Ellen DeGeneres reflects on coming out 20 years ago: ‘I didn’t work for three years’

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 18: TV personality/actress Ellen DeGeneres (L) and actress Portia de Rossi attend the People's Choice Awards 2017 at Microsoft Theater on January 18, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images for People's Choice Awards)

She is now one of the most recognisable faces of the LGBT+ community in the world, but things haven’t always been perfect for Ellen DeGeneres.

When she came out in 1997, and her character Ellen Morgan followed suit in her sitcom Ellen, many people in the LGBT+ community rejoiced. Her character became the first openly gay lead in television history, and 44 million people tuned in to watch her coming out episode.

The TV channel received huge numbers of letters from grateful fans, and the episode went on to win an Emmy.

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However, the cast also received death threats, and the show went on to be cancelled just one year later.

In a candid interview with Jerry Seinfeld on Netflix show Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, DeGeneres spoke about the challenges of that time.

“When I lost my sitcom, I didn’t work for three years solid until I got the talk show,” she said. “I was bitter and sad and angry. How did this change everything, just by me being honest and saying I’m gay? Why is this such a shock to people? Why is it such a big deal?”

DeGeneres went on a tour after her show was cancelled, on which she said that 90 percent of the audience was gay.

“All the gay people really thought I was doing some kind of gay pride tour, so I was making fun of the fact that I was their leader. It was like, ‘I am not your leader. I’m nobody’s leader,’” she said.

In her wide-ranging conversation with Seinfeld, she also spoke about the death of her girlfriend, who was just 23 when she died in a car accident.

DeGeneres spoke about the world today, saying it is “such a scary place right now, in so many ways,” saying it “overwhelms me with dread.”

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DeGeneres continues to enjoy huge popularity across the world. A 2015 study revealed that nobody was more influential than her in changing American attitudes about gay rights.

She married actress Portia de Rossi in 2008, before same-sex marriage was legal nationwide.

The Ellen DeGeneres Show has now been running since 2003, and has enjoyed constant success since then.

The television personality is preparing for an upcoming Netflix stand-up special, which will be her first in 15 years. A release date is yet to be confirmed.