Ellen Pompeo Discusses Her Upbringing, Support For Gays, Love For Chris Ivery

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Ellen Pompeo: An Ambassador
For Ellen Pompeo, actions certainly speak louder than words.

While Pompeo took the high road when addressing Isaiah Washington's recent firing, her presence at the event for LifeWorks, at the "Life Out Loud" benefit in Los Angeles June 9, spoke for itself.

The organization, which finds mentors for gay and lesbian youth, is certainly lucky to have a famous and positive presence like Ellen Pompeo.

The Grey's Anatomy leading lady sat down with Us Weekly at the event to talk about why she cares about the cause, and what she would do if she was the mother of a gay child.

US: How did you get involved with LifeWorks?
Ellen Pompeo: Through Chip Sullivan, a dear friend and fellow Bostonite. He speaks so passionately about the organization. It's such a wonderful organization. I would love to see it be taken nationwide.

US: Growing up, did you have gay people in your life?
Ellen Pompeo: Yes, a ton. I was raised by drag queens practically. And when I left Boston at 20 years old, I went to South Beach with all of my gay friends. Always very close with the gay community.

US: Was there anyone when you were younger who touched your life?
Ellen Pompeo: I wouldn't say there was one person who touched my life. There were several. My mother died when I was four years old, so I was effectively raised by a bunch of different people. And a lot of those people were friends of my sister, Kathleen (I have three sisters), who had all these gay friends. She would baby-sit me everyday, and she would take me over to her friend's houses with all kinds of things going on: tucking, and eyebrow drawing, waxing, all sorts of things. I was literally raised by gay men. And a lot of other people: my grandmother, my aunts and uncles, but I spent a great deal of time with a lot of gay men.

US: Obviously there was a lot of controversy on your set this year, but you're making a big statement by being here. How did that all unfold for you?
Ellen Pompeo: I choose to focus on, now what has happened but what we can do. What can we do to make things like [Isaiah Washington's outburst] not happen again? How can we be proactive and change the environment and move forward and make a day when we don't have these problems. Hopefully organizations like LifeWorks move us in that direction.

US: How did it affect you to hear the kind of language, that word, that obviously a lot of gay youth hear every single day?
Ellen Pompeo: I'm not going to take the martyr position and say, "It hurts me deeply" because I don't know what it is to bear that burden. I don't know what it is to be gay. I don't know that struggle and pain, or, hopefully, that happiness and joy. I don't know that experience. But what I do see is my friends who are hurt by that language.

US: And when T.R. Knight came out, it was an amazing positive thing. It puts a really good role model out there.
Ellen Pompeo: I have to say, when T.R. came out, I did cry. Such tremendous courage. Most people don't have to come out like that.

US: Is your fiance, Chris Ivery, as open minded as you?
Ellen Pompeo: Yes, he grew up in Cambridge, Massachusetts, one of the most liberal places on the planet. And he grew up with a white, Jewish mother and a black father, so he has had to deal with a lot of diversity issues as well. So we're very open minded.

US: Cher is famous for having said how, despite having tons of gay friends and fans, she didn't take it so well when Chastity came out of the closet. How would you feel if your child was gay?
Ellen Pompeo: Just fine. As long as my child was happy and healthy and hopefully could grow up and decorate my houses!

US: Do you want to have kids?
Ellen Pompeo: Maybe not kids. Maybe one.

US: Have you and Chris set a wedding date?
Ellen Pompeo: We have not.

Steve Marsi is the Managing Editor of TV Fanatic. Follow him on Google+ or email him here.


Grey's Anatomy Quotes

There's a reason I said I'd be happy alone. It wasn't 'cause I thought I'd be happy alone. It was because I thought if I loved someone and then it fell apart, I might not make it. It's easier to be alone, because what if you learn that you need love and you don't have it? What if you like it and lean on it? What if you shape your life around it and then it falls apart? Can you even survive that kind of pain? Losing love is like organ damage. It's like dying. The only difference is death ends. This? It could go on forever.


[narrating] "At some point, you have to make a decision. Boundaries don't keep other people out, they fence you in. Life is messy, that's how we're made. So you can waste your life drawing lines or you can live your life crossing them. But there are some lines that are way too dangerous to cross. Here's what I know. If you're willing to throw caution to the wind and take a chance, the view from the other side... is spectacular."