A man who claims to have known Ellen DeGeneres before she was famous and still lived in Louisiana says the Hollywood superstar bullied him. Ben Gravolet told the Daily Mail that DeGeneres allegedly called him "fat" and "stupid" when he was 11 years old and she was 20. Today, DeGeneres' hit daytime talk show is under investigation after her producers were accused of creating a toxic work environment.
Gravolet, 52, said DeGeneres, 62, worked for his mother's retirement agency in New Orleans and would "dread going" to his mother's office when DeGeneres was there. "She would criticize my weight," Gravolet, who lives in Belle Chasse, Louisiana, told the Daily Mail. "I would try to do homework in the office, she'd call me stupid, she'd call me fat. She would criticize my clothes." According to Gravolet DeGeneres "took pleasure in seeing me become visibly upset" and said there "wasn't any excuse" for what she allegedly did.
DeGeneres allegedly told him he was "fat" and "You might want to lose some of that weight, chunky boy." Gravolet said DeGeneres was the "meanest, nastiest, most horrible person," and said she even made fun of his drawings. "It appears to me that she hoards power over those that are lesser than her," he said. "It's almost as if she has to feel controlling. It seems like she has to be superior, be better."
Gravolet's mother, Tana Robinson, also spoke with the Daily Mail. She called DeGeneres "extremely rude," but said her son only opened up about the alleged bullying a few weeks ago. If she knew what was allegedly going on at the time, Robinson said she would have fired DeGeneres. "I can't even put myself in the shoes of someone at that age that dislikes children so much or whose ego is so low that she has to smash a child to feel good about herself," Robinson said.
Gravolet came forward with his allegations after WarnerMedia announced late last month it was investigating The Ellen DeGeneres Show following a BuzzFeed News report citing former employees who accused the show's senior producers of creating a toxic workplace environment. A follow-up BuzzFeed News report included allegations from other former employees of sexual harassment and misconduct from producers. DeGeneres later apologized and vowed to make behind-the-scenes changes. Although the investigation is not complete, executive producer Ed Glavin is expected to be among those pushed out.
While some employees suggested DeGeneres herself was shielded from the environment by producers, others argued that she had to have known. There have also been allegations that DeGeneres is aloof and "mean." One source told the Daily Mail that staffers dubbed DeGeneres the "Talk Show Karen."