Ellen DeGeneres’ foothold in the entertainment industry was cemented by her brilliance as a stand-up comedian. It all started when she was a teenager when her parents separated, she took responsibility for her mother’s happiness; she would make her laugh to help her deal with the separation. Later on, her mother would remarry and she would live together with her step-father in Atlanta, Texas.
After quite a while, DeGeneres went back to New Orleans to acquire a communication studies degree from the University of New Orleans. However, she decided school wasn’t for her and worked different jobs such as waiting tables, tending bars, and even painting houses. Her roots in stand-up comedy began to take hold when she started performing at coffee houses and clubs during the ’80s. Among her earliest gigs was becoming the emcee at Clyde’s Comedy Club in New Orleans.
Everything worked for the best when DeGeneres appeared in The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, taking credit for being the first female comedian to star in the show. Subsequently, she appeared in sitcoms and films such as Open House, Coneheads, and Laurie Hill among others. These shows paved her way to becoming one of the most admired stand-up comedians among her contemporaries. Eventually, she became a star in her own television program The Ellen DeGeneres Show, which continues to amuse people in 2022.
It is worth noting, however, that behind the witticisms she delivers on-screen, DeGeneres’ rise to success hasn’t been the smoothest. Being one of Hollywood’s first openly gay woman hasn’t always been easy.
Ellen’s Tragic Love Affair
Kat Perkoff played a big role in Degeneres’ life. She isn’t just a mere acquaintance; she takes credit for being her first love. When she was in her 20s, she dropped out of college and was employed in numerous odd jobs while performing in coffee houses. It was during those times when DeGeneres would meet Perkoff, fall in love, and start a life together.
However, like most relationships, the couple had a falling out during the ’80s. she lived amongst friends after moving out of their home. In a Cowboy Mouth concert (where her brother, Vance, displayed his degree of artistry), she unexpectedly bumped into Perkoff who was begging her to come home. Shrugging her off, Kat left and drove away. After a few moments, perhaps in a fit of anger and disappointment, Perkoff stepped on the gas and crashed her Mercedes on a tree. After the show that evening, DeGeneres passed the totaled Mercedes at the side of the road unaware that it was her ex-girlfriend’s car. When she knew, she was devastated. “I should have gone home with her… I should have stopped” she said in an interview.
The untimely passing of Perkoff marked a pivotal event in her life. Her immense degree of grief allowed her to write a comedy monologue entitled Phone Call to God, which revolves around the inevitability of being mortal.
Ellen’s Meteoric Rise to Fame
In the present, DeGeneres is among the highest paid female television personalities in the US. She is also the most famous lesbian in the industry and was even recognized by former US President Barack Obama for catalyzing the gay rights movement, being awarded with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest honor given to a civilian. Other prominent recipients were philanthropists Bill and Melinda Gates and legendary athlete Michael Jordan.
With a huge degree of success that followed the comedian, it goes without saying that public scrutiny also followed. She had already come out as gay to her close friends and family back in her 20s, but coming out to her fans is a different story. As a primetime TV star, she knew that she had to please her viewers to keep them engaged. However, she could not put on the charade. In April 1997, DeGeneres announced her sexuality on The Oprah Winfrey Show. More than 44 million people were watching the comedian. She was even featured on Time magazine’s cover with the headline “Yep, I’m Gay.” Despite the setbacks that ensued, DeGeneres continued to push through and became one of the most successful entertainers in the industry.
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