After Ellen DeGeneres came out to the world in real life and on her sitcom “Ellen,” in April 1997, it didn’t seem plausible that she would become one of the most popular daytime talk show hosts.
DeGeneres told “On Air with Ryan Seacrest” that “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” which premiered in September 2003, almost didn’t happen.
“This was a show that nobody wanted to buy,” DeGeneres says. “They really didn’t think anyone would watch a lesbian during the day and, at the time, no one wanted to see a lesbian at night either. So I was really out of options.”
Although the show did air, there were rules about what DeGeneres was allowed to say regarding her personal life.
“I remember there was something that happened to my finger, and I was in a relationship and I was going to say ‘we,’ and they wouldn’t let me say ‘we’ because somebody would all of a sudden picture a woman in my life,” DeGeneres recounts.
“It felt horrible because I had worked so hard to be truthful and to come to terms with my shame of hiding something that I knew was not wrong, but society was telling me was wrong,” DeGeneres continued. “So I thought, ‘First of all, I lost a lot of the audience because I came out, and then I’m going to now lose the audience that supports me ― that is gay or supportive ― because I’m going to hide it.’”
DeGeneres says hiding who she was for the sake of her show was difficult.
“It’s a hard balance,” DeGeneres says. “I know this is a business, and I know that I have to appeal to everyone, but I think what’s more appealing than anything is honesty.”