In this series we look at various heroes and advocates of the LGBTQIA family.
In this article we focus on a iconic woman who identifies as a lesbian.
Ellen DeGeneres “Find out who you are and be that person. That’s what your soul was put on this Earth to be. Find that truth, live that truth and everything else will come.”
Ellen DeGeneres was born 26 January 1958 in Metairie, LA. She hoped to become a veterinarian, however decided not to pursue this idea when she realized “what it required”. To make a living, DeGeneres sold vacuum cleaners, painted houses and performed legal secretarial work. Humor helped her get through a difficult public speaking experience. In 1981, she began receiving offers to do stand up comedy and performing in local coffee houses. Her ‘big break’ came in 1986 when she appeared on The Tonight Show and became the only female comic Johnny Carson had ever invited to sit on his couch, during her initial visit. DeGeneres has appeared in many other talk shows such as The TonightShow with Jay Leno, The Oprah Winfrey Show, and Good Morning America. She was spotlighted and received acclaim on ABC’s Primetime Live.
“I learned compassion from being discriminated against. Everything bad that’s ever happened to me has taught me compassion.”
DeGeneres became a well-loved comic. She was offered her own television show, Ellen in 1994. In 1997, the DeGeneres’ character openly acknowledged she was a lesbian. This was the very first time a character had done so. Criticism ensued and sponsors withdrew advertisements. Nonetheless, the show also received praise from supportive activists, and an Emmy Award for this episode, yet it was soon cancelled.
DeGeneres appeared in several movies in the late 90s and returned to television in her daytime talk show, which has since won many Daytime Emmy and People’s Choice Awards. She also voiced the animated character Dory in the film Finding Nemo and its sequel, Finding Dory. At various times between the late 90s and recent years she has also hosted the Grammy Awards, the Academy Awards, and the Primetime Emmys. She is a successful author of many books, and an executive producer for several television shows.
The Oscars Promo 2014
“I’m not an activist; I don’t look for controversy. I’m not a political person, but I’m a person with compassion. I care passionately about equal rights. I care about human rights. I care about animal rights.”
DeGeneres is a financial contributor and supporter of many organizations involving education, animal rights, children’s health, AIDS research, and cancer.
DeGeneres was in a relationship with actress Anne Heche for three years, and with Alexandra Hedison also three years. She met actress wife Portia De Rossi in 2004. De Rossi has been quoted as saying that “meeting DeGeneres for the first time made her weak in the knees”, but was not openly gay at that time and has said she was in denial about her sexuality. The couple married 16 August 2008 in California after the California Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry.
Ellen and Portia Wedding, pictured with Ellen’s mother Betty.
Ellen DeGeneres “I would love to have the same rights as everybody else. I would love; I don’t care if it’s called marriage. I don’t care if it’s called, you know, domestic partnership. I don’t care what it’s called.”
DeGeneres has said she is not an activist. What has made her so loved by not only the LGBTQIA community, but by everyone is her courage, kindness and her outspokennes against discrimination. Her self confidence and self assurance in that she has always been proud of who she is. DeGeneres chose to come out as a lesbian in 1997, while taking the huge risk with her career. Her decision was vital in opening the door to television shows and characters that were to come. DeGeneres is said to have done more to impact Americans’ views about gay rights than any other celebrity or notable person. In 2016 President Barack Obama awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor to DeGeneres for “helping push America in the direction of justice.”