Ellen DeGeneres (Photo: Featureflash Photo Agency)
An emotional Kate McKinnon honoured Ellen DeGeneres for being an LGBTQ groundbreaker at the 77th Annual Golden Globes on Sunday.
The openly queer McKinnon, who is known for her work on Saturday Night Live and role in Ghostbusters, presented DeGeneres with the second annual Carol Burnett Excellence in Television Award.
“In 1997, when Ellen’s sitcom was in the height of its popularity, I was in my mother’s basement lifting weights in front of the mirror and thinking, ‘Am I gay?’ And I was, and I still am,” Kate said.
She revealed that realising that she was gay felt like “discovering that you have alien DNA” and that “the only thing that made it less scary was seeing Ellen on TV.”
McKinnon continued: “[Ellen] risked her entire life and her entire career in order to tell the truth, and she suffered greatly for it. Of course, attitudes change, but only because brave people like Ellen jump into the fire to make them change.”
Holding back tears, she said: “And if I hadn’t seen her on TV, I would have thought, ‘I could never be on TV. They don’t let LGBT people on TV.’ And more than that, I would have gone on thinking that I was an alien and that I maybe didn’t even have a right to be here. So thank you, Ellen, for giving me a shot.”
After being congratulated by her wife of 11 years, Portia de Rossi, with a kiss, DeGeneres took to the stage to accept her award. She got the audience laughing by thanking her fictional ‘husband Marc’ and two kids back home, before paying tribute to legendary actress and comedian Carol Burnett.
“I feel like we all think we know someone— there’s a connection when we watch them on TV for as long as we are on TV, and that’s what it was like for me with Carol Burnett. I felt like I knew her. I felt like she showed us who she was every week,” said DeGeneres.
DeGeneres made TV history in 1987 when her character on the sitcom Ellen revealed she was a lesbian. The backlash led to the show’s cancellation and DeGeneres’ career collapsing. She only successfully returned to television in 2003 with The Ellen DeGeneres Show, the still popular daytime talk show.
“All I’ve ever wanted to do is make people feel good and laugh, and there is no greater feeling than when someone tells me that I’ve made their day better with my show, or that I’ve helped them get through a sickness or a hard time in their lives,” said DeGeneres.
“But the real power of television, for me, is not that people watch my show, but people watch my show and then they’re inspired to go out and do the same thing in their own lives. They make people laugh or be kind or help someone that’s less fortunate than themselves, and that is the power of television, and I’m so, so grateful to be a part of it.”
Elton John was awarded Best Original Song – Motion Picture for I’m Gonna Love Me (Again) from the biopic about his life, Rocketman, together with longtime songwriting partner Bernie Taupin.
“It’s the first time I’ve ever won an award with him, ever,” said John. “We never won a Grammy. We never did anything together [awards-wise] except for this.”
“This is not just about a song we wrote for a movie,” Taupin added. “It’s about a song we wrote for a movie that deals with our relationship. And it’s a relationship that doesn’t happen very often in this town. It’s a 52-year-old marriage.”
Rocketman star Taran Egerton later won Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy for playing Elton. In his acceptance speech, he thanked John’s husband David Furnish, “for allowing me to be the man who could play your husband.”