20 years on from the famous coming out episode of her sitcom Ellen, Ellen DeGeneres says she wishes she had come out sooner.

The 59-year-old chat show host - who is married to actress Portia De Rossi - recently celebrated the 20th anniversary of the coming out episode, but admitted she now wishes she had not waited so long to publicly reveal her sexuality.

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Speaking to Matt Lauer on the Today show, she said: "I wish I would have done it sooner. I wish I hadn't waited so long.

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"I was anticipating it being a charged episode, which it was, because it was making a big decision to come out, and to be honest and to stop hiding something that I had kept secret for so long."

And even though revealing she is a lesbian adversely affected her career for some time, Ellen insisted coming out is the best thing she has ever done.

She said: "The biggest thing was that I lost my career. For three years, I couldn't work, and was not offered one thing. I was running out of money and didn't know if I was going to work again. I was 45 years old, and I was like, 'This doesn't look good.'

"It taught me compassion. It taught me that I was strong enough to start all over again. It was the greatest thing to ever happen to me."

When Ellen and her character on the show came out on April 30, 1997, it was done in scenes taped in front of a live audience, and the star recently explained why the iconic moment was called The Puppy Episode.

She joked: "It was called The Puppy Episode because we wanted to keep it a secret until it aired and because 'Ellen Throws Her Career Away' seemed too on the nose."

She then added: "Actually, the real reason we called it The Puppy Episode is because when the writers told the executives that they wanted me to come out, because my character needed to be in a relationship after four years of not being in a relationship, someone at the studio said, 'Well, get her a puppy. She's not coming out.' "

- BANG! Showbiz