Named the 50th most powerful woman in the world by Forbes in 2015, Ellen De Generes has achieved enormous success in the creative arts as a consequence of her willingness to be herself; a very brave decision that has done a great deal to normalize the presence of non-traditional sexuality and relationships in American life.
As one of the most recognisable faces on TV, Ellen De Generes has an enormous platform on which to enthrall us with her unique brand of comedy, profundity and courage.
Ellen was born in Louisiana and described herself as “not book smart”, which prevented her from following her dream of becoming a veterinarian. She recalls being forced to rely on her humour at a public speaking event, a moment which catalyzed her self-confidence and earned her numerous offers to start doing stand up, which she took up in 1981.
Killing it in the local coffeehouse scene, she scored an appearance on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson at 23, which catapulted her into the spotlight. She became a regular guest on the talk show circuit, appearing on Oprah, Letterman, Leno and others. In 1994 she became the star of the sitcom Ellen, on which she impressed growing audiences with her wit and charm. The show became the subject of a media firestorm when, in 1997, Ellen’s character became the first sitcom lead to openly recognize her homosexuality on TV, with several advertisers threatening a walkout and an ABC affiliate and Alabama refusing to air it.
After the show aired several more episodes in which homosexuality is explored, and Ellen herself admitted her sexuality on the Oprah Winfrey Show, she became a hero to and advocate of the LGBTI community.
Though Ellen would be pulled in 1998, De Generes would have her most success returning to the talk show world, establishing her wildly successful self titled talk show Ellen in 2003. In addition to winning numerous awards both for the show and personally, she has also hosted the Emmys in 2001 and 2005, using her trademark combination of humour and sensitivity to help heal a country devastated by September 11 and Hurricane Katrina respectively.
Ellen has also enjoyed a remarkable career in Hollywood, notable especially for her acclaimed role voicing the hugely popular character of Dory in Finding Nemo (2003) and Finding Dory (2016).
She has continued to be outspoken in her support of LGBTI rights, veganism and humanitarian issues such as AIDS, and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2016 by Barack Obama for her service to the arts.