Ellen DeGeneres wasn’t allowed to say ‘gay’ or wear jeans in early days of talk show

Ellen DeGeneres wears a black shirt, dark jacket which is decorated with rhinestones as she stares off camera

Ellen DeGeneres has opened up about the very beginnings of her iconic talk show, revealing she couldn’t wear jeans or say “gay”. 

The acclaimed comedian told the Advocate that there were very strict conditions that she had to follow when The Ellen DeGeneres Show first started airing back in September 2003. 

She alleged that she was told not to talk about her relationship with her now-wife, Portia de Rossi, and couldn’t even say “we” as it “would imply there was someone special in my life”. 

“They told me to dress a certain way – no jeans, for example,” DeGeneres added. “I guess jeans were considered gay?”

She continued: “Oh, and I couldn’t say that word – ‘gay’. 

“I wasn’t happy about it, so if the situation changed with the show, I knew I’d have some power to change the show.”

But she said these rules quickly changed after she became a beloved part of the daytime TV lineup and was able to “have a platform” where she could be “my honest and authentic self”. 

“I would refer to Portia every day as ‘my wife’ just like a man would do, and a lot of people became comfortable hearing that over time, and it ended up not being such a big deal,” Ellen DeGeneres said. 

“I feel great that I was able to do something that made a huge difference. I don’t take that for granted.”

The Ellen DeGeneres Show has been a mainstay part of the talkshow world for almost 20 years and is set to come to a close on 26 May. DeGeneres ended the show after a 2020 investigation by BuzzFeed News detailed a toxic working environment on the show’s set. 

Several former and current workers claimed that DeGeneres’ optimistic and happy person was “bulls**t” that “only happens when the cameras are on”. There were also allegations that racism, bullying and harassment were rampant on the set of the daytime talk show. 

Ellen DeGeneres then voluntarily pulled the plug on the show in May 2021 following the controversy. She said at the time that she is a “creative person” who constantly needs to “be challenged”, but she said the show was “not a challenge anymore”. 

DeGeneres thanked fans for their support in an emotional Instagram post on 29 April after she finished filming the show’s final episode. She reflected that “social media didn’t exist”, the iPhone hadn’t been invented yet and “gay marriage wasn’t legal” at the inception of the Ellen DeGeneres Show

“We watched the world change, sometimes for the better, sometimes not,” DeGeneres wrote. “But whatever was happening, my goal was always for the show to be a place where we could all come together and laugh for an hour.”

She added that it was the “greatest privilege of my life” to be “invited into your lives”, saying it “brought me incredible joy”. 

The grand finale of The Ellen DeGeneres Show will feature an intense list of special guests including former US first lady Michelle Obama, Kim Kardashian, Jennifer Garner, Channing Tatum, Gwen Stafani, Zac Effron, Serena Williams, David Letterman, Diane Keaton, Adam Levine and Behati Prinsloo 

DeGeneres’ wife will also make a special appearance in the final episode.