It is no secret that the “nicest person in Hollywood,” Ellen DeGeneres, probably isn’t so nice. Rumors of what it is like to work for the reigning tyrant of daytime television practically pave the streets of Los Angeles. In March, a thread from comedian Kevin T. Porter illustrated this somewhat morbidly. His ask—“Respond to this with the most insane stories you’ve heard about Ellen being mean & I’ll match every one w/ $2 to @LAFoodBank—was met with a flurry of damning accounts, which varied in scope and severity greatly.
Now, past and present employees of the show are voicing these allegations, telling BuzzFeed News in a new report that life at the Ellen DeGeneres Show isn’t so “nice.” The various ills reportedly stem from, not just DeGeneres, but the executive producers and senior managers who run the day to day operations at the show. One employee tells BuzzFeed News, “If she wants to have her own show and have her name on the show title, she needs to be more involved to see what’s going on.”
One former employee, who spoke with BuzzFeed News anonymously, said she experienced intense racism and “microaggressions.” She claims a senior-level producer joked about mixing her up with another Black employee, saying: “Oh wow, you both have box braids; I hope we don’t get you confused.” Worse, a writer at a party told her that he “only [knows] the names of the white people who work here.” When she eventually brought these issues to a producer, the former staffer claims colleagues referred to her as “the PC police” and her colleagues “distanced themselves from her,” per BuzzFeed News’s reporting.
The former employee said she was also called into a meeting with executive producer Ed Glavin, where she was reprimanded for her objections to the term “spirit animal,” asking for a raise, and suggesting employees on the show receive diversity and inclusion training.
“He said that I was walking around looking resentful and angry,” she said.
After the meeting, she left work for the day and never returned to The Ellen DeGeneres Show. She said she has no plans to ever work in the entertainment industry again. For years, she felt “a fear of speaking out” but is now inspired to share her experience because of recent conversations about race in Hollywood and other workplaces.
BuzzFeed News also reports that a former employee claimed they had checked into a mental health facility for a suicide attempt and was fired upon returning.
“You’d think that if someone just tried to kill themselves, you don’t want to add any more stress to their lives,” the employee, whose story was corroborated by four other employees and medical records, told BuzzFeed News.
“Some of the producers talk openly in public about addiction and mental health awareness, but they’re the reason there’s a stigma,” they said. “They definitely don’t practice what they preach with the ‘be kind’ mantra.”
One of the ten employees BuzzFeed News spoke with claimed they were reprimanded for creating a GoFundMe to address the cost of medical needs that weren’t covered by The Ellen DeGeneres Show’s health insurance. They told BuzzFeed News: “They discovered my fundraiser, then got mad at me. […] They were more concerned about Ellen’s brand instead of helping me out.”
Kevin T. Porter’s Twitter thread was also not the only story about Ellen percolating this summer. In April, Variety broke a story about unrest among staff who felt shafted by the producers’ response to the covid-19 shutdown in Los Angeles. On May 1, a story broke about Ellen’s former bodyguard, who said his experiences working for the host was “demeaning.” An employee tells BuzzFeed News that producers held a Zoom meeting on May 1 to respond to the multiple stories about The Ellen DeGeneres Show:
“I think it is a lot of smoke and mirrors when it comes to the show’s brand,” a former employee said. “They pull on people’s heartstrings; they do know that’s going to get likes and what people are going to go for, which is a positive message. But that’s not always reality.”
Television is, ultimately, manufactured, and DeGeneres’ brand of signature “niceness” has cemented her place among Hollywood’s most powerful influencers and kingmakers. But can that illusion last forever? Most likely not.