Ellen Lee DeGeneres; born January 26, 1958) is an American stand-up comedian

Ellen DeGeneres

, television host and actress. She hosts the syndicated talk show The Ellen DeGeneres Show, and is also a judge on American Idol, having joined the show in its ninth season.

She has hosted both the Academy Awards and the Primetime Emmys. As a film actress, she starred in Mr. Wrong, appeared in EDtv and The Love Letter, and provided the voice of Dory in the Disney-Pixar animated film Finding Nemo. She also starred in two television sitcoms, Ellen from 1994 to 1998 and The Ellen Show from 2001 to 2002. In 1997, during the fourth season of Ellen, she came out publicly as a lesbian in an appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show. Shortly afterwards, her character (Ellen Morgan) also came out to a therapist played by Winfrey and the series went on to explore various LGBT issues as well as the coming out process. She has won twelve Emmys and numerous awards for her work and charitable efforts.

Early life and education

DeGeneres was raised in Metairie, Louisiana, the daughter of Betty Jane DeGeneres (née Pfeffer), a speech therapist, and Elliott DeGeneres, an insurance agent.[1][2] She has one brother, Vance DeGeneres, who is a producer and musician. She is of French, English, German and Irish descent. DeGeneres was raised as a Christian Scientist until the age of thirteen. DeGeneres' parents filed for separation in 1973 and were divorced the following year. Shortly after, Betty Jane remarried Roy Gruessendorf, who worked as a salesman. Betty Jane and DeGeneres moved with Gruessendorf from the New Orleans area to Atlanta, Texas. Vance stayed with their birth father.

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 along with cousin Laura Gillen. She also held a job selling clothes at the chain store the Merry-Go-Round at the Lakeside Shopping Center. Other working experiences included being a waitress at TGI 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 coffeehouses. By 1981 she was the emcee at Clyde's Comedy Club in New Orleans. Degeneres describes Woody Allen and Steve Martin as her main influences at this time.[3] In the early 1980s she began to tour nationally, being named Showtime's Funniest Person in America in 1982.[4] In 1986 she appeared for the first time on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, who likened her to Bob Newhart.[3] When Carson invited her over for an onscreen chat after her performance, she became the first female comedian in the show's history to whom this honor was bestowed.[4]

Early screen work

Television and film work in the late 1980s and early 1990s included roles on television in Open House and in the film Coneheads.

Ellen (sitcom, 1994–1998)

File:Ellen DeGeneres 2.jpg

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

DeGeneres' 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' style of quirky observational humor; it was often referred to as a "female Seinfeld."[5]

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 was gay.[6] The coming out episode, entitled "The Puppy Episode", was one of the highest-rated episodes of the show, but later episodes of the series would fail to match its popularity, and after declining ratings, the show was canceled. DeGeneres returned to the stand-up comedy circuit, and would later re-establish herself as a successful talk show host.

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 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.

The Ellen Show

DeGeneres returned to series television in 2001 with a new CBS sitcom, The Ellen Show. Though her character was again a lesbian, it was not the central theme of the show.

2001 Emmy Awards

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, 2001 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 57th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards ceremony which was 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.

Voice acting

DeGeneres lent her voice to the role of Dory, a fish with short-term memory loss, in the summer 2003 hit animated Disney/Pixar film Finding Nemo. The film's director, Andrew Stanton, claimed that he chose her because she "changed the subject five times before one sentence had finished" on her show.[7] 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.

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 her 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.

The show broadcast for a week from Universal Studios Orlando in March 2007. Guests that week included Jennifer Lopez and Lynyrd Skynyrd, and 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, Justin Timberlake, and Paris Hilton, among others.

79th Academy Awards


Ellen DeGeneres at the Emmy Awards, 1997

On September 7, 2006, DeGeneres was selected to host the 79th Academy Awards ceremony, which took place on February 25, 2007.[8] 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."[9] 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."[10] In fact, 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.[11]

2007 Writers Guild strike

DeGeneres, like many actors who are also writers, is a member of both the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) and the Writers Guild of America (WGA). Thus, although DeGeneres verbally supported the 2007 Writers Guild of America strike she did not support it when she crossed the picket line the day after the strike began.[12][13] Her representatives said that she was competing with other first-run syndicated shows during the competitive November sweeps period, and that she could not break her contracts or risk her show losing its time slot. As a show of solidarity with the strikers, DeGeneres omitted her monologue during the strike, typically written by WGA writers.[14] The WGA condemned her while the AFTRA defended her.[15][16][17]

Commercial spokeswoman

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 where she works with animals, debuted in November 2006 and was created by Ogilvy and Mather. In 2007, the commercial won the Emmy Award for Outstanding Commercial.

DeGeneres began working with Cover Girl Cosmetics in September 2008, for which she has been criticized, as her animal-friendly values clash with Procter and Gamble's (the maker of Cover Girl Cosmetics) animal testing.[18] Her face is the focus of new Cover Girl advertisements starting in January 2009. The beauty campaign will be DeGeneres' first.[19]

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 will start only after the contestant auditions.[20][21] DeGeneres also reportedly signed a contract to be a judge on the show for at least five seasons.[22] She made her American Idol debut on February 9, 2010.

Personal life

DeGeneres was in a relationship (1997–2000) with former Another World actress Anne Heche who went on to marry cameraman Coley Laffoon.[23] From 2001 to 2004, DeGeneres and actress/director/photographer Alexandra Hedison were in a relationship. They appeared on the cover of The Advocate after their separation had already been announced to the media.[24]

Since 2004, DeGeneres has been in a relationship with former Ally McBeal and Arrested Development star Portia de Rossi. After the overturn of the same-sex marriage California Proposition 22 (2000) ban in California, DeGeneres announced on a May 2008 show that she and de Rossi were engaged,[25][26] and gave de Rossi a three-carat pink diamond ring.[27] They were married on August 16, 2008 at their home, with nineteen guests including their respective mothers.[27] The passage of Proposition 8 cast doubt on the legal status of their marriage but a subsequent Supreme Court judgment validated it because it occurred before 4 November 2008.[28][29]

They live in Beverly Hills, with three dogs and four cats,[30] and both are vegan.[31]

In her book, Love, Ellen, DeGeneres' mother, Betty DeGeneres, describes being initially shocked when her daughter came out as a lesbian, but has become one of her strongest supporters, an active member of Parents & Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) and spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign's Coming Out Project. DeGeneres' mother is a breast cancer survivor.

In 2007, Forbes estimated DeGeneres' net worth as $65 million.[32]


Year Film Role Notes
1990 Arduous Moon Herself Short film
1991 Wisecracks Herself Documentary
1993 Coneheads Coach
1994 Trevor Herself Short film
1996 Ellen's Energy Adventure Herself Short film
Mr. Wrong Martha Alston
1998 Goodbye Lover Sgt. Rita Pompano
Dr. Dolittle Prologue Dog Voice
1999 EDtv Cynthia
The Love Letter Janet Hall
2003 Pauly Shore Is Dead Herself
Finding Nemo Dory Voice
2004 My Short Film Herself Short film


Year Film Role Notes
1988 Women of the Night Herself Comedy Special
1989 Open House Margo Van Mete Episode: "The Bad Seed"
Episode: "Let's Get Physicals"
1992 Laurie Hill Nancy MacIntyre Episode: "Pilot"
Episode: "The Heart Thing"
Episode: "Walter and Beverly"
1994–1998 Ellen Ellen Morgan 109 episodes
1995 Roseanne Episode: "The Blaming of the Shrew"
1998 Mad About You Nancy Bloom Episode: "The Finale"
2000 If These Walls Could Talk 2 Kal Segment: "2000"
2001 On the Edge Operator Segment: "Reaching Normal"
2001–2002 The Ellen Show Ellen Richmond 18 episodes
2003 Ellen DeGeneres: Here and Now Herself Comedy Special
MADtv Herself Episode: "9.3"
2003–present The Ellen DeGeneres Show Herself TV show
2004 E! True Hollywood Story Herself
Six Feet Under Herself Episode: "List of Six Feet Under episodes#Season 4: 2004|Parallel Play]]"
2007 Ellen's Really Big Show Herself
Sesame Street Herself Episode: "The Tutu Spell" (uncredited)
Forbes 20 Richest Women in Entertainment Herself
The Bachelorette Herself
2007–2008 American Idol Herself Episode: "Idol Gives Back 2007"
" Idol Gives Back 2008
2008 Ellen's Even Bigger Really Big Show Herself Comedy Special
2009 Ellen's Bigger, Longer & Wider Show Herself Comedy Special
So You Think You Can Dance Guest Judge Week 7; July 22, 2009
2010–present American Idol Judge Starting with season 9.


Year Film Role Notes
1996 Ellen Degeneres: Taste This Stand-up comedy Live CD


Daytime Emmy Awards
  • Outstanding Talk Show, The Ellen DeGeneres Show – 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007
  • 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
People's Choice Awards
  • Favorite Funny Female Star – 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008
  • Favorite Talk Show Host – 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008
  • Favorite Yes I Chose This Star – 2008
Kids' Choice Awards
  • Favorite Voice from an Animated Movie - 2004


  • DeGeneres, Ellen (1995). My Point...And I Do Have One. New York: Bantam Books. ISBN 0553099558. 
  • DeGeneres, Ellen (2003). The Funny Thing Is.... New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0743247612. 

Official Account


  1. Ellen DeGeneres Biography (1958-)
  2. DeGeneres, Betty (2000). Love, Ellen: A Mother/Daughter Journey. HarperCollins Publishers, 22, 27. ISBN 0688176887. 
  3. 3.0 3.1
  4. 4.0 4.1
  5. GLBT History Month - Ellen DeGeneres. Archived from the original on November 13, 2013. Retrieved on 2006-11-28.
  6. Caryn James (1997-04-13). A Message That's Diminished by the Buildup. The New York Times. Retrieved on 2008-03-14.
  7. Andrew Stanton states this on the Finding Nemo DVD running commentary.
  8. Ellen DeGeneres to Host 79th Academy Awards Presentation. Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (2006-09-07). Archived from the original on September 29, 2006. Retrieved on 2006-09-08.
  9. The Associated Press. "Alan Arkin Wins Best Supporting Actor", NewsMax, 2007-02-26. Retrieved on 2008-03-27. Archived from the original on June 29, 2012. 
  10. Susan Young. "Ellen Probably Most Exciting Thing About 79th Oscars", InsideBayArea, 2007-02-26. Retrieved on 2008-03-29. Archived from the original on 2007-02-28. 
  11. Bob Sassone (2007-07-19). The Emmys: More thoughts and theories. TV Squad. Archived from the original on July 13, 2012. Retrieved on 2008-05-19.
  12. Neal Justin. "Television: Tears, strike aside, Ellen shows go on", Minneapolis St. Paul Star Tribune, 2007-11-16. Retrieved on 2007-12-16. Archived from the original on April 19, 2013. 
  13. World Entertainment News Network. "DeGeneres Under Fire for Crossing Picket Line", The San Francisco Chronicle, 2007-11-09. Retrieved on 2007-12-16. 
  14. Seth Abramovitch. "Ellen DeGeneres Speaks Only In Exotic Birdcalls As A Gesture Of Writer Solidarity", Defamer, Gawker Media, 2007-11-09. Retrieved on 2007-12-02. Archived from the original on September 28, 2013. 
  15. Finke, Nikki. "WGAE States Ellen "Not Welcome In NY"", Deadline Hollywood Daily, 2007-11-09. Retrieved on 2007-12-02. 
  16. Finke, Nikki. "URGENT! AFTRA Defends Ellen; Rep Says She "Has Done Nothing" To Violate WGA", Deadline Hollywood Daily, 2007-11-09. Retrieved on 2007-12-02. 
  17. Finke, Nikki. "WGAE Replies To AFTRA About Ellen Mess", Deadline Hollywood Daily, 2007-11-10. Retrieved on 2007-12-02. 
  19. Easy, breezy, beautiful Ellen: It's Official! Ellen Degeneres is now a Cover Girl! Cover Girl web site, accessed 16 September 2008.
  20. Ellen DeGeneres Joins American Idol as Fourth Judge
  21. American Idol's Next Guest Judge Revealed
  22. 'American Idol': Ellen DeGeneres to replace Paula Abdul as judge
  23. "Heche: My father sexually abused me", CNN Entertainment, September 5, 2001. Archived from the original on July 7, 2012. 
  24. Lo, Malinda. "Ellen and Alex Break Up",, 2004-12-14. Retrieved on 2008-06-15. Archived from the original on 2012-05-26. 
  25. Alonso Duralde. "Ellen and Portia to Tie the Knot", The Advocate, 2008-05-17. Retrieved on 2008-05-19. Archived from the original on May 17, 2008. 
  26. Template:Cite video
  27. 27.0 27.1 Television presenter Ellen DeGeneres marries lesbian lover Portia de Rossi: TV presenter Ellen DeGeneres has tied the knot with lesbian lover Portia de Rossi by Anita Singh, 18 Aug 2008. UK Telegraph
  28. Election Night Results - CA Secretary of State. California Secretary of State (November 5, 2008). Retrieved on 2008-11-05.
  29. Lisa Leff. "Gay couples rush to wed ahead of Calif. election", Associated Press, 2008-10-13. Retrieved on 2008-11-01. 
  30. Dhalwala, Shruti (2008-06-21). "Ellen Gives Portia Pink Diamonds for 'Dream Wedding'". People. Retrieved on 2008-06-23.
  31. Setoodeh, Ramin. "Ellen’s Big Gay Wedding", Newsweek, September 6, 2008. 
  32. Lea Goldman and Kiri Blakeley. "20 Richest Women in Entertainment", Forbes, 2007-01-18. Retrieved on 2008-05-19. 

External links

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