Ellen DeGeneres during the closing moments of the final "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" taping. (Photo: Michael RozmanMichael Rozman/Warner Bros.)
Closing a historic chapter in daytime television history, host Ellen DeGeneres bid a tearful farewell to her audience on Thursday with one final episode, featuring appearances from Pink, Billie Eilish and the show’s first-ever guest, Jennifer Aniston.
In her final opening monologue, an emotional DeGeneres reflected on the talk show’s beginnings, while friends, family and wife Portia de Rossi watched from the crowd.
“I walked out here 19 years ago, and I said this is the start of a relationship. And today is not the end of a relationship, it’s more of a little break. You can see other talk shows now. I may see another audience once in a while,” she said at the start of the episode, which was filmed last month.
Touching upon the groundbreaking nature of having an out lesbian host a nationally syndicated talk show, DeGeneres recalled how initially “very few stations wanted to buy the show.”
“No one thought that this would work. Not because it was a different kind of show, but because I was different,” she said, noting that she couldn’t say “gay” during the early days of the program.
“Sure couldn’t say wife. That’s because it wasn’t legal for gay people to get married. And now I say wife all the time,” she continued, as de Rossi beamed from the audience. “Twenty-five years ago, they canceled my sitcom because they didn’t want a lesbian to be in primetime once a week. So I said, ‘OK, I’ll be in daytime every day, how ’bout that?’”
DeGeneres then celebrated the “beautiful, beautiful journey” that’s brought smiles to millions and “changed people’s lives,” calling the show the “greatest experience I’ve ever had beyond my wildest imagination.”
She closed the segment by asking Stephen “tWitch” Boss to “dance one last time with me.”
The dancing continued with Aniston, who appeared on the show 20 times throughout its run. Given her experience saying goodbye to a beloved television program, the “Friends” alum offered some parting wisdom about how she processed the final moments of her own series.
“Well, I got a divorce and went into therapy, and then I did a movie called ‘The Break-Up,’” she said. “I just kind of leaned into the end.”
Next up were Eilish and Pink, who both shared sweet memories with DeGeneres about their guest appearances over the years.
“You started this show the year after I was born,” Eilish recalled. “This was in my house constantly. Every day. I would walk into the kitchen and my mom would be watching you.”
Pink, meanwhile, delivered a stirring performance of her smash hit “What About Us,” as the show’s very last musical act.
In the closing moments of the episode, which mirrored how the show first began, DeGeneres appeared on stage again to thank her crew, before delivering a final message to her viewers.
“If I’ve done anything in the past 19 years, I hope I’ve inspired you to be yourself — your true authentic self,” said DeGeneres. “And if someone is brave enough to tell you who they are, be brave enough to support them, even if you don’t understand. They’re showing you who they are and that’s the biggest gift anybody can ever give you. By opening your heart and your mind, you’re going to be that much more compassionate, and compassion is what makes the world a better place.”
“Thank you so much for being on this journey with me,” she concluded, before walking to the back of the stage and sitting down on the couch in front of a TV. “I feel the love and I send it back to you.”
After giving one last look to the camera, DeGeneres then turned the TV off with the stage doors closing behind her, as the crowd cheered on.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.