Ellen DeGeneres (b. January 26, 1958) is an American actress, stand-up comedian, and host of the syndicated talk show The Ellen DeGeneres Show. She first reached success with her own sitcom called These Friends of Mine, later renamed Ellen (1994–98). The ABC show had difficulty finding a formula to bring in a large audience, having frequent cast changes. While not a ratings hit, it did do well enough to be renewed for four seasons.
Ellen made her homosexuality public on The Oprah Winfrey Show in February 1997, surprising few people. The resulting media attention highlighting this event (including being put on the front cover of Time magazine) caused a stir. Subsequently, her character on the sitcom came out of the closet in April of that same year, admitting she was gay to her therapist (portrayed by Oprah Winfrey). After a great deal of media attention highlighting the outing episode, entitled "The Puppy Episode," the showing was the highest-rated episode of the sitcom. But the bounce proved to be short lived. The show became a constant weekly refrain of lesbian themes and viewers stopped watching rather quickly. Even Chastity Bono, the media director of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation criticized the show for going over the top on the gay issue. After the ratings rapidly declined, the show was canceled.
She is an active member of PFLAG (the United States' first and largest organization uniting parents, families, and allies with people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer) and a spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign's Coming Out Project.
DeGeneres later returned to the stand-up comedy circuit. She had another stab at a sitcom on network television in 2001, The Ellen Show. By this time DeGeneres diversified away from a constant gay theme, but the show failed to catch on with viewers and was canceled in its first season. She would later re-establish herself as a successful talk show host starting in 2003 with The Ellen DeGeneres Show. Her talk show is still on the air. In 2007 she hosted the 79th Academy Awards. She replaces Paula Abdul in the current season of American Idol.
In film she is best known for the voice of Dory, a regal blue-tang fish with short-term memory loss, in the Pixar films Finding Nemo and the sequel Finding Dory.