By Jill Serjeant
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (Reuters) – Ellen DeGeneres, the stand-up comedian who broke barriers to gays to become one of the most popular people on television, received a Golden Globes lifetime achievement award on Sunday.
DeGeneres, 61, was the second person to be given the Carol Burnett Award, which was established by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association a year ago to recognize the new Golden Age of television in the United States.
“All I’ve ever wanted to do is make people feel good and laugh,” DeGeneres said on stage as she accepted the award. “There is no greater feeling than when someone tells me I made their day better with my show.”
DeGeneres said she was especially gratified by viewers who watched her current talk show and were then inspired to encourage and support people in their own lives.
“That is the power of television,” she said. “I’m so grateful to be a part of it.”
DeGeneres, one of the most prominent gay women celebrities in America, started her career in stand-up in her New Orleans hometown before moving to television, where she starred in comedy “Ellen” in the mid-1990s.
In 1997, both she and her TV character came out as a lesbian long before gay people were accepted in mainstream America.
“Ellen” was canceled a year later, but DeGeneres returned to television in 2003 with her daytime show, “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” which has won more than 60 Emmy awards.
“Saturday Night Live” actress Kate McKinnon, in an introduction at the Globes, thanked DeGeneres for paving the way for gay people such as herself to be seen on television.
“Attitudes change only because brave people like Ellen jump into the fire to make them change,” McKinnon said. “Thank you, Ellen, for giving me a shot at a good life.”
In addition to her television work, DeGeneres has found fame as the voice of the forgetful Pacific blue tang fish in the animated movies “Finding Nemo” and “Finding Dory,” and she twice hosted the annual Oscars ceremony.
In 2008, DeGeneres married her partner, actress Portia de Rossi.
On the humanitarian front, DeGeneres is a supporter of animal rights and conservation, a gay rights activist and an anti-bullying campaigner.
(Reporting by Jill Serjeant and Lisa Richwine; editing by Jonathan Oatis)