, Ellen Degeneres was born on January 26, 1958 at Ochsner Hospital
. Although raised for the first 13 years of her life as a Christian Scientist
, she stopped practicing this religion
when her parents divorce
d. Shortly after the divorce, Ellen and her mother moved from the New Orleans area to Atlanta
. Once graduated from High School
, she moved back to her home area and studied at the University of New Orleans
for only one month - after deciding that studying at University "wasn't for her".
After leaving University, DeGeneres started her working life by doing clerical work in a law firm - although her career took many turns, including waitressing, being a house painter, a hostess, a bartender and an oyster shucker! Finally, Ellen realized she didn't want to "answer to a boss" and started to figure out what she really wanted to do.
When asked by her friends to do a comedy act for a party, Ellen soon found herself being asked to perform her routines at various coffeehouses and eventually became the emcee at Clyde's Comedy Club - the only comedy establishment in New Orleans at the time. While traveling around the country performing her comedy acts, she was noticed by HBO, who nominated her "Funniest Person In America" in 1982, Soon after this, Ellen was invited to perform on The Tonight Show, and became the first female comedian to be asked to come over and chat with Carson after a comedy act. Her career had finally taken off and went from strength to strength.
After an acting role in Open House (1989) and other television series, 1994 saw DeGeneres' big break - the starring role as Ellen Morgan in These Friends of Mine. After the first season, to save confusion with the other well known sitcom, Friends, the show changed its title to Ellen and has since gained a large audience.
When DeGeneres discosed her relationship with actress Anne Heche, her coming out of the closet both in real life and on her sitcom was one of the biggest entertainment stories of 1997, and one that also caused much controversy as to whether the sitcom should still be aired. The comedy show Ellen ran from 1994 - 1998, and closed when DeGeneres admitted that the focus became a detriment to the show's success, and decalred "It got to be too issue-oriented, and I take responsibility for that". Ellen's relationship with Hesche ended in 2000, after 3 years of being very much in the public eye.
Other television credits include Laurie Hill (1992), Mr. Wrong (1996), The Love Letter (1999), and the HBO film If These Walls Could Talk 2 (2000). Her book, ' My Point . . . And I Do Have One' (1995) topped the New York Times bestseller list.
In a recent ABC News interview (07/01) DeGeneres said that she is to return to television, playing the role of a high school guidance counselor on the sitcom The Ellen Show, but promises that her sexual orientation will not be the focus, saying "My character happens to be gay, and we deal with it as much as we deal with the fact that she's a woman". With her new series, she hopes to remind audiences that before she came out as a lesbian, she was a comedian.