Dark side of Ellen DeGeneres' past: Sex abuse, depression and first love's death

Ellen moved to New Orleans as a struggling stand-up comedian.

With her effusive manner and fun-loving demeanour, Ellen DeGeneres is famed for her happy-go-lucky hosting style.

Which is why fans were shocked over the weekend by unbelievable claims that behind the scenes she allegedly behaves like a 'diva'.

From apparently having 50-item long riders to insisting her staff chew gum before talking to her, apparent former employees of the chat show host shared their stories on Twitter after comedian Kevin T Porter promised to donate $2 to a Los Angeles food bank for each one.

Ellen has previously denied rumours that she is anything other than kind to her staff, branding the gossip 'outright lies'.

And she has spoken at length about how her actual life and personality differs to the rosy exterior she presents on screen. Indeed, her teenage years were tragically marred by the sexual abuse she suffered at the hands of her stepfather while her mum was out of town receiving treatment for breast cancer.

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Aged about 16, in 2019 Ellen opened up about the assaults in the hope of helping others, describing how her stepfather convinced her to let him check her breasts for lumps.

"He told me he’d felt a lump in (my mother's) breast and needed to feel my breasts because he didn’t want to upset her, but he needed to feel mine,” she told David Letterman's Netflix show, My Next Guest Needs No Introduction.

But the abuse didn't stop there, and on one occasion she was forced to flee the house and spend the night hiding in a hospital.

“He tried to break my door down, and I kicked the window out and ran because I knew it was going to go more to something," she said. "And I didn’t want to tell my mother, because I was protecting her and I knew that that would ruin her happiness.”

When Ellen finally confided in her mother Betty, she didn't believe her and stayed married to the stepfather - who died in 2018 - for another 18 years.

Ellen's mother Betty didn't believe her daughter's account of the abuse. Photo: Shutterstock.

It was only when his story kept changing that she realised he had lied, and last year she made a public apology to her daughter, admitting she has to 'live with that regret'.

In a statement to NBC news, Betty said: “I know now that one of the hardest things to do is speak up after being sexually abused. I love my daughter, and I wish I had the capacity to listen to her when she told me what happened."

Meanwhile, Ellen's relationship with her Christian Scientist father Elliot faltered when she came out as gay aged 19 and he asked her to move out of the house he shared with his wife and their two young daughters.

“(My stepmum) had two little girls that they worried that it would influence them," Ellen once told Oprah Winfrey.

“(It) really hurt. I loved them. But, I understood it. I understand people not understanding. I’m fine with that. I can’t change anyone’s mind.”

By then a struggling stand-up comedian, she moved to New Orleans and fell in love with poet and bar manager Kat Perkoff.

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But Kat died in 1980 when her car hit a tree as she drove home from a concert following a reported row with Ellen, leaving the 22 year old devastated.

“They were two very creative people, crazy and young and very much in love,” her sister Rachel Perkoff told People in 1997. “She told me she was on the interstate the day before - she drove by the accident but she didn’t know who it was. When she found out, you can imagine how shocked she was.”

The tragedy did, however, inspire Ellen's “phone call to God” routine that finally got her noticed and earned her Showtime’s Funniest Person in America award in 1982.

A move to Los Angeles followed and in 1997 she broke boundaries by coming out as gay - both to Time magazine and in character on The Ellen Show.

The star went public with Anne Heche after coming out on The Ellen Show. Photo: Reuters.

She also went public with new girlfriend, actress Anne Heche, who would go on to break her heart when she walked out three and a half years later.

“Anne broke my heart into a million pieces,” Ellen later said. “When Anne left, I’d wake up in the morning, and my eyes would just immediately fill up with tears, and I would start convulsively crying.”

And her mental health continued to suffer when The Ellen Show was cancelled just one year after her coming out, plunging the star into a deep depression.

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Unemployed and feeling like a pariah, her confidence plummeted and she isolated herself from those who loved her, crawling into 'a dark hole'.

Eventually she moved out of LA, started seeing a therapist and taking anti-depressants and the black cloud lifted.

In 2003 she landed her award-winning Ellen DeGeneres Show and months later fell in love with Portia de Rossi.

Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi tied the knot in 2008. Photo: Getty.

They tied the knot in 2008 and Ellen - who is thought to be worth about £425million - has admitted she still has to pinch herself to believe how perfectly her life finally worked out.

“Portia and I constantly say to each other, ‘We are so lucky.’ Sometimes it’s lying in bed at night before I go to sleep, and I just say thank you to whatever, whoever is out there,” she said.

“I’ve gotten to a place where I really am just settled. Really. I know that I’m not going anywhere. She’s not going anywhere. I’m not saying the relationship took a while; I’m saying in my life, it took a while to find this.”


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