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Being Ellen DeGeneres: How the Eternally Upbeat Icon Got That Way

Being Ellen DeGeneres: How the Eternally Upbeat Icon Got That Way

In an exclusive cover story for Parade magazine, Ellen DeGeneres is talking about her eternal optimism, the genesis of her comedy style, and her lack of a political agenda.

"The Ellen DeGeneres Show" has been called the happiest hour on TV. “It is a happy show, on purpose," she told Parade. "I represent happiness to a lot people."

Though she has been out as a lesbian since her memorable "Yep, I'm gay" Time magazine cover in April 1997 and is an outspoken advocate for many issues, including gay rights, Ellen says her show is for everyone. "I think a lot of station managers thought I would have an agenda to try to somehow turn the world gay. People did worry. Our only agenda is to make people feel good. It’s an hour of joy.”

Her sense of humor is similarly upbeat. "My comedy came from observing little details of life. One of my first jokes was the fact that when somebody tastes something disgusting, they always want you to taste it, too, like, 'This is disgusting — taste it!'" She steers clear of the trend toward mean-spirited comedy. "[As a child,] I was very tender, very sensitive, and I still am. I never want to hurt anybody. I want to make people laugh. I didn’t think it was ever funny to make fun of people. There’s so much to laugh at without it being at someone else’s expense."

Ellen attributes her open-hearted personality to the shock of her parents divorcing when she was 13, an event that shook up her world. "I grew up in a very conservative home," she said, referencing her upbringing in Metairie, Louisiana. "There was no drinking, smoking or cursing. I didn’t see deep emotion from my parents. It was all very polite and very surface. I never knew how anybody was feeling. I never saw anyone angry. So when I was 13 and my parents divorced, it was a huge surprise to me, because I was told everything was fine. It was very confusing. That’s not a healthy way to grow up.”

"Finding Dory," the long-awaited sequel to "Finding Nemo," hits theaters June 17. For more about Ellen, see Sunday's Parade magazine, or visit Parade.com.