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Who is Ellen DeGeneres? A brief biography about the talk show host

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Who is Ellen DeGeneres? A brief biography about the talk show host
Frazer Harrison/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Ellen was Born ...:

... on January 26, 1958, in Jefferson, Louisana. She's the younger of two siblings born to Elliot and Betty DeGeneres. Her brother, Vance, is a comedy writer and was a correspondent on The Daily Show from 1999 to 2001.

Growing up with Ellen:

Ellen had a fairly typical childhood, raised in New Orleans and Atlanta, Texas. Her parents divorced while she was in her teens. She graduated from Atlanta High School and moved back to Louisiana, where she attended the University of New Orleans. Ellen majored in communications, but left after one semester.

Ellen's First Job:

Ellen did clerical work for a law firm, which was a followed by a string of jobs: working retail, waiting tables, house painting, bartending and shucking oysters. She even sold vacuum cleaners door-to-door, a job she joked about with Willie Nelson, also a former door-to-door vacuum salesman, on her show. Ellen sold Hoovers.

She got her start in comedy at Clyde's Comedy Club, then the only comedy club in New Orleans, and graduated from comic to emcee. This led to more shows throughout the South and soon the country.

The Early Years:

Ellen toured the states, honing her comedic timing and craft. In 1982, she was selected by pay-cable station Showtime as "America's Funniest Person." This led to a series of cable and late-night television appearances, including a shot on The Tonight Show in 1986.

She transitioned from comedian to sit-com star with the success of Ellen. The quirky show, based on her stand-up comedy, was likened to Seinfeld in its first few seasons.

Becoming a Talk Show Host:

In 2003, Ellen launched her daytime talk show The Ellen DeGeneres Show. The new talk show crop was thick that year, but Ellen rose to the top and has been a show-stopper every since.

Ellen has given the daytime show her signature touch – a lighthearted, carry free romp that begs its audience to forget their troubles and enjoy the conversation. She marks each show with a dance up front and many thanks at the end, often getting her audience involved in the action.

Key Moment in Her Career:

There are arguably two key moments in career (not counting her successful transitions from stand-up comedian to television actress to talk show host).

The first was her appearance on The Tonight Show in 1986. After her set, Johnny Carson invited her to sit next to him, a traditional signal to both comedians and the entertainment industry that Johnny thought this person was something special. Ellen was the first female comedian to be invited over.

The second was when she publicly announced her homosexuality – and did so on her sit-com, Ellen, with a now groundbreaking kiss between her character, Ellen, and a character played by Laura Dern.

What Does the Future Hold?:

It's fairly wide-open for Ellen, though she seems content with her present gig. She's shied of stand-up for the foreseeable future. She's a regular - and quite admired - host of the Emmy Awards and now occassional blog contributor to The Huffington Post.

And Just for Fun:

  • Ellen played the voice of Dory in Disney's Finding Nemo, a role which rejuvenated her career.

  • She's currently dating Portia de Rossi, of now canceled Arrested Development and helped spotlight the critically acclaimed sit-com.

  • Her mother, Betty, is her strongest supporter and an active member of PFLAG (Parents, Friends and Family of Lesbians and Gays).

  • Received multiple standing ovations for her charm, tone and uplifting personality when she hosted the Emmy Awards following the September 11 attacks in 2001.

  • Tarnished her reputation some with back-to-back super-mini-scandals: 1) Iggygate, in which she cried on air for the return of an adopted - and repossessed - dog to her hairdresser - and then letting the story carry on for weeks, and 2) returning to work within a week once motion picture and television writers went on strike.

  • In early 2008, was named "Most Favorite Daytime Talk Show Host," over Oprah Winfrey, in three different polls: AOL poll, The Harris Group poll, and About Talk Shows poll.
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