Ellen DeGeneres was born in 1958 in a New Orleans suburb. She was raised as a Christian Scientist until the age of 13, when her parents divorced. After the divorce, Ellen and her brother, Vance, moved with her mother and new stepfather to Atlanta, Texas.
Ellen attended the University of New Orleans, where she majored in communications. She left school with one semester left and took a series of jobs (clerk, waitress, oyster shucker), none of which she stuck with. In the early 1980s, she began doing stand-up comedy. In 1982, she was chosen by Showtime as the funniest person in America. Shortly after, she appeared on The Tonight Show, where she was the first woman ever to be asked to chat with Johnny after her first visit.
In 1994, Ellen's stand-up was turned into a sitcom, Ellen. The show ran from '94-'98. In 1997, Ellen used her character on the show to come out as a lesbian. This made Ellen one of the first openly gay performers playing one of the first openly gay characters on network television.
After Ellen was cancelled, DeGeneres returned to stand-up. She also briefly appeared in another sitcom, The Ellen Show. In 2001, she also served as the host of the Emmy awards, for which she garnered mostly good reviews.
In 2003, Ellen started a new venture, a talk show, The Ellen DeGeneres Show. The talk show's following has steadily grown and it has become quite successful. DeGeneres has also lent her voice to the animated film Finding Nemo, written a book, and appeared in advertisements for American Express. She will also be hosting the Academy Awards in 2007.
DeGeneres is currently partnered with another lesbian celebrity, Portia di Rossi. They have been together since 2004.