Ellen DeGeneres has found a way into our hearts and onto our television screens. She has aged incredibly well, and her career has skyrocketed, to say the least. Millions of viewers around the country tune in to her daytime talk show, which has won awards and honors. Children may even know Ellen, from her voice talent in Finding Nemo (she voiced the forgetful yet lovable Dory.) Ellen also judged American Idol for one season, proving her versatility.
While her comedic wit and enthusiastic dance moves tend to take the spotlight, there are many facets to Ellen’s life and journey. From a meek little girl living in Louisiana, to an independent woman, to coming out to the masses about her sexual orientation – Ellen is a figure that amazes and inspires. Yet, there are some little-known facts about this funny lady that may surprise you.
From abuse to a string of relationships and legal issues with major record labels, Ellen’s life has been far from ordinary. Take a look at our list of 10 shocking facts about Ellen DeGeneres. Focusing on her early years and deeper journey may provide some insight into her light and fluffy comedy acts. Yet, some of the items on this list are just plain fun, like her!
10. She Was Molested By Her Stepfather
Degeneres’ mother had many boyfriends while Ellen was growing up, and the teenager often had to stand her ground against the men. Her mother’s third husband actually ended up molesting a then 16-year-old Ellen. At the time, her mother was undergoing a mastectomy, and Ellen’s stepfather said he wanted to feel Ellen’s breast to make sure he knew what a healthy chest felt like. On another occasion, the man tried to break into Ellen’s bedroom. To escape, she climbed out the window and spent the night in a hospital to keep away from him. Ellen came out about this abuse about 10 years ago.
9. Madonna is Her 11th Cousin
It is true! Madonna and Ellen are eleventh cousins. They share the same 10th great-grandfather: Martin Aucoin from France. Both Madonna’s and Ellen’s families stayed in Nova Scotia after immigrating from France, their homeland. In the late 1700s, Ellen’s family left for Louisiana, while Madonna’s family left Canada in the 1870s to head to Michigan. Other weird similarities between Ellen and Madonna are that they both are pop culture superstars, have written memoirs, and were born in the same year. They have both been on tours, and of course, they both know how to boogie on down; their dance moves are impressive!
8. She Has A Ride at Disney Named After Her
Have you ever wanted to get into Ellen Degeneres’ head? Well, head over to Disney’s Epcot and take a 45-minute journey through time and Ellen’s subconscious. The ride is a fun and thrilling adventure that incorporates some education as well. The premise is pretty fun: Ellen falls asleep while watching Jeopardy! And we get to explore her dream of competing on the game show, with the help of Bill Nye the Science Guy. Another iteration of the ride imagines time-traveling, greeting dinosaurs, and learning about the formation of fossils. This might finally get us to skip the Magic Kingdom and head to Epcot instead.
7. She Competed In A Push-Up Challenge Against Michelle Obama. And Lost.
Back in 2012, Michelle Obama‘s arms seemed to be all the rage. She also started the Let’s Move! Campaign. So, when she appeared on the Ellen Degeneres show, there was some talk about workout routines and exercises. The conversation started to focus on push-ups, and after Michelle made a playful comment about Ellen’s back, the talk show host could not take that sitting down! She whipped off her jacket and challenged Michelle to a push-up contest. The two went head-to-head on the studio stage, with the audience counting their reps. 54-year-old Ellen did 20 push-ups, while 48-year-old Michelle stopped at 25.
6. Her Net Worth is $285 Million
According to a 2015 report, Ellen Degeneres has a net worth of $285 million! She rakes in about $70 million every year, thanks to her super-successful daytime talk show, her books, and position as a Covergirl spokeswoman. Yet, her job description does not end there. Ellen is also a producer for television and film, a comedian and voice actress, and a screenwriter. She has earned a place in the ranks of some of the richest comedians and celebrities today. That statistic is quite impressive for a woman who started off by working at J.C.Penney and waiting tables at T.G.I. Friday’s.
5. She Was Raised As a Christian Scientist
Ellen and her brother were both raised in a family of Christian Scientists, and Ellen associated with the religion until she was 13 years old. Followers of this sect of Christianity do not believe in seeing doctors or using medication, and Ellen herself has said that she never had aspirin until she was a teenager. She recalled her strict upbringing, in which she had to attend church every week and participate in testimonies on a weekly basis. Now, Ellen calls herself “nonreligious,” although she has said that she believes in God, and sees God as omnipresent. She has spoken out against Christian Scientists, mostly with unflattering remarks.
4. She Was Not the Funny One in the Family
Her brother was more comedic! During her childhood in Louisiana, Ellen spent a lot of time outside, riding her bike around New Orleans and exploring what the city had to offer. When she was 13 years old, her parents divorced, and Ellen’s comedic side began to show. She used her sense of humor to help her push through that tough time. In fact, her dance steps are long embedded in her life, as she used to make her mother laugh by making fun of her dancing! Ellen’s first step into the world of stand-up comedy came when she was speaking in front of a crowd. Feeling paralyzed with fear, she cracked a joke to calm her nerves.
3. She Had a Breakdown after Her Split from Anne Heche
Ellen Degeneres and Anne Heche had a very public romantic relationship in the past, one that ended in 2000. The two filed a joint statement to end their relationship after 3 ½ years together. It came as a huge blow to the public, as well as close friends, as Ellen and Anne seemed joined at the hip. The two women had matching wedding bands, wrote extensively about their relationship, and were even looking for a new place to live together days before the split. Ellen later came out to express doubts about Anne’s love for her, and that she herself experienced a truly broken heart after the split.
2. She Drove By Her Ex’s Car Crash
When Ellen was in her 20s, she dated poet Kat Perkoff, who was also the owner of a lesbian bar in New Orleans. The relationship helped Ellen come up with new comedic fodder, yet Kat ended up cheating on her. Ellen then left the relationship with the intention of getting back together after Kat learned not to cheat. Unfortunately, Kat got into a car accident, which Ellen herself drove past, not knowing it was Kat. The two had been living together, so Ellen was left with a half-empty apartment and heart. This is when she began really questioning God and her beliefs. This sparked a “Phone call to God” comedic act.
1. She Was Sued By Several Record Labels
Back in 2009, Ellen was sued by several record labels over copyright issues. According to the labels, Ellen had played more than 1,000 songs without permission or paying for licenses. As most of us know, Ellen is well-known for her shimmying dance moves with the audience on her talk show. The Ellen show and the record labels ended up resolving the issues, but it was curious that the onslaught of reports started just as Ellen was beginning her term as a judge on American Idol. In fact, she was sued by one of the record labels that usually signs winners of the music-competition show.