More than 25 years ago, in 1997, Ellen DeGeneres became famous in a Hollywood setting very different from the one we know and love today.
Gay icon who rose to fame in the mid-90s for his starring role in sitcoms Ellenspent years suppressing his true sexual identity.
She constantly dodges the press’s questions about her love life and tries to keep herself Ellen The character and the real Ellen are completely separate.
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During her long sitcom on TV, from 1994 to 1997, LGBTIQ + primetime television character is a virtually non-existent concept.
But, in 1997, that all changed. Rumors quickly leaked that DeGeneres’ beloved character from the hit show would “come out of the closet” in an upcoming episode.
On March 3 of that year, ABC announced that Ellen’s character would actually appear as a lesbian.
Along with his fictional self, DeGeneres also decided to officially debut. To prove that she is proud of her gender, the comedian announced it on the cover of TIME magazine.
The headline simply reads: “Yes, I’m Gay.” Attached is an article about the comedian and why she decided to tell the world that she is a lesbian.
It was a “secret” she carried with her for years. However, DeGeneres made it clear that she doesn’t want to be branded as a “speaker” for the gay community.
“When I decided to have my character appear on the show, I knew I would have to appear as well. But I don’t want to talk about that until the show is done,” said DeGeneres explain.
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“And you know, I watched my friend Melissa [Etheridge] appeared, and she became a ‘lesbian rock star’. I never wanted to be a ‘lesbian actress.’ I never wanted to be a spokesperson for the gay community. When. I did it for my own sake. “
While an up-and-coming actor isn’t groundbreaking news in 2022, DeGeneres’ announcement shocked fans and the industry alike.
In 1997, DeGeneres took great risks to speak out about her truth as a lesbian. At the time, same-sex marriage was still illegal in every US state.
And sadly, there are real consequences to her career and the show Ellen once the magazine cover hits the stands.
“When I decided to have my character appear on the show, I knew I would have to appear as well.”
TIME Readers responded to the cover with both negative and positive reactions. One outraged reader described the article as “a general insult”.
Meanwhile, some big name sponsors took ads from her ABC series, including JC Penney and Chrysler department stores.
Despite the aversion of advertisers, a staggering 42 million American viewers watched the episode of Ellentitled ‘The Puppy Episode’, to see DeGeneres also appear in the character.
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This wasn’t enough to salvage the sitcom. The show was later criticized for being too “gay” and abruptly canceled after its fifth season.
Laura Dern, who starred in the episode, also later said she lost her job and needed “full security details” following the backlash.
For DeGeneres, that brought her career to a halt for a moment.
She has struggled to land another lead role on a regular series, despite being one half of one of the world’s most famous same-sex couples after going public with her relationship with an ex-girlfriend. Anne Heche.
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Finally, DeGeneres returned to the spotlight with her hugely popular talk show in 2001, The Ellen DeGeneres Showbeen running for 21 years.
In 2016, the 64-year-old was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by former US President Barack Obama for her “courage and enthusiasm” for her appearance in 1997.
And to mark 25 years since she became famous TIME cover, DeGeneres celebrated the occasion with a dry message.
“I remember appearing as gay on the cover of TIME magazine 25 years ago today,” she tweeted in April 2022. However, I don’t remember saying ‘Yes.’ “
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