Ellen DeGeneres has opened up about the self-censorship she had to endure on the early seasons of her hit talk show.
She’s celebrating the Season 15 premiere of “The Ellen Show,” which premiered back in September 2003 and would go on to win more than a dozen Emmy Awards and catapult the comedienne to global fame.
“This was a show that nobody wanted to buy,” she told iHeartRadio host Ryan Seacrest.
“They didn’t think anyone would watch a lesbian during the day and, at the time, no one wanted to see a lesbian at night either. So I was really out of options.”
DeGeneres – who came out as gay in 1997 and was shunned by Hollywood as a result – said she was instructed not to discuss her personal life on the show.
“I remember there was something that happened to my finger, and I was in a relationship and I was going to say ‘we,’ and they wouldn’t let me say ‘we’ because somebody would all of a sudden picture a woman in my life,” she said.
“It felt horrible because I had worked so hard to be truthful and to come to terms with my shame of hiding something that I knew was not wrong, but society was telling me was wrong.
“So I thought, ‘First of all, I lost a lot of the audience because I came out, and then I’m going to now lose the audience that supports me – that is gay or supportive – because I’m going to hide it.’
“It’s a hard balance… I know this is a business, and I know that I have to appeal to everyone, but I think what’s more appealing than anything is honesty.”
DeGeneres added the 15th season milestone means “a lot of different things” to her.
“It’s not just 15 years… it’s 15 years of me thinking I wouldn’t work again so it’s really a great accomplishment,” she said.
DeGeneres began dating actress Portia de Rossi in 2004, and the couple wed in 2008.
Last November, she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from then-US President Barack Obama, who applauded her “courage, kindness and light” and credited her with advancing LGBTI rights in the country.