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With her own talk show, Ellen DeGeneres is one of America's most well-known comedians, also serving as a prominent gay/lesbian role model.
After Ellen DeGeneres came out on her show, ABC began receiving negative feedback and advertisers began pulling out from "The Ellen Show."
Ellen DeGeneres spent many years in local stand up clubs refining her act until she submitted her routine to Showtime and won the title Funniest Person in Louisiana, ultimately leading the way to the national title.
Ellen DeGeneres was born in 1958 in Louisiana. Through her parents divorce, Ellen discovered her gift of comedy to make others laugh and feel happy.
After the death of Matthew Shepard, Ellen DeGeneres came out to support the cause of the LGBT community, lending both her name and celebrity.
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Born on January 26, 1958, in Metairie, Louisiana, Ellen DeGeneres became big as a stand-up comedian before starring on her own sitcom, Ellen. In 1997, she came out as gay and has become a staunch advocate of LGBT rights. She has been the host of her own award-winning talk show, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, since 2003, and married girlfriend Portia de Rossi in 2004.
"Nothing says holidays, like a cheese log."
Ellen Lee DeGeneres was born January 26, 1958, in Metairie, Louisiana, to an insurance salesman and a working mother who divorced when DeGeneres was a teenager. When she was growing up, DeGeneres dreamed of becoming a veterinarian, but she gave up the idea because she was "not book smart." Instead, she waited tables, sold vacuum cleaners, painted houses and worked as a legal secretary.
DeGeneres's older brother, Vance, an actor/comedian and former correspondent for The Daily Show, was long considered the humorous member of the family. Then once, during a public speaking event, DeGeneres found herself frightened by the crowd and used humor to get through the experience. She was a hit, and received offers to do stand-up comedy. She began performing in 1981, bolstered by her mother's moral and financial support.
At the age of 23, she began performing at a local coffeehouse. She got her big debut in 1986 when, acting on a tip from Jay Leno, The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson sent a booking agent to catch her act at the Improv in Hollywood. As a result of that engagement, DeGeneres was invited onto The Tonight Show and earned the distinction of being the only female comic to be invited by Johnny Carson to sit on the famed "couch" during her first visit. She then began making regular appearances on the talk show circuit, including performances on The Late Show with David Letterman, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, The Oprah Winfrey Show, Later with Greg Kinnear, Larry King Live, and Good Morning, America. She was also profiled in detail on ABC's PrimeTime Live.
Her wit won over audiences, and DeGeneres finally found success as an actress with her own prime-time sitcom—the self-titled television series, Ellen. The series was originally titled These Friends of Mine, but was renamed in 1994. From that point, she enjoyed a dizzying evolution from its beginnings as an ensemble show to its development into a showcase for DeGeneres.
The show faced strong criticism when, in April 1997, DeGeneres's character became the first lead in sitcom history to openly acknowledge her homosexuality on air. An ABC affiliate in Birmingham, Alabama, refused to air the landmark episode. Fearing controversy, some of the show's sponsors, Daimler Chrysler among them, withdrew advertisements.
Several episodes following her reveal had gay themes and, throughout the remainder of the season, DeGeneres and ABC executives faced a storm of criticism. But the show also received rounds of applause from gay-friendly activists—including DeGeneres's mother, Betty Degeneres, who appeared on numerous talk shows in support of her daughter.
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Taking on topics of politics, entertainment, women's issues and more, female talk show hosts have proven to be every bit as engaging, intelligent, and funny as their male counterparts. Oprah Winfrey's 25-year-reign as the queen of talk is unparalleled, but many other female talk show hosts have come into their own as well, including Tyra Banks, Ellen DeGeneres, Sally Jessy Raphael and Kelly Ripa.
Visit Biography.com's Women's History group to explore more biographies, photos and videos of some the world's most fascinating women.
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