Ellen DeGeneres was born January 26, 1958 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Growing up Ellen had always dreamed of being a veterinarian, but she was not book smart, so instead she sold vacuums, waited tables, painted, and worked as a legal secretary. “Once, during a public speaking event, DeGeneres found herself frightened by the crowd and used humor to get through the experience. She was a hit, and received offers to do stand-up comedy.
She began performing in 1981, bolstered by her mother’s moral and financial support” (A&E Television Networks). When she was 23 years old she started doing stand up at a local coffeehouse. “She got her big debut in 1986 when, acting on a tip from Jay Leno, The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson sent a booking agent to catch her act at the Improv in Hollywood. As a result of that engagement, DeGeneres was invited onto The Tonight Show and earned the distinction of being the only female comic to be invited by Johnny Carson to sit on the famed “couch” during her first visit” (A&E Television Networks).
Ellen is extremely witty and has a way of just coming up with something funny to say in any situation. “Her wit won over audiences, and DeGeneres finally found success as an actress with her own prime-time sitcom—the self-titled television series, Ellen. The series was originally titled These Friends of Mine, but was renamed in 1994.
From that point, she enjoyed a dizzying evolution from its beginnings as an ensemble show to its development into a showcase for DeGeneres” (A&E Television Networks). In 1997 Ellen openly came out with her homosexuality and that made for huge controversy, because her character was the first lead in sitcom history to ever do so. “An ABC affiliate in Birmingham, Alabama, refused to air the landmark episode.
Fearing controversy, some of the show’s sponsors, Daimler Chrysler among them, withdrew advertisements” ( A&E Television Networks). Many of her episodes after the reveal had homosexual themes, and throughout the rest of the season she faced criticism from many. This didn’t stop her from being herself and she found that many gay friendly activists applauded her. Her coming out episode won an Emmy Award that year and even though she had many followers her sitcom was canceled in 1998.
“DeGeneres had already made the move to the big screen, starring in the dark comedy Mr. Wrong (1996) as a woman in search of the perfect man. She has also appeared in the comedy EdTV (1999), starring Matthew McConaughey, andthe television production of If These Walls Could Talk 2 (2000), in which she shared a much publicized love scene with Sharon Stone” (A&E Television Networks). Ellen returned to the TV world in 2003 with her hit daytime talk show Ellen which has won a dozen Emmys and many People’s Choice Awards.
Also in 2003 Ellen was the voice of Dory in the hit movie Finding Nemo. “A unique combination of kind and funny, Ellen DeGeneres has been a popular choice for award show host in recent years. She has hosted the Primetime Emmy Awards twice, and the Academy Awards for the first time in 2007. In September of 2009, Ellen made headlines again when she was chosen to fill the coveted fourth slot as a judge on the ninth season of American Idol” (A&E Television Networks).