On April 30, 1997, Ellen DeGeneres changed LGBT history forever when her character came out as gay on her popular ABC sitcom. Even though “The Puppy Episode” was a ratings success, DeGeneres faced backlash for her decision to come out and the show was canceled one year later.
DeGeneres’ character’s coming out also coincided with her coming out in real life, making appearances on The Oprah Winfrey Show and gracing the cover of Time.
Today, DeGeneres is the second-highest paid LGBT star, taking home $20 million dollars a year for her daytime talk show.
This Friday, Ellen DeGeneres celebrates the 20th anniversary of coming out on her sitcom and in real life on her show. She’ll mark the occasion by hosting a reunion with her former Ellen castmates including Oprah Winfrey and Laura Dern who both appeared in the special episode.
“I can’t describe to you how challenging it was to get this episode made,” says DeGeneres during her opening monologue. “At the time it was so controversial, which is why I thought it was so important to celebrate the anniversary and to remember what it was like back then and to appreciate how far we have come.”
Later, she sits down with Oprah Winfrey and Laura Dern to remember that very special episode.
“President Obama wouldn’t have said those wonderful things about you, that were all so true,” Winfrey tells DeGeneres. “You wouldn’t have been able to open hearts and touch hearts and change people’s minds and make a difference in the world had you not had the courage to do that.”
Dern told DeGeneres that playing the part of Susan was one of the greatest honors of her life. “I remember kind of holding each other up through this very emotional moment. It was so profound, and I feel so blessed that I got to be there and witness that,” Dern said. “Well, thank you for being there for me, because it really was a charged moment,” DeGeneres replied. “It was really amazing.”