Ellen Lee DeGeneres was born on January 26, 1958 in Metairei, Louisiana, to her father Elliot DeGeneres, an insurance salesman, and her mother Betty, a real-estate agent. After her parents divorced when she was 16, Ellen experimented with humor to console her mother, telling Teen People in 2006, "I was helping [my mother] cope with a broken heart. It brought us closer together and made me realize the power of humor."
Ellen turned to humor once again at a public speaking event to overcome stage fright, and soon realized she wanted to be a stand-up comedian. After performing at various local open mic venues, Ellen finally landed a time slot at that pronounced Clyde's Comedy Club in 1981. Her big break snuck up on her when a booking agent from The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson attended her stand-up act at the Improv in Hollywood. The agents were blown away by her quirky, understated humor and immediately booked her on the show, making her the first female comic to be solicited by Johnny Carson and offered a seat on his infamous couch. Audiences fell in love with Ellen's subtle humor and she was soon landing gigs on various talk shows, including, The Oprah Winfrey Show, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, The Late Show with David Letterman and Larry King Live.
In 1994, Ellen made her actress debut in her prime-time sitcom Ellen, but controversy soon followed when Ellen's character openly came out of the closet, a first in sitcom history. As a result, an ABC affiliate from Alabama excluded the milestone episode from airtime and many of the show's sponsors pulled their advertisements, including Chrysler. Although criticism shadowed Ellen and ABC, many applauded the show's willingness to take a chance on a taboo subject, particularly her mother Betty, who stopped by many talk shows to voice her support for her daughter. In spite of earning a Golden Globe nomination for Best Performance by an Actress in a TV Series in 1995, 1996 and 1998; receiving a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series for "The Puppy Episode;" and making TV history; Ellen was subsequently taken off the air in 1998.
Regardless of her show's departure, Ellen continued to expand her career across all mediums, making her big screen debut in the dark comedy Mr. Wrong (1996), followed by appearances in the comedy EdTV (1999) with Matthew McConaughey and the made-for-TV movie If These Walls Could Talk 2 (2000) opposite Sharon Stone.
In 2003, Ellen made her big comeback to primetime television with her talk show Ellen. Ensuing its premiere, the show's ratings grew in numbers after each episode and earned numerous awards, including an Emmy and a plethora of Daytime Emmy Awards. Also during this time, Ellen voiced the character Doris in the animated box office hit Finding Nemo and earned two Emmy Awards for her stand-up comedy special Ellen DeGeneres: Here and Now.
Ellen's likability and universal humor eventually landed her a starring role as the host for two Primetime Emmy Awards and the 2007 Academy Awards. She was then offered a judge position on the ninth season of American Idol after Paula Abdul left the show in 2009.
Aside from her acting career, Ellen authored the New York bestsellers My Point... and I Do Have One (1995) and The Funny Thing Is... (2004).
Ellen DeGeneres Girlfriend, Wife & Dating History Timeline
1997 - 2000
Ellen and actress Anne Heche publicly dated from 1997 to 2000 and immediately became the most celebrated same-sex couple in the entertainment industry. After the two broke up in August 2000, Heche never dated a woman again.
2001 - 2004
Following her break-up with Anne Heche, Ellen started dating photographer/director/actress Alexandra Hedison. The two later split after three years of dating, but don't worry, Hedison didn't switch sides.
2004 - 2008
Ellen and Arrested Development actress Portia de Rossi began dating in 2004. As soon as California's same sex ban was overturned in November 2008, Ellen proposed to Portia with a three-carat pink diamond ring. When asked how the proposal went down, Portia responded, "we were watching the fish and she [Ellen] said: 'This is a pretty romantic moment, right?' And I said, 'Every moment with you is romantic', and that is when she gave me the ring."
2008 - Present
In August 2008, Ellen and Portia got married in front of their friends and families at their L.A. home. They're reportedly thinking about having kids.