Bette refuses to curb her expensive lifestyle even as she turns down job offers to focus on an unpaid passion project. Bette also seeks to be legally recognized as Angie's parent, and the stress over their finances and the anti-LGBT adoption system further fractures her relationship with Tina. Tina eventually breaks things off with Bette to explore her rekindled attraction to men, and a heartbroken Bette runs off to a silent retreat to find herself for awhile. Feeling threatened by Tina and her new boyfriend, Bette then tries to gain sole custody of Angie; the ensuing custody battle leads to Bette kidnapping Angie out of desperation.
Bette returns with Angie at the start of season 4 and, despite their hostile relationship, her and Tina agree to share custody for the sake of their daughter. Bette also embarks on a new career as the academic dean of California University's School of the Arts. She initially runs into trouble after a fling with her teaching assistant Nadia, but later meets and begins a relationship with the School's artist-in-residence Jodi. The new couple grow closer, but Bette's controlling nature clashes with the fiercely independent Jodi, and the latter leaves for a job offer in New York. Distraught, Bette seeks Tina's help in getting Jodi back and succeeds after pulling off a grand romantic gesture.
In season 5, Bette and Jodi's relationship is put to the test as they clash over work and Jodi's friends. Bette begins an affair with Tina and finds herself caught between the two women in her life. Jodi eventually discovers Bette's affair and humiliates her at an art show in revenge. Meanwhile, Bette and Tina officially get back together.
As their relationship progresses in season 6, Bette and Tina decide to adopt another child but the birth mother changes her mind at the last minute to the couple's devastation. Bette is also forced to resign from the University following complaints over her previous affairs with Nadia and Jodi. However, a new career opportunity presents itself when Bette is reunited with her wealthy college roommate Kelly, and the two open their own art gallery to resounding success. Knowing that Bette used to be in love with her, Kelly propositions Bette for sex but Bette turns her down to remain faithful to Tina. However, Jenny misreads the situation and jeopardizes Bette's relationship with Tina. After Tina receives a big job offer in New York, the couple decide to leave Los Angeles for a fresh start.
Generation Q season 1 begins ten years later, with Bette now divorced from Tina and back in Los Angeles with Angie. Kit's death from a heroin overdose has inspired Bette to run for mayor as she hopes to fix the city's opioids crisis. A public scandal over Bette's past affair with her married subordinate Felicity threatens to sink her campaign, but with the help of her PR manager-turned-campaign manager Dani, Bette turns things around and finds herself in a neck-and-neck election race against deputy mayor Milner. Ultimately, Bette's refusal to play dirty like Milner, even in the face of renewed public outrage when it comes to light that she is still having an affair with Felicity, causes her to lose the election.
In season 2, Bette returns to the art world as the managing director of the renowned Zakarian Gallery, but finds herself hampered by her racist boss Isaac. Bette also struggles to get along with Tina's fiancée Carrie, and gets back into the dating scene with a short-lived romance with Gigi. Meanwhile, Bette's passion for art is reignited by the artist Pippa, and the two begin a professional and romantic relationship. Bette and Pippa grow closer as they triumph over Dani in a dispute over the CAC's funding, but when Tina and Carrie's engagement is called off, Bette finds herself having to choose between Tina and Pippa.
Early life and family
Bette is the daughter of Melvin Porter and Maxine. Her father is African-American while her mother is Caucasian, making Bette biracial. She was raised in North Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where her father still lives.
Bette grew up idolizing her father and coveting his conditional love. For his part, Melvin was an old-fashioned bigot but also supported Bette's every career endeavor and gave her every opportunity to follow her dreams. Bette has very fond memories of her father reading to her when she was little, and her favorite childhood books were Aardvark Makes Pasta and Monkeys Go on Strike.
Bette's mother Maxine was a watercolor artist, but she was not Bette's inspiration for going into the arts. When Bette was little, Maxine found out Melvin was having an affair and walked out on her husband and daughter. Bette tried to reconnect with her mother once years later but regretted the experience; she has not seen her mother since and does not know if Maxine is even still alive. While Bette appears to hold a lot of resentment towards her mother as an adult, she still kept all of her mother's watercolor paintings long after Maxine had abandoned her.
Bette also has an older paternal half-sister Kit, and a young Bette would hide in the garage to listen to her sister's band practice. However, the sisters had a complicated relationship as Kit was often absent from Bette's life due to her struggles with addiction. Kit once hid drugs in Bette's teddy bear and let Bette take the blame when their father found the drugs.
As a biracial child, Bette felt like an outsider within her own family and in the world at large, as she did not have a familiar face around her who looked like her. Bette played various sports growing up including basketball and soccer. She was on her high school's basketball team until her junior year, and was a runner in college. Bette also won the Most Valuable Player (MVP) award at a soccer camp she attended, after being motivated by the racist and homophobic slurs she was subjected to from two other campers.
College and coming out
Bette attended Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, where she majored in art history as an undergraduate. She had initially been a comparative literature major, but was so inspired by Pippa Pascal's senior thesis art showcase that she switched majors. That was the first time Bette had seen Pippa's work, which focuses on race, oppression and sexual violence, and she continued to follow Pippa's career with great interest; this included driving to New York to see Pippa's first post-graduate show at the Amelia Spalter Gallery (even though it was during the week of her final exams), attending Pippa's first museum show at the Studio Museum in Harlem, and joining the protests when one of Pippa's pieces, "America's Original Sin", was dropped from the Whitney Biennial.
As an undergraduate at Yale, Bette had a boyfriend by the name of Coleman Alt, who she later realized was gay. Bette would imagine Coleman was her art history professor, Danica Palmer, when they had sex, and this eventually led her to realize that she was a lesbian. In her junior year, Bette had her first sexual experience with a woman, a first-year Master of Fine Arts (MFA) drama student by the name of Phoebe Kadlec. Bette had a huge crush on the older Phoebe and they would have intense talks about art, theater, semiotics and race. Finally, after the final performance of a production of Ma Rainey's Black Bottom that Phoebe was directing, they had a sex marathon that lasted for days in Phoebe's apartment. Shortly after, Phoebe dumped Bette to get back together with her ex-girlfriend.
By the time she was a graduate student working on her MFA degree at Yale, Bette had become a "player" who was always sleeping with at least two women on the side even when she was in a relationship. During this time, Bette was the teaching assistant for a Professor Scully, and befriended one of Scully's undergraduate students Kelly Wentworth (née Freemont). Bette became Kelly's art history mentor, and instilled in Kelly a love for contemporary art. Bette and Kelly went on to become roommates; they kissed once but Kelly was so overcome by "homosexual panic" that she immediately moved out of their house. According to Kit, Bette was so in love with Kelly that she was suicidal after Kelly rejected her advances.
While at Yale, Bette attended a lecture series taught by Allyn Barnes, who was considered one of the most important living artists. Bette would later credit Allyn as her inspiration for pursuing a career in the arts. Bette considers Allyn's "A Season In Hell", an earthwork critiquing environmental destruction, to be one of the most magnificent pieces of art made during the last few decades, and even wrote her graduate thesis on it. To even see the earthwork, Bette travelled to Humboldt County, California, and was almost shot at by security when she proceeded to scale three fences to get up close to it. Bette also wrote an accompanying critical analysis of "A Season In Hell" that was published in the prestigious Artforum magazine. Her article came long after Allyn had stopped showing her work in galleries, and Bette was the first person in 18 years to penetrate Allyn's anonymity. According to Allyn, Bette's piece was the best article that has ever been written about her work.
Starting a gallery
After college, Bette worked at The Drawing Center in Manhattan, New York City, before moving to Los Angeles and opening her own gallery in Bergamot Station. The Bette Porter Gallery gained a reputation for discovering all the great artists. During this time, Bette once competed with a rival gallerist, Gina Ferrara, for the sculptor Megan Friedman's exhibit; Bette won after she slept with the sculptor and Gina has hated her ever since. Bette also used to spend every summer on the island of Mykonos in Greece with a bunch of artists and art collectors.
Bette was still establishing her gallery when she met Alice Pieszecki. She had approached the LA Magazine journalist to help her develop an invite list for a party at her gallery. Bette and Alice subsequently dated for six weeks, during which time Bette cheated on Alice. On their third date, the pair went to the Los Angeles Opera where Bette "finger-fucked" Alice in public during a performance of the Flower Duet. Immediately after, Bette broke up with Alice and told her that she had just met a "straight girl" that she could see herself falling in love with. Despite this, Bette and Alice remained close friends.
The "straight girl" Bette had dumped Alice for was Tina Kennard. Bette met Tina when Tina's then-boyfriend Eric brought her as his date to an art opening at the Bette Porter Gallery (ironically, it was Alice who had invited Eric to the opening in the first place). Bette and Tina were immediately drawn to one another and Bette invited the couple to one of her famed artist dinners. Tina later returned to the gallery alone to retrieve an earring she had lost at the dinner, which Bette had found and kept for her. As Bette handed her the earring, the pair shared their first kiss.
Bette and Tina started dating and Tina moved into Bette's house at some point. Although Tina had a pretty successful career as a film producer, Bette was earning more money and controlled all of their finances. Consequently, all of their assets were legally under Bette's name. At the turn of the millennium, Bette and Tina threw a Y2K party at their house. It was during this party that they first met Dana Fairbanks, who had been invited by Alice.
Several anecdotes have been shared of Bette and Tina's history prior to the series. Notably, Bette once took Tina to one of Pippa's art shows in Harlem, New York City. Another time, Bette and Tina were on a luxury yacht with the likes of fashion designer Valentino, when a US Senator entered their state room with his boner exposed, and tried to invite himself into their bed. The couple have also gone on vacations to countries such as Nepal and India. During their trip to Jaipur, India, Bette got really sick with food poisoning; she lost ten pounds and was so weak that Tina had to practically carry her through the city. Bette has hated Indian food ever since.
Joining the CAC
Bette eventually closed her gallery and was hired by the California Arts Center (CAC) to revamp the museum's profile. As the director of the CAC, Bette gained a reputation for combining art and social activism, which nobody else was doing at the time. Among the exhibits she curated for the CAC was a constructivism show that included the works of László Moholy-Nagy and El Lissitzky; this show inspired art student Nadia Karella.
Bette is a big art collector and has amassed a personal collection that is worth a lot of money. Her collection includes works by Lisa Yuskavage, Robert Mapplethorpe, Raymond Pettibon, and Eric Fischl. Among her most prized possessions are her Kiki Smith prints, which were the first prints she ever bought.
Lead up to The L Word
After seven years together, Bette and Tina have decided to start a family. They originally wanted to adopt a child, but figured that as a lesbian couple they would never be selected as parents due to the way the adoption system works. Instead, Tina has given up her career as a film studio executive at Bette's urging so as to carry their child, leaving Bette as the sole breadwinner. The couple have also been looking for a suitable sperm donor, with Bette insisting that the donor be an artist of a calibre good enough to have made the Whitney Biennial exhibition.
On the outside, Bette and Tina appear to have an idyllic relationship, one that their friends put on a pedestal. Things are more complicated beneath the surface: Bette is consumed by her work at the CAC and has little time and patience for Tina, while their sex life has been lacklustre for the past three years.
Bette has a complicated relationship with her father, whose approval she still desperately craves. On one hand, Bette is the apple of Melvin's eye and he is extremely proud of her career achievements. On the other hand, he barely tolerates her relationship with Tina and refuses to call Tina by her first name. Her older half-sister Kit is now a recovering alcoholic who is trying to turn her life around. However, Bette is hesitant to let Kit back into her life fully as Kit has already let Bette down one too many times in the past.
Throughout the series
The L Word
- TLW: Season 1
- TLW: Season 2
- TLW: Season 3
- TLW: Season 4
- TLW: Season 5
- TLW: Season 6
- TLW: Interrogation Tapes
|“||...the sexually predatory, emotionally abusive 'Bev', who uses her professional stature to bed every girl and woman who crosses her path.||”|
- Bette and Pippa
- Bette and Gigi
- Bette and Felicity
- Bette and Tina
- Bette and Jodi
- Bette and Candace
- Alice and Bette
The table below shows the complete known history of Bette's romantic relationships.
|1||GQ||Pippa Pascal||Girlfriend||GQ: 2x07 – present|
|2||GQ||Gigi Ghorbani||Girlfriend||GQ: 2x01 – post 2x05|
|3||GQ||Maya Stevenson||Date||GQ: 1x08 – post 1x08|
|4||GQ||Felicity Adams||Affair||GQ: pre 1x01 – 1x05|
|5||TLW||Tina Kennard||Wife, girlfriend, affair||TLW: pre 1x01 – 1x13|
TLW: 2x09 – 3x07
TLW: 5x06 – post 6x08
|6||TLW||Jodi Lerner||Girlfriend||TLW: 4x06 – 5x11|
|7||TLW||Nadia Karella||Fling||TLW: 4x03|
|9||TLW||Candace Jewell||Girlfriend, affair||TLW: 1x11 – 2x01|
|10||Pre-TLW||Alice Pieszecki||Girlfriend||TLW: pre 1x01|
|11||Pre-TLW||Megan Friedman||Fling||TLW: pre 1x01|
|12||Pre-TLW||Phoebe Kadlec||Fling||TLW: pre 1x01|
|13||Pre-TLW||Coleman Alt||Boyfriend||TLW: pre 1x01|
The table below shows the complete known history of Bette's career.
|1||GQ||Art dealer||Managing Director of the Zakarian Gallery||GQ: 2x02 – present|
|2||GQ||Politician||Candidate in the Los Angeles mayoral election||GQ: pre 1x01 – 1x08|
|3||Pre-GQ||Civil servant||Director of the Department of Cultural Affairs, City of Los Angeles||GQ: pre 1x01|
|4||TLW||Art gallerist||Partner in the Wentworth Porter Projects||TLW: 6x06 – post 6x08|
|5||TLW||Academic administrator||Dean of the School of the Arts, California University||TLW: 4x02 – 6x03|
|6||TLW||Art consultant||Consultant for the Slate Museum||TLW: pre 3x01 – 3x04|
|7||TLW||Art curator||Director of the California Arts Center||TLW: pre 1x01 – 2x13|
|8||Pre-TLW||Art gallerist||Owner of the Bette Porter Gallery||TLW: pre 1x01|
|9||Pre-TLW||Unknown||Unknown role at the Drawing Center||TLW: pre 1x01|
|10||Pre-TLW||Teaching assistant||Graduate teaching assistant at Yale University||TLW: pre 1x01|
|The L Word, season 1|
|"Let's Do It"||Appears|
|"Lies, Lies, Lies"||Appears|
|"Luck, Next Time"||Appears|
|"Limb from Limb"||Appears|
|The L Word, season 2|
|"Life, Loss, Leaving"||Appears|
|"Lagrimas de Oro"||Appears|
|"Late, Later, Latent"||Appears|
|"Loud & Proud"||Appears|
|The L Word, season 3|
|"Light My Fire"||Appears|
|"Lead, Follow, or Get Out of the Way"||Appears|
|"Losing the Light"||Appears|
|"Left Hand of the Goddess"||Appears|
|The L Word, season 4|
|"Legend in the Making"||Appears|
|"Livin' La Vida Loca"||Appears|
|"Luck Be a Lady"||Appears|
|"Lesson Number One"||Appears|
|"Lexington and Concord"||Appears|
|"Lacy Lilting Lyrics"||Appears|
|"Little Boy Blue"||Appears|
|"Literary License to Kill"||Appears|
|"Long Time Coming"||Appears|
|The L Word, season 5|
|"Look Out, Here They Come!"||Appears|
|"Lady of the Lake"||Appears|
|"Let's Get This Party Started"||Appears|
|"Lookin' at You, Kid"||Appears|
|"Lights! Camera! Action!"||Appears|
|"Lesbians Gone Wild"||Appears|
|"Lay Down the Law"||Appears|
|"Loyal and True"||Appears|
|The L Word, season 6|
|"Long Night's Journey Into Day"||Appears|
|"Leaving Los Angeles"||Appears|
|"Last Couple Standing"||Appears|
|The L Word, Interrogation Tapes|
|Generation Q, season 1|
|"Let's Do It Again"||Appears|
|"Less Is More"||Appears|
|"Lose It All"||Appears|
|"Lapse in Judgement"||Appears|
|Generation Q, season 2|
|"Late to the Party"||Appears|
|"Lean on Me"||Appears|
|"Luck Be a Lady"||Appears|
A more complete gallery with pictures of Bette Porter can be found here.
Notes and trivia
- In "Locked Up" (TLW 1x12), Bette says she has not smoked a cigarette since she was 12. However in "Loneliest Number" (TLW 2x04), Bette says she used to be a regular smoker until she quit four years earlier.
- Throughout The L Word, Bette lived in the same house in The Crescent, West Hollywood; the address was 15153 North Genesee Avenue, Los Angeles CA, 90921.
- Bette's campaign slogan in season one of Generation Q is "Passion. Progress. Porter."
- Bette is a graduate of Yale University while in real life, Jennifer Beals graduated from Yale with a B.A. in American Literature.
- The show had to hide Jennifer Beals' real-life pregnancy during the filming of The L Word season three.
- In "Lifesize" (TLW 3x06), Bette's hairstyle and grey sweatshirt in the college flashback is a shout-out to Jennifer Beals' iconic role in the 1983 film Flashdance.
- The L Word, 3x06: "Lifesize".
- The L Word, 1x11: "Looking Back".
- In "Lifesize" (TLW 3x06), Bette is shown to have been an undergraduate student at Yale in 1985. This was retconned in GQ S2, where Pippa is said to be 52, making Bette 49/50 as she was a freshman or sophomore when Pippa was a senior in college. Moreover, "Lean on Me" (GQ 2x02) is said to take place 17 years after "Limb from Limb" (TLW 1x13), thus making Bette 32/33 in TLW S1.
- The L Word, 4x03: "Lassoed".
- The L Word, 4x04: "Layup".
- The L Word, 2x13: "Lacuna".
- See "Liquid Heat" (TLW 5x09) and "LA Times" (GQ 1x04).
- See "Lap Dance" (TLW 2x02), "Labyrinth" (TLW 2x05), "Lagrimas de Oro" (TLW 2x06), "Little Boy Blue" (TLW 4x10), "Literary License to Kill" (TLW 4x11), "Long Time Coming" (TLW 4x12), and "Loose Ends" (GQ 1x06).
- The L Word, 6x02: "Least Likely".
- The L Word, 5x10: "Lifecycle".
- The L Word, 1x08: "Listen Up".
- The L Word, 2x11: "Loud & Proud".
- The L Word, 1x05: "Lawfully".
- The L Word, 1x09: "Luck, Next Time".
- The L Word, 2x10: "Land Ahoy".
- The L Word, 2x12: "L'Chaim".
- Generation Q, 2x05: "Lobsters, Too".
- Bette says in "Lassoed" (TLW 4x03) that both her parents are dead, but this was either retconned or Bette was not being literal and simply wanted to shut the homophobic guy up.
- The L Word, 1x02: "Let's Do It".
- The L Word, 3x11: "Last Dance".
- The L Word, 4x04: "Layup".
- Generation Q, 2x07: "Light".
- The L Word, 2x03: "Loneliest Number".
- Generation Q, 2x04: "Lake House".
- Generation Q, 2x03: "Luck Be a Lady".
- The L Word, 4x07: "Lesson Number One".
- The L Word, 6x04: "Leaving Los Angeles".
- The L Word, 6x05: "Litmus Test".
- The L Word, 2x08: "Loyal".
- The L Word, Interrogation Tapes: "Alice".
- The L Word, 1x03: "Longing".
- The L Word, 4x02: "Livin' La Vida Loca".
- The L Word, 3x07: "Lone Star".
- The L Word, 2x02: "Lap Dance".
- The L Word, 5x10: "Lifecycle".
- In the Interrogation Tapes, Alice explains that she first met Shane when she got her hair done at the salon Shane was working at.
- Generation Q, 2x09: "Last Dance".
- The L Word, 4x05: "Lez Girls".
- The L Word, 2x04: "Lynch Pin".
- The L Word, 5x08: "Lay Down the Law".
- The L Word, 5x02: "Look Out, Here They Come!".
- The L Word, 1x01: "Pilot".
- Generation Q, 2x01: "Late to the Party".
- The L Word, 5x03: "Lady of the Lake".
- The L Word, 3x03: "Lobsters".
- The L Word, 4x08: "Lexington and Concord".
- Generation Q, 1x01: "Let's Do It Again".
- The L Word, 3x01: "Labia Majora".
- The L Word, 3x04: "Light My Fire".
- The L Word, 2x05: "Labyrinth".
- The L Word, 1x04: "Lies, Lies, Lies".