Comedian Ellen DeGeneres was awarded America's highest civilian honour at the Presidential Medal of Freedom ceremony on Tuesday. President Barack Obama praised the 58-year-old star as he credited her influence on the gay rights movement. Clearly feeling overwhelmed, Ellen was seen getting tearful as she collected the prestigious award.
Other celebrities who were honoured by the president included Robert De Niro, Tom Hanks, Bruce Springsteen, Bill Gates, Diana Ross and Vin Scully. The Medal of Freedom is presented to individuals who have made significant contributions to "security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavours."
During the ceremony at the White House, President Obama hailed Ellen for her courageous efforts to highlight gay rights after coming out in 1997. "It's easy to forget now, when we've come so far... just how much courage was required for Ellen to come out on the most public of stages almost 20 years ago," he said. "What an incredible burden that was to bear — to risk your career like that - people don't do that very often. And then, to have the hopes of millions on your shoulders."
"It's like Ellen says: we all want a tortilla chip that can support the weight of guacamole... Which really makes no sense to me, but I thought would break the mood because I was getting kind of choked up," the president added with laughter. Ellen, who is married to actress Portia de Rossi, was sat next to Robert De Niro, who gave her a reassuring hug.
It was a rollercoaster of a day for the television personality, who revealed on Twitter that she almost missed the ceremony entirely because she forgot to bring ID. "They haven't let me in to the White House yet because I forgot my ID," she tweeted, alongside the hashtags "#NotJoking" and "#PresidentialMedalOfFreedom".
I'm in. pic.twitter.com/oU344pnYsH
— Ellen DeGeneres (@TheEllenShow) November 22, 2016
Shortly after the presentation, Ellen uploaded an incredible video of her doing the mannequin challenge with fellow guests - no doubt in an attempt to echo the success of her infamous star-studded selfie at the Oscars in 2014. She simply wrote, "I'm in".