Ellen DeGeneres celebrates 'Ellen' coming out episode 20 years later

The night of April 30, 1997 was one of the most talked about television events in years: the highly-publicized coming-out episode of Ellen.

The actress, who went on to become a hugely successful daytime talk show host, couldn't understand the hit her co-stars took after she chose to come out. "This was before Facebook, so if you wanted to announce something, you had to get a sitcom". The show was titled, "The Puppy Episode" and she revealed why they went with that name.

"I have to say, just watching the clip made me so emotional, because of all the things I feel privileged to experience in my life, as a human but also as an actor, there's no greater gift than being the person that was with you and looking in your eyes as you said those words", Dern said.

"It was the first time a lead character on TV had come out", she continued. "Today we're celebrating the 20th anniversary of the coming-out episode of my sitcom", DeGeneres says in the video.

Winfrey has said for years that the "worst hate mail" she ever received was for agreeing to play the therapist on Ellen.

When Charissa asked how far Ellen thinks we've come in terms of acceptance, she answered, "I think we have a long way to go for a lot of acceptance".

Winfrey told DeGeneres: "You would not be who you are.open hearts and touch hearts and change peoples minds and make a difference in the world had you not had the courage to do that".

DeGeneres: They really didn't give us the OK (at first). And I realized how charged that sentence was because, you know, when you're gay, the only time you say "I'm gay" is when you're revealing it to someone, when you're telling your parents or when you're telling someone close to you.

DeGeneres admits to audiences that at the time, when she said the words "I'm gay", she "would burst into tears every single time".

"Just you", DeGeneres joked as Winfrey and the audience laughed. "I had never been so down in my life".

AP: "Ellen" cast member Joely Fisher recalled that you held back from saying the line "I'm gay" in pre-taping rehearsals. Why?

Watch sneak peeks from DeGeneres' powerful monologue, as well as her emotional sit-downs with Winfrey and Dern, all via the video below.

"I can't describe to you how challenging it was to get this episode made", she said.

  • Salvatore Jensen