Back in 1996 Ellen DeGeneres had her own show titled “Ellen,” and after four years of her character not having any kind of relationship they finally decided that it was time for her character to let the world know the truth, which was that she was gay! Not only was her character gay but she herself in real life was finally ready to tell the world that she was gay!
“It became more important to me than my career,” DeGeneres recently told the Associated Press during an interview reflecting on the episode’s 20th anniversary. “I suddenly said, ‘Why am I being, you know, ashamed of who I am just to be successful and famous in society’s eyes?'”
But coming out gay in the public eye in 1996 wasn’t without its public outcries of religious groups condemning her to hell, bomb threats, or even not so nice fan mail. She was also the first openly gay character on TV, all before “Will and Grace” and “Cam and Mitchell.” She made it ok to be gay not just in TV but in real life, and I am sure she paved the way for so many people who felt trapped by their secrets to realize that it was ok to come out and be who you are!
While Ellen’s show won a Peabody and an Emmy, it ultimately killed the sitcom and ended the show, and it seemed it ended Ellen’s career for the moment. According to then-ABC President Roger Iger, he said it had nothing to do with Ellen’s sexual orientation but more of the fact that viewers were turned off when the show “became a program about a lead character who was gay every single week.”
For Ellen’s part she says she has no regrets.
In 2003 she debuted her talk show “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” and the rest is history!