Today, it’s a given that Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi make up one of the world’s most beloved couples. But how did they get there?
Their famous romance spans two decades, beginning in the year 2000. Since they first met, the two have cultivated a love so tangible it might just convince millennials that monogamy and marriage can work.
“Portia understands me completely,” DeGeneres told Good Housekeeping in 2017. “In our vows, she recited a quote — ‘It is good to be loved. It is profound to be understood’ — and to me, that’s everything. What ‘I love you’ really means is ‘I understand you,’ and she loves me for everything that I am. She supports me and makes me happy.”
Here, we track their love from its inception.
2000: Ellen and Portia meet for the first time.
“[I knew Ellen was the one] when I first laid eyes on her,” de Rossi told Oprah Winfrey back in 2005, “but it took me three years to actually tell her how I felt about her because I was on Ally McBeal at the time and I was not living as an openly gay person. I was closeted and very, very afraid that if I talked about being gay, it would be the end of my career. So, I wasn’t about to date the most famous lesbian in the world.”
2004: They meet again.
Fate would have DeGeneres and de Rossi meet again, this time backstage at the VH1 Big in ’04 Awards. They two reportedly started dating not long after.
August 2005: Portia speaks openly about coming out.
In an interview with The Advocate, de Rossi spoke candidly about what it means to be an open lesbian in Hollywood. During the interview, the actress shared a touching anecdote about coming out.
The last person I told was my grandma, a few days ago in Australia. She’s 981⁄2 years old.
The Advocate: Wow! How’d you tell her? I wasn’t planning on it, but I knew I wouldn’t avoid it. So she made the mistake of asking me about my love life, and I said, “It’s great. I’m very, very happy, and we’ve been together for eight months, and everything is wonderful.” And she said, “What’s his name?” And I took a deep breath and said, “Ellen DeGeneres.” And she looked really confused. “Alan?” I said, “Ellen.” The talk show isn’t on in Australia, but she remembered Ellen’s sitcom and just remembered her as a personality, and a gay personality.
First thing she said was, “Well, this is a very bad day.” It was the most honest reaction I’ve ever had. Then she said, “Darlin’, you’re not one of those.” It took her two minutes of being angry and upset and frustrated and disgusted—and then she just held her arms out to me and said, “I love you just the same.” When I left Australia, my grand said, “I’d really like to meet her.”
I’m crying already, my God. Four minutes in, and I’m already crying.
Earlier that year, de Rossi and DeGeneres made their first official appearance as a couple at the HBO Golden Globe Awards Party, which was held at the Beverly Hills Hilton. The couple also moved in with each other in 2005, according to E!
November 2005: Ellen talks soul mates.
For People‘s November 2005 cover story, DeGeneres swooned over her girlfriend, saying, “It’s the first time that I’ve known in every cell of my being that I’m with somebody for the rest of my life.”
She also talked about the both of them realizing they wanted to be together after meeting, despite both dating other people at the time. “She had a girlfriend and I had a girlfriend, but it wasn’t like, ‘Oh, we’re going to have an affair,'” said the TV show host, who previously dated Anne Heche up until 2000, while De Rossi dated singer Francesca Gregorini. “We were just supposed to be together. It was a tough decision. I was physically getting sick because I was trying not to say anything. So I told Alex and she told Francesca. It was really hard to uproot everything.”
2008: They get engaged—and hitched.
Although it would be years until the Supreme Court would legalize marriage, de Rossi and DeGeneres became a shining beacon for LGBTQ+ rights when they officially tied the knot during a summer wedding on August 16, 2008.
DeGeneres popped the question only months prior. She announced her plans to marry the actress in May during the taping of her show, People reported at the time. According to CBS News, she proposed after the Supreme Court ruled that the ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional.
2010: De Rossi becomes DeGeneres.
Although the actress still uses her maiden name for work purposes, she legally changed her last name to her wife’s, becoming Portia Lee James DeGeneres, E! reported at the time.
2013–14: Divorce rumors bubble up—and get popped.
Rumors of a split between the TV host and actress began to surface during 2013 and 2014. Thankfully, the rumors didn’t hold up. DeGeneres made light of the alleged divorce chatter during a monologue on her show, People reported at the time.
“The other day I’m at the hair salon getting these extensions,” DeGeneres reportedly said. “And there’s tabloids all over the hair salon – that’s where they are, I guess. All of a sudden I notice one sitting on the counter in front of me [and] it caught my eye because Portia and I were in the top right-hand corner and I thought, ‘Oh, that’s sweet, they’re honoring us.’ And then I read the headline underneath and it said ‘Ellen and Portia’s Marriage Crumbles.’ I was like, ‘Oh, what happened? They seemed so happy.'”
February 2018: Portia surprises Ellen with a birthday gift on her show.
For DeGeneres’s 60th birthday, de Rossi surprised her during the show with an unexpected appearance.
“For the last two years, Ellen has said to me, ‘I feel like I’m not doing enough.’ Every day, almost,” de Rossi said, addressing the audience. “So, I put all that together and I got you this gift.”
Presenting a video montage on the show, de Rossi revealed that she’s building a gorilla sanctuary in Rwanda to honor both her wife and her wife’s hero, Dian Fossey, a famous primatologist.
See the heartwarming surprise below.
May 2018: Portia makes another appearance on Ellen’s show.
In another guest appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, de Rossi spoke candidly about her decision to quit acting.
“I was approaching 45 and I just kind of was wondering is there something that I could tackle now that I’ve never done before that would be really challenging and different,” she told her wife. “I kind of knew what acting would look like for me for the next 10, 20 years, so I decided to quit and start a business.”
2018: The couple celebrates their 10th wedding anniversary.
By 2018, DeGeneres and de Rossi had been married for a decade. DeGeneres shared a touching montage, including scenes from their wedding, on Instagram.