Ellen DeGeneres Celebrates the 25th Anniversary of Her Iconic Coming Out Episode: 'Look at Me Now'

On April 30, 1997, DeGeneres herself didn't just publicly come out as gay — her character on the ABC hit sitcom Ellen did too

Ellen DeGeneres is celebrating just how far she's come.

During Thursday's episode of The Ellen DeGeneres Show, the comedian celebrated the 25th anniversary of her former sitcom's iconic coming-out episode. DeGeneres reflected on her experience, saying "look at me now."

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.

"When I came out, people warned me that it was going to ruin my career, and they were right for a while," she said during her opening monologue. "Actually, for exactly three years, I lost my career. But look at me now."

DeGeneres, 64, was met with loud applause before stressing the importance of learning to accept and embrace people for their "authentic selves."

"It really goes to show you how important it is to be your authentic self, and how important it is to accept others as their authentic selves," she continued.

"I didn't see a lot of people like me on television when I was a kid — Peppermint Patty of course," she joked. "As soon as I saw those sensible shoes, I knew. The creator said she wasn't a lesbian, but good grief."

Ellen DeGeneres is seen during a taping of "The Ellen DeGeneres Show"
Michael Rozman/Warner Bros

And while DeGeneres said she feels encouraged by how far society has come over the past two decades, she said she's hopeful that people will only continue to evolve.

"So, it's been 25 years since my coming out episode, and the only time I'm in the closet now is when Portia and I play hide and seek," DeGeneres added, referencing her wife, Portia De Rossi. "I think about what the next 25 years will bring, and I hope that we keep evolving. I hope, like a little tiny egg that turns into a caterpillar that then turns into a cocoon that eventually, emerges and spreads its big gay butterfly wings."

(DeGeneres and De Rossi tied the knot in 2008 after same-sex marriage was legalized in California.)

Ellen DeGeneres, Portia de Rossi
Christopher Polk/Getty Images

DeGeneres ended the tribute by turning to the audience with gratitude.

"A lot of people didn't think this show would work because I was openly gay, and you proved them wrong," she said. "This job has been one of the greatest honors of my life, and thank you for inviting me into your homes for 19 years, and accepting me for who I am. I am so grateful that I've had this platform to not only give a voice to the gay community, but to all people who feel like they're not seen. That to me is something I'm most proud of."

"From the bottom of my heart, I say thank you."

And DeGeneres wasn't the only one celebrating the special date. Later in the episode, Sarah Paulson, Brandi Carlile and Laverne Cox opened up about how the comedian's coming out episode changed the television landscape. Grace and Frankie's Lily Tomlin also shared her own experience with coming out.

The Ellen DeGeneres Show airs weekdays (check local listings).

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