When Ellen DeGeneres came out as a lesbian in 1997 both in her real life and as her fictional character on her self-titled sitcom, it was a monumental moment in entertainment history. The "Ellen" episode won an Emmy, media outlets clamored for interviews, the public became hyper-interested in Ellen's love life and the Human Rights campaign even issued "Come Out with Ellen" party kits.
But the woman at the center of it all says she never expected her announcement to have such an impact -- or lead to such a backlash.
As Ellen tells "Oprah's Master Class," the attention, scrutiny and controversy that followed her announcement reached surprising levels. All because the comedian uttered two words to the public: "I'm gay."
"It became bigger than I ever thought it would be. Bigger than I wanted it to be," Ellen says. "It overshadowed my talent, it overshadowed who I am as a person."
Ellen hadn't intended to create an uproar or even a national dialogue about sexuality, she adds. She just wanted to live authentically.
"It was only meant to be, you know, just being honest," Ellen explains. "And it became this snowball, this avalanche, that just got bigger and bigger and bigger. There was no stopping it."
In the course of this escalation, some people began to link Ellen's announcement with politics, believing that her underlying motivation was to insert herself into the political area.
"It turned into people not liking me, because they thought that I was somehow political all of a sudden," Ellen says. "It was the last thing I wanted to do, to be political."
Ellen opens up about her childhood, her rise to fame and her marriage on the season premiere of "Oprah's Master Class," airing Sunday, Oct. 25 at 8 p.m. ET on OWN.
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