Today, Ellen DeGeneres is at the top of her career. As the star of “The Ellen DeGeneres” show, Variety estimates she’s bringing in a $50 million a year chatting with the Kardashians, Bill Gates and every celebrity in between.
And her media empire extends beyond television with her online streaming platform EllenTube, content on Amazon’s Alexa platform and original shows for YouTube. This year, she’s even releasing a stand up special on Netflix.
But as a kid in Louisiana, DeGeneres’ circumstances looked much different.
“I was poor growing up,” DeGeneres reveals on a recent episode of her show.
It was during those years that DeGeneres began to develop a mindset about money she still holds today.
“We never owned a house when I was growing up,” DeGeneres tells Good Housekeeping. “We rented, and we moved about every two years, just far enough to have to start at a new school.
“My mother was a real estate agent for a little while, so I was always looking at houses with her. We couldn’t afford to buy one, so it was a frustrating thing as a kid,” she continues. “You’re imagining, ‘This is going to be my room,’ and then it was like, ‘Oh, we can’t afford it.'”
After graduating high school, DeGeneres enrolled in college at the University of New Orleans but dropped out after a semester and began working odd jobs.
She “sold clothes at the Merry-Go-Round chain store at the Lakeside Shopping Center, served food, painted houses, worked at a car wash, bar-tended, wrapped gifts … sold Hoover vacuums and shucked oysters,” Lisa Iannucci writes in “Ellen Degeneres: A Biography.”
When money was tight, DeGeneres decided that if she ever found success, she wouldn’t be a miser about her finances.
“I just was like, ‘I am never going to have that attitude about money,'” DeGeneres says on her show to guest and fellow comedian Ali Wong.
Wong had joked that she isn’t willing to pay for a Netflix subscription despite having a special airing on the platform. “I was so poor for so long and struggling as a comic that I just can’t let go,” Wong says on the show. “I’m still super duper cheap.”
“I had the opposite effect,” DeGeneres tells Wong.
“I am always going to just get what I want, I’m going to do what I want. Because I know there is an abundance and I will always have enough,” she says. “That’s how I live my life.”
For DeGeneres, it’s about enjoying success: “You shouldn’t live your life in fear of money.”