Oprah Winfrey said in a recent interview that because she participated in Ellen DeGeneres’ coming out episode of “Ellen” in 1997, she received backlash from certain members of the public that included being called the n-word.
Her appearance on Ellen’s sitcom came during Oprah’s heyday as the undisputed queen of daytime television, and featured Oprah playing Ellen’s therapist on a famous episode in which DeGeneres’ character Ellen Morgan revealed her homosexuality.
“I did it because she asked me to do it and I wanted to support her,” Oprah told The Hollywood Reporter in an interview. “It didn’t occur to me that there would be a backlash.”
However, her participation in the ABC sitcom caused strong sentiment against her.
“It always turns to race. I got all of the, ‘N—–, go back to Africa. Who do you think you are?’” she said, noting that she had never experienced anything like it before.
Although the “Ellen” episode was watched by 42 million people, sponsors pulled out of support the series and religious groups held protests around the country because of the show.
Winfrey now believes that that Ellen’s decision to go public and face that kind of prejudice is one of the reasons that DeGeneres is now a star on daytime television.
“Being able to be free — literally — and to express herself in a way that she can be 100 percent truthful with the audience has allowed them to fall in love with her,” Oprah said. “Honest-to-God truth: I don’t believe she would have been as successful as she has become had she not come out.”