These days Ellen DeGeneres isn’t regarded as quite the bastion of niceness she used to. Rumors about her fostering a toxic workplace environment have spread like wildfire. And people have been digging through her old interviews, too. One of them is with Céline Dion and it’s incredibly uncomfortable. In fact, it appeared to have soured their entire relationship.
The interview in question took place in 2007, a long time before the accusations of toxicity began rolling in. Dion appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show to promote a new album, Taking Chances. But the interview is not remembered for any musical content, but for the sheer awkwardness of it all.
There’s one essential element that made the interview so wince-worthy — the women were discussing an aspect of parenting. Needless to say, tensions are always going to be pretty high when someone’s children are involved. At the time Dion had one child, a boy named René-Charles, with her husband René Angélil.
Ellen, on the other hand, doesn’t have any children with her wife Portia de Rossi — and probably never will. On her show in 2015 she told her fellow television host Matt Lauer, “I think I would [like to have kids], but that’s not enough to have a kid.” She added, more jokingly, “It seems long term. It seems like a commitment that you have to stick with.”
Dion appeared on the show again in 2013. And plenty had happened in her life since her last appearance. She had two more children with her husband, twins Eddy and Nelson. Ellen also commented on Dion’s parenting of her kids — but she must have known she was treading on some pretty dangerous ground.
In fact, during that show Ellen made a remark that seemed to directly reference the first ever comment she made about Celine’s first son, René-Charles. Dion didn’t blow up at her, but who knows, perhaps she wanted to. Maybe someone should have simply thought twice about putting those two women in a room together.
Both Dion and Ellen have had their fair share of feuds with other people — or are rumored to, at least. Allegedly, Dion hates her fellow songstress Cher. Why? Apparently for the simple reason that Cher upstaged her at the 2017 Billboard Music Awards. At the time a source told the website Radar Online there was “so much animosity between the two of them.”
Others think this is most likely not true, however. The website Gossip Cop pointed out that that behind the scenes of the Billboard Music Awards Dion was spotted dancing to one of Cher’s songs, not really the sort of thing you’d do if you hated someone. Gossip Cop called the original story, “[an] inaccurate swipe at Dion.”
Dion has also been accused of feuding with Barbra Streisand, a rumor that started back when Streisand was too sick to perform alongside Dion at the Grammys in 1993. Dion set that one right herself. In 2015 she told the HuffPost website, “Barbra is one of my idols in show business, and I love her voice, her music, her acting, and just about everything she does…she’s amazing. I wasn’t upset at all that she canceled.”
Not only that, but there’s also been rumors Dion doesn’t get along with Mariah Carey. Apparently in 1998 Carey was unimpressed with her during the show Divas Live. Yet notably Carey was one of those who offered condolences to Dion after her husband René Angélil died of cancer in 2016.
But interestingly Ellen too has feuded with some of these women — and even more publicly too. In 2020 an old interview she once did with Mariah Carey started going viral. The 2008 clip shows Ellen asking Carey if she’s pregnant. When Carey doesn’t tell her, Ellen pours out some champagne and tries to get Carey to drink it.
On the show Ellen said, “Let’s toast to you not being pregnant.” Carey answered, “Why would you toast to that?” and still refused to drink any alcohol. This made Ellen shout “You’re pregnant!” in front of the whole audience. It was clearly not the moment Carey would have picked, but that wasn’t the only reason it makes for uncomfortable viewing now.
A few weeks after that episode aired, Carey had a miscarriage. Knowing that, it makes the clip much harder to watch. And Carey herself has spoken about her discomfort with being so publicly pressured to reveal her pregnancy. She told the Vulture website about it in 2020.
Carey told the site, “I was extremely uncomfortable with that moment is all I can say. And I really have had a hard time grappling with the aftermath.” By that point, there was an internal investigation taking place against The Ellen DeGeneres Show after the “toxic workplace” allegations.
The singer said of Ellen, “I don’t want to throw anyone that’s already being thrown under any proverbial bus, but I didn’t enjoy that moment.” Carey thought there was “an empathy that can be applied to those moments that I would have liked to have been implemented. But what am I supposed to do?”
And Ellen’s had some bad blood with Cher as well, it seems. During a 2018 episode with the legendary singer as a guest, things got quite awkward. After being joked at about “turn ons” one too many times, Cher called Ellen a “b***h.” Maybe she was joking, but maybe not.
Actress Dakota Johnson has confronted Ellen with some home truths as well. In November 2019 a strange, awkward conversation happened between the two women on Ellen’s show. Ellen said she hadn’t been invited to Johnson’s 30th birthday celebrations, and Johnson responded, “Actually, no, that’s not the truth, Ellen. Ask everybody.”
Johnson told Ellen, “Last time I was on the show, last year, you gave me a bunch of s**t about not inviting you, but I didn’t even know you wanted to be invited.” She added, “I didn’t even know you liked me.” It was painful to watch, especially since fans later worked out Ellen had been with former President Bush the day after Johnson’s party had taken place.
Then there was the whole Kevin Hart debacle. In 2019, old homophobic tweets of Hart’s were uncovered, leading to him stepping down as Oscars host that year. But he also did an interview with Ellen subsequently, and she said, “Don’t let those people win — host the Oscars.” This led to a major backlash.
And then Hart seemed to repay the favor — if that’s what it was — when Ellen came under attack the following year. In August he wrote on Instagram, “She has treated my family and my team with love and respect from day one,” and added, “We are falling in love with people’s downfall. It’s honestly sad…When did we get here?”
But those who viewed the Ellen interview with Dion certainly weren’t willing to let her off the hook. In the comments about the unearthed 2007 interview, one person wrote, “I’ve forgotten about this interview. Now that I see it in full scale. Ellen was totally disrespectful. I wonder how many celebrities and people who worked on her program has she treated this way. Time pull off the fake Ellen DeGeneres mask.”
What, exactly, had Ellen done? Well, she made a comment about the length of René-Charles’ hair, joking that Dion must have “forgotten” to cut it. The seven-year-old boy had shoulder-length hair at the time, and Ellen put a photo of him up on the screen. Dion asked the host, “Do you have a problem with that?”
Ellen said, “No, I don’t have a problem. That is some long hair.” But the damage had already been done. Dion responded, “Whatever I will do, I won’t please everyone,” and went on, “Do you know that René-Charles makes his own decisions most of the time? When he’s ready, I’ll cut it.”
Viewers were not impressed — at all. Another person wrote in the comments, “That was VERY difficult to watch. It’s one thing to be so judgmental about a person’s life but to put their children into that conversation is a definite NO-NO!!! And something as petty as the length of her sons hair?! Who cares!”
All through René-Charles’ childhood Dion let him make his own decisions about his hair. She’s explained that parenting decision to other talk show hosts, too. In October 2008 she told Oprah Winfrey. “We decide as a family what’s good for us… I’ve asked [René] and he says, ‘I like my hair like that.’”
Eventually Dion did have to cut her son’s hair, though, so he could go get an education. She told the show Access Hollywood in 2009, “I miss his hair but when he started school, it was a rule of school.” She also revealed that she’d kept some locks of his long hair as a reminder for herself.
But Dion gave birth again in 2010, and she raised her twin sons Eddy and Nelson in the exact same way — she let them have their hair however they wanted it. And when Dion appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show again in 2013, the host once more — perhaps a little unwisely — brought it up.
Ellen said of Dion’s children, “Your little boys like to have long hair when they start out.” Dion answered, “They have, they like their long hair… I cut the hair and it doesn’t suit them.” Ellen quickly said, “Well, I like it.” Maybe she was trying to make up for her earlier comments.
But even that did little to win over the Dion fans who were watching. One person commented on YouTube, “Why does Ellen start her interview with Céline with the long hair thing AGAIN after 7 years! After watching all the interviews with Céline, I came to the conclusion that Ellen just doesn’t like Céline.”
Dion appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show after that as well, but it was under different and more upsetting circumstances. In a 2016 episode of the show she spoke about her husband’s recent death. Ellen told her that she seemed to be coping well, and Dion said, “It is tough, I have to admit, but everything you just said is absolutely true.”
And the subject of Dion’s children resurfaced as well, but this time there were no comments about hair. The singer said, “I feel extremely fortunate as a mother that — it’s probably the thing I’m the most proud of — I prepared my children for how to live… How to live with him without his presence.”
But comments on that clip weren’t completely positive either. One person wrote, “Ellen comes off as so insensitive when talking to her about the loss of [Dion’s] husband, it was almost as if she was reading a script and not talking from her heart.” Another said, “It’s like they’re on very different frequencies.”
It seems that Ellen’s critical comment about René’s hair may haunt her for a while yet. In October 2020, long after the fact, writer David Adjmi spoke about the incident in The Guardian newspaper. He said, “What’s more surprising is Ellen’s policing of gender expression here — particularly when considering that she herself is a gay woman who openly flouts gender norms.”
Adjmi went on, “Watching the Ellen clip evoked a childhood memory. I couldn’t have been older than five or six, and my mother had taken me for a haircut. When the hairdresser asked me what hairstyle I wanted, I told him I wanted long hair, ‘like my mother’s.’ When I saw the look in his eyes, I knew instantly I’d made a terrible gaffe.”
Ellen may have even more to worry about now, though. The allegations that she’s not really a good person continue to dog her. In July 2020 an anonymous former employee told the website Buzzfeed News, “That ‘be kind’ bulls**t only happens when the cameras are on. It’s all for show.”
BuzzFeed gathered a lot of stories together about how staff were treated on the show. Some said they weren’t allowed to attend funerals or have sick days, while another said she’d been subjected to racist comments which no one did anything about. And there were also stories about staff not being allowed to speak to Ellen.
Ellen first responded to the accusations via email, but only after an investigation had taken place. She wrote, “As someone who was judged and nearly lost everything for just being who I am, I truly understand and have deep compassion for those being looked at differently, or treated unfairly, not equal, or — worse — disregarded. To think that any one of you felt that way is awful to me.”
But it was noted that Ellen didn’t actually take much responsibility herself for what had gone on. That didn’t take place until September 2020. Ellen released a video in which she said, “As you may have heard this summer there were allegations of a toxic work environment at our show, and then there was an investigation. I learned that things happened here that never should have happened. I take that very seriously.”
“I know that I’m in a position of privilege and power, and I realize that with that comes responsibility, and I take responsibility for what happens at my show,” DeGeneres continued. “My intention is to always be the best person I can be, and if I’ve ever let someone down, if I’ve ever hurt their feelings, I am so sorry for that. If that’s ever the case, I’ve let myself down and I’ve hurt myself as well.”
Ellen’s apology didn’t go down well with everyone. One former employee told Buzzfeed News that the star had “somehow managed to make this about her.” It seems like there might be a long way to go before Ellen is in the clear again. And Céline Dion is not among the celebs who have sprung to her defense.