For almost two decades, Ellen DeGeneres' good-natured talk show has made her one of America’s most loved TV personalities. But in recent years, rumours have circulated that in real life, the 62-year-old isn't quite how she comes across on screen.
Recently, the stories and allegations started escalating so much that DeGeneres’ wife, Portia de Rossi, had to come to her defence, this week posting "I Stand By Ellen" on Instagram. So what exactly are people saying about DeGeneres, and how did it all begin?
Watch: Dakota Johnson and Ellen’s uncomfortable encounter. Post continues below.
The Ellen story.
When DeGeneres launched her talk show in 2003, she was already a hero to a lot of people. The comedian had come out as gay in 1997 and her character on her sitcom Ellen had come out as gay at the same time. It was a brave move, and it ultimately cost her.
DeGeneres was labelled "Ellen DeGenerate" by televangelist Jerry Falwell and conservatives put pressure on advertisers to boycott the sitcom. It was axed the following year, and DeGeneres spent several years without a regular TV gig.
The Ellen DeGeneres Show premiered at a time when other stars, such as Sharon Osbourne, were also launching talk shows. But DeGeneres’ became a hit, thanks largely to the host’s super-nice persona. The show was generous with its giveaways and had the mantra, "Be kind to one another."
For years, the rumours that DeGeneres wasn’t as nice off-camera as on-camera circulated through showbiz circles, but they remained nothing more than tabloid stories relying on anonymous accusers. DeGeneres addressed the rumours in a 2018 profile in The New York Times.
"That bugs me if someone is saying that because it’s an outright lie," she said. "The first day I said: 'The one thing I want is everyone here to be happy and proud of where they work, and if not, don’t work here.'"
The profile also touched on how hard it was for DeGeneres to constantly live up to her super-nice, goofy-dancing persona in real life.
"The talk show is me, but I’m also playing a character of a talk-show host," she admitted. "There’s a tiny, tiny bit of difference."
The Dakota Johnson interview.
DeGeneres had a bad year last year, with a string of incidents leading to backlash against her. First, she defended Kevin Hart when he lost the gig as Oscars host over his homophobic comments. Next, she was criticised for her friendship with former US President George W. Bush.