Ellen DeGeneres revealed a lot about herself in her Netflix comedy special Relatable, which was her first since 2003's Here and Now on HBO. After sharing the layout of her award-strewn mansion, she delved into career highs and lows while airing her grievances and gently poking fun at her own image. These 9 things fans learned about Ellen DeGeneres from Relatable prove that she's not very different from her public image at all. And she can still be totally relatable.
That question is what opens the special. When DeGeneres was considering a return to standup, a friend of hers questioned how relatable she still was. After all, she was a huge success by any metric: she'd spent 15 years on one of the most popular talk shows on TV and accrued a vast amount of money, with Forbes estimating that she earned $87.5 million in 2018 alone. She's been one of the highest paid celebrities of the last decade. But fame, wealth, and two butlers (plus a private chef, a gardener, and the aforementioned maze-like mansion) didn't change her too much — going by this comedy special, at least.
Though she's mega-famous now, DeGeneres hasn't always had it easy. In Relatable, she discusses the ups and downs of her life, letting fans get to know her in a way they might not have before.
Her Sitcom Was Cancelled After She Came Out
DeGeneres' decision to come out on her sitcom Ellen in 1997 was a controversial one. Though she was praised initially, she soon received criticism and the show was cancelled shortly thereafter. As she states in Relatable:
I lost my sitcom when I came out and it’s not like nobody warned me. I mean, everybody warned me. My publicist, my agent, my manager. Anyone making money off of me said, 'Don’t do it.
Several Networks Passed On Her Talkshow
It was difficult for her to find her way back to television after Ellen. According to DeGeneres, it took three years before she was offered a talk show, but "a lot of people" didn't want to buy it; they thought no one would watch. She relates one story of a station manager telling her directly, "No one's going to watch a lesbian during the day."
Her talk show was eventually picked up, but in the early days she still had to change her style and dress more traditionally feminine. She joked about how the audience might have responded to that: "Is Ellen wearing a necklace? It's very delicate. She may not be gay anymore, I don't know."
She's Vegan (Or Is She?)
DeGeneres flip-flopped on her veganism in a bit about how hard it can be to order at restaurants when you're vegan. She claimed she just said it for the joke before explaining that she'd been vegan for eight years. Now eats fish or eggs, but only from chickens she knows personally. #Relatable.
She Has 3 Cats & 3 Dogs
According to a woman DeGeneres was chatting with once, the fact that she has three cats proves she's a definitely a lesbian. But, DeGeneres wondered, did her three dogs cancel that out? If she only had two cats, would that make her questioning? The cat Kinsey scale is certainly an unconventional one.
She Can't Be Unkind
DeGeneres satirizes her own image throughout the special, revealing at one point that she can never be unkind because she's built her entire image on kindness. And that's fine until she has an off day or finds herself in traffic:
I shouldn't even have a horn in my car. There's no reason for me to have a horn. I can't honk ever at anyone. If I cut someone off in a dangerous way, if I honk, they’re like 'Ellen?!'
Another shocking reveal? DeGeneres says her decision to dance on the show was a big mistake: now she gets asked to dance more than Mikhail Baryshnikov.
She Never Had Medicine As A Kid
DeGeneres was raised a Christian Scientist, which meant her family didn't believe in doctors or medicine. She was never vaccinated at a child, and never even had aspirin. The trouble was, when she split her knee open at age 10, she couldn't quite rely on faith to heal it. She needed a doctor.
She Didn't Think She Would Be Famous
Though DeGeneres said her parents' celebrity obsession did spark similar interest in her, she never thought she would be famous. She held a series of very odd jobs as she tried to figure out the rest of her life: she shucked oysters, sold vacuum cleaners, was a waitress, and worked at a landscaping company.
She Lost Her Girlfriend When She Was Only 21
DeGeneres' realized her path in comedy after dealing with one of the darkest periods in her life. Her girlfriend passed away in a car accident when DeGeneres was 21 years old. Left adrift, she moved into an apartment infested with fleas and became obsessed with the idea that fleas served no beneficial purpose to the world. Why did they even exist? She wanted to be able to talk to God and get actual, concrete answers to her questions.
She wrote a monologue about calling up God to ask what purpose fleas served and that illuminated things for her. She promised herself that she would do that bit on Johnny Carson's talk show one day and be the first woman comedian ever called over to the couch to chat after. And she was.
Now She Feels Free
As Relatable drew to a close, DeGeneres shared a dream she once had about putting a finch in a gilded cage. It was safe in the cage, but the bird wanted to be free. Upon waking, she realized the dream was about her and she decided shortly after to come out publicly.
She explains that she didn't realize her life was a cage because there were so many things about it that were wonderful. But she was so caught up in what people thought of her that it made her hide an important truth about herself. Embracing that truth cost her a lot, but she also cites it as a time in her life that taught her about compassion. She faced her fears and discovered her power.
Relatable confirms that Ellen DeGeneres' ultra-nice image isn't inaccurate at all, but her kindness is more multi-faceted than it might seem on TV. And it springs from a place of real struggle, which is perhaps the most relatable aspect of all.
After a very frustrating first birth experience, this Deaf mother wanted a change. Will the help of two Deaf doulas give the quality communication and birth experience this mom wants and deserves? Watch Episode Four of Romper's Doula Diaries, Season Two, below, and visit Bustle Digital Group's YouTube page for more episodes.