The Life of Ellen DeGeneres

She's an LGBTQ pioneer and a TV icon. This is Ellen DeGeneres's story — from personal childhood trauma to receiving one of the nation’s highest honors.

Killing haters with her kindness

She’s one of the most successful and groundbreaking comedians in the world who kickstarted LGBTQ+ representation in mainstream television and hosts one of the most awarded daytime talk shows in history. At 13, while growing up in Louisiana, her parents divorced, and she lived with her mom. On Netflix’s My Next Guest Needs No Introduction she revealed that she was sexually abused by her stepfather as a teenager.

At 23, she was doing standup regularly in New Orleans. At 27, she appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. In 1997, she famously came out on an episode of her sitcom, Ellen. While it’s now seen as a watershed moment, her bourgeoning career suffered at the time. Her sitcom was cancelled shortly after and she returned to working as a road comic. Then, a call from film director Andrew Stanton changed everything. The 2003 Pixar film, Finding Nemo, turned DeGeneres back into a household name. That same year she began hosting her own daytime talk show. The Ellen Degeneres Show has racked up 31 daytime Emmys and turned Ellen into a TV icon. At 58, she was given the Presidential Medal of Freedom — the highest civilian honor in the United States — by President Obama.

DeGeneres was photographed sitting next to President George W. Bush at a Dallas Cowboys-Green Bay Packers game. The backlash over the pictures caused DeGeneres to defend her "friend" on her talk show. DeGeneres concluded by thanking Charlotte and Jerry Jones -- Jerry Jones is the owner of the Dallas Cowboys and Charlotte is his daughter -- as well as George and Laura Bush for a "Sunday afternoon that was so fun," but added that they owe her "six dollars for the nachos." The British singer Elton John told NPR that he admired the talk show host for “very eloquently” standing by her friendship with the former president despite their political differences.