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Ellen DeGeneres: Snapshot

Name
Ellen DeGeneres
Date of Birth
January 26, 1958
Birth Place
Metairie, La.
Becoming a poster child for the gay movement may never have been part of Ellen DeGeneres' lifelong to-do list, but the snappy one-liner queen created a media whirlwind when she came out on the cover of Time in 1997.

The resulting controversy put pressure on her relationship with actress Anne Heche, contributed to the cancellation of her popular sitcom, Ellen, and left her mired in depression for three years. But, she rebounded as the daffy voice of Dory in Disney's Finding Nemo and topped the ratings and the Emmys with her hit talk show.

DeGeneres, who is the face of CoverGirl and served as a judge on American Idol, married longtime girlfriend, actress Portia de Rossi, in 2008. She went on to host the Oscars for a second time in 2014.

Ellen DeGeneres: Five Fun Facts

  1. Ellen DeGeneres turned down a role in Friends before starring in Ellen.
  2. Before she got her start in comedy, Ellen DeGeneres worked as a vacuum cleaner saleswoman, TGIFriday's waitress and an oyster shucker in New Orleans.
  3. There is a ride featuring Ellen DeGeneres at Walt Disney World's Epcot park – Ellen's Energy World.
  4. Oprah Winfrey played Ellen DeGeneres' therapist on the 1997 "coming out" episode of Ellen. DeGeneres' friends Laura Dern, Demi Moore, Melissa Etheridge, k.d. lang and Billy Bob Thornton also made cameos.
  5. Ellen DeGeneres used to love Hot Sox – tall, glittery socks popular in the early '70s. But after moving to small-town Texas, she decided to give them away: "I'm going to a place where they have gun racks on the back of the pickup trucks…I just have to get rid of anything weird," she told The New York Times in 2001.

Ellen DeGeneres: Biography

1974

Ellen DeGeneres

Teenage Trauma

DeGeneres and her mother leave New Orleans for the small town of Atlanta, Texas. Her older brother Vance, 18, stays in New Orleans with their father, Elliott, an insurance salesman. In Texas, DeGeneres is secretly molested by her new stepfather as her mother struggles with breast cancer. After she graduates high school and moves back to New Orleans, she finally tells her mother the truth.

1980

Ellen DeGeneres

Comedic Tribute

DeGeneres, 21, develops a relationship with Kathy Perkoff, 23, a poet. "They were two very creative people, crazy and young and very much in love," Perkoff's sister Rachel remembers. The pair's happiness is abruptly cut short when Perkoff dies in a car accident. Afterwards, DeGeneres writes her first monologue, "A Phone Call to God," about mortality, and performs it at her first stand-up job, emceeing at a New Orleans comedy club. Her performance wins her the 1984 Showtime's Funniest Person in America award.

1986

Ellen DeGeneres

Heeeeeere's Johnny!

DeGeneres becomes the first female comedian Johnny Carson invites for a chat on the couch on The Tonight Show. "I'm sitting on this mattress infested with fleas [in 1980], and I thought, 'I'm going to do this on Johnny Carson, and I'm going to get called over to the couch, and I'll be the first woman in history ever to get called over,'" she says on Today. "I had created that experience because I wanted it."

Read More on Ellen DeGeneres' Life

Photo Credits

Top Left: Michele Laurita/CORBIS OUTLINE

BIOGRAPHY (top to bottom): SETH POPPELL/CLASSMATES YEARBOOK ARCHIVES; Photofest

Edited by Julia Wang

Ellen DeGeneres

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