Last week President Obama awarded Ellen DeGeneres the Presidential Medal of Freedom in a profoundly moving ceremony at the White House.
But the world wasn’t always so receptive to Ellen’s openness and honesty about herself.
As President Obama noted: “She did pay a price. We don’t remember this. I didn’t remember this. She did. For a pretty long period of time – even in Hollywood.”
Some 46 million people tuned in to see Ellen come out on her self-titled sitcom in 1997, making it one of the most watched sitcom episodes of the year.
But bosses at ABC, and parent company Walt Disney, were said not to be happy with the subject matter.
The TV execs cut back on promotion for the show, and a fall in ratings soon followed.
Just one year after she opened up about being a lesbian, the show was axed from TV.
“It destroyed me,” DeGeneres said.
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“For somebody who makes a living trying to make people happy and trying to please everybody and wanting so desperately to be loved.
“That’s why anybody gets into this business. You know and, to all of a sudden feel like you’re not only not loved — you’re hated.”
ABC had folded under pressure from religious groups who would often picket the studios around filming.
After Ellen came out, disclaimers would air at the beginning of each episode saying there many be themes that are “inappropriate for children”.
In an interview at the 1998 Golden Globes DeGeneres questioned whether the world was ready for an openly gay character, let alone actor.
“She lost her career, and she had a really tough time off it,” DeGeneres’ mother, Betty DeGeneres told biography.com.
“I really thought people would be more embracing and more welcoming when I did what I did because they’d had time to get to know me first,” DeGeneres said in a 1999 interview.
“And I learnt a big lesson – that it doesn’t change overnight.”