While the world is reeling with financial burdens on account of the coronavirus pandemic, Ellen Degeneres, formerly beloved talk show host of the Ellen show, also known for flipping multimillion dollar homes has bought American talk show host, actor, and comedian Dennis Miller’s palatial estate in an exclusive gated community in Montecito at an estimated $49 million. Ellen and her partner, Portia de Rossi, who are known also for being two of Southern California’s most ‘active luxury residential investors and home flippers’, landed the estate in an off-market deal in September according to reports in the Wall Street Journal. The estate, designed by award-winning architect Tom Kundig, spans across 4.3 acres, includes a 9,000-square-foot mansion, guest house, pool house, a detached garage and a barn. And what makes the deal even more enticing is the fact that the couple will get to call another power couple, former British Royals, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle their neighbours. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex recently moved into a $14.65 million home not too far from Ellen. And rumour has it, that it’s all a ploy to get the Royal’s on her show to boost her increasingly low ratings!
Ellen’s reputation and the Ellen show’s ratings took a serious hit in the past year on account of a series of incidents of poor behaviour on Ellen’s part and toxic workplace allegations. Of the first few incidents, one that sparked a lot of public outrage was in April, as the world reeled under the coronavirus pandemic, Ellen compared her quarantining and spending the lockdown in her $24 million home to “being in jail” which very rightly enraged several viewers who deemed it tone deaf. Ellen had said in the now unlisted video on YouTube, “One thing that I’ve learned from being in quarantine is that people — this is like being in jail, is what it is. It’s mostly because I’ve been wearing the same clothes for 10 days and everyone in here is gay.”
Just a month before this, in March, writer and comedian Kevin T. Porter tweeted, “Right now we all need a little kindness. You know, like Ellen DeGeneres always talks about! She’s also notoriously one of the meanest people alive. Respond to this with the most insane stories you’ve heard about Ellen being mean & I’ll match every one w/ $2 to @LAFoodBank.” He was referring to Ellen’s sign off statement at the end of every show to her audience, “Be kind to one another”.
Several people responded with their negative experiences on the viral Twitter thread that dubbed Ellen “the meanest person alive”, one being TV writer Benjamin Siemon, who replied with, “She has a ‘sensitive nose’ so everyone must chew gum from a bowl outside her office before talking to her and if she thinks you smell that day you have to go home and shower.” He also added, “A new staff member was told “every day she picks someone different to really hate. It’s not your fault, just suck it up for the day and she’ll be mean to someone else the next day. They didn’t believe it but it ended up being entirely true.”
Chris Farah responded, “I worked @RealFoodDaily, served her … at brunch. She wrote a letter to the owner & complained about my chipped nail polish (not that it was on her plate but just that it was on my hand). I had worked till closing the night before & this was next morn, almost got me fired.”
Stand-up comedian Josh Levesque tweeted, “Another friend of mine was a PA on her show and when Russell Brand came into the employee break area to chat with the crew and hang out, Ellen came in and got mad at him – saying he didn’t have to interact with these people, that’s why guests have their own area backstage.”
Another instance was her interview with Dakota Johnson in November of 2019, which was also referenced by commenters after the April incident to prove that Ellen wasn’t as nice as she pretended to be on the show. In the exchange on her show, Ellen asked why she was not invited to the Fifty Shades of Grey actor’s birthday, and Dakota responded that she was invited but had not shown up, very sweetly responding, “Actually, no, that’s not the truth, Ellen.” Johnson went on, “Ask everybody. “Ask Jonathan, your producer.” The clip had made people sit up and take note of Ellen’s behaviour, and commenters even dubbed it a ‘cultural reset’, commending Johnson for having ‘destroyed’ Ellen. It was later found that Ellen skipped the party because she was watching an NFL game with former President of the United States George W Bush the same weekend, another incident that had sparked a lot of outrage given that the talk show host is an openly gay, liberal LGBTQI activist and yet very friendly with the former Republican president, who once endorsed a constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage. Mark Ruffalo couldn’t help but openly criticize Ellen for the same.
However, while small reports and incidents of rudeness and misbehaviour did crop up, the talk show host had still not seen the worse of it until July, when a report in Buzzfeed by a group of former and current Ellen Show staff revealed the toxic work culture that ran on “racism, fear and intimidation”. Former employees also alleged that they had been fired for things like taking medical leave, attending family funerals, with the oddest one being that an employee was fired for posting a selfie in the office on her Instagram Stories. “That ‘be kind’ bulls**t only happens when the cameras are on. It’s all for show,” one former employee had said.
Ellen soon published an apology letter to her staff, but it was too late, and more and more employees came forward, now with sexual misconduct allegations against several top producers on her show, especially against executive producer Keith Leman and producer Ed Glavin. In her letter Ellen had written, “Hey everybody – it’s Ellen. On day one of our show, I told everyone in our first meeting that The Ellen DeGeneres Show would be a place of happiness – no one would ever raise their voice, and everyone would be treated with respect. Obviously, something changed, and I am disappointed to learn that this has not been the case. And for that, I am sorry. Anyone who knows me knows it’s the opposite of what I believe and what I hoped for our show.” She went on to apologize to anyone who did not love working on the show, and wrote, “As we’ve grown exponentially, I’ve not been able to stay on top of everything and relied on others to do their jobs as they knew I’d want them done. Clearly some didn’t. That will now change and I’m committed to ensuring this does not happen again.”
However, while ratings of most talk shows in low in the US, Ellen’s ratings are the lowest, after they declined by 38% after the toxic workplace allegations, and it is reflective of people’s lack of trust in the talk show host. Since the show has come back on air, reports have suggested that the previously celebrity studded show is now having a tough time booking any. In a Buzzfeed report, a publicist said, “I wouldn’t set up anyone on her show right now to do anything that could possibly cause them more negative headlines. You have to tread so carefully with your clients and your clients’ reputations, so you don’t want to put your client in any line of fire sympathising with someone that any community or anyone would feel bad about. We’re not going to align anyone with Ellen.” Another publicist said, “The feedback we’ve been getting is that Ellen is no longer a first choice for talent.”
Now with her dipping ratings, and the opportune timing and location of her new home, speculations are rife that Ellen is trying to get the former Royals onto her show to boost ratings, especially given their highly private, turbulent and controversial lives. In fact, in January of this year, a source at the Ellen show had revealed to the Daily Mail, “Ellen and Meghan have already discussed a sit-down interview. That has been in the works for quite some time now.”
One is forced to wonder, is Ellen trying to make the most of an opportunity, or how Instagram watchdog, Diet Prada, put it quite bluntly, “Viewership on “Ellen” has taken a steep 38% decline after being plagued by toxic workplace allegations, could Degeneres be plotting a ratings boost by weaseling her way into Harry and Meghan’s life?”