Oprah Winfrey recently revealed that she received hate messages with people calling her the n-word after appearing on an episode of the sitcom Ellen in 1997. During the episode, Oprah starred as Ellen Degeneres’ therapist, and helped the comedian realize she was gay. The now infamous “Puppy Episode” featured appearances from Oprah, Laura Dern, Demi Moore, Billy Bob Thornton and more.

Oprah says she decided to appear in the the episode because she wanted to support Ellen’s decision to come out of the closet.

During an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Oprah revealed that after the episode aired to some 42 million viewers, she received countless hate letters and phone calls:

 “It always turns to race. I got all of the, ‘N- – – – -, go back to Africa. Who do you think you are?’ I did it because she asked me to do it and I wanted to support hurt. It didn’t occur to me that there would be backlash.”

Oprah was not alone. Ellen herself received considerable backlash after the episode aired. Religious groups staged protests, and executives from the show received death threats that required security at their homes.

Fifteen years later, Oprah believed that Ellen’s courageous move, is the reason that she has been able to find success, and become the top-earner in daytime TV.

“Being able to be free — literally — and to express herself in a way that she can be 100 percent truthful with the audience has allowed them to fall in love with her. Honest-to-God truth: I don’t believe she would have been as successful as she has become had she not come out.”

Follow Chris Witherspoon on Twitter at @WitherspoonC