The chat show host revealed she was a lesbian during an appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show in February 1997.

But until then, the star had been afraid to be honest with herself and her fans.

"I certainly didn't ever think I was going to come out, period," she said in an interview for Oprah's Master Class series. "I didn't think I'd be coming out on a show, ever."

Everything changed for the 57 year old when a friend gave her a gift to a retreat called Esalen in Big Sur California.

When she saw a course called 'The inner dialogue of your subconscious mind' she decided to give it a try.

"I wanted to know what the inner dialogue of my subconscious mind was, and it was scary, and crazy," she recalled. "What came out of listening to what I had been saying to myself was 'would I still be famous, would they still love me if they knew I was gay?' and my fear was no they wouldn't. Then it made me feel ashamed that I was hiding something, it made me feel ashamed that I couldn't be honest and really be who I am and I just didn't want to pretend to be someone else any more so that people would like me."

Thankfully things worked out brilliantly for Ellen and she now has a hit day time chat show and is happily married to actress Portia de Rossi.

But despite her success the star never lets it go to her head and tries to remember some of the life skills she's picked up over the years.

"It's hard to hold on to everything I've learnt that I think is important (but) I think the most important thing is compassion," she added. "I've learnt that obviously from some tough times (because) it gives you compassion, you understand what it feels like to be on the end of hurt."