Ellen Degeneres was born on January 26, 1958 in Metairie, Louisiana. Growing up, she dreamed of being a veterinarian but decided to to not go for it because she felt as if she was not "book smart." She had an older brother, also a comedian, and once, during a public speaking event, Degeneres found herself using humor to help her get over the fear of public speaking. She began performing stand-up comedy after receiving offers from the event. She got her big debut in 1986 when a booking agent was sent from the Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson caught her act at the Improv in Hollywood. She then began making regular appearances on the talk show circuit. Her wit and humor won over audiences and she starred in her own prime-time sitcom, self-titled 'Ellen.' The show faced criticism when her character became the first lead in sitcom history to openly acknowledge her homosexuality on air. An affiliate in Alabama refused to air the episode and soon, some of the show's sponsors withdrew advertisements in fear of controversy. After coming out, she faced many difficulties, including executives advising her against doing so to the b, she was the subject of late night talk show jokes. But despite these tribulations, she continued to work and found work in movies, and continued building her empire, which includes a clothing line and her own talk show. She continues to fight for animal rights and gay rights and in November 2016, she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her contribution to the arts.