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MAKING HISTORY: Ellen DeGeneres Portrays First-Ever Gay Lead Character On Television

In honor of Women's History Month, we are celebrating with 31 days of women's history! Every day in March, we will highlight an historic moment, as told through the personal stories of our MAKERS.

Today we highlight Ellen DeGeneres who portrayed the first-ever gay lead character on a television show nearly 16 years ago. In 1997, DeGeneres made the decision for her character on the the popular sitcom Ellen to come out, a high stakes decision at the time. As she recalls "everybody was scared to death" for the repercussions of the episode. And it was highly emotional for her personally, as not only did her character come out, she also came out publicly.

For DeGeneres, the episode was about finally being free to be her true self without the burden of trying to please everybody else first:

"I'm still so proud of that show…It was not just a sitcom…It was the greatest thing that ever happened to me."