Funny, warm, effortlessly genuine — these are personality traits that have helped make Ellen DeGeneres such an effective and endearing talk show host. But as an openly lesbian public figure — in fact, the first openly gay actress to play an openly gay character on TV, in the sitcom Ellen — DeGeneres has had a significant hand in shifting America's perception of LGBT people in society.
To celebrate Pride Month in June, The Ellen Show released a compilation video featuring DeGeneres' LGBT guests talking about the importance of being true to themselves. Among them were Sam Smith, Caitlyn Jenner, Ellen Page and Elton John.
The clip also included praise from Oprah Winfrey, whose show DeGeneres came out publicly on, and from President Obama. In a memorable moment from earlier this year, Obama, as a guest on The Ellen Show, lauded DeGeneres for her part in empowering LGBT Americans.
"As much as we've done with laws and ending Don't Ask Don't Tell, et cetera, changing hearts and minds — I don't think anyone has been more influential than you on that," Obama had told DeGeneres. "You're just really likable... you being willing to claim who you were suddenly empowers other people."
Although DeGeneres has remained respectfully neutral on the subject of politics, she doesn't shy away from it when it comes to LGBT rights. In April, she discussed Mississippi's highly controversial religious freedom bill on her show, saying emphatically:
If you're in Mississippi or North Carolina, or anywhere, and you're saddened by the fact that people are judging you based on who you love, don't lose hope. I was fired for being gay, and I know what it feels like. I lost everything. But look at me now.