By LYNN ELBER
AP Television Writer
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Ellen DeGeneres ended her nearly two-decade-long daytime talk show Thursday with a celebrity lovefest and a forceful affirmation of her achievement as a gay woman who dares to be herself.
DeGeneres and her guests Jennifer Aniston, Billie Eilish and Pink shared memories and affection as “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” concluded its Emmy-winning streak of more than 3,200 episodes that began in September 2003.
“Twenty years ago when we were trying to sell the show, nobody thought it would work. Not because it was a different kind of show, but because I was different,” DeGeneres said of refusal of television channels.
When the syndicated show aired, she was restricted from saying the word “gay” or even the pronoun “we,” DeGeneres said, because the latter would imply she had a partner. She did not specify who imposed the ban.
“Of course, I couldn’t say wife, and that’s because it wasn’t legal for gay people to marry — and now I say ‘wife’ all the time,” DeGeneres added, with a twist. defiantly, as actor Portia de Rossi looked on from the studio audience. They got married in 2008.
The host, who has made a name for herself for encouraging her audience to join her in impromptu dances, shared some final moves with her sidekick and DJ, Stephen “tWitch” Boss, to the tune “Best of My Love “.
The dancer-choreographer hailed DeGeneres as someone who inspires others because she has “the courage to step out and be authentic to yourself.”
Aniston, who as the first guest on the show’s first episode gave DeGeneres a “Welcome” doormat, arrived with another that read, “Thanks for the memories.” DeGeneres noted that the “Friends” star appeared on the show a total of 20 times.
“You’re welcome,” Aniston teased, then turned serious.
“I love and appreciate you so much and what you have given to the world over the past 19 years. The contribution is endless,” she said. She presented a career retrospective video which also touted DeGeneres’ philanthropic efforts, which would include more than $400 million in donations to charities and “deserving viewers.”
“I love you,” Eilish beamed to DeGeneres during their chat. “I love you so much, it’s silly,” said Pink, who performed “What About Us.”
DeGeneres’ daytime reign got a serious bump in 2020, when the show was alleged to be a toxic workplace and three producers walked out amid claims. On air that fall, DeGeneres apologized for “things that shouldn’t have happened,” but defended herself as the same genuine person — albeit flawed — on and off camera.
The talk show represented a second major TV act for DeGeneres. In 1997, she left an indelible mark when she came out as a lesbian and brought her character on the ABC sitcom “Ellen” with her. The series was canceled the following year.
“Twenty-five years ago they canceled my sitcom because they didn’t want a lesbian to be on prime time once a week. And I said, ‘OK, so I’ll be daytime every day. days,'” DeGeneres said Thursday.
The comedian, actress and producer said she would take time to consider her next career move, but she and de Rossi are taking a trip to Rwanda first. DeGeneres ended her daytime show with a call to her audience, a call she said was worth repeating.
“If I’ve done anything in the past 19 years, I hope I’ve inspired you to be yourself, your true authentic self. And if anyone is brave enough to tell you who they are , be brave enough to support it, even if you don’t understand,” DeGeneres said. “By opening your heart and your mind, you’re going to be a lot more compassionate, and compassion is what makes the world a better place.”