Exactly 20 years ago, Ellen DeGeneres made history — TV history, LGBTQ history, American history — when she came out as gay on her sitcom Ellen. "My character, Ellen Morgan, came out as a lesbian on national television. And I, Ellen DeGeneres, came out at the same time," she said near the start of Friday's emotional episode of her hugely popular daytime talk show. "It was the hardest thing that I ever had to do in my life, and I wouldn't change one moment of it, because it led me to be exactly where I am today, standing in front of you."
There to help her celebrate were wife Portia de Rossi and friends, including the two wonderful women who co-starred in the groundbreaking episode with her: Oprah Winfrey and Laura Dern. DeGeneres talked about how valuable having the women's support and encouragement was, both on and off-camera. "For those words to come out of my mouth for the very first time, to say I'm gay — even rehearsing it — I would burst into tears every single time," she remembered.
In the episode, Winfrey's character told (fictional) Ellen, "It's okay to be gay." Winfrey reflected, "You wouldn't have been able to open hearts and touch hearts and change peoples minds and make a difference in the world had you not had the courage to do that." Dern, who says she was out of work for a year following her appearance due to homophobic backlash, added, "I remember the same bliss of getting to be part of supporting you in this moment, and what a privilege and an honor it felt like." Click ahead to see a couple of the most moving moments from the episode.