Ellen DeGeneres was born on January 26, 1958 in Louisiana. After her parents divorced when she was a teenager, Ellen moved to Texas. She moved back after a few years to attend the University of New Orleans. Since then, Ellen has filled her life with numerous experiences, both good and bad. But each experience has helped to shape her into the woman she is today.
In an interview with Good Housekeeping, Ellen said, “The world's a scary place, you know? It can be really sad and stressful and negative…I think we need more love in the world. We need more kindness, more compassion, more joy, more laughter. I definitely want to contribute to that. I really want my time here to be positive and productive.”
Ellen has been striving to do just that ever since.
She is now known as an amazing woman who is generous and who speaks up for what is right. She contributes to many organizations, not afraid to give of her time or her money. She gives liberally to audience members on her show and helps those in need.
With Ellen being so popular in the media, it might seem as though there isn’t much we don’t know about her. However, there are many facts that aren’t widely known. Here are 20 little-known facts about Ellen DeGeneres.
20 She's Not Afraid Of Hard Work
While Ellen might be extremely successful today, she still knows the value of hard work. Before she was a talk show host, an actress, and a comedian, she worked any job she could find in order to make ends meet.
Ellen attended college at the University of New Orleans where she planned to major in Communications. But after just one semester, Ellen decided the college life wasn’t for her. She then went on to do many jobs, including waitressing, bartending, and shucking oysters. Other jobs include being a legal secretary, painting houses, as well as demonstrating Hoover vacuums for store customers.
19 She Wanted To Be A Veterinarian When She Grew Up
Instead of The Ellen Show, there was almost a Dr. Ellen DeGeneres. When Ellen was a little girl she always dreamed of becoming a veterinarian, as People reports her saying, "The compassion I have for animals comes from my earliest memories. The first bird I saved was a mockingbird when I was around seven years. It had fallen out of its nest and I took it home and it grew up to be a full, grown-up mockingbird. I took it back to that same tree and released it."
Ellen still has a passion for animals and has devoted time and effort to many animal charities.
18 She Was Raised As A Christian Scientist
Ellen is very open about her Christian Science upbringing. Christian Science is a religion that doesn’t believe in medicine or doctors. In her Netflix special Relatable, she talked about one of her experiences, saying,
“My grandmother lived with us when I was a little girl, and if an aspirin commercial came on the air, she would get up from the sofa, go to the TV, turn it down and stand in front of it and hum a hymn really loudly. So you could imagine my fascination with aspirin when I was a little girl”.
17 She's Not The Only Famous Woman In Her Family
Ellen DeGeneres is related to not one, but two extremely famous women. Ellen and Madonna are actually 11th cousins. They are related through their 10th great-grandfather, a man named Martin Aucoin. And once you see them break out their dance moves, it’s hard not to see the resemblance. The similarities don’t stop there, either. They were also born in the same year!
Ellen is also related to Kate Middleton. Ellen and Kate are 15th cousins who are related through a man names Sir Thomas Fairfax and his wife from the early 1500s.
16 Ellen Turned Down The Role Of Phoebe On 'Friends'
Can you imagine a world where Ellen DeGeneres plays the role of Phoebe on the TV show Friends? Friends ended up becoming one of the most popular TV shows of all time. Ellen turned down the role, but she probably doesn’t worry about it as her career turned out just fine.
That wasn’t the only role that Ellen was offered. She was also offered the lead role in Speed with Keanu Reeves, which went to Sandra Bullock after Ellen turned it down. In 1994, Ellen auditioned for a part in Pulp Fiction. However, the role was ultimately given to Rosanna Arquette.
15 She Had Her Own Ride At Epcot
From 1996-2017, Ellen had her own ride at Disney World’s Epcot called Ellen’s Energy Adventure. The attraction featured Ellen DeGeneres and Bill Nye the Science Guy and consisted of four films about energy as well as a slow-moving dark ride through audio-animatronic filled sets.
The videos focused on the history of fossil fuels while also taking a look at renewable energy sources. In 2017, the ride was replaced by a new Guardians of the Galaxy-themed roller coaster. Here’s a fun fact — during the attraction’s final day, the ride actually broke down and guests had to be evacuated!
14 She's More Than Just A Funny Person
While Ellen is definitely a very funny and talented woman, she also prides herself on doing good for the world. She even has a whole slew of awards to prove it. Ellen is only the second woman behind Whoopi Goldberg to host the Academy Awards, which is a tremendous honor.
In 2017, she also received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which is the highest possible award for a civilian in the United States.
13 She's A Woman Of Firsts
In 1986, Ellen made history by becoming the first woman in the history of The Tonight Show to have a sit-down interview with Johnny Carson. Ellen recalled the events leading up to it in a Huffington Post interview, saying, “I was kind of considered one of the best comedians in San Francisco but I would choke and got so nervous. Even though my material was strong, I just wasn’t ready.”
She went on to say that she kept working and eventually caught the eye of the person who booked for The Tonight Show. He walked up to her after a show and said, “You’re on next week.”
12 She's An Avid Sports Fan
Ellen is a big fan of the NFL and makes it known that her favorite teams are the Green Bay Packers and the New Orleans Saints. Although it’s anyone’s guess who she would pick in a head-to-head match. However, she did show up to a New Orleans Saints practice dressed like Don Huston who played for the Green Bay Packers for 11 years. Was she not so discreetly picking a side or just utilizing her amazing Ellen humor?
She also had Packer’s players Clay Matthews and Aaron Rodgers on the show after their Super Bowl win.
11 She Has A Passion For Animals
While Ellen didn’t end up becoming a veterinarian, she never lost her passion for animals. Ellen and her wife Portia have several animals, all which were rescued. On one of her shows Ellen said, “A life to me with animals, watching them and being with them, is all I need…I just want to love animals and be around them all the time.”
Ellen is vegan because she cannot bear to eat animals and PETA even named her their “Woman of the Year” in 2009. She also started the Ellen Degeneres Wildlife Fund to build homes for gorillas.
10 She Didn't Always Live A Healthy Life
Believe it or not, Ellen wasn’t always as healthy as she is today. Ellen often talks about her healthy lifestyle in which she is vegan and exercises regularly. But did you know that Ellen used to smoke? In 2010, Ellen announced on an episode of her talk show that she quit smoking, saying, “I’m announcing it because I’m proud of it because it is so hard to do.”
She joked about how she didn’t look good with a cigarette — not like doctors in black-and-white movies in the '50s. She’s since talked to guests she’s had on the show and encouraged them to quit smoking.
9 She Has A Few Funny Habits
While some habits can be quite embarrassing, Ellen’s habits are actually more humorous. She told People magazine that she enjoys being home and likes to work out on the elliptical machine while watching Animal Planet. For someone who loves animals, I’m sure watching cute animals play would make her workout much more fun.
One of her more well-known habits is dancing, especially with Portia. “You have to be with someone who’s social to force you to go out, and we both would rather be home and talk and dance with each other,” Ellen said.
8 She's Had An Amazing Comedic Journey
Ellen DeGeneres is an extremely accomplished woman, and it all started with her stand-up career. In 1981, Ellen had her first comedy job as the emcee at Clyde’s Comedy Club in New Orleans. Ellen quickly became a breakout star and was even named Showtime's "Funniest Person in America" just one year later.
She began a national tour shortly afterwards and soon became a household name. While Ellen eventually left stand-up, she never stopped making people laugh. However, she briefly went back to stand-up in 2018 for her Netflix special, Relatable.
7 She Collects Old Portraits
Ellen has talked about her passion for design and remodeling homes, but it’s not that well-known that she actually collects old portraits. And no, not of anyone she knows. She told Good Housekeeping,
“They're all just interesting pictures of people, and you just kind of wonder who they were and what they were. There's a guy - I don't know who he is, but he's wearing a suit. He's got his arms folded, and he looks like he sold insurance or something. I'm just wondering why someone painted him.”
6 She Despises Tardiness
Many magazines and interviewers have commented on Ellen’s punctuality. In an interview with The Daily Telegraph the interviewer, Ruby, told a story about booking Ellen. Ruby said, “A few hours ahead of my interview with Ellen DeGeneres, I get a call from a highly caffeinated man named Craig to confirm the timing of my chat. He is also quick to inform me that, ‘Ellen is always on time, if not early!’ As promised, DeGeneres calls approximately seven minutes ahead of schedule.”
When asked about the secret of her success, Ellen said, “I believe in hard work, surrounding yourself with the right people and being prepared.”
5 Ellen Discovered Charlie Puth
In 2010, Ellen founded her own record label named eleveneleven. The first act she signed was Greyson Chance who she found on Youtube after his cover of Lady Gaga’s “Paparazzi” went viral. She explained the reason behind the name of her label one of her shows, stating, “Every time I look at the clock it’s 11:11…I found [Greyson Chance] on the 11th and his number happens to be 11 on his soccer team.”
In 2011, Ellen also signed Charlie Puth and Emily Luther after seeing their cover of “Someone Like You” by Adele.
4 She Unknowingly Became A Groundbreaker
When Ellen DeGeneres became a popular comedian and actress, no one knew she was gay. Ellen never felt like it was anyone’s business, but then quickly realized that by keeping it a secret, it made it look like something was wrong. So in February 1997 Ellen publicly came out as a lesbian on The Oprah Winfrey Show right before her character on her sitcom, Ellen, came out.
However, Ellen received backlash when sponsors withdrew their advertisements and affiliates refused to air the episode. Ellen recalled the story in Vanity Fair, saying, “I decided this was not going to be something that I was going to live the rest of my life being ashamed of.”
3 Voice-Over Roles
It might not be surprising to know that Ellen does voice acting and that her most famous role is Dory in Finding Nemo and the sequel, Finding Dory. She even won a Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Award for favorite voice. However, you might be surprised to know that she has also done more voice acting on another film and two video games.
The other film is Dr. Dolittle, in which Ellen voiced the dog in the prologue of the film. Ellen also voiced The Octopus Lady in the video Game 9: The Last Resort, and Dory in the Finding Nemo video game.
2 She's An Author
Along with the plethora of jobs that Ellen DeGeneres juggles on a daily basis, she has also managed to write four books. She published My Point...And I Do Have One in 1995, The Funny Thing Is… in 2003, Seriously...I'm Kidding in 2011, and Home: The Art of Effortless Design in 2015.
In these books, Ellen opens up about her personal life, her talk show, her love of remodeling houses, and much more. All with her refreshing sense of humor, of course. If there’s anything you want to know about Ellen, she’s shared almost everything in her books.
1 She Always Puts Family First
Ellen and her mom, Betty, have an extremely close relationship. So much so that Ellen even reserves the best seat in the audience of The Ellen Degeneres Show for her mom. It’s reported that Betty shows up as often as she can, which is very frequently.
Ellen enjoys talking about her family and in an interview with Good Housekeeping Ellen said, “When my parents divorced, it was my mother and me, by ourselves in an apartment. At that point, we kind of became roommates.”
Betty has even written several books about raising Ellen!
Sources: Good Housekeeping, People, The Daily Telegraph, Vanity Fair