Comedian and actress Kate McKinnon made a rare public appearance at the 2019 Golden Globe awards, delivering an emotional speech in honour of Ellen DeGeneres, who received the second ever Carol Burnett Award for outstanding contributions to television.
McKinnon, who became the first openly lesbian cast member of Saturday Night Live in 2012, spoke about the impact DeGeneres had made on her as a young person struggling to come to terms with her sexuality.
“In 1997, when Ellen’s sitcom was at the height of its popularity, I was in my mother’s basement lifting weights in front of the mirror and thinking, ‘Am I gay?’" McKinnon said.
"And I was. And I still am. That’s a very scary thing to suddenly know about yourself. It’s sort of like doing '23 and Me' and discovering that you have alien DNA, and the only thing that made it less scary was seeing Ellen on TV."
McKinnon continued: “She risked her entire life and her entire career in order to tell the truth and she suffered greatly for it. Of course, attitudes change, but only because brave people like Ellen jumped into the fire to make that change.
“And if I hadn’t seen her on TV, I would’ve thought, 'I could never be on TV. They don’t let LGBTQ people on TV.' And more than that, I would’ve gone on thinking that I was an alien and that I maybe didn’t even have a right to be here."
A visibly emotional McKinnon concluded: “So thank you, Ellen, for giving me a shot and a good life, and thank you also for the sweater with the picture of the baby goat on it.”
Sitting in the audience beside wife Portia De Rossi, DeGeneres appeared moved by the speech, before watching a career-long retrospective montage which touched on her early sitcom years and rise into daytime talk show superstardom and animal rights advocacy.