(Interview with W Magazine, Feb 07)
W Magazine: You have said you were fearful growing up. Of what?
Ellen: Afraid of anything; my experience was denial about real feelings, denial about pure joy and crazy, screaming happiness. There was no anger and screaming lows. But I'm really grateful for everything that I went through because [I decided] this is what I had to overcome; I was going to take chances. I was going to be different, I was going to be successful, I was going to have money.
W Magazine: Even as a child in New Orleans, you made a conscious decision to have money?
Ellen: I wanted to have money, I wanted to be special, I wanted people to like me, I wanted to be famous…. When you're growing up and you see your brother [Vance DeGeneres, now a writer-producer in Hollywood] who's talented and gorgeous and all these things, you want to be all those things. I thought if I could find a way to be famous, people would love me. And then you get all that stuff—and I worked really hard to earn all that—and it sounds crazy, but I got the biggest, [most] wonderful blessing I could get, which was I lost my show, and I lost my entire career, and I lost everything for three years.
W Magazine: Why was that a blessing?
Ellen: Because I got to learn that I was strong enough to start over again. Because I was so angry. I thought, I earned this. I didn't get this because I was beautiful; I didn't get this because I had connections in the business. I really worked my way up to a show, a sitcom that was mine that was successful, that was on for five years. I did what was right: I came out, which was good for me, and ultimately it was the only thing I could do. And then I got punished for it. I was so angry, I was just so angry.
W Magazine: At the world?
Ellen: At the business. I thought, like, magazines were tearing me apart; I was the punch line. I guess that's why I'm so sensitive about negative comedy, because I was the butt of every joke. I was the punch line, and it hurt. And my relationship was very, very public. Then I lost everything, and ultimately I lost that relationship. But I had to look at my part in it, and I had to look at and understand other people's side of it.
W Magazine: How do you look at being on the receiving end of cruelty?
Ellen: I expected everybody to understand right away. I still think I was right. But I got to learn how to sit back and watch other people and learn what judgment was and have compassion. And learn that not only was I strong enough to make it in the first place, but I was strong enough to come back and make it again. How lucky am I to have learned that? That took a lot. I wanted to crawl up in a ball and climb in a hole and hide forever; I was embarrassed. That's why I look at it as a blessing.