At the beginning of every year, SFGN selects a national figure that is our “person of the year.” But it is really a misnomer.
You see, we are not really choosing a person for having achieved some remarkable accomplishment the year before. We want to shine a spotlight on lives that have enlarged and emboldened our own. We want to celebrate individuals who have inspired others by being an inspiration themselves.
The choices we have made, whether they were Anderson Cooper or Hillary Clinton, celebrate lifetimes of achievement representing or supporting the LGBT community. This year, taking the lead frankly from the Golden Globes, we want to award Ellen DeGeneres with SFGN’s Lifetime Achievement Award for 2019.
You know Ellen. We all do. She is just simply one of us. She has gone through the same trails and traverses we do daily in our own lives. Ellen has done so with laughter and grace, humor and dance. So today, we take a few pages to acknowledge her life as an American comedian, television host, actress, writer, and producer.
She starred in the sitcom “Ellen” from 1994 to 1998 and has hosted her syndicated TV talk show, “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” since 2003. Each day, as an out lesbian and authentic human being, Ellen brings laughter and love to our lives. It is as important to celebrate those traits as it is to acknowledge legislator who enact laws.
Her first jobs were not on city commissions, to be sure. She did stand-up comedy on the Johnny Carson show and appeared as a film actress. She provided voices in animated films like “Finding Nemo,” but in all her endeavors, from television shows to monologues, Ellen showcased authenticity and transparency.
She still does. Even in the books she has authored, she has shared love and loss, but always candor and truth.
Our lives take on new dimensions when we are true to ourselves and out to others. We open doors and horizons making it safer and simpler for tomorrow. During her fourth season of “The Ellen Show” in 1997, she came out as a lesbian in an appearance on “The Oprah Winfrey Show.”
Eventually, her character, Ellen Morgan, also came out to a therapist played by Winfrey. Who better than the gay community is more qualified to identify with therapy? It was a historic television moment, taking pain and making it funny. Oh, if we could all do so every day.
In our lives, we all face choices, as Ellen did. Honesty and openness to a worldwide audience can have personal and professional financial risk. It did for her, for quite a while. But she bounced back. So too must we all.
Adversity is a part of life. You can’t presume harmony. You must find the calm in the midst of the cacophony. It’s always there, around us, about us. Still, when you boldly go where others have not gone before, there can also be great rewards.
You can’t ever steal second base if you don’t take a lead off first. A comedian knows what it is like to stand naked upon a stage. A comedian knows how serious comedy is, how the wrong joke at the wrong time can send you career careening, Still, you take chances. Ellen has.
In our world today, the gay “coming out process” may be as simple as pushing a curtain aside. You do not have to break down a closet. But back then, and we forget the “back thens,” the Ellen show broke ground. Her forthrightness made it possible for others to follow in her footsteps.
As Ellen prepares for a 2020 Hard Rock appearance this year, let’s sing a song and do a dance for her. She has been in our home as the host of the Academy and Grammy Awards. She has won 30 Emmys, 20 People’s Choice Awards, and countless honors for a virtual bouquet of charitable works.
Of course, she markets herself, too. There are clothing lines and accessories, pet items and other apparel too. But you know what Ellen also wears around her neck? A Presidential Medal of Freedom, awarded to her by Barack Obama in 2016. She is a comedian who has been named a special envoy for Global AIDS Awareness.
Ellen DeGeneres is an entertainer who has become an activist, voicing out protests against trophy hunting, starting her own wildlife foundation.
These are things she did not have to do. These are things she chose to do with her life, her celebrity, and her commitments. We salute them today.
Ellen may have started her journey with gigs on a late-night comedy show. But she has shown all of us can reach the stars and fulfill our goals, if we give ourselves a chance, whether we are lesbians in lace or bears in leather, there is no stopping us.
Just keep a song in your hearts, and a smile on your lips. You are only limited by the boundaries of your own imagination.
You don’t need the spotlight. You don’t need to be on TV or radio, or hold an office. You just need to make choices which are honorable and true to yourself and others. You too can become the next Ellen.
One of Ellen’s favorite quotes is “Sometimes you can't see yourself clearly until you see yourself through the eyes of others.”
We see Ellen as someone who enlightens our lives, celebrates our sexuality, and applauds her own identity
So we unabashedly piggy back on what the Golden Globes did last week, and we celebrate at the beginning of 2020, the life and laughter Ellen DeGeneres has given to the LGBT community in America. Not to mention, a few others along the way.
At SFGN’s anniversary party next week, we will be giving out a few more awards, live and local, acknowledging leaders in our own midst. They may not have the national recognition Ellen does, but they do not have to be. We simply look for those good people who do good deeds and enhance our lives by being decent people every day.
Today, the story could be Ellen DeGeneres. Tomorrow, it could be yours.