- The Magazine
Ellen DeGeneres made history when, in 1997, she came out on her eponymous sitcom Ellen. It was a watershed moment for LGBT people, television, and American culture as a whole. But, at least for a while, DeGeneres herself thought that moment would never come.
Speaking with Oprah Winfrey — who portrayed Ellen’s therapist on the sitcom — on Sunday’s episode of Oprah’s Master Class, DeGeneres shared her doubts over whether coming out publicly would ever occur.
“I didn’t think I was going to come out. Period,” she said. “I didn’t think I’d be coming out on a show, ever.”
However, after a friend treated her to a course at the Esalen Institute — “a hippie retreat place” — DeGeneres was forced to examine what she truly thought of herself.
“‘I wanted to know what the inner dialogue of my subconscious mind was, and it was scary and crazy,” she said. “What came out of listening to what I had been saying to myself is, ‘Would I still be famous? Would they still love me if they knew I was gay?’ And my fear was, ‘No, they wouldn’t.'”
That revelation caused immense feelings of shame for the actress and presenter, shame that she “couldn’t be honest and really be who I am.”
“I just didn’t want to pretend to be somebody else anymore so that people would like me,” she said.
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