Trendsetter, taste-maker and celebrity activist Ellen Degeneres is a trailblazer who has built a powerful brand by pushing mainstream American culture forward out of its comfort zone with her fun, observational humor.
In 1986, Ellen was first female comedian invited to sit down with Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show —the most influential endorsement available for a comic at the time. In her interview on Makers, she confessed this was her lifelong goal, and she set out single-mindedly to accomplish it.
She landed the title role in the sitcom, Ellen, in 1994. In one of her historical ‘firsts,’ she came out on the show, becoming the first openly gay lead character on TV. That episode was the highest-rated of the entire four-season show and people threw ‘coming-out parties’ across the nation. Still, advertisers started to pull out, she received death threats and the series was eventually canceled for being ‘too gay.’
The career backlash she suffered because people only saw her as gay did not keep her down for long. She started writing again and returned to the stage to remind people that she is first and always a comedian.
In 2006, she was the first openly gay person invited to host the 79th Academy Awards. During the show, DeGeneres said, “What a wonderful night, such diversity in the room, in a year when there’s been so many negative things said about people’s race, religion, and sexual orientation. And I want to put this out there: If there weren’t blacks, Jews and gays, there would be no Oscars, or anyone named Oscar.”
I first fell in love with Ellen after watching her Here and Now stand-up special about procrastination and social anxiety. This was the hallmark move of her ‘comeback’ campaign that culminated with the launch of The Ellen Show. I was so smitten with this special and the picture she created in my imagination about multi-tasking that I created a photographic series about it and I started writing again.
I love her story. She had the dedication and tenacity to find her voice as a comedian, as an activist and as a role model, all done with kindness and humor. She reminds me that no matter how famous or successful, speaking up about issues that matter is never easy—those who do it well are called leaders.
This post is part of series called: Leadership Style: How to Level-up Your Personal Brand.
I challenge you to create a list of leaders who inspire you. Wouldn’t it be cool to have a chain of blogs referencing stylish leaders around the globe?
Blog about it, mention this post, leave your url in the comments below and I’ll add it to this article. #womenleaders #leadershipstyle #powerfulbrand
it's PERSONAL BRAND is a 5-week webinar designed to help women showcase their talent in business. Jenn focuses you in on your unique perspective and teaches you a way of thinking about your brand that gives your career a competitive edge. Learn more about the training here.