The Complicated Story Behind Ellen DeGeneres
Until recently, talk show host Ellen DeGeneres had an impeccable reputation. A rare clean comedian in the business, her wholesome show was dominated by dancing — not drama. Recently, that has changed a lot for the worse!
Dancing Queen or Queen of Mean?
The woman who openly called her set "a place of happiness" suddenly found herself in a scandal this year. Accusations surfaced online that Ellen herself was a sinister, passive-aggressive character, harassing staff for sport. This was at odds with her kind image, to say the least!
What's more, sexual misconduct claims against producers compounded the case for a toxic work environment. But was any of this true? It's time to examine the charges against Ellen, who has lost more Twitter followers than any other celeb this year!
Next: Weigh the dirty details and decide if Ellen has ever been what she seems!
Picture Perfect Image
America first got to know Ellen as a 90's sitcom icon and LGBT activist. Her high-profile relationship with actress Portia de Rossi won over tabloid praise and crossover fans from Arrested Development. Many may remember Portia as Lindsay Bluth Fünke!
The couple started dating in 2004, tying the knot in 2008 when California overturned the ban on same-sex marriage. Ellen had a lot of goodwill built up, back then. It's shocking to ask, but how could anything ruin that?
A Heart of Gold
On daytime TV, the nation got to know Ellen as a lighthearted host specializing in inspiration. Who can forget the little British girls who learned to sing Nicki Minaj’s “Super Bass"? After their video went viral, Ellen showcased them with a surprise in mind.
Nicki herself made a special appearance, and they all performed together! A month later, they were invited back to meet Rhianna. Could a host this generous actually have a dark side?
Making Dreams Come True
In 2015, Ellen took an interest in eight-year-old Demarjay Smith, the youngest runner making workout videos on YouTube. It turned out that they were both big fans of Olympic Gold medalist Usain Bolt. Naturally, a televised meeting was set up on the show!
Audiences loved the matchup, and Ellen kept bringing the boy back to do sports and fitness updates. It was adorable, to say the least! Where was the secret ice queen in all of this?
Truthfully, there may have been signs all along. Regular viewers of the show know one reoccurring bit: Ellen loved to scare her guests with monsters popping out in the middle of interviews. At times, it seemed way over the top!
From clowns to beasts blasting out of boxes, it almost gave audiences heart attacks just watching. And something about it just didn't seem like it was entirely in good fun. Was there something more to her laughter, even back then?
That wasn't the only way it appeared Ellen did not respect her guests. In 2008, Mariah Carey was invited to chat. Ellen kept daring her to drink the alcohol on the table. What was the intent, with that stunt?
It seems there were rumors that the singer was pregnant. Maybe she would announce live on air! If that was the thought, Mariah resisted. She eventually took a fake sip, but the story got dark after the show. Why, exactly?
Very Real Consequences
Shortly after this awkward incident, Mariah revealed she actually had a miscarriage from the stress! According to the singer: “I was extremely uncomfortable with that moment, is all I can say. And I really have had a hard time grappling with the aftermath.''
Mariah implied there was very little empathy on Ellen's end, in interviews. And although later she successfully had twins with Nick Cannon, this episode was hard to brush under the rug. What was going on, really?
Fans with a more political perspective found other oddities in Ellen's behavior. After posting a presidential selfie with gay marriage opponent George W. Bush, she received a lot of questions. It was a shock to hear her explain they were real friends on her show!
Ellen explained: "I'm friends with a lot of people who don't share the same beliefs I have." Some concluded she was an elitist first, activist second. Was that fair?
The Big Tweet
Whatever mixed opinions there were on Ellen, they were all small fries compared to what was about to happen next. Twitter user Kevin T. Porter took social media by storm, claiming that Ellen was ''notoriously one of the meanest people alive''. A serious charge, out of the blue!
To put his money where his mouth was, he solicited behind the scenes stories for charity donations. What did the internet come up with, to meet the challenge?
Petty About Polish
According to a waitress named Farah: ''She wrote a letter to the owner & complained about my chipped nail polish (not that it was on her plate but just that it was on my hand). I had worked till closing the night before & this was next morn, almost got me fired."
Farah had been a big fan growing up, too. What a letdown, and a shock! Was Ellen really like this, off the show?
Massively Passive Aggressive
And what about people who served her in other capacities? According to user Benjamin Siemon, Ellen had a nasty attitude at work. But it was unpredictable and arbitrary — the worst of both worlds, in a boss or anyone else.
Ben said his colleagues did not believe the warnings, but they later saw Ellen exhibit these hostilities. Hard to believe, but that was just the beginning of the complaints. How did she treat other staff, besides the newbies?
People Seem Invisible
Professional bodyguards were not immune from disappointment, either. Tom Majercak worked for Ellen at the 2014 Oscars, and explained his impressions guarding her wife and mother, along with the star herself.
Tom recalled: "Ellen is the one person that I've been assigned to — and I've been assigned to quite a few celebrities — that has never taken the time to say hi to me.'' Viewers seemed to find Tom a nice enough guy. What was her problem?
User Ben came back to the Twitter feed with more tales from the set. He explained that Ellen had an unusual peculiarity that she imposed on other people. It was about smells, and she wasn't polite about the matter.
Claiming to have a strong nose, she instructed staff to chew gum before daring to share air. Now that seems unheard of, even for the Queen of England! Was Ellen going too far, humiliating colleagues?
Twitter user J. Fisher revealed another story: ''Karen Kilgariff was her head writer for 5 years until the writers' strike. When Karen wouldn't cross the picket line she was fired and Ellen never spoke to her again.''
Banished after demanding better pay for others in the industry? As a public champion of kindness and fairness, this behavior seemed like it wasn't in line with her projected image. What else was going on that conflicted with her on-air personality?
Surrounded by Peasants
Twitter user ACAB for Cutie revealed: ''My sister worked for the Ellen Show for two years. This is from her: 'I saw Ellen in the hallways every day and would say hello and she never once said hello back. She wouldn’t smile. She wouldn’t even acknowledge me at all. For two seasons.'"
Others, like Cathy Messier, seemed to confirm the same protocol at the show. What kind of boss pretended their workers literally didn't exist?
Hold that Hope
User Jen Gruba replied, as well: ''My daughter’s make a wish was to meet Ellen and go to the show...but not only did Ellen refuse to meet or even acknowledge Abi, when we first arrived, we had to hide behind a wall for 15 minutes so not to disturb Ellen as she played ping pong.''
Fans could not believe that Ellen would act so coldly to a dying child. Was this really possible, from the funny dancing lady?
Strict Menu Rules
Next, user Alison Freer claimed: "I have another food one: she polices her crew's lunch orders, nobody allowed to eat fish etc. They would come hide on our stage to eat what they wanted away from her.''
She told another story about Ellen interrupting a birthday party, shutting down a meal for nonvegetarians she didn't even work with. Was the TV star a tyrant to people she didn't know, because of their dietary habits?
Fans React Online
Pretty quickly, the internet reacted. One former fan wrote: “Anyone with office experience knows the culture and climate is established at the top...Ellen Degeneres is responsible for any sexist, racist, demeaning and intimidating behavior at her show. And she contributes to it all.”
A disappointed viewer wrote: ''Ellen Degeneres is responsible for any sexist, racist, demeaning and intimidating behavior at her show. And she contributes to it all.'' Was that a fair assessment?
As the rumors raged on, makeup artist Nikkie De Jager of NikkieTutorials met with Ellen to talk about transgenderism. What did Nikkie say about the behind the scenes experience, though?
The disheartened guest explained: "I got greeted by an angry intern, who was a bit overworked...Every guest at Ellen had a private toilet, but I didn't...I couldn't even use the closest toilet to me because it was reserved for the Jonas Brothers." Yikes!
Dutch TV Gossip
Nikkie revealed more on Dutch TV: "Let me say that there's a big difference between this show and Ellen DeGeneres, and I'm saying that in favor of this show...It's nice that you say 'hi' before the show. She didn't."
Where there's smoke, there's fire: Because so many rumors matched with this fresh testimonial, even skeptics were starting to give the big Twitter thread credibility. Ellen DeGeneres, of all people, was in PR chaos!
50 Shades of Harassment
Next, there was worse news. Five employees claimed that executive producer Ed Glavin behaved inappropriately, rubbing and touching them without consent. He was fired, but shouldn't Ellen have known?
According to one worker: “You could definitely see the creep factor and the creepy touching...but you didn’t want to piss them off or you would be fired, so it was just that culture of fear.” How would Ellen answer for this one, as the big boss?
Portia Speaks Out
It was time to try the secret weapon: Wife Portia defended Ellen when fans started to demand a full cancellation. She stood by her lady, after 12 years of marriage. Without getting deep into the drama, Portia posted a hashtag on Instagram: “I Stand By Ellen”.
Many fans used the tag, but this didn't stop the onslaught of negative stories. And soon, Ellen would have to address them directly. What was her explanation for the mess?
Addressing the Charges
The Ellen Show was in-between seasons when some of the chaos erupted. Eventually, it was time for the premiere. It was necessary to acknowledge things were awkward!
By then, three producers had been fired for various misconduct claims. Ellen opened with a monologue: “I know that I’m in a position of privilege and power, and I realize that with that comes responsibility, and I take responsibility for what happens at my show.” But did she, really?
She also wrote a note to employees behind the scenes: "As we've grown exponentially, I've not been able to stay on top of everything and relied on others to do their jobs as they knew I'd want them done...That will now change and I'm committed to ensuring this does not happen again."
Ellen went on to say she knew there were toxic work realities off the screen. But did she gloss over a few, or many things?
The Boss Apologizes
The letter also claimed: "I told everyone in our first meeting that The Ellen DeGeneres Show would be a place of happiness — no one would ever raise their voice, and everyone would be treated with respect. Obviously, something changed, and I am disappointed to learn that this has not been the case."
She said sorry, at the end. But since the Twitter allegations had been so specific, the letter seemed vague in contrast. Did she ever acknowledge more?
Corona Cuts Go Deep
The show moved on as COVID-19 arrived. But then, there were new complaints about the boss. During the pandemic, Ellen still wanted to it the show from her home. How did that work out, for her longtime staff?
Apparently, thirty workers saw their hours cut. Their pay was reduced by 60% in the crisis period. And no one even checked in to see they were still alive! More bad PR resumed. What was Ellen's next move?
Riots and protests erupted after the George Floyd incident, compounding the nation's lockdown stress. Ellen took to Twitter, announcing: “I’m committed to using my platform to effect change...I was the dancing lady for a little while and now I want to help educate my audience. I want to educate myself."
Beyond that, she publically donated to a variety of funds promising justice, including the ACLU and NAACP. Was this redeeming, to anyone?
Literally a New Look
Sometimes when a PR disaster gets rolling, little can stop the snowball effect. Even as Ellen supported causes her fans loved, they couldn't get past the Tweet stories. True or not, they had taken on a life of their own. What was her next move?
A snappy short haircut, of course! Debuting it on Instagram, perhaps Ellen thought a few fashionistas would give her some good buzz. Were her hopes reasonable at this point in the scandal?
Ratings Seriously Plunge
It seems that enough viewers felt she didn't own up to her behavior, or apologize adequately. Ellen DeGeneres had been a network staple for decades. But she saw her ratings plunge, anyway. Just how much was the real shocker!
During her first week back from break, there was a 37% decrease from the previous year. It wasn't an industry-wide problem: Ellen's audience dropped the most compared to competing talk shows. And that wasn't all!
Social Media Exodus
Ellen also suffered online: She lost around 612,000 followers on Twitter, and 545,000 on Instagram. Combined, it was more than any other celebrity in 2020.
Millions want to see her canceled completely. But she still has loyal viewers who don't buy the stories! F0r now, the network is keeping the show until 2022 — but when the contract expires, Ellen will be a controversial figure. Will she be renewed, as usual? The mystery continues, for now!