TGIF? Not This Week for Ellen as Image Tarnished in Media Reports

by Robert Nesti

EDGE National Arts & Entertainment Editor

Saturday April 18, 2020

It was a pretty bad Friday for Ellen DeGeneres in the media, who has continued to broadcast her daily chat show from her home.

First came an exclusive report from Variety about how "distressed and outraged" her show crew's members "over their treatment from top producers amid the coronavirus pandemic."

And then E! Entertainment reported that transgender YouTube personality and make-up artist NikkieTutorials found her appearance on the show to be far from cuddly.

"I was expecting a Disney show, but got Teletubbies after dark," she told the Dutch publication &C in an interview this week that was translated by E!.

The labor issue came to light when two staff members went to Variety (under the condition of anonymity) to say that the core stage crew, consisting of some 30 employees, "received no written communication about the status of their working hours, pay, or inquiries about their mental and physical health from producers for over a month." When they answered their phones, production higher-ups gave few answers.

"The crew was further incensed by the show's recent hire of an outside, non-union tech company to help DeGeneres tape remotely from her home in California," writes Variety.

When crew members got an answer they learned "to brace for a 60% reduction in pay, even as the show continues to air, according to sources close to the matter."

A spokesperson for Warner Bros. Television, which distributes the show, told Variety, "Our executive producers and Telepictures are committed to taking care of our staff and crew and have made decisions first and foremost with them in mind."

The studio reiterated the crew has been paid consistently, though at reduced hours.

But from late March to April 9 crew members weren't told what they would be paid. Meanwhile "The Ellen Show" ramped up production, moving from shooting four shows in two days to five in the remote location.

"Only four core crew members currently work on the remote version of the broadcast, added insiders, who find this treatment to be totally inconsistent with DeGeneres' daily message to her audiences: 'be kind,'" continues the Variety report.

In early April, many crew members were "shocked to discover that DeGeneres had a remote set erected at her residence where she was taping, a fact they learned via social media posts from colleagues in other departments, insiders said."

The technical elements of the remote production were handled by a Burbank-based company even as crew members with similar skills were left idle.

When she returned to broadcasting on April 7, DeGeneres told viewers she "wanted to start doing my new show as soon as possible." The host specifically said it was for "my staff and crew. I love them, I miss them, the best thing I can do to support them is to keep the show on the air," writes Variety.

For NikkiTutorials (whose real name is Nikkie de Jager) it was a case of an idol being knocked down a few notches when she went on the superstar chat personality's show after she came out as transgender.

"Call me naive, but I kind of expected to be welcomed with confetti cannons: 'Welcome to The Ellen DeGeneres Show!' But instead I was greeted by an angry intern who was a bit overworked," the makeup artist said, in a translation of the interview.

Once backstage, she learned that she had to use a public toilet, while an adjacent '"private" one was reserved for the Jonas Brothers.

"Why do they get a private toilet, I thought.," she said in the interview.

On January interview on the Dutch show "De Wereld Draait Door," she told a similar story, alluding to the star's reputed distance. "It's nice that you say 'hi' before the show... she didn't. Ellen is just such a different world."

Asked if Ellen was "distant and cold," Nikkie said, "Just a little." Then added, "It was a huge honor to be on that stage with Ellen, but it wasn't as nice as I thought."

She then joked that she would like to meet Adele someday, but added, "after Ellen I figured, don't meet your idols."

Nikki came to Internet fame in 2015. As of January 2020, her YouTube channel has 13 million subscribers and over 1.2 billion video views.

In January, Nikkie came out on YouTube. (Seen below) The video went viral and led to her appearance on Ellen's show.

Last month a charity meme to raise money for a Los Angeles food bank went viral when it asked people to share their unpleasant Ellen stories. "Is Ellen the meanest star in show business?" asked Kevin T. Porter, then asking people to "Respond to this with the most insane stories you've heard about Ellen being mean & I'll match every one w/ $2 to @LAFoodBank."

Watch Nikkie's coming out video:

Watch Nikkie on "The Ellen Show" from her January appearance:

The YouTube Channel "Cold Tea" summed up the Nikkie/Ellen saga in this video:

Robert Nesti can be reached at [email protected].