In 1958, DeGeneres was born in Metairie, Louisiana. She was born the daughter of an insurance salesmen named Elliot, and a working mother, Betty, who soon divorced when DeGeneres was a teenager (“Ellen DeGeneres”, U*X*L). After the divorce, Degeneres and her mother moved to Atlanta. There, DeGeneres found her mother getting sadder and sadder. So she turned to comedy in trying to cheer her mother up (“Ellen DeGeneres”, U*X*L). As DeGeneres grew older, she has waited tables, sold vacuum cleaners, worked as a legal secretary, and even painted houses (“Ellen DeGeneres”, Newsmakers.) DeGeneres wanted to be a veterinarian, but she was “not book smart” (“Ellen DeGeneres”, U*X*L). In 1982, she took the stage for the first time at the local coffee shop (“DeGeneres, Ellen” 1958). Later that year, she entered Showtime’s Funniest Person In America contest, and won (“DeGeneres, Ellen” 1958). That helped start her career, but the real springboard into stardom was when she went on The Tonight Show, and Johnny Carson called her over to his couch.
She was the first women in history to be invited to sit on the famed couch on her first visit (“DeGeneres, Ellen” 1958). In 1994, she was offered her own sitcom by ABC, called These Friends of Mine, but for the second season, was renamed Ellen (“DeGeneres, Ellen” 1958). DeGeneres came out of the closet through her sitcom, and quickly became a leader and role model in the L.G.B.T community. Since Ellen went off the air, DeGeneres has been in multiple movies, and has even gotten her own syndicated, award winning talk show, The Ellen DeGeneres Show. But her real success is overcoming adversity, and achieving her dreams against all odds. One thing that really influenced DeGeneres’ American Dream is where she grew up, Louisiana. “I rode my bike everywhere. All over the campus [of Newcomb College]. All over uptown. You know, people can grow up in New Orleans without realizing how unique a city it is. I remember thinking that it was a really neat place.” (“DeGeneres, Ellen”, UXL Newsmakers).
She gives much credit to the fact that her mother raised her and her brother Vance single handedly in the city of New Orleans. Also, one of the first times DeGeneres got into comedy was after her parents divorce. “My mother was going through some really hard times and I could see when she was really getting down, and I would start to make fun of her dancing,” DeGeneres remembered. “Then she’d start to laugh and I’d make fun of her laughing. And she’d laugh so hard she’d start to cry, and then I’d make fun of that” (“DeGeneres, Ellen”, UXL Newsmakers). Now that DeGeneres has a “voice” that people will listen to, she strives to make the world a better place. At the end of every episode of her talk show, she says “Be kind to one another”.
Also, she is an advocate for marriage equality, even though her and her wife, Portia De Rossi, are already married. And if anyone is trying to do anything to better the world we live in, Ellen likes to make them known, and tries to help them any way she can. Towards the end of the second season of the sitcom Ellen, DeGeneres cam out of the closet, both on the show, and in real life. It was widely rumored and talked about, she was the canter of a huge, nasty, media storm. When the episode finally aired, the “storm” only got bigger. She appeared on talk shows, and finally, on The Oprah Winfrey Show she told her reasoning for everything she had done. After that interview, her fans started to take sides. Some stayed by her side, while others grew adamantly against her and her actions. She was even dubbed “Ellen The Generate” While she has more fans then ever now, there are still some people who despise her (“DeGeneres, Ellen”, UXL Newsmakers).
Another obstacle that hindered DeGeneres, is the facet that she never went to college. When you ask people what their definition of the American Dream is, a common theme is wanting to go to college. DeGeneres had that same dream at one point, but it never worked out. She had dreams to be a veterinarian, but she is quoted as saying that she is not “book smart” (“Ellen DeGeneres. U*X*L). In today’s society, it is the mindset of the people that without a college degree, you will be a nobody, a worthless bum on the streets. And that is what DeGeneres believed, until she entered the Funniest Person in America contest (“DeGeneres, Ellen 1958). From winning that contest, she got her chance on The Tonight Show. Then suddenly, the various little jobs were no more, and she was launched into stardom. And all of that is just another example of how DeGeneres overcame adversity, social stigmas, and all the odds to achieve her dreams, even if it wasn’t in the way she thought.
DeGeneres has had her share of hatred thrown her way. But she has managed to endure all of it, and she is in a place to help people everyday, and he seizes that opportunity. While we still do not have marriage equality in all 50 states, she is still pretty far along in achieving her American Dream. But she is always fighting, because in 1998, Degeneres was awarded the “Stephen F. Kolzak Award” by the “Gay and Lesbian Alliance against Defamation (GLAAD)” for being an open celebrity who battles homophobia (Pettigrew, Emily). And even though she never went to college, she is glad to help encourage the young minds of America. When DeGeneres gave the commencement speech at Tulane University, she said this, “When I was younger I thought Success was something different. I thought, “When I grow up, I want to be famous. I want to be a star. I want to be in movies. When I grow up I want to see the world, drive nice cars. I want to have groupies”. But my idea of success is different today. For me, the most important thing in your life is to live your life with integrity and not to give into peer pressure, to try to be something that you’re not. To live your life as an honest and compassionate person. To contribute in some way” (Moncur).