Ellen DeGeneres has been picked to replace Paula Adbul as a judge on American Idol.

The actress and comedian is one of the most popular entertainers in the US and also one of the most high-profile lesbians.

Announcing the news during the recording of her talk show, she said: “This is so exciting for me. We’ve been dealing with this for the last couple of weeks and I’ve been dying to tell everyone. It’s just been so hard to keep it a secret and we just finally got the OK.

“I don’t know how it happened myself,” she continued, “but I have not missed one episode of that show. I’ve watched every single thing. I love everything about it and I love music, as you know.”

DeGeneres will join Simon Cowell, Kara DioGuardi and Randy Jackson when the show returns to screens in January.

She married wife Portia de Rossi, of Ally MacBeal fame, in August 2008, while gay marriage was briefly legal in California. As with the other 18,000 couples who wed, their marriage is still legal.