Ellen DeGeneres’ Struggle to Come Out Was More Intense Than You May Have Thought

18 years later, the host reflects on the difficulties of her revelation.

Ellen DeGeneres has become the face of the proud, gay American woman. We’ve watched her evolve into a gay icon and her beautiful marriage to Portia de Rossi blossom over the last few years. Her personal revelation of coming out as gay in 1997 feels so distant now, it’s almost like it never even happened, and the Ellen we know now is the only Ellen that ever was. On Oprah’s Master Class, the 57-year-old looks back, and admits she “didn’t ever think [she] was going to come out” all those years ago. The details of her inner struggle and process are surprising and inspiring.

The beginning of Ellen’s new, true life started when a friend got her a present, a course at Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California. She describes it as a retreat with “no TV, no music, no anything, just meditation and different courses.” She took the course she recalls as “Changing the Inner Dialogue.” “I wanted to know what the inner dialogue of my subconscious mind was.”

Ellen describes her soul-searching process as “crazy” and “scary,” and of course, worrying about her fans and fate of her fame haunted her. “Would I still be famous? Would they still love me if they knew I was gay?,” she asked herself. She realized lying to her fans about who she was wasn’t worth it anymore. “I didn’t want to pretend to be somebody else anymore so that people would like me,” she says. That’s when an icon was born.

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