Before Ellen DeGeneres was winning Emmys for The Ellen DeGeneres Show, the TV personality says she hit “rock bottom” and was broke.
After she revealed that she was gay to fellow talk show host Oprah Winfrey on The Oprah Winfrey Show in 1997, her ’90s sitcom Ellen was canceled a year later and said she became a national lightning rod.
“I was the punch line of lots of jokes,” DeGeneres, 58, told Out Magazine. “I laughed at some, but I realized there’s somebody on the other side of them. It’s cruel. I’ve never liked mean comedy, but that became even more important to me after I was the brunt of it.”
Three years later, NBC picked up DeGeneres’ eponymous talk show — but it wasn’t before she faced a dark season of life in which she battled personal insecurities.
“Before this show, I had a lot of insecurity,” confessed DeGeneres, who married actress Portia de Rossi in 2008. “I wasn’t sure if I was going to work again, and although I was out, I was still trying to alter myself — not dressing the way I wanted to dress or wearing my hair the way I wanted to. I slowly gained the confidence to be authentic, and what I’ve learned about other people is that they strive to be authentic, too.”
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“If this isn’t an example of ‘It gets better,’ I don’t know what is,” DeGeneres said of herself. “Time is a strange thing. I was at rock bottom and out of money, with no work in sight, but one step at a time, it gets better. It gets much better than better.”
The Ellen DeGeneres Show airs weekdays (3 p.m. ET) on NBC.