Ellen DeGeneres

Michael Rozman/Warner Bros.

This weekend marks the 20th anniversary of Ellen DeGeneres publicly coming out, so given the big milestone she's reflecting on her choice and how it affected her career, then and now.

"I was doing just fine. The show was a success, my career was a success and there was no real reason for me to do it other than I did some work on myself, some deep soul-searching, and realized I was really carrying around a lot of shame," she told the AP via JustJared. "No matter how many times I tried to rationalize that I didn't need anyone to know, I knew that it was a secret. And I knew that there was a possibility that people would hate me for the simple fact that no matter how much they loved my comedy or my show, but they might hate me if they knew I was gay." 

As time went by, the Ellen star realized she couldn't hide her true self any longer, even if meant risking all the success she had attained in Hollywood. "It became more important to me than my career. I suddenly said, 'Why am I being, you know, ashamed of who I am just to be successful and famous in society's eyes?'" she continued. Fittingly, her onscreen persona was also going through a tough time.

"… And then I thought, the character on the show is clearly struggling. There's no relationship," Ellen explained. "It was pretty clear it would be an easy transition for her to realize she was gay, which was why her relationships with men weren't working out."

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 decided to come out.

Ellen, Ellen Degneres, 1994

ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images

"I knew I was risking hurting my career...But to know that Laura Dern was punished for it just because she played my love interest in that show is crazy. I mean, she's a brilliant actress, she's heterosexual and yet she was punished. And Oprah (Winfrey) got hate mail just for being a part of it. Obviously, that's why a lot of people don't come out, because there's a very loud and clear message…that a lot of people don't understand [being gay], and because they don't understand it they fear, and because they fear it they hate it."

All the backlash she and the show received absolutely floored the 59-year-old Finding Dory star.

"I had no idea the amount of hate," she said. "I had no idea that there would be death threats or a bomb scare. It was a really scary time."

We and our partners use cookies on this site to improve our service, perform analytics, personalize advertising, measure advertising performance, and remember website preferences. By using the site, you consent to these cookies. For more information on cookies including how to manage your consent visit our Cookie Policy.