Ellen DeGeneres
Ellen DeGeneres in Los Angeles, California, on October 4, 2011
Birth nameEllen Lee DeGeneres
Born (1958-01-26) January 26, 1958 (age 66)
Metairie, Louisiana, U.S.
MediumStand-up, television, film, books
Alma materUniversity of New Orleans
Years active1978–present
GenresObservational comedy, satire, surreal humor, anti-humor, deadpan
Subject(s)American culture, pop culture, sexuality, current events
(m. 2008)
Partner(s)Anne Heche
Alexandra Hedison
Parent(s)Betty DeGeneres
Elliott DeGeneres
Relative(s)Vance DeGeneres (brother)

Ellen Lee DeGeneres (/dɪˈɛnərəs/; born January 26, 1958)[2] is an American comedian, television host, actress, writer, and producer.[3] DeGeneres starred in the popular sitcom Ellen from 1994 to 1998 and has hosted her syndicated TV 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. Carson likened her to Bob Newhart, and invited her for an onscreen chat after her set; DeGeneres was the first female comedian invited by the iconic host to join him for such a discussion, at a time when such an invitation was widely regarded as one of the most influential endorsements available for a comic. As a film actress, DeGeneres starred in Mr. Wrong (1996), appeared in EDtv (1999), and The Love Letter (1999), and provided the voice of Dory in the Pixar animated films Finding Nemo (2003) and Finding Dory (2016); for Nemo, 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 The Ellen Show from 2001 to 2002. During the fourth season of Ellen in 1997, she came out as a lesbian in an appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show. Shortly afterward, her character, Ellen Morgan, also came out to a therapist played by Winfrey, and the series went on to explore various LGBT issues, including the coming-out process. This made her the first openly lesbian actress to play an openly lesbian character on television.[4] In 2008, she married her longtime 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 29 Emmys, 20 People's Choice Awards (more People's Choice Awards than any other person[5]), and numerous other awards for her work and charitable efforts. In 2016, she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama.[6]

Early life and education

DeGeneres was born and raised in Metairie, Louisiana, the daughter of Betty DeGeneres (née Elizabeth Jane Pfeffer), a speech therapist, and Elliott Everett DeGeneres, an insurance agent.[2][7] 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.[citation needed] 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.[8][9]

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. Her early jobs included working at J. C. Penney,[10] and 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.[11] In the early 1980s she began to tour nationally, and in 1982 she was named Showtime's Funniest Person in America.[citation needed]

Film career

Ellen DeGeneres at the Emmy Awards, September 1997

Ellen's work in the late 1980s and early 1990s included the film Coneheads. 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' 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 co-hosting an educational look at energy with Nye. The ride first opened on September 15, 1996, as Ellen's Energy Crisis, but was quickly given the more positive-sounding name Ellen's Energy Adventure.

Television career

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. 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.

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

DeGeneres's comedy career became the basis of the successful 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."[12]

Ellen reached its height of popularity in February 1997, when DeGeneres came out as a lesbian on The Oprah Winfrey Show. That April her character on the sitcom came out of the closet to her therapist, played by Oprah Winfrey.[13] 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.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed] In May 1998, Ellen was canceled. DeGeneres returned to stand-up comedy and later re-established herself as a successful talk show host.

DeGeneres returned to television in 2001 with a new CBS sitcom, The Ellen Show. DeGeneres launched a daytime television talk show, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, in September 2003. One of several celebrity-hosted talk shows surfacing at the beginning of that season, including 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 for 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 LED marquee sign. In May 2006, DeGeneres made a surprise appearance at the Tulane University commencement in New Orleans. Following George H. W. Bush and 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.[14]

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. [citation needed]

DeGeneres attending Oprah Winfrey's 50th birthday party in Los Angeles, California, in January 2004

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".[15][16] It is reported that DeGeneres also signed a contract to be a judge on the show for at least five seasons.[17] 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".[18]

Award shows

DeGeneres received wide exposure on November 4, 2001, when she hosted the televised broadcast of the Emmy Awards. Presented after two cancellations due to network concerns that a lavish ceremony following the September 11 attacks would appear insensitive, the show required a more somber tone that would also allow viewers to temporarily forget the tragedy. DeGeneres received several standing ovations for her performance that evening, which included the line: "What would bug 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.

On September 7, 2006, DeGeneres was selected to host the 79th Academy Awards ceremony, which took place on February 25, 2007.[19] This makes her the first openly gay or lesbian person to have hosted the event. During the Awards show, DeGeneres said, "What a wonderful night, such diversity in the room, in a year when there's been so many negative things said about people's race, religion, and sexual orientation. And I want to put this out there: If there weren't blacks, Jews and gays, there would be no Oscars, or anyone named Oscar, when you think about that."[20] Reviews of her hosting gig were positive, with one saying, "DeGeneres rocked, as she never forgot that she wasn't just there to entertain the Oscar nominees but also to tickle the audience at home."[21] 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.[22] On August 2, 2013, it was announced that DeGeneres would host the Academy Awards on March 2, 2014, for the second time.[23]

A selfie orchestrated by 86th Academy Awards host Ellen DeGeneres during the March 2, 2014, broadcast is the most retweeted image ever.[24][25] 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.[26][27][28] 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.[25][26] As of 9 March 2014, it has been retweeted over 3.3 million times.[25] The group selfie effort was parodied by Lego and Matt Groening with The Simpsons.[29][30] It beat the previous record, 778,801, which was held by Barack Obama, following his victory in the 2012 presidential election.[28][31][32]

Other ventures

Ellen at Tulane University in 2009

Voice acting

DeGeneres lent her voice to the role of Dory, a friendly fish with short-term memory loss, in the 2003 animated Disney/Pixar film Finding Nemo.[33] The film's director, Andrew Stanton, said that he chose Ellen because she changed the subject five times before one sentence had finished on her show.[34] 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.

She reprised the role of Dory from Finding Nemo in the 2016 sequel, Finding Dory.

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.[35] Her face became the focus of CoverGirl advertisements starting in January 2009. The beauty campaign was DeGeneres's first.[36]

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.[37][38]

In spring 2012, DeGeneres became the spokesperson for J. C. Penney in a tour and advertising campaign.[10]

DeGeneres represents a line of products on QVC, a home shopping network. Her line of home products, initialized as E.D., for Ellen DeGeneres, began being offered on QVC on October 24, 2014, under the name E.D. on Air.[39]


Main article: eleveneleven

On May 26, 2010, DeGeneres announced on her show that she was starting her own record label entitled "eleveneleven". She 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.[40] 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.[41]

Personal life

Forbes estimated DeGeneres' 2015 earnings at US$75 million.[42] In 2015, she was named the 50th most powerful woman in the world by Forbes[43] and number two on the World Pride Power list.[44]

She is a fan of the National Football League and has shown particular support for the New Orleans Saints and the Green Bay Packers.[45] In 2011, she attended a Saints practice dressed as Packers Hall of Famer Don Hutson.[46]

Sexual orientation and relationships

File:Ellen Time magazine.jpg
Ellen's April 14, 1997 Time magazine "coming out" cover

In 1997, DeGeneres came out as lesbian. The disclosure of her sexual orientation sparked intense interest by American tabloids.[47] The contentiousness of the media coverage stunted DeGeneres' professional career and left her "mired in depression".[47] In her book Love, Ellen, DeGeneres' mother, Betty DeGeneres describes being initially shocked when her daughter came out, but she has since 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.

The same year she came out, DeGeneres started a romantic relationship with actress Anne Heche that lasted until August 2000.[48] From 2000 to 2004, DeGeneres maintained a close affair with actress/director/photographer Alexandra Hedison.[49] The couple appeared on the cover of The Advocate after their separation had already been announced to the media.[50]

Portia de Rossi and DeGeneres in September 2012

Since 2004, DeGeneres has had a relationship with Portia de Rossi.[51] After the overturn of the same-sex marriage ban in California, DeGeneres and de Rossi were engaged, and married on August 16, 2008 at their home in Beverly Hills, California where they live with their four dogs and three cats.[52][53] 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.[54][55][56] On August 6, 2010, de Rossi filed a petition to legally change her name to Portia Lee James DeGeneres.[57] The petition was granted on September 23, 2010.[58]

Veganism and animal rights

DeGeneres defines herself vegan and "big animal lover".[59][60] De Rossi is a vegan as well.[60] Ellen co-ordinates a vegan outreach website titled 'Going Vegan with Ellen'.[61] She intended to open a vegan tapas bar, Bokado, in Los Angeles, but plans fell through.[62]

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.[63] She has several times invited Humane Society of the United States CEO Wayne Pacelle to speak on her show about the organization's efforts in animal protection legislation. In 2009, PETA named her their "Woman of the Year."[64] 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.[65]

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.[66]


In November 2011, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton named her a Special envoy for Global AIDS Awareness.[67] 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."[68][69]



Year Title Role Notes
1990 Arduous Moon Herself Short film
1991 Wisecracks Herself Documentary
1993 Coneheads Coach
1994 Trevor Herself Short film
1996 Mr. Wrong Martha Alston
1998 Goodbye Lover Sgt. Rita Pompano
1998 Dr. Dolittle Prologue Dog (voice)
1999 EDtv Cynthia
1999 The Love Letter Janet Hall
2003 Finding Nemo Dory (voice)
2003 Exploring the Reef Dory (voice) Short film
2003 Pauly Shore Is Dead Herself
2004 My Short Film Herself Short film
2014 Unity Narrator Documentary
2016 Finding Dory[70] Dory (voice)


Year Title Role Notes
1989–1990 Open House Margo Van Mete 2 episodes
1990–1992 One Night Stand Herself 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"
1996–1997 The Larry Sanders Show Herself 2 episodes
1996 38th Annual Grammy Awards Herself (host) TV special
1997 39th Annual Grammy Awards Herself (host) TV special
1998 Mad About You Nancy Bloom Episode: "The Finale"
2000 Ellen DeGeneres: The Beginning Herself Stand-up special
2000 If These Walls Could Talk 2 Kal TV movie
2001 Saturday Night Live Herself (host) Episode: "Ellen DeGeneres/No Doubt"
2001 On the Edge Operator Segment: "Reaching Normal"
2001 Will & Grace Sister Louise Episode: "My Uncle the Car"
2001 53rd Primetime Emmy Awards Herself (host) TV special
2001–2002 The Ellen Show Ellen Richmond 18 episodes; also executive producer
2003 Ellen DeGeneres: Here and Now Herself Stand-up special
2003–present The Ellen DeGeneres Show Herself (host) Also creator, writer, executive producer
2003 55th Primetime Emmy Awards Herself (co-host) TV special
2004 Six Feet Under Herself Episode: "Parallel Play"
2005 Joey Herself Episode: "Joey and the Sex Tape"
2005 57th Primetime Emmy Awards Herself (host) TV special
2007 Ellen's Really Big Show Herself (host) TV special
2007 79th Academy Awards Herself (host) TV special
2007 Sesame Street Herself Episode: "The Tutu Spell"
2008 Ellen's Even Bigger Really Big Show Herself (host) TV special
2009 Ellen's Bigger, Longer & Wider Show Herself (host) TV special
2010 American Idol Herself (judge) Season 9
2010 The Simpsons Herself (voice) Episode: "Judge Me Tender"
2010 Christmas in Washington Herself (host) TV special
2014 86th Academy Awards Herself (host) TV special
2016 The Big Bang Theory Herself Episode: "The Geology Elevation"

As executive producer

Year Title Notes
2012–2014 Bethenny 170 episodes
2015 Repeat After Me 8 episodes
2015–present Ellen's Design Challenge 6 episodes
2015 One Big Happy 6 episodes
2016–present Little Big Shots 6 episodes
2018 Green Eggs and Ham[71]
TBA Castle Hangnail[72]

Video game

Year Title Voice
1996 9: The Last Resort The Octopus Lady
2003 Finding Nemo Dory (Only during clips of the movie shown in game)
2016 Disney Infinity 3.0 Dory


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

Awards and honors

Main article: List of awards and nominations received by Ellen DeGeneres



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Media offices Preceded byGeorge Lopez Host of Christmas in Washington 2010 Succeeded byConan O'Brien

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