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Five Minutes With: Ellen Degeneres

Reprising her role as the amnesiac fish Dory, Ellen Degeneres talks to MiNDFOOD about her latest blockbuster, Finding Dory, her life and career. As always she is hilarious, full of energy, charm.

Five Minutes With: Ellen Degeneres

THIS MOVIE TALKS ABOUT DORY FINDING HERSELF. SO AT WHAT POINT IN YOUR LIFE DID YOU FIND YOURSELF AND KNOW YOUR STRENGTHS?

I just recently found myself! (laughs) I think I am still finding myself. And I am sure as I get older I will find more parts of myself. We change constantly, I hope, because if we stay the same, that’s boring. But I have had a very interesting journey, much like Dory’s and so just like Dory, I just keep swimming. (laughs) And I think it’s an important thing for everybody to do in life and so I just keep learning about myself and finding out what home is to me.

YOU APPEAL TO KIDS FROM AGE OF 5 TO THE OLDEST POSSIBLE DEMOGRAPHIC – HOW DO YOU EXPLAIN THAT?

Well, I can’t explain it and people asked me that and I don’t know how to explain it other than, ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,’ as they say. So it amazes me because first of all, I think the ages of 11 or 12 are the youngest in the audience, but when I am out in public, I have these kids that freak out when they see me that are like eight years old and ten years old and like you say, I have a range of little kids that really get me and like me. And then I have 90 year old people who watch me every single day on the show. So I don’t have the answer of why that is. I think I am very honest and people respond to honesty and authenticity. And as far as the young kids relating to me, I am very immature. (laughs) I think that I am very childlike and I love to play and I don’t think we should stop playing and I think when we are kids we play Hide and Seek and we play Chase and we do all these fun things and then we are taught that we are supposed to not play anymore and not laugh so much and I still do all that. I am 58 years old and I still love to play. So maybe they relate to how immature I am.

I CAN’T THINK OF ANYONE WHO HASN’T BEEN ON YOUR SHOW. WHAT IS AMAZING IS THAT YOU ALWAYS GET PEOPLE TO TALK ABOUT PERSONAL THINGS THAT THEY ACTUALLY WANT TO REVEAL. WHAT IS YOUR SECRET IN GETTING THINGS OUT OF PEOPLE?

Well we slip something into their drinks in the dressing room. (laughter) No, I don’t know, I think I make people comfortable and for whatever reason they just feel comfortable enough and they open up. And the audience is always a great audience and very warm and receptive, and as far as things not going the way it’s planned – one word, Kanye. (laughs) You just never know. When you have Kanye on, you don’t know where it’s going and it’s always a surprise and always interesting.

THE MOVIE SHINES A LIGHT ON THE LESSONS THAT OUR PARENTS TEACH US. IF I COULD TAKE YOU BACK A FEW YEARS WHEN YOU WERE LITTLE ELLEN, WHAT WERE THE LESSONS THAT YOUR PARENTS INSTILLED IN YOU THAT STILL RESONATE?

I don’t know, that is an interesting question. My parents divorced when I was younger and they both were very different personalities. my dad is a wonderful man but he has a lot of fear, he is very much like Marlon. And so he is overprotective with me so you can imagine his challenge of having an openly gay child. (laughs) He is very accepting of it and very supportive. And my mother is really strong and really sarcastic and sassy and has been through a lot. Some of the things you learn in life what not to be. I didn’t want to be fearful like my dad although he is a wonderful man but I wanted to take chances and I wanted to risk a lot of things. And so I learned that I didn’t want to be fearful. And with my mum, she is a really tough woman and she is really strong and I learned how to be a tough woman and really strong.

THE OFFICIAL LINE OF THE MOVIE IS, WHAT WOULD DORY DO? SO IN YOUR OWN LIFE, WHO IS THAT PERSON THAT YOU WOULD ASK WHAT WOULD ‘SAID PERSON’ DO? OR IS IT WHAT WOULD PORTIA DO?

I have to say I didn’t have a guide or a leader and that I guess is why I am where I am today. I just kind of found my own way and I did a lot of soul searching and just meditating on who I am and who I want to be. I learned a lot of lessons the hard way and that is a beautiful thing to learn lessons that way. So I don’t know. I guess now I would add Portia to that list but I didn’t know her back then, so I guess I would say, ‘What would Portia do? And probably do the opposite. (laughs)
YOU JUST MENTIONED YOUR AGE YET YOU HAVE RETAINED A CHILDLIKE SENSIBILITY. HOW DO YOU THINK YOU’VE MANAGED TO DO THAT?

It’s just who I am. I think I am just really exactly who I am. I don’t really want to try to pretend that I am anything other than this. And I think sometimes people grow up feeling you are supposed to fit some kind of form and what society says a 58 year old woman is supposed to look like and dress like and act like. I think a lot of us just fall into that and become what we think we are supposed to become. I just never did tat and I never want to and I don’t care that people know that I am 58 because I think it’s just a number. I think your spirit is what your real age is and your energy level.

YOU SAID THAT YOU HAD A COMPLICATED LIFE, SO HOW MUCH DID YOUR SENSE OF HUMOUR HELP YOU TO GO THE DIFFICULT TIMES?

I think for sure when, I had a very….I don’t want to go into detail but I had a very interesting childhood and a lot of things weren’t said and I think a lot of people, especially growing up in the early 60s, a lot of families, they just didn’t say what is really happening. And so I as a comedian noticed all the things in-between what people were saying and I noticed that the silences were what is really happening and not the words. And I looked at the in-between and I looked at – to use the metaphor, if you look at a painting, and the tiny strokes and it’s not the broad strokes, it’s the little tiny details that make up something. So I don’t know, as a comedian I think that is where it came from, observing things and seeing that the absurdity is the humour and that people should just pay attention to how ridiculous it is that we all ignore what is really happening.

I REMEMBER WHEN YOU CAME OUT YEARS AGO, IT WAS SUCH A BIG DEAL. WHAT ARE THE MAIN DIFFERENCES TODAY AND HOW MUCH HAS THE INDUSTRY CHANGED?

Well in the business I think we have a long way to go. I think not everybody is represented in television and film obviously. We need more diversity and we need more people representing what is happening in the world. So it goes with the writers and then the studios to approve those things and get those pictures made and because there are a lot of people who aren’t being seen. But I think that it is slowly changing, but I do think we have a long way to go. And in the world, I think it’s getting better, yes.

HOW DOES PORTIA HELP YOU IN EVERY DAY LIFE TO OVERCOME THE DIFFICULTIES WE ALL SHARE?

Now that I have love in my life – and you can’t really get anything from someone unless you have something to give, I come to it as a whole person which I wasn’t ever before. And so we both support each other and we both believe in each other and I think that’s how we learn together.
YOU HAVE A LOT OF POWER. SO HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT IT AND HOW DO YOU USE IT?

I can lift heavy things. (laughs) That’s how I use it. I don’t think about that really, I know that I have a platform and I am very careful what I do with it because I don’t want to be a political person, that’s not who I am. But I do want to represent kindness. I am very anti-bullying and anti-judgmental and mean spirited people, so I use my platform for good and I try to use my power to show that we should focus on all the things we have in common versus separating what someone likes and what you don’t like. I love that I look out in my audience and I see all kinds of different people. And it’s weird, I don’t think about the fact that I have a lot of power, but I do know with the TV show that I have a lot of eyeballs on me every day. So I am careful with that.

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