Ellen DeGeneres’ coming out in the late ’90s was a significant cultural moment in television, but not everyone celebrated her candour.
The daytime talk show host and comedian told Adweek she received plenty of threats for acknowledging her homosexuality publicly. “When I came out, I had death threats and there was a bomb threat, but they misjudged the time of the taping,” DeGeneres revealed. “We had already finished, and thank God.”
“Right after I came out, Matthew Shepard was killed, and it just devastated me,” she continued. “I just thought, ‘This is going to make a difference.’ The ignorance of me to think that I would make that much of a difference… it just broke my heart.”
But speaking up for what she believes is right has never been an issue for DeGeneres. “No. I’m not [afraid]. I hope people understand it’s not even a political thing. It’s just about what kind of character the person has,” the “Ellen” host said. “I demand if somebody is stepping over the line [for them to be] a decent, honest human being.”
All of this might sound like pandering for someone with an estimated net worth of $400 million, but DeGeneres insists that is not the case.
“All I want to do is be the best person that I can be for me in my life, and that’s all I try to do,” she expressed. “If it impacts people in a positive way, then I’m thrilled. I was somebody that, yes, turned into a brand, but the brand is positivity, the brand is love, which is why I have love on everything that I make. And it’s the time in our life when we need it more than ever.”
“So this platform is just one way to get it out there. The talk show is just a platform, social media is just a platform for me to say my real tweets,” she concluded. “I want everything to be authentic, and I think that’s what people respond to.”
DeGeneres landed the cover of Adweek‘s Hot List issue as the publication’s 2018 Media Visionary.