It has been 20 years since Ellen DeGeneres ‘came out’ on TV and I know that doesn’t sound like a big deal now but back then it really was. She came out on her TV show, Ellen, on April 30, 1997 and she’s celebrating that day by looking back at that time.
She told the Associated Press,
“The show was a success, my career was a success and there was no real reason for me to do it other than I did some work on myself, some deep soul-searching, and realized I was really carrying around a lot of shame. No matter how many times I tried to rationalize that I didn’t need anyone to know, I knew that it was a secret. And I knew that there was a possibility that people would hate me for the simple fact that no matter how much they loved my comedy or my show, but they might hate me if they knew I was gay.”
“It became more important to me than my career. I suddenly said, ‘Why am I being, you know, ashamed of who I am just to be successful and famous in society’s eyes?’ And then I thought, the character on the show is clearly struggling. There’s no relationship. It was pretty clear it would be an easy transition for her to realize she was gay, which was why her relationships with men weren’t working out.”
“I knew I was risking hurting my career. But to know that Laura Dern was punished for it just because she played my love interest in that show is crazy. And Oprah got hate mail just for being a part of it. Obviously, that’s why a lot of people don’t come out, because there’s a very loud and clear message that a lot of people don’t understand it and because they don’t understand it they fear, and because they fear it they hate it.
But I had no idea the amount of hate. I had no idea that there would be death threats or a bomb scare. It was a really scary time.”
Ellen will celebrate that special episode on her talk show with Oprah this Friday (April 28).
Check out a sneak peak below!