Published On: May 3, 2019
Last Updated On: Jul 13, 2021
Throughout the 2019 season of The Ellen Show, you have frequently referred to Executive Producer Mary Connelly’s persistent rash, often using it as a punchline.
I watched as Mary awkwardly laughed along, hoping that maybe the moment had come to unhide skin disease and raise awareness in the public eye. With over 31 million Americans living with some form of eczema (perhaps the condition Mary herself is dealing with), and countless more people world-wide with other skin conditions, there is a desperate need to educate about and normalize skin differences.
Sadly, on Monday April 29th, this long-running gag took a painful turn. The eczema community and I watched as you continued to tease Mary, adding to the stigma for the millions of people living with skin conditions, while at the same time, introducing a partnership with a sponsor company. In my view, that destroyed any levity and trustworthiness that may have remained.
My purpose in writing today is to request that you please consider how your “jokes” have impacted millions of already marginalized individuals, as well as consider how to right this wrong. To that end, I’d like to share a few alarming facts about eczema:
- 10% of people in the U.S. have some form of eczema.
- One in five children with atopic dermatitis (the most common form of eczema) face bullying because of their disease.
- 71% of people with eczema have experienced anxiety and/or depression.
- More than one-third of people with atopic dermatitis say they “often” or “always” feel angry or embarrassed by their appearance due to the condition.
- Nearly 40% of patients with eczema report that they turned down a job or an educational opportunity due to their disease.
Eczema is a life-altering, often debilitating chronic disease. As I watched you toss medications to the audience, dancing along to a marching band playing “burn baby burn,” I couldn’t help but wonder where the powerful-advocate-and-ally-to-humanity Ellen DeGeneres went?
This Ellen was just unaware and unkind, taking comedic swipes at a person battling a visible, perhaps embarrassing, skin condition. Make no mistake, we must engage humor as one of the tools to manage our health conditions, but this was way off the mark.
I hope that you take this moment to join the movement to #unhideECZEMA and join all the skin positivity warriors who are working hard night and day to destigmatize skin conditions.
Instead of making Mary’s rash the butt of jokes, we encourage you to explore her condition with compassion. Instead of throwing a sponsored product at her and your audience, invite an expert to your show to explore her options for health and well-being. Raising awareness of the impact of this disease on millions of people can only be a service to your viewers, society in general, and restore the kindness your audience has come to expect from The Ellen Show and Ellen herself.
Having a rash (like eczema) is often itchy, extremely painful and disconcerting, highly visible, and certainly not a choice. I hope that, with the incredible power of your platform, in the future you will use it for lifting people up rather than adding to the stigmatization and bullying in the world.
I welcome further engagement and invite your producers, especially Mary, to engage with the National Eczema Association.
President & CEO
National Eczema Association