Buzzfeed: Ellen DeGeneres’ show has been a racist, toxic environment for years

Comedian Ellen DeGeneres wearing Celine poses in the press room at the 77th Annual Golden Globe Awards held at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 5, 2020 in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, California, United States.

Buzzfeed has a lengthy story about the toxic work environment on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. That’s one thing that we’ve really seen this year – people are really tired of Ellen’s sugary fake-wholesome act, and they’re talking about what she’s really like, and what it’s like to work on her show. To be clear, not everyone interviewed by Buzzfeed blames Ellen solely, but it is her show and this kind of toxicity does spill over from the top. You can read the full piece here. Some highlights:

“Be Kind” is BS: “That ‘be kind’ bullsh-t only happens when the cameras are on. It’s all for show,” one former employee told BuzzFeed News. “I know they give money to people and help them out, but it’s for show.”

Who spoke out: BuzzFeed News spoke to one current and 10 former employees on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, all of whom asked to remain anonymous, fearing retribution from the award-winning NBC daytime talk show and others in the entertainment industry. They said they were fired after taking medical leave or bereavement days to attend family funerals. One employee, who claims she was fed up with comments about her race, essentially walked off the job. Others said they were also instructed by their direct managers to not speak to DeGeneres if they saw her around the office.

Is Ellen to blame? Most of the former employees blamed executive producers and other senior managers for the day-to-day toxicity, but one former employee said that, ultimately, it’s Ellen’s name on the show and “she really needs to take more responsibility” for the workplace environment. “If she wants to have her own show and have her name on the show title, she needs to be more involved to see what’s going on,” one former employee said. “I think the executive producers surround her and tell her, ‘Things are going great, everybody’s happy,’ and she just believes that, but it’s her responsibility to go beyond that.”

Racism behind the scenes: A Black woman who used to work on The Ellen DeGeneres Show told BuzzFeed News she experienced racist comments, actions, and “microaggressions” during her year and a half as an employee. She said when she was hired, a senior-level producer told her and another Black employee, “Oh wow, you both have box braids; I hope we don’t get you confused.” And at a work party, she said, one of the main writers told her, “I’m sorry, I only know the names of the white people who work here,” and other coworkers “awkwardly laughed it off” instead of coming to her defense. When the former employee brought up issues of race and representation on the show and asked producers not to use offensive terms like “spirit animal” in segments, her colleagues called her “the PC police.”

One person was told to stop their GoFundMe: A third former employee said they were given a warning for creating a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for medical costs that weren’t covered by their company health insurance and then sharing it on social media. Just 24 hours after posting the GoFundMe, they said, they were called into the department head’s office and told to take it down because of concerns it might hurt DeGeneres’s image. “They discovered my fundraiser, then got mad at me. … They were more concerned about Ellen’s brand instead of helping me out,” the former employee, whose story was corroborated by four other employees, told BuzzFeed News.

[From Buzzfeed]

There’s so much in this piece, including more instances of racism and racial microaggressions, and the massively different ways different people are treated just depending on whether they have “likeable” qualities. The producers on the show sound like absolute tyrants, and Ellen seems like she’s in a bubble (a bubble of privilege) who has no idea what’s happening in her own office. Yes, it’s a toxic work environment.

Ellen Degeneres attends the 77th Annual Golden Globe Awards at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 05, 2020 in Beverly Hills, California © Jill Johnson/jpistudios.com

Photos courtesy of Avalon Red.

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42 Responses to “Buzzfeed: Ellen DeGeneres’ show has been a racist, toxic environment for years”

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  1. Ms. Lib says:

    A work environment where someone said this is truly toxic.
    “Oh wow, you both have box braids; I hope we don’t get you confused.”
    These are the same people who say, “All lives matter.”
    I am so sick of them!

    • clomo says:

      I have never watched Ellen and I definitely won’t be watching her in the future, she has a toxic aura. Bullies are awful people who should be shunned.

    • Jo says:

      This is so insane, right? So horrible, in the vein of “Oh you exotic creature, what will we ever do with you?” kind of rhetoric. Imagine saying that to the multiple blondes that probably already work there. “Oh, you’re BOTH blonde with straight hair? How in the world will I ever tell you apart”.
      This actually reminds me of all those micro aggressions with so called “ethnic” names, how nasty people are about spelling “difficult” names they’re not used to, but they’ll gladly differentiate between “Krisften” “Krestenn” and “Kirsteens” and learn how to spell it right the first time.

  2. detritus says:

    Ooooh looks like the can of worms is opening.

    It’s interesting in gossip what actually breaks, and what social factors contribute. the rumours about Ellen have been circulating for years, and it seems the pandemic treatment of her staff was the last straw

    • The first time I heard about Ellen was when my son was in preschool (He’s 19 now) and I was at a kids birthday birthday filled with people who worked for her. I barely knew who she was and these people HATED her. Said it was the worse thing they had ever worked on, she was so awful. After hearing for years from prop people, etc how awful she was, I again heard from someone who worked for her and said, “She pushes everyone she works with to tears on purpose so she can see how far she can push you. She enjoys seeing you cry, she is horrific”. This is from a very tough woman who is very successful in the business. Everyone in Hollywood knows she is beyond toxic and has been since the beginning.

      What does it say that she was allowed to carry on that way? An old timer gave me great advice about Hollywood. Never lose track or forget about the most important word in show business. BUSINESS.

    • NewKay says:

      The pandemic treatment of her staff was the last straw because it impacted white bodies.

  3. minx says:

    She’s an awful person.

  4. Sportlady20 says:

    The tone at a work place is set from the top. It’s her responsibility to make sure her employees are good, every other host seems to manage it, especially during a pandemic.
    The racist bs, & harassing people for go fund me pages is telling you exactly who she is.

  5. Amy Too says:

    I hate it when they put the word microaggressions in quotes like this woman was only claiming that she experienced microaggressions but they can’t be sure, or she’s calling things microaggressions when they’re not really microaggressions. There’s a lot of that in reporting on racism.

    • Ella says:

      I think they put it in quotes because they were literally quoting her. It’s still a fairly new word, and it’s important to know that *she* chose it, and it’s not just the spin Buzzfeed put on her testimony.

  6. Miss V says:

    I truly hope they cancel this horrible show.

  7. Case says:

    I hope her show doesn’t come back after COVID. It’s clear she’s an awful person who treats her employees horribly and fosters a toxic work environment. Enough.

  8. Rachel says:

    There was a girl from my town who went to intern for Ellen’s show. It was a few years back now but I do remember hearing none of them were allowed to talk to Ellen, at all. Rules like that don’t come out of nowhere – if Ellen wanted to talk to her people and interact with them, she would. If she wanted a happy environment on her show, she would make it herself. She doesn’t do that – instead, the environment is toxic – full of racists and people who can’t afford their medical bills, who can’t seek help paying them from the online community because God forbid Ellen’s brand should suffer.

    She’s clearly not a good person. I think it’s past time for her show and career to come to an end.

  9. Ferdinand says:

    I’ve never liked Ellen. There’s always been something off putting about her.
    But to be fair, most of those aggressions were made by staff not by her directly. As the article points out, she’s in a bubble.
    Girl better burst that bubble and start seeing what really is going on behind the cameras and start seeing people who works for her for who they really are.

  10. LidiaJara says:

    I don’t believe for one minute that Ellen “doesn’t know”. Please.

    • HeyJude says:

      Yes, exactly. These are all features of the system she’s built, not bugs from a few producers.

      If she wasn’t intimately involved in crafting this workplace environment eventually a normal person would notice, “Hey, I’ve worked with these people for the better part of a decade and not a single one of them have spoken to me of their own accord…that’s super weird. What’s going on?”

      The don’t talk to Ellen rule is the tell that she’s in control of all this, only Ellen would want that rule.

  11. lucy2 says:

    Awful. I can’t say I’m surprised, no one who talks about working there ever has anything good to say.
    It sounds like the producers and higher ups are terrible people, and are allowed to be that way unchecked by Ellen herself. A fish rots from the head.
    I can’t believe an employee there needed a Go Fund Me for medical costs, and they made that person take it down without helping. Years ago I remember there was a blind item thought to be Craig Ferguson, that a late night host found out an employee’s parent was disabled, and paid for the house to be retrofitted, or something like that.

    • Cassandra says:

      I had a friend who was dealing with cancer, worked at a private school, and was told to take her go fund me down because it was “a conflict of interest”. She quit- it’s not like they were paying her enough anyway.

      The lack of empathy people in power have is astounding

  12. MissMarierose says:

    I’m glad these kinds of stories are coming out. Sunshine is the best disinfectant and hopefully, someone really cleans up Ellen’s workplace. And the Washington NFL team, too. That story in the Washington Post made me sick

  13. Lavande says:

    Ellen’s plastic surgery makes her look like an evil elf

  14. reef says:

    I just really think the trauma of coming out in ’99 irreparably damaged her. She’s singularly focused on her success. Forget everything else.

    • Lizzie Bathory says:

      I’m sure she was traumatized. I rooted for her after that & she has her current career because others in the industry gave her a chance with the voice gig for Finding Nemo, after which she was able to stage her comeback. If anything, that experience should have made her more empathetic to others in a tough industry, not less. There are also rumors that she is very controlling with Portia. As more comes out, I don’t think it bodes well for her show.

    • HeyJude says:

      A lot of people have been super traumatized and not turned into villains though. At some point you have to be accountable for yourself.

      I think of someone like Drew Barrymore, she’s been mega traumatized from her childhood, which all unfolded in front of cameras, yet she’s by all accounts a sweet person.

      Adam Driver was in literal war and is apparently one of the greatest people in Hollywood.

      • JS says:

        Quick correction: Adam Driver was never deployed. He never saw war. He was just a kid sold on the war, as many impressionable kids were, and thought the best he could do to for his country was to fight. But he never saw actual combat.

    • Jo says:

      Yeah, I always rooted for her. I geniunely loved her show, it brought a lot of people joy, that’s for certain. But it’s clear something isn’t all there in the kindness department, and if that’s suppossed to be your main message and that’s your schtick, you will be held to a higher standard. This is pretty sad.

  15. Quincytoo says:

    I honestly get pictures of Ellen confused with pictures of Kate McKinnon impersonating Jeff Sessions

  16. anon says:

    Listen, she knows what’s going on. This “Oh, she doesn’t know what’s happening around her,” is bullshit. Her “people” need to stop bubble wrapping her from accountability.

    I’ve heard about her *for years* from people in LA who say behind the scenes she is a total piece of work. So, it’s not surprising that she has a workplace that is toxic and demeaning. I don’t watch her show, because a.) I don’t watch daytime television (Who TF has time for that?) and b.) she’s phony. The buck stops with Ellen Degeneres, period.

  17. Babs441 says:

    I really liked Ellen until I went to her show. During the breaks she didn’t interact with us and didn’t even smile. Since then I always felt she was phony.

  18. Valerie says:

    This just reinforces what we’ve known for years. I feel for the folks who had to put up with her for a paycheck.

  19. Nimbolicious says:

    My late husband was a crew member on her show years ago. It was a stressful and toxic environment; whenever not taping, Ellen stayed in her dressing room playing poker with her H&M people and did not look at or interact with anyone other than them or the showrunner(s). The producers were threatening yet oblique, “warning” people yet not giving them clear directives about what they were even doing wrong – they were like psychologically abusive parents. People cried daily on the job, got fired left and right without even being given a reason, and all the while Ellen could not be bothered even to make eye contact with the many who worked hard to make the show the success that it was. So for me, having seen what my husband and his coworkers endured, it’s been very gratifying to hear about (I can’t bring myself to watch) her live flailing at home, attempting yet failing to entertain in the absence of all the people she could barely acknowledge.

  20. Mrs. Peel says:

    She is the face of the Ellen brand – doesn’t matter if it isn’t Ellen herself making trouble – she is the boss, she does the hiring and firing – the onus and responsibility and accountability are hers alone. I still find her grating and insincere.

  21. mew says:

    Interesting with Portia’s history that she’s ok with it

  22. Mariane says:

    I always eye rolled my sister when she used to watch Ellen. The cingey jokes and random dances were so unbearable for me. Kate on SNL portrayed her accurately. Her whole fake laugh and demeanor put me off her show. She’s such a blabber mouth and basically lives off gossip like Perez Hilton & tmz. I was surprised when we heard the sussexs hosted her. I doubt they’ll invite a person who would share everything again!

  23. GoogleIt says:

    Let’s not forget that Reese Witherspoon, Kristen Bell, Dax Shepard, Elton John, Blake Shelton, and Scooter Braun went out if their way to defend Ellen when she cozied up to George W. Bush. Powerful people stick together if they think they can benefit from it. It was only the “far left” celebs who were willing to tell her to do better, I.e. Mark Ruffalo, Tim Robbins, David Cross. Unless there is a revolution, the powerful won’t check themselves. It’s too easy and enticing to be part of the friend group of one of the richest people in Hollywood. The revolution comes from stories being told and people believing those stories. Is anyone surprised that Andy Lassner is a sycophant willing to do anything to keep his boss happy?

  24. DFV says:

    People here are making a lot of assumptions about Ellen’s character without considering other possibilities. You can call her phony for being happy on air, but cold when the cameras are off, but you can also consider the possibility that she’s an introvert and she needs to take those breaks to mentally disconnect, in order to be able to do her job when the cameras are on. Some people feel energized from talking to people, some feel drained if they do it for too long. We should allow for different types of personalities, neurodiversity, especially in show business.

    • Charissa Dawn Sherwood says:

      There’s lots of people who a neurodiverse that don’t treat people like crap.

    • I work as a therapist for children who are neurodivergent, and none of my training taught me that their “character” or their morals were in any way different, or that they were incapable of treating people with respect. I teach social skills classes and believe me, we expect kids, and -believe them to be capable of- treating those around them with dignity and respect. She can take all the breaks she wants, she can does not have to engage everyone in lengthy conversations, but she cannot NOT pay people, or have expectations that everyone who works for her can’t ever speak to her or look her in the eye. That’s just disgusting behavior, and I’m so glad she is finally getting called out for it after YEARS of acting like an entitled ass.

    • Moonlampje says:

      This is BS.

      I’m the biggest introvert ever and I need A LOT of alone time. But having a busy and draining job has never made me want to be that rude to anyone. She comes across like sh*t because she IS sh*t, and there is no excuse for that kind of behaviour, EVER.

    • L. says:

      She’s of the Rockefeller bloodline. Lots going on there.