On The Anniversary Of Her Iconic Sitcom Episode, Ellen Got An Emotional Surprise From Fans

"It was the first time in my life that I didn't feel alone."

This weekend marks the 20th anniversary of the famous "coming out" episode of Ellen DeGeneres' sitcom Ellen. It was the first time a lead character on a television series had come out as gay, and aired only a few weeks after DeGeneres herself came out in real life.

DeGeneres celebrated this milestone on her talk show by welcoming Oprah Winfrey and Laura Dern, who were guest stars on the episode. "You were the bravest woman ever," Winfrey told the host of her decision.

DeGeneres also welcomed a few guests she wasn't expecting. "One of my favorite things to do on this show is to surprise audience members," she explained, "but I just found out that there's a few people in the audience that have a surprise for me."

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The surprise turned out to be a video tribute from several of DeGeneres' fans who were deeply affected by her coming out. "I was so excited," one fan said of the lead-up to the episode. "I was literally counting the minutes that day to go home and watch her come out on television."

Another fan shared footage of the viewing party she threw, and the joyous reaction from the room when DeGeneres uttered those two words: "I'm gay." Others spoke about how their own family reached out to them in support afterward, and what that episode meant to the gay community.

"It was this huge feeling of relief. It was the very first time in my life that I didn't feel alone," one fan tearfully explained, telling DeGeneres, "You took that on so that people like me could be here. You saved my life."

The fans featured in the video were seated in the audience, and DeGeneres made sure to hug each of them one by one as the show went to commercial.

Watch the touching tribute below:

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