Ellen Lee DeGeneres is an American comedian, television host, actress, writer, and producer.
Ellen DeGeneres had success as a stand-up comedian before starring in her sitcom, Ellen. In 1997, she became gay and became a staunch advocate for LGBTQ rights. She has been the host of her own award-winning talk show, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, since 2003, and married fiancée Portia de Rossi in 2008.
DeGeneres was born January 26, 1958, in Metairie, Louisiana, to an insurance salesman and a working mother who divorced when DeGeneres was a teenager. Growing up, DeGeneres dreamed of becoming a vet, but gave up on the idea because she was “not book smart.” Instead, she served tables, sold vacuum cleaners, painted houses, and worked as a legal secretary.
At the age of 23, DeGeneres started performing at a local coffeehouse. She made her big debut in 1986 when, acting on a tip from Jay Leno, The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson sent a booking agent to see her perform at Hollywood’s Improv.
DeGeneres was then in a relationship with Alexandra Hedison for a few years before becoming involved with actress Portia de Rossi in December 2004. DeGeneres married de Rossi on August 16, 2008, in what was arguably the most controversial same-sex marriage after California legalized the unions. In 2010, de Rossi obtained permission to legally change her name to Portia Lee James DeGeneres.
DeGeneres is also the author of several books, including My Point … and I Do Have One (1995), Serously… I’m kidding (2011) and Home (2015). Her film work slowed down after her talk show took off, but she continued to work mostly behind the scenes as an executive producer on several television shows including Bethenny (2012-2014), Repeat After Me (2015), One Big Happy (2015), Little Big Shots (2015) and their HGTV reality show, Ellen’s Design Challenge.