Anne Heche learned early on that appearances can be deceiving. Her father was a church choir director whose death from AIDS in 1983 shocked his wife and four children, who had no idea that he had led a secret gay life. Until then, the family had zigzagged from parish to parish throughout the Midwest and the East, living on a shoestring. “My father had an obsession with: If you look a certain way, then people will never know the truth,” she says. “Beauty was always interesting to me because we were such a poor family, but we looked like we weren’t. We had one nice outfit each, and it was like, if we wear this and act like this, nobody will know we can’t pay the rent or figure out how to put food on the table. We got by on appearance.”
It was great training for Hollywood. With her luminous skin, close-cropped blonde hair and mile-high cheekbones, the 28-year-old actress has stirred up such leading men as Donnie Brasco’s Johnny Depp and Volcano’s Tommy Lee Jones. Next month she puts her magic moves on Harrison Ford in the steamy adventure-romance, 6 Days, 7 Nights.
Heche’s rapture factor doesn’t surprise her significant other, Ellen DeGeneres, with whom she shares a home in L.A. “I love every single thing about her look,” the comedian says. “I tell her how beautiful she is all the time. Not that she wouldn’t be beautiful without me telling her. Anne’s like a shining star. She’s just full of light. I don’t know why there are 49 other people in this issue.”
Navigating her own quirky way through the Rodeo Drive glamor maze, the 5’5″ Heche credits her relationship with DeGeneres for keeping her glow. “Looking at Ellen is my beauty secret,” she says. “When I look at her, I feel good.” Perhaps that’s why she can get through the day with just a swipe of lip gloss—and why she insists that at home, “We don’t edit what we eat. I love to cook, but we also love our Astro cheeseburgers.” To face the flashbulbs at parties and premieres, though, she puffs on the powder. Otherwise, she allows, “in some of those paparazzi shots, you look like a greaseball.”