Ellen DeGeneres has established a $50 million empire over the years, but her rise to the top of daytime television didn't happen over night.
In fact, it probably wouldn't have happened had the comedian decided against coming out to the public on a 1997 episode of her hit sitcom. Just ask Oprah Winfrey, who recently told sources:
"Being able to be free — literally — and to express herself in a way that she can be 100 percent truthful with the audience has allowed them to fall in love with her. Honest-to-God truth: I don't believe she would have been as successful as she has become had she not come out."
The talk show host's success did not come without sacrifice though. Her career crumbled after the controversial episode aired and put Ellen on a downward spiral. She couldn't find work for three years and almost went broke in the process, but she wasn't the only one receiving excessive backlash.
Oprah appeared on the program as Ellen's therapist to whom the sitcom star revealed her sexual orientation and says she received hateful letters as a result. So hateful, in fact, that she was called the N-word by some, as she explained:
It was the worst backlash I had ever received and it always turns to race. I got all of the, 'N–, go back to Africa. Who do you think you are?' I'd never experienced anything that bad before."
Ugh! It's still sickening to think that television viewers were so primitive just 15 years ago, but it's also a heartwarming reminder of how far our society has come.
Wanda Sykes credits DeGeneres for "taking a bullet" in the 90s by coming out so courageously. The comedian says her sacrifice has made it "a celebration, not a kiss of death" for entertainers to come out of the closet now.
We think Ellen did more than that though. She forced the American public to face reality and now, for the first time EVER, a U.S. president openly supports same-sex marriage.
Not bad for a college dropout, don't ya think?
[Image via WENN.]