Ellen DeGeneres is tearfully going down memory lane.
In a clip from Friday’s special episode of The Ellen DeGeneres Show celebrating the 20th anniversary of her sitcom’s iconic coming-out episode, the daytime talk show host, 59, says, “I’m Ellen and I’m gay” to open her show.
“Twenty years ago I said that — it was a much bigger deal then,” she continues.
On April 30, 1997, DeGeneres herself didn’t just publicly come out as gay — her character on the ABC hit sitcom Ellen did too. The episode titled “The Puppy Episode” was taped in front of a live audience.
“It was called ‘The Puppy Episode’ because we wanted to keep it a secret until it aired and because ‘Ellen Throws Her Career Away’ seemed too on the nose,” she quips. “Actually, the real reason we called it ‘The Puppy Episode’ is because when the writers told the executives that they wanted me to come out, because my character needed to be in a relationship after four years of not being in a relationship, someone at the studio said, ‘Well, get her a puppy. She’s not coming out.’ ”
“You wouldn’t have been able to open hearts and touch hearts and change people’s minds and make a difference in the world had you not had the courage to do that,” Winfrey tells DeGeneres.
DeGeneres admits to audiences that at the time, when she said the words “I’m gay,” she “would burst into tears every single time.”
“It was so profound and I feel so blessed that I got to be there and witness that,” says Dern, who played the part of Susan. In the coming-out episode, Dern’s character Susan, who was an openly gay woman, enlightens Ellen to her own sexual identity.
In an Instagram video on Thursday, the talk show host also shared a teaser video of the upcoming episode, which includes her emotional opening monologue.
“You are here on a very special day. Today we’re celebrating the 20th anniversary of the coming-out episode of my sitcom,” DeGeneres says in the video.
“It was the hardest thing that I ever had to do in my life and I would not change one moment of it because it led me to be exactly where I am today standing in front of all of you,” DeGeneres continues in her monologue, fighting back tears.
RELATED VIDEO: Ellen DeGeneres on Finding the Love of Her Life with Portia de Rossi: ‘We Are So Lucky’
“It became more important to me than my career,” she said in a recent interview with The Associated Press. “I suddenly said, ‘Why am I being, you know, ashamed of who I am just to be successful and famous in society’s eyes?’ ”
Also featured on Friday’s episode are DeGeneres’ sitcom costars Joely Fisher and David Anthony Higgins as well as DeGeneres’ wife Portia de Rossi.
The Ellen DeGeneres Show airs weekdays (check local listings).