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Ellen Degeneres Gave Kate McKinnon Strength to Get into Film Despite Being Gay

Gettyimages | Axelle/Bauer-Griffin
By Zachary Holt

Kate McKinnon, known predominately for her role on Saturday Night Live, has had great success in both television and film. Her characters usually include some quirky individual that seems a little bit off, which has fit perfectly into the comedy genre she's excelled so well in.

So, it's no surprise that she was selected to present the Carol Burnett Award to Ellen Degeneres, also a comedian, an award by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association for outstanding contributions to television on or off the screen.

During the presentation, McKinnon got very emotional as she shared Ellen's courage and leadership in coming out as gay, despite the backlash she knew would eventually arrive. This, McKinnon claims, allowed her to believe there is a future in film and television for those in the LGBTQ community.

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During the beginning of the award introduction, McKinnon recalled where she first found strength in Degeneres. "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?’" she said.

McKinnon was able to confirm her status, but still initially thought it was too scary to enter a world being gay. To her is was like having alien DNA. "And I was and I still am. But that’s a very scary thing to suddenly know about yourself, it’s sort of like doing 23AndMe and discovering that you have alien DNA," she continued.

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For McKinnon, she was able to channel Degeneres' energy and passion to develop her own courage. "The only thing that made it less scary was seeing Ellen on TV…Of course, attitudes change but only because brave people like Ellen jump into the fire to make them change," the SNL actress said.

"And if I hadn’t seen her on TV, I would’ve thought, ‘I can 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, so thank you, Ellen, for giving me a shot."

McKinnon's speech concluded with a gracious thank you to the day time television host while adding a little bit of quirky humor about some borrowed outfits. "Thank you, Ellen, for giving me a shot at a good life. And thank you for the sweater with the baby goat on it."

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Degeneres was obviously emotional, herself. Upon reaching the microphone on stage, she looked to McKinnon and thanked her. "Kate, you’re incredible. I hate being asked to do things like this, so thank you for flying here, thank you for writing this, thank you for your words. I love you," Degeneres said.

Afterward, Degeneres rambled on with some playful commentary, but eventually, became serious and explained her primary purpose all along for when she entered the daytime television circuit.

"All I’ve ever wanted to do is make people feel good and laugh, and there is no greater feeling than when someone tells me that I’ve made their day better with my show, or that I’ve helped them get through a sickness or a hard time in their lives," she admitted.

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For Degeneres, it wasn't only about helping people, but inspiring others to help people and to feel motivated through the idea of caring and love for one another.

The Ellen host finished her award acceptance speech by stating, "But the real power of television, for me, is not that people watch my show, but people watch my show and then they’re inspired to go out and do the same thing in their own lives."

She continued, "They make people laugh or be kind or help someone that’s less fortunate than themselves. And that is the power of television. I’m so, so grateful to be a part of it."

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