Updated on 10/4: Ann's interview with Ellen DeGeneres aired. Watch it below.
Original post: Despite being a sitcom star, an Emmy-winning talk show host and author, Ellen DeGeneres is an introvert who is awkward in social situations, she admits to Ann Curry in a new interview.
"I have a career despite myself," DeGeneres told Curry in her Los Angeles home. "Because I really am awkward, socially. Like, you know, I hate going to big events. I hate having to do small talk. I'd rather talk about deep subjects. I'd rather talk about meditation, or the world, or the trees, or animals than small, inane, you know, banter."
But despite her shyness, DeGeneres, who famously came out as a lesbian in 1997, told Curry "I'd rather talk about what I think is important than just be vanilla and try to be liked by everybody." The interview, in which DeGeneres also discusses her new book, “Seriously...I'm Kidding,” her love for her wife Portia de Rossi and her success, airs Tuesday.
Here are some excerpts of her conversation with Ann:
DeGeneres on her new book, “Seriously...I'm Kidding”:
ANN CURRY: I feel like reading the book is like getting a big hug.
ELLEN DEGENERES: Well, if you want a big hug, buy the book. That's a great plug right there. I want everybody to be happier. I would love for the world to be happier. I think it's our one thing that we all share. We focus so much on our differences and that is creating, I think, a lot of chaos and negativity and bullying in the world. And I think if everybody focused on what we all have in common -- which is-- we all want to be happy.
On the loss of her sitcom:
ANN CURRY: As a way of helping someone else, do you mind my asking you what you feel has been the greatest lesson in that regard, the thing that hurt or maybe felt like a failure?
ELLEN DEGENERES: Probably -- well, it was-- I don't think it was a failure. I mean, I think losing my sitcom was a gift, and it was -- it ended, you know. I don't think what I did in any way -- I don't look at that as something that I was sorry for, or would ever do differently.
But it certainly gave me a lot of free time for three years to get back on my feet. And, I think unless something is actually happening personally to you, nobody notices that, you know, that's going on. It's not important to anybody else but you because it's happening to you. But for me, it was a really long time to sit still and go, ‘Okay. Who am I without a career? Who am I without fame? Who am I without people loving me?’ Or, you know, whatever that is that people extend you. And so you just kinda go, ‘Who am I without any of that stuff?’
On coming out publicly:
ANN CURRY: Did you feel that you had made a mistake in coming out?
ELLEN DEGENERES: No. Absolutely not.
ANN CURRY: Why?
ELLEN DEGENERES: It’s the best -- because I'm free. I'm completely able to be exactly who I am… Everybody knows who's gay in this business. Let's face it. I mean, we could sit here, if the cameras weren't rolling, and name all the people that we know are gay in this business. So if it wasn't public knowledge, and I was sitting here having this interview because I'm selling my book, I would be scared to death that you were gonna catch me in something. I'd be scared to death that you're gonna ask me and I'd be figuring out how I'm gonna dodge that, and what I'm gonna say. And just, it's so ridiculous. And so to have to hide anything is just a horrible way to live. And I think you're selling your soul to the devil to just to have fame and have money and have, you know, whatever.
On being shy:
ANN CURRY: In reading your book, I get the distinct impression that while you may be this famous talk show host, one of the most famous in America, you are, at your core, it seems, a private person. Maybe even shy, I would say.
ELLEN DEGENERES: You know what I'm an introvert, for sure. And I just learned that about myself. And you wouldn't think that, because I chose-- but, I mean, it was really accidental the way all of it happens. The stand up, everything was accidental. I never grew up and was the class clown, and had to get the attention. It was-- it really is, I have a career despite myself.
Because I really am awkward, socially. Like, you know, I hate going to big events. I hate having to do small talk. I'd rather talk about deep subjects. I'd rather talk about meditation, or the world, or the trees, or animals than small, inane, you know, banter. And, I like this. I like these kinds of conversations. But, yeah. I am-- I don't know if I'm private, because I don't mind sharing certain things. But I am shy and I am an introvert. I don't like a lot of attention.
ANN CURRY: Which is to say, though, that it's bold of you, being an introvert, to not only do this show but to also get out there and put yourself out there in the way that you are, realizing that not everybody's going to like it.
ELLEN DEGENERES: I don't know. I don't have a choice, other than to speak out against things that I think need to change. And if it costs me, you know, some viewers and if it costs me some money, I don't have a choice. I'd rather talk about what I think is important than just be vanilla and try to be liked by everybody.
ANN CURRY: To what do you attribute this enormous success?
ELLEN DEGENERES: Beats me. I mean, I hope that it's because they can see that I'm authentic, that I really am. And I hope that I'm funny. And, I mean, ultimately they're getting something from it. They're feeling happy… And what I'm really, really trying to do is make people feel good. And it's pretty amazing. I mean, I know that it's pretty amazing. I'm like-- "They do know I'm gay, right?"
On the support from wife, Portia de Rossi:
ANN CURRY: And you write in this book something very sweet about Portia. You say in the beginning of this book that she is the most important person in your life and an important person usually is someone who enables you to be bigger better, more full rather than sort of limited.
ELLEN DEGENERES: Well, she said something when we got married, when we exchanged vows, that, I won't -- I'll, you know, paraphrase it. I don't know exactly the quote. But she said—‘It is important to be loved. It is profound to be understood.’ And that's what I get from her. She understands me. She supports me and loves me. And, you know, she gets me like nobody's ever gotten me. So that's-- I'm really lucky, you know. Because that's hard to find.