Ellen DeGeneres has had quite the journey.
In the cover story for Out magazine’s annual Out 100 issue, the comedienne remembers continuing to struggle with her identity after coming out in 1997. Though DeGeneres is now hosting a successful daytime talk show host and is blissfully married to Portia de Rossi, she admits it took her a while to find happiness in life.
“I was the punch line of lots of jokes. I laughed at some, but I realized there’s somebody on the other side of them. It’s cruel,” she tells the publication. “I’ve never liked mean comedy, but that became even more important to me after I was the brunt of it.”
DeGeneres, whose sitcom was canceled a year after she came out, adds that she was nervous about her own professional career at the time.
“I wasn’t sure if I was going to work again, and although I was out, I was still trying to alter myself — not dressing the way I wanted to dress or wearing my hair the way I wanted to,” she recalls. “I slowly gained the confidence to be authentic, and what I’ve learned about other people is that they strive to be authentic, too. So whether they fully support me, love my lifestyle, or love that I’m married to a woman, I think they like that authenticity, and they’re drawn to it.”
Now, at the age of 58, DeGeneres believes she’s living her best life. Reflecting on her past, she’s grateful to have been able to overcome her struggles.
“If this isn’t an example of ‘it gets better,’ I don’t know what is. Time is a strange thing. I was at rock bottom and out of money, with no work in sight, but one step at a time, it gets better,” DeGeneres says of her career. “It gets much better than better.”