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Ellen DeGeneres

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Ellen DeGeneres

Ellen DeGeneres
Ellen DeGeneres in Los Angeles, California on October 4, 2011
Birth name Ellen Lee DeGeneres
Born (1958-01-26) January 26, 1958
Metairie, Louisiana, U.S.
Medium Stand-up comedy, television, film, books
Nationality American
Years active 1978–present
Genres Observational comedy, social satire, surreal humor, deadpan
Subject(s) Celebrity comedy, pop culture, sexuality, current events, political comedy, family comedy, everyday life
Influences Woody Allen, Lucille Ball, Carol Burnett, Steve Martin, Bob Newhart[1]
Spouse Portia de Rossi (m. 2008)
Partner(s) Anne Heche
Alexandra Hedison
Emmy Awards
Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series
1997 Ellen
Outstanding Talk Show
2004 The Ellen DeGeneres Show
2005 The Ellen DeGeneres Show
2006 The Ellen DeGeneres Show
2007 The Ellen DeGeneres Show
Outstanding Talk Show Entertainment
2010 The Ellen Degeneres Show
2011 The Ellen Degeneres Show
Outstanding Special Class Writing
2005 The Ellen DeGeneres Show
2006 The Ellen DeGeneres Show
2007 The Ellen DeGeneres Show
Outstanding Talk Show Host
2005 The Ellen DeGeneres Show
2006 The Ellen DeGeneres Show
2007 The Ellen DeGeneres Show
2008 The Ellen DeGeneres Show
American Comedy Awards
Funniest Female Stand-Up Comic
Funniest Female Performer in a TV Special
1994 46th Primetime Emmy Awards
2000 Ellen DeGeneres: The Beginning
Saturn Award
Best Supporting Actress (film)
2003 Finding Nemo
Teen Choice Awards
Best Comedian

Ellen Lee DeGeneres (; born January 26, 1958) is an American comedian, television host, actress, writer, and television producer.[2] She was the star in the popular sitcom Ellen from 1994 to 1998, and has hosted her syndicated talk show The Ellen DeGeneres Show since 2003.

Her stand up career started in the early 1980s, culminating in a 1986 appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, who likened her to Bob Newhart, and invited her for an onscreen chat after her set. She was the first comedienne invited by Johnny Carson to join him, a national, and the most influential endorsement available at the time for comics. As a film actress, she starred in Mr. Wrong (1996), appeared in EDtv (1999), and The Love Letter (1999), and provided the voice of Dory in the Pixar animated film Finding Nemo (2003), for which she was awarded the Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actress, the first time an actress won a Saturn Award for a voice performance. In 2010 she was a judge on American Idol for its ninth season.

She starred in two television sitcoms, Ellen from 1994 to 1998, and LGBT issues including the coming-out process. In 2008, she married her long-time girlfriend Portia de Rossi.

DeGeneres has hosted the Academy Awards, Grammy Awards, and the Primetime Emmys. She has authored three books, and started her own record company, Eleveneleven. She has won 13 Emmys, 14 People's Choice Awards, and numerous other awards for her work and charitable efforts.

Early life and education

DeGeneres was born and raised in Metairie, Louisiana, the daughter of Elizabeth Jane "Betty" Pfeffer, a speech therapist, and Elliott Everett DeGeneres, an insurance agent.[3][4] She has one brother, Vance, a musician and producer. She is of French, English, German, and Irish descent. She was raised as a Christian Scientist until age 13. In 1973, her parents filed for separation and were divorced the following year. Shortly after, Ellen's mother married Roy Gruessendorf, a salesman. Betty Jane and Ellen moved with Gruessendorf from the New Orleans area to Atlanta, Texas. Vance stayed with his father. On a February 2011 episode of her show, she told her studio audience of a letter from the New England Historic Genealogical Society confirming she is 15th cousin to Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge via their shared common ancestor Thomas Fairfax.[5][6]

DeGeneres graduated from Atlanta High School in May 1976, after completing her first years of high school at Grace King High School in Metairie, Louisiana. She moved back to New Orleans to attend the University of New Orleans, where she majored in communication studies. After one semester, she left school to do clerical work in a law firm with a cousin, Laura Gillen. She also held a job selling clothes at the chain store the Merry-Go-Round at the Lakeside Shopping Center. Her early jobs included working at J. C. Penney,[7] being a waitress at T.G.I. Friday's and another restaurant, a house painter, a hostess, and a bartender. She relates much of her childhood and career experiences in her comedic work.

Stand-up comedy

DeGeneres started performing stand-up comedy at small clubs and coffee houses. By 1981 she was the emcee at Clyde's Comedy Club in New Orleans. DeGeneres cites Woody Allen and Steve Martin as her main influences at this time.[8] In the early 1980s she began to tour nationally; and, she was named Showtime's Funniest Person in America in 1982.[9] In 1986, she appeared for the first time on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, who likened her to Bob Newhart.[8] When Carson invited her for an onscreen chat after her performance, she became the first comedienne to have been offered that opportunity.[9]

Film career

Early screen work

Ellen DeGeneres at the Emmy Awards, September 1997

Ellen's television and film work in the late 1980s and early 1990s included roles on television in Open House and in the film Coneheads. In 1992, producers Neal Marlens and Carol Black cast DeGeneres in their sitcom Laurie Hill, in the role of Nurse Nancy MacIntyre. The series was canceled after only four episodes, but Marlens and Black were so impressed with DeGeneres' performance that they soon cast her in their next ABC pilot, These Friends of Mine, which they co-created with David S. Rosenthal.

Ellen's Energy Adventure

DeGeneres starred in a series of films for a show named Ellen's Energy Adventure, which is part of the Universe of Energy attraction and pavilion at Walt Disney World's Epcot. The film also featured Bill Nye, Alex Trebek, Michael Richards, and Jamie Lee Curtis. The show revolved around DeGeneres's falling asleep and finding herself in an energy-themed version of Jeopardy!, playing against an old rival, portrayed by Curtis, and Albert Einstein. The next film had DeGeneres hosting an educational look at energy, co-hosted with Nye. The ride first opened on September 15, 1996, as Ellen's Energy Crisis, but was quickly renamed to the more positive-sounding Ellen's Energy Adventure.

Television career

Open House (1989–1990)

DeGeneres's first regular TV role was in a short-lived Fox sitcom called Open House. She played the role of Margo Van Meter, an office worker at the Juan Verde Real Estate company. The show co-starred Alison LaPlaca and Mary Page Keller.

Ellen (1994–1998)

At the Governor's Ball after the 46th Annual Emmy Awards telecast, September 1994

DeGeneres's comedy material became the basis of the successful 1994–1998 sitcom Ellen, named These Friends of Mine during its first season. The ABC show was popular in its first few seasons due in part to DeGeneres's style of observational humor; it was often referred to as a "female Seinfeld."[10]

Ellen reached its height of popularity in February 1997, when DeGeneres made her homosexuality public on The Oprah Winfrey Show. Subsequently her character on the sitcom came out of the closet in April to her therapist, played by Oprah Winfrey, revealing that she's gay.[11] The coming-out episode, titled "The Puppy Episode", was one of the highest-rated episodes of the show. The series returned for a fifth season, but experienced falling ratings due to ABC's cutting back on promoting the show. It was believed that The Walt Disney Company, ABC's parent owner, had become uncomfortable with the subject matter depicted on the show now that DeGeneres' character was openly gay. In May 1998, Ellen was canceled. DeGeneres returned to the stand-up comedy circuit, and later re-established herself as a successful talk show host.

The Ellen Show

DeGeneres returned to series television in 2001 with a new CBS sitcom, The Ellen Show.

The Ellen DeGeneres Show

DeGeneres launched a daytime television talk show, The Ellen DeGeneres Show in September 2003. Amid a crop of several celebrity-hosted talk shows surfacing at the beginning of that season, such as those of Sharon Osbourne and Rita Rudner, her show has consistently risen in the Nielsen ratings and received widespread critical praise. It was nominated for 11 Daytime Emmy Awards in its first season, winning four, including Best Talk Show. The show has won 25 Emmy Awards in its first three seasons on the air. DeGeneres is known for her dancing and singing with the audience at the beginning of the show and during commercial breaks. She often gives away free prizes and trips to be in her show's studio audience with the help of her sponsors.

DeGeneres celebrated her thirty-year class reunion by flying her graduating class to California to be guests on her show in February 2006. She presented Atlanta High School with a surprise gift of a new electronic Bill Clinton to the podium, she came out in a bathrobe and furry slippers. "They told me everyone would be wearing robes," she said. Ellen then went on to make another commencement speech at Tulane in 2009.[12]

The show broadcast for a week from Universal Studios Orlando in March 2007. Skits included DeGeneres going on the Hulk Roller Coaster Ride and the Jaws Boat Ride. In May 2007, DeGeneres was placed on bed rest due to a torn ligament in her back. She continued hosting her show from a hospital bed, tended to by a nurse, explaining "the show must go on, as they say." Guests sat in hospital beds as well. On May 1, 2009, DeGeneres celebrated her 1000th episode, featuring celebrity guests such as Oprah Winfrey, Justin Timberlake, and Paris Hilton, among others.

American Idol

On September 9, 2009, it was confirmed that DeGeneres would replace Paula Abdul as a judge of the ninth season of American Idol. Her role started after the contestant auditions, at the beginning of "Hollywood Week".[13][14] It is reported that DeGeneres also signed a contract to be a judge on the show for at least five seasons.[15] She made her American Idol debut on February 9, 2010. However, on July 29, 2010, DeGeneres and Fox executives announced that the comedian would be leaving American Idol after one season. In a statement, DeGeneres said that the series "didn't feel like the right fit for me".[16]

Award shows

2001 Emmy Awards

DeGeneres received wide exposure on November 4, 2001, when she hosted the televised broadcast of the Taliban more than seeing a gay woman in a suit surrounded by Jews?"

In August 2005, DeGeneres hosted the 2005 Primetime Emmy Awards ceremony held on September 18, 2005. This was three weeks after Hurricane Katrina, making it the second time she hosted the Emmys following a national tragedy. She also hosted the Grammy Awards in 1996 and in 1997.

79th Academy Awards

On September 7, 2006, DeGeneres was selected to host the [19] Regis Philbin said in an interview that "the only complaint was there's not enough Ellen."

DeGeneres was nominated for an Emmy Award as host of the Academy Awards broadcast.[20]

86th Academy Awards

On August 2, 2013, it was announced that Ellen would host the Academy Awards on March 2, 2014 for the second time.[21]

A selfie orchestrated by 86th Academy Awards host Ellen DeGeneres during the March 2, 2014 broadcast is the most retweeted image ever.[22][23] DeGeneres said she wanted to homage Meryl Streep's record 17 Oscar nominations by setting a new record with her, and invited other Oscar celebrities to join them. The resulting photo of twelve celebrities broke the previous retweet record within forty minutes, and was retweeted over 1.8 million times in the first hour.[24][25][26] By the end of the ceremony it had been retweeted over 2 million times, less than 24 hours later, it had been retweeted over 2.8 million times.[23][24] As of 9 March 2014, it has been retweeted over 3.3 million times.[23] The group selfie effort was parodied by Lego, and Matt Groening with The Simpsons.[27][28] It beat the previous record, 778,801, which was held by Barack Obama, following his victory in the 2012 presidential election.[26][29][30]

Other ventures

Ellen at Tulane University in 2009

Voice acting

DeGeneres lent her voice to the role of Dory, a fish with short-term memory loss, in the 2003 animated Disney/Pixar film Finding Nemo. The film's director, Andrew Stanton, claimed that he chose Ellen because she changed the subject five times before one sentence had finished on her show.[31] For her performance as Dory, DeGeneres won the Saturn Award from the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films for Best Supporting Actress; Favorite Voice from an Animated Movie from the Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards; and the Annie Award from the International Animated Film Association for Outstanding Voice Acting. She was also nominated for a Chicago Film Critics Association Award in the Best Supporting Actress category. She also provided the voice of the dog in the prologue of the Eddie Murphy feature film Dr. Dolittle. Her win of the Saturn Award marked the first and only time the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films has given the acting award for a voice performance.

Commercial spokesperson

In November 2004, DeGeneres appeared, dancing, in an ad campaign for American Express. Her most recent American Express commercial, a two-minute black-and-white spot in which she works with animals, debuted in November 2006 and was created by Ogilvy & Mather. In 2007, the commercial won the Emmy Award for Outstanding Commercial.

DeGeneres began working with CoverGirl Cosmetics in September 2008, for which she has been criticized, as her animal-friendly values clash with Procter and Gamble's (the maker of CoverGirl Cosmetics) animal testing.[32] Her face became the focus of CoverGirl advertisements starting in January 2009. The beauty campaign was DeGeneres's first.[33]

On December 3, 2011, DeGeneres headlined the third annual "Change Begins Within" gala for the David Lynch Foundation held at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.[34][35]

In spring 2012, DeGeneres became the spokesperson for J. C. Penney in a tour and advertising campaign.[7]


On May 26, 2010, Ellen announced on her show that she was starting her own record label entitled "eleveneleven". Ellen explained her choice of name, claiming that she often sees the number 11:11 when looking at her clocks, that she found Greyson on the 11th, and that the singer's soccer jersey has the number 11.[36] She mentioned that she had been looking for videos of performances on YouTube to start her label. The first act she signed to the label is Greyson Chance.[37]

Personal life

In 2007, Forbes estimated DeGeneres's net worth at US$65 million.[38] In 2014, she was named the 46th most powerful woman in the world by Forbes.[39]

She is a fan of the National Football League, and has shown particular support for the New Orleans Saints and the Green Bay Packers.[40] In 2011, she attended a Saints practice dressed as Packers Hall of Famer Don Hutson.[41]

Sexual orientation and relationships

Ellen's April 14, 1997 Time Magazine 'coming out' cover.

In 1997, DeGeneres came out as lesbian. The bold disclosure of her sexual orientation sparked clamorous interest by American tabloids.[42] The contentiousness of the media coverage stunted DeGeneres' professional career and left her "mired in depression".[42] That same year, she started a romantic relationship with actress Anne Heche that lasted until August 2000.[43] In her book Love, Ellen, DeGeneres's mother, Betty DeGeneres describes being initially shocked when her daughter came out, but has become one of her strongest supporters; she is also an active member of Parents & Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) and spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign's Coming Out Project.

From 2001 to 2004, DeGeneres maintained a close affair with actress/director/photographer Alexandra Hedison.[44] The couple appeared on the cover of The Advocate after their separation had already been announced to the media.[45]

Portia de Rossi and DeGeneres in September 2012

Since 2004, DeGeneres has had a relationship with Portia de Rossi. After the overturn of the same-sex marriage ban in California, DeGeneres announced on a May 2008 show that she and de Rossi were engaged,[46][47] and gave de Rossi a three-carat pink diamond ring.[48] They were married on August 16, 2008, at their home, with nineteen guests including their mothers.[48] The passage of Proposition 8 cast doubt on the legal status of their marriage, but a subsequent California Supreme Court judgment validated it because it occurred before November 4, 2008.[49][50] DeGeneres and de Rossi live in Beverly Hills, with three dogs and four cats.[51] On August 6, 2010, de Rossi filed a petition to legally change her name to Portia Lee James DeGeneres.[52] The petition was granted on September 23, 2010.[53]

Veganism and animal rights

DeGeneres is a vegan who calls herself a "big animal lover".[54][55] De Rossi is a vegan as well.[55] Ellen co-ordinates a vegan outreach website titled 'Going Vegan with Ellen'.[56] She intended to open a vegan tapas bar, Bokado, in Los Angeles, but plans fell through.[57]

The site for The Ellen DeGeneres Show contains a section called "Going Vegan With Ellen," in which she promotes "Meatless Mondays" and features vegan recipes.[58] She has several times invited PETA named her their "Woman of the Year."[59] In April 2013, she donated $25,000 to stop Ag-Gag anti-whistleblower legislation in Tennessee, which would prohibit undercover investigators from recording footage of animal abuse on farms.[60]

DeGeneres served as campaign ambassador to Farm Sanctuary's Adopt-A-Turkey Project in 2010, asking people to start "a new tradition by adopting a turkey instead of eating one" at Thanksgiving.[61]


In November 2011, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton named her a Special envoy for Global AIDS Awareness.[62] On December 3, 2011, DeGeneres opened the show at the David Lynch Foundation's 3rd annual "Change Begins Within" gala at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art to raise funds to bring Transcendental Meditation to at-risk populations suffering from epidemic levels of chronic stress and stress-related disorders. She says: "TM is the only time I have that stillness… it gives me this peaceful feeling, and I love it so much. I can’t say enough good things about it. All the benefits that you can achieve from sitting still and going within—it really is a beautiful experience. David Lynch is such a wonderful man to start this foundation to help people."[63][64]



Year Title Role Notes
1993 Coneheads Coach
1996 Mr. Wrong Martha Alston
1998 Goodbye Lover Sgt. Rita Pompano
1998 Dr. Dolittle Prologue Dog (voice)
1999 EDtv Cynthia
1999 Love Letter, TheThe Love Letter Janet Hall
2000 If These Walls Could Talk 2 Kal TV movie
2003 Finding Nemo Dory (voice)
2003 Exploring the Reef Dory (voice) Short film
2014 Unity Narrator Documentary
2016 Finding Dory[65] Dory (voice) Filming


Year Title Role Notes
1989–1990 Open House Margo Van Mete 2 episodes
1992 Laurie Hill Nancy MacIntyre 10 episodes
1994–1998 Ellen Ellen Morgan 109 episodes; also writer, executive producer
1995 Roseanne Dr. Whitman Episode: "The Blaming of the Shrew"
1996 The Dana Carvey Show Ellen Morgan Episode: "The Mountain Dew Dana Carvey Show"
1998 Mad About You Nancy Bloom Episode: "The Finale"
2001 On the Edge Operator Segment: "Reaching Normal"
2001 Will & Grace Sister Louise Episode: "My Uncle the Car"
2001–2002 Ellen Show, TheThe Ellen Show Ellen Richmond 18 episodes; also executive producer

Video game

Year Title Voice
1996 9: The Last Resort The Octopus Lady

As herself

Year Title Notes
1986 The Young Comedians All-Star Reunion Stand-up special
1987 Women of the Night Stand-up special
1990 Arduous Moon Short film
1990 One Night Stand: Ellen DeGeneres 1 Stand-up special
1991 Wisecracks Documentary
1992 One Night Stand: Ellen DeGeneres 2 Stand-up special
1992 The A-List TV Comedy Series
1992 Six Comics in Search of a Generation Stand-up special
1993 Komedy All Stars Stand-up special
1994 Trevor Short film
1996 Ellen's Energy Adventure Film in theme park attraction
1996–1997 The Larry Sanders Show 2 episodes
1996 38th Annual Grammy Awards TV special
1997 39th Annual Grammy Awards TV special
2000 Ellen DeGeneres: The Beginning Stand-up special
2001 Saturday Night Live Episode: "Ellen DeGeneres/No Doubt"
2001 53rd Primetime Emmy Awards TV special
2003 Ellen DeGeneres: Here and Now Stand-up special
2003 MADtv Episode: "9.3"
2003–present Ellen DeGeneres Show, TheThe Ellen DeGeneres Show Also creator, writer, executive producer
2003 Pauly Shore Is Dead
2004 My Short Film Short film
2004 Six Feet Under Episode: "Parallel Play"
2005 Joey Episode: "Joey and the Sex Tape"
2005 57th Primetime Emmy Awards TV special
2007 Ellen's Really Big Show Stand-up special
2007 79th Academy Awards TV special
2007 Sesame Street Episode: "The Tutu Spell"
2007 Bachelorette, TheThe Bachelorette Episode: "4.3"
2007–2008 American Idol 2 episodes
2008 Ellen's Even Bigger Really Big Show Stand-up special
2009 Ellen's Bigger, Longer & Wider Show Stand-up special
2009 So You Think You Can Dance Guest judge; "Week 7 (July 22, 2009)"
2010 American Idol Judge; Season 9
2010 Simpsons, TheThe Simpsons Episode: "Judge Me Tender"
2010 Christmas in Washington TV special
2014 86th Academy Awards TV special


Year Album Notes
1996 Ellen Degeneres: Taste This comedy Live album

Awards and honors

DeGeneres at a ceremony to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in September 2012
Daytime Emmy Awards
  • Outstanding Talk Show, The Ellen DeGeneres Show – 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2011
  • Outstanding Talk Show Host, The Ellen DeGeneres Show – 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008
  • Outstanding Special Class Writing, The Ellen DeGeneres Show – 2005, 2006, 2007
Emmy Awards
Annie Awards
Saturn Awards
Mark Twain Prize for American Humor by the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
People's Choice Awards
  • Favorite Funny Female Star – 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008
  • Favorite Talk Show Host – 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010,
  • Favorite Daytime Talk Show Host – 2012, 2013, 2014
  • Favorite Yes I Chose This Star – 2008
Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards
  • Favorite Voice from an Animated Movie – 2004
Tulane University President's Medal
Women in Film Crystal + Lucy Awards
  • 2000 Lucy Award, actor, If These Walls Could Talk 2, in recognition of her excellence and innovation in her creative works that have enhanced the perception of women through the medium of television.[68]
Hollywood Walk of Fame



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External links

Media offices
Preceded by
George Lopez
Host of Christmas in Washington
Succeeded by
Conan O'Brien
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